Some of Jesus’ teaching presupposes a context of the rejection of the offer of Kingdom of God by the majority of Jews and especially the Jewish authorities. Support for Jesus wains, although initially he seems to be well received (see Luke 2:15 "And he began teaching in their synagogues and was praised by all" and Luke 2:22a "And all were speaking well of him). John in fact records that at one point Jesus experiences a sudden loss of support because of his controversial teaching about himself as the bread of life: "As a result of this many of his disciples withdrew and were not walking with him anymore" (John 6:66). What exactly was offensive about Jesus' teaching is not explained. When it is clear that his mission will be a failure, Jesus criticizes his generation for their spiritual obduracy, and begins to explain what the consequences of the rejection of the Kingdom will be. He says that the offer of the Kingdom to the nation is rescinded and the Temple and city will be destroyed as a result of God’s judgment. Nevertheless, he believes at some unspecified point after his rejection the progress of the Kingdom will resume for the nation. Jesus explains that in part the Kingdom of God now is to come to realization for the community that he will establish, those Jews who have accepted him and his message, who are the believing remnant from Israel. He also says that, because of its rejection by Jews, the offer of the Kingdom of God, having been rescinded, will now be made instead to gentiles. Most surprisingly of all, Jesus interprets his death as part of his mission, even though in a non-rejection context there is no death anticipated and the incorporation of his death as part of his message in this context would be incongruous. In a rejection context something salvation-historical new emerges from Israel’s failure, being causally tied to it: the consequences of the rejection of the Kingdom of God is actually part of God's purposes.
There are several sayings of Jesus in which he indicates his awareness that his message about the Kingdom of God has been rejected along with himself as its messenger.
In the context of James and John's request that, when he comes into his glory (i.e., at the culmination of the Kingdom of God) (see Matt 19:28), they be granted the privilege of sitting at his right and left, Jesus explains that, contrary to what they think, he will be put to death instead. The request is consistent with Jesus' statement that the twelve disciples would be given twelves thrones, or spheres of authority, at the culmination of the Kingdom of God (see Twelve Thrones). James and John apparently wanted the two greatest spheres of authority. Matthew introduces the fact that James and John's mother was involved in attempt to secure the two positions of highest status for her sons. Matthew also abbreviates his Markan source, in particular, by eliminating Jesus' question about whether the two brothers are willing to undergo the same baptism that he is destined to undergo. In response, Jesus does not deny that there are such positions to be granted, but says that he has a cup from which to drink and baptism to undergo (Mark 10:35-40 = Matt 20:20-23). In other words, Jesus indicates that something has changed, that the Kingdom of God would not continue grow until its culmination. He indicates rather that he, the messenger and mediator of the Kingdom, will be rejected and undergo suffering and death as a result. To say that one has cup to drink is a metaphorical way of saying that one has a destiny of suffering; the metaphor of drinking a cup down to the dregs to mean suffering occurs in the Old Testament (Ps 75:9; Isa 51:17-22; Ezek 23:32-34; see also Ps 11:6; 75:8; Jer 25:15; 49:12; 51:7; Lam 4:21). (Jesus also uses the metaphor of a cup as a destiny in Mark 14:36 = Matt 26:39 = Luke 22:42.)
In the longer Markan version, Jesus explains that he also has a baptism to undergo (10:38). To undergo a baptism similarly means to face calamity; in the context, baptism means to be perilously overwhelmed by water. (There is no positive sense of Jesus' use of baptism in this saying.) The metaphor of being overwhelmed by water to denote calamity is found in the Old Testament (2 Sam 22:5; Job 22:11; Pss 18.4, 16; 32.6; 42.7; 69.1-2, 13-15; 88.6-7; 69:2, 15; 124.1-5; 144:7; Isa 8:7-8; 43:2; see also 1QH-a 11.13-18). In Hellenistic sources the verb baptizô is used metaphorically of being overwhelmed by catastrophe. Jesus is informing these two disciples that if they want a share in the future glory of the Kingdom, they must be prepared to suffer in the present.
In a saying attached to the Parable of the Vineyard and the Tenants because of a thematic overlap, Jesus interprets his rejection in light of Ps 118:22-23 (see also Acts 4:9-11) (Mark 12:10-11 = Matt 21:42-44 = Luke 20:17-18).
