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Four Great Events

D O’Hare, France

It is striking to notice the similarities between certain things which took place at the beginning and at the end of the Lord’s earthly ministry. For example, there was a Joseph, the husband of Mary, present at His birth, and then there was another Joseph, he of Arimathea, present when He died. Angels announced His birth, and it was also an angel that announced His resurrection to Mary of Magdala and the other Mary (Mt 28.1-10). In Luke 5, we read of the abundant catch of fishes at the lake of Gennesaret at the outset of His ministry and, then, after His resurrection, we read of another abundant catch of fishes at the sea of Tiberias (Jn 21.1-13). So, let us consider four pairs of events linked with the beginning and the end of the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Lord and the Labourers

At the beginning:

In Matthew 4.18-20, the Lord was walking by the Sea of Galilee when He called Andrew and Peter. According to the Biblical record, they were the first to follow Him. For more than three years they were with Him in His movements, from Galilee to Jerusalem. Later, the Lord was at Jericho, where He encountered two blind men. He healed them, and we read that they followed Him. It would seem that they were the last to follow Him before the events of the crucifixion (Mt 20.30-34).

At the end:

Matthew chapter 20 commences with the parable of the man who hired labourers to work in his vineyard. Some were hired at the break of the day, others at the third, the sixth and the ninth hours and, finally, some at the eleventh hour. At the end of the day they all received the same wage. This parable was spoken in reply to Peter, who had asked the Lord what those who had followed Him would receive. Now, Andrew and Peter can be compared to the labourers who spent the whole day in the vineyard, whereas the two blind men of Jericho represent those labourers hired at the eleventh hour. In contrast to the attitude of the labourers hired at the break of day, there is no resentment on the part of those who were saved in early years, and who have followed Christ throughout a lifetime, towards the child of God just saved when the Lord comes to take His people to be with Himself.

The Fig Tree and the Fruit

At the beginning:

Nathanael had been under a fig tree and, later, when he met the Lord, he said something that revealed his spiritual perception: “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel” (Jn 1.49). He who knows the hearts of all men said of Nathanael “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” (v 47). This has been expressed as “Behold Israel in whom there is no Jacob!” Nathanael, unlike the fig tree of Matthew 21, produced choice fruit for God that day.

At the end:

Going up to Jerusalem, the Lord saw a fig tree that had many leaves. But, because it bore no fruit at that time, it was condemned never to bear fruit (Mt 21.19). It has been said that the Lord did not curse the fig tree simply because it bore no fruit, but because the leaves gave an expectation of fruit and there was none found on it. The tree was a picture of unbelieving Israel; a people who showed great religious zeal, giving the appearance of bearing fruit for God when, in reality, there was none. Under the first fig tree was a man who bore much fruit for God, whereas the second, a picture of unbelieving Israel, yielded nothing for the Son of God.

The Sanctuary and the Sellers

At the beginning:

At the time of Christ, the temple at Jerusalem was the centre of gathering for the people, and the temple court was called the Court of the Gentiles. It was here that two similar events took place, one at the outset and the other at the end of the Lord’s earthly ministry.

Merchants had reduced the temple court to a common market place. Showing total disrespect for the house of God, they had taken advantage of the presence of large numbers of worshippers to sell their wares (Jn 2.13-17). Thus, the reaction of the Saviour should not surprise us, and we shall see the reason for the way He acted in response to these merchants.

At the end:

On the last occasion the Lord Jesus was at Jerusalem, He again drove the merchants from the temple. He said “It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Mt 21.13). Who were the thieves? Contrary to what we might believe, it was not the merchants but their ‘customers’. According to the Law, when an Israelite brought a sacrifice to offer it to God, it was to be one of his own animals: “… then thou shalt kill of thy herd and of thy flock, which the Lord hath given thee …” (Deut 12.21). This involved a certain cost to the worshipper, especially if his animals were healthy and valuable. Indeed, it would have been easier, and possibly cheaper, to buy an animal at the temple ‘cattle market’. Those who acted in this way transgressed the Law, and came under the condemnation of Malachi 3.8: “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.” The presence of those merchants revealed the low estimation the people had for the things of God, as they changed the money the people had brought with them, enabling them to give less than they had perhaps intended when the moment came to cast their offerings in the temple treasury (Mk 12.41). How far removed this was from the spirit of David, when he said “… neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing” (2 Sam 24.24).

The King and the Kingdoms

At the beginning:

After His baptism by John, the Lord was tempted by the Devil three times. The temptation that interests us in this article is when Satan took Him up to a high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory, offering them to Christ if He would fall down and worship him. If the Lord Jesus had accepted Satan’s offer, salvation’s story would have ended there. Sin would not have been dealt with, and the separation between God and men would have been permanent. We know, however, by reason of His deity and His impeccability, it would have been impossible for the Saviour to have yielded to the temptation, for it was necessary that He go to the cross in order to accomplish the work of redemption. He would not accept the kingdoms of the world for the price that Satan demanded.

What Satan said is to be seen in the light of 2 Corinthians 4.4, where he is called “the god of this world”. Only when the Lord Jesus comes in glory to reign upon the earth will the world be in total submission to Him. The powers that be in this world are determined by God (Rom 13.1) even though, at the present time, “the whole world lieth in the evil one” (1 Jn 5.19, RV1).

At the end:

In Matthew chapter 28, we find the Lord on another mountain, having accomplished the work that His Father had given Him to do. From that mountain, He was about to ascend into Heaven. On one mountain, He refused to worship the devil (Mt 4.8-10) but, on this last one, His disciples worshipped Him (28.16-17). To those worshippers He committed the task of preaching the Gospel to all nations. He did not want the kingdoms of this world, but He was going to call souls from all those kingdoms in order that they should be part of His Kingdom; the Kingdom of God.

Revised Version

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