With the end of chapter 20, we have concluded the section that spans from 16:21-20:34 in which Jesus tries to reveal His true messianic mission to the disciples. With the end of the section, we have come to realize that they had not yet understood adequately what He was teaching, although the time would soon come when they would understand it. Now, in this new section, we will see the rising conflict between Jesus and Jewish officialdom that will ultimately result in all of Jesus’ predictions concerning His fate to come to pass.
As He arrives in the city, Jesus begins a series of provocative actions (cf. 21:12, 14-15, 23; 24:1) in the area of the Temple which result in the “chief priests and teachers of the law” becoming “indignant” (21:15). There has been conflict before, but with the conflict over His “authority” (21:24-27) followed by three parables that expose their rebellion and hardness of heart, they resolve to silence Him for good (21:45).
The initial strategy of the leaders was a purely political one; they would try to bring public condemnation upon Jesus by forcing Him to take unpopular stands on controversial issues of the day, just as politicians try to do with their opponents in our time (cf. 21:46; 22:15-48). As all of them would discover, you simply cannot “trap” Jesus, and by the time He has finished with their attacks, they are reduced to plotting in secret.
From the very beginning of this narrative, the battle will rage over the leaders’ response to the demonstration of Jesus’ messianic credentials (21:1-17), and His authoritative teaching and affirmations concerning His identity that follow (21:23-22:46). The refusal of the Jewish leaders to recognize His identity results in Jesus seizing the initiative and denouncing the hypocrisy of the Pharisees (23:1-39), and pronouncing apocalyptic doom on the city (24:1-34) and finally, giving exhortation to the people of the New Kingdom (24:36-25:46).
We will jump into the fray with Jesus when we get together next time; you won’t want to miss this!