In the same way that the stone that the builders rejected turned out to be the cornerstone (kephalê gônias), the important stone in a building that joins two walls of a building together, so Jesus is Israel's most important salvation-historical figure, who is ironically rejected. The kephalê gônias may also be the keystone of an arch or a gateway, the central stone at the top of an arch that holds the arch in place (Taylor, Mark, 476). Ps 118:22-23 is not clearly interpreted messianically in any of the earliest extant sources (see Str.-B. 1. 875-76 for some evidence of a messianic interpretation of Ps 118:22). Ps 118:25-26, however, is messianically interpreted in Midr. Ps. 118. 22, an interpretation that Jesus seems to have known (see Matt 23:29; Luke 13:35b; see also Mark 11:1-11 = Matt 21:1-11 = Luke 19:28-40 = 12:12-19), and therefore one that probably extended back to the first century, if not earlier (Jeremias, Eucharistic Words, 256-62). Thus, Jesus interprets other parts of Ps 118 as messianic, including vss. 22-23. He, therefore, is adopting the well-known Jewish practice of finding not-so-obvious eschatological meanings in Old Testament texts (pesher-type interpretation).
Luke adds the phrase, "He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, and he on whom it falls will be crushed." (Luke 20:18). This was likely a free-floating saying that the author added to his Markan source; the thematic parallels are obvious, although the rejected cornerstone would not fall on anyone, since it is rejected and a cornerstone. Although it is difficult to know for certain, originally Jesus may have been alluding to the stone in Dan 2:34, 45, the stone cut from the mountain, not by human hands, that will crush the statue made of different materials representing different world kingdoms to come. (Matt 21:44 is probably an interpolation in Matthew of a saying similar to Luke 20:18) (see Manson, The Sayings of Jesus, 322-23). His point is that rejection of him and his message of the Kingdom will have dire consequences, because, contrary to what may first appear to be the case, it is not possible ultimately to oppose and thwart the purposes of God.
By means of the link-word oinos ("wine"), Luke attaches what was probably an originally independent saying to his Markan source; this saying belongs in a rejection context (Luke 5:39). Jesus speaks about the difficulty that people have in accepting his teaching about the Kingdom of God because it is new and contains elements discontinuous with expectation. For this reason many Jews reject Jesus' message and him as its messenger. Jesus says, "And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, 'The old is good enough'." By means of a common proverb, Jesus compares his teaching to less-preferred, new wine, whereas traditional Jewish beliefs are like the more-preferred, aged wine (see m. Abot 4.20). This saying expresses Jesus’ melancholic realization that the majority has rejected his message.
Luke includes two short, enigmatic sayings of Jesus in his gospel. The second (Luke 12:50) is similar to Mark 10:38, but certainly not a reformulation of it by Luke (see Gos. Th. 10 for another parallel saying) (Luke 12:49-50). In the first saying, "I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled," Jesus expresses his purpose as that of bringing fire on the earth: the use of the phrase "I have come" + infinitive is a Semitism used to communicate intention. To bring fire (lit. "to throw fire") on the earth is a metaphor of being the instrument of divine judgment. In the Old Testament, fire is used often as a metaphor of the judgment of God (see Deut 9:3; 32:22; Ps 21:9; 80:16; 89:46; Isa 4:4; 9:19; 10:16; 29:6; 30:27-28, 30; 33:14; Jer 4:4; 21:12). The same metaphor occurs in the second-Temple period (1QpHab 10.13; 1QH-a 11.24-31; 1 En 102.1; Ps. Sol. 15.4-5; 2 Bar 48.39; see also John the Baptist's use of the metaphor of fire in Matt 3.11-12 = Luke 3.16-17). Probably, Jesus' saying presupposes the historical context of his rejection and the disastrous consequences that this will have for the nation. Jesus' primary mission was to announce that the Kingdom of God has drawn near and was present. A positive response to this message would have resulted in the continued progress of the Kingdom of God to its culmination; a negative response, however, would bring national judgment. So, in the context of the rejection of the Kingdom of God and its messenger, Jesus' mission becomes that of the mediator of the judgment of God upon a recalcitrant nation. Jesus' further statement "And how I wish it were already kindled" expresses Jesus' desire that what is about to happen would happen soon; it is not to be taken a spiteful desire for revenge on those who have rejected him. (The ti probably corresponds the Aramaic mah, being used as an exclamation "how" [M. