Chapter 31.1 Voice from Heaven
Saturday (Sabbath) before to Wednesday of Passion Week,
just before Passover, spring of A.D. 30
Widow’s Mite, detail of original oil painting on canvas by Martin de Vos, 1532-1603
Widow’s Mite, detail of original oil painting on canvas by Martin de Vos, 1532-1603
(CLICK on the image above for a LARGER version)

Greeks Seek Christ

The Lord stayed at Bethany that night, but the next day, Monday morning of Passion Week, he was up early teaching in the Temple.

Greek pilgrims from the Decapolis came into the Court of the Gentiles to worship at Passover. They were proselytes (non-Jews converted to Judaism), and wanted to see the Christ (Greek: Khristos, “Anointed One”). He had not taught long in their homeland, but his words and healing of Leonidas had stirred their hopes that he was the Jewish Messiah.

The court was extremely crowded and the men did not know Jesus by sight. They asked someone passing by, “Where is the Messiah teaching?” and were directed to Solomon’s Portico. As they stood listening intently, their hearts burned within them and they realized Jesus was truly the Anointed One of their quest.

In simple modesty, they dared not go to the Savior directly, but came with their request to Philip who was nearby, “Sir, we have come from the Decapolis beyond Jordan and wish to meet the Christ.” As in the house at Bethlehem and now in the Temple, “wise men” from the Gentile world had come to offer their homage to the Messiah.

After talking with the foreigners, Philip and Andrew agreed that the men genuinely wanted to confirm their faith. The apostles went to confer with Jesus and their request was granted. The Greek worshippers were brought to him into the shelter of one of the portico’s columns with his apostles. Now these “wise men” would be allowed to witness something miraculous that would confirm their faith much more than words.

Voice from Heaven

Christ told them, “Time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory.” There was a light of dedication and urgency in his eyes that even the disciples could not remember seeing before.

He looked toward heaven and his next words were barely audible, spoken only for himself and his Father in heaven, “Father, reveal the majesty of your name.”

For the third and last time in his ministry the voice from heaven spoke, “I have revealed it and I will reveal it again.” It was audible to all, but its words only intelligible to Jesus. The Father once again gave his divine seal of confirmation to all of the Son’s past work and that which was to come.

When the crowd heard the voice, some thought it was thunder, while others declared an angel had spoken. But the Greeks and apostles knew what really happened. Again, the deepest mystery of Christ was revealed only to those of true faith.

Jesus turned and spoke to the people, “The voice was for your benefit, not mine. The time of judgment for the world has come, when the prince of this world will be cast out.” Now he will use the same words he said to Nicodemus to indicate how he was going to die, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.”

Stumbling over what he said, the crowd challenged, “Our Law says that the Messiah would live forever. What do you mean by saying you must be lifted up?”

Christ answered with a metaphor, “My light will shine out for you just a little while longer. Walk in it while you can so you will not stumble when darkness falls. If you walk in darkness you cannot see where you are going. Believe in the light while there is still time, then you will become children of the light. When you see me, you are seeing the one who sent me; when you trust me, you are really trusting God who sent me.” After saying these things, he went away to Bethany and was hidden from the multitude.

Many believed in him, even some of the leaders, but would not acknowledge him openly for fear of being banned from the synagogue. However, the Greeks had heard the voice of God and seen the Messiah of Israel and Savior of the world. They went home, not in fear, but in great joy.

Poor Widow’s Gift

On the next day, Tuesday of Passion Week, one of those sweet heart-touching pictures is presented—a historical miniature—which affords real relief amidst the glare all around.

After Jesus finished speaking in the Temple, he went over to a place where he could fully view the Temple treasury in the Court of Women. He sat and watched as the crowds put their gifts into the thirteen collection boxes, open to receive various offerings. The Master saw many rich people put in large amounts. Then his gaze fixed on a solitary figure, a poor widow coming alone, as if not to mingle with the crowd of rich givers. He observed her closely and read her truly. She held in her hands only the smallest coins and now made humble offering to God, dropping her two pennies into one of the treasury boxes. It was not lawful to contribute a less amount.

The Lord was deeply touched by her faith and called his disciples to him, “I assure you, this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus; but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has.”

Jesus’ acknowledgement of the silent worship of the widow who gave all was unknown to her. He spoke not words of encouragement, for she walked by faith; he offered not promise of return, for her reward was in heaven; she knew not that any had seen it, for any conscious notice would have marred the rising incense of her sacrifice. Far more than the greatest gifts of superfluity of the rich, this gift of absolute self-surrender and sacrifice was offered by the trembling solitary mourner. And so is every sacrifice for God all the more sacred when one knows not of its blessedness.

Christ left the courts with these words to the disciples, and it was the last occurrence in his public ministry, except the trial and the crucifixion; it was also his last appearance in the Temple. The Son of God’s public teaching was over, except the words of defense in his trial and the seven sayings on the cross. The task now remained to prepare the apostles for his return to the Father.

Plot to Betray Jesus

As keeper of the purse, Judas had been largely concerned with the petty financial concerns of Christ’s ministry and had never really understood its spiritual aspects. Jesus had not proclaimed himself as Messiah, even after his royal entry when the people wanted him for their king, and now Judas realized he had come to a dead end in his grand political and financial aspirations. There was only one logical course: to separate himself from Christ in such a way that he could be sure at least of preserving his own life when Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin finally arrested the Master and put an end to him.

Judas knew Caiaphas would use Christ’s triumphal entry and adoration of the crowd as reasons for carrying out his plot to arrest and destroy the Messiah. All the Sanhedrin needed was someone who would betray Jesus and place him in their hands. In Judas’ mind, he was the answer, and he must act quickly.

It was now Tuesday night (early Jewish Wednesday) before beginning of Passover. The betrayer made a solitary journey from Bethany to the high priest’s palace in the affluent west side of the city. Unknown to him, Caiaphas had earlier called a meeting of the chief priests and the leading Sanhedrists in his private audience chamber. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were particularly not invited. The leaders had spent hours discussing how to deceive someone into betraying the Savior so they could arrest him privately, but could not come up with a feasible plan.

Judas arrived and knocked at the door. He could not see the Light of Life, and the door to Hades opened in front of him. When the evil arrangement was made, he crept away to Bethany in the darkness. Since the betrayer was in charge of their finances, the apostles assumed he had been making arrangements for the feast and they had no idea of what had just taken place—but Jesus knew.

The next day of Passion week, Wednesday, 13th Nisan, was a time of rest. Christ was alone with his apostles and closest friends in Bethany. It was the calm before the storm; and at its end, a new door that would open into the golden sky of heaven and eternal life.

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