When Jesus approaches Jerusalem for that last week of his earthly ministry, all those around him were
excited and expecting him to set up an earthly kingdom. Read the passages of the triumphal entry on
Palm Sunday (Mark 11, Matthew 21, and Luke 19:29 and continuing). “Blessed is he who comes in the
name of the Lord.
Blessed is the kingdom of our father, David, that is coming” (Mark). Even the disciples expected an
earthly throne. In Mark 8, Peter confesses Jesus as “the Christ”, the one they expected- a Davidic king
(Isaiah 9). The disciples tried to keep Jesus from going to see Lazarus, and when Jesus insists that he is
going, Thomas says that they should go and die with him (John 11). They also take weapons into the
Garden of Gethsemane on the night Jesus was arrested (Luke states that they took 2 swords) and used
Jesus had come to bring a kingdom, but his kingdom was not to be one of the sword. He rides a donkey
to show that his kingdom is one of humility and far beyond an earthly, political one. His army is a crowd
of ordinary folks, not well-trained soldiers.
On Monday, Jesus cleanses the Temple of the corruption he saw. He challenges the leaders to keep it a
place of prayer, which they have helped corrupt. The leaders would have arrested him, but they were
afraid of the crowds; and Jesus kept leaving the city to stay at Bethany. Tuesday and Wednesday were
spent teaching and debating.
Among the most telling teachings was what he said about the greatest commandment. When asked by a
scribe, Jesus answered with the Shema (Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one. And you shall love God
with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength) and “You shall
love your neighbor as yourself.” This is THE commandment. Love for God first and a corresponding
love for neighbor. This was the heart of Judaism, and the leaders could not argue with it. There is a story
told about the great rabbi, Hillel, and a Gentile. The Gentile told Hillel that he was considering
becoming a Jew, and he would do so if Hillel could teach him all the Law while standing on one foot.
According to the story, Hillel thought for a moment, stood on one foot and said, “Hear O Israel, the Lord
our God is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and
strength; and that which is hateful to you, do not do to any man. That is the Law. All else is merely
commentary.” The Gentile converted. So, Jesus’ answer “shut up” the questioners. The leaders now
needed a way to capture Jesus and have him executed.
Everyone knows what Judas Iscariot did. His name has even been used for centuries to speak of a traitor.
But WHY did he do this betrayal? Most people have a quick answer, but I want us to look at some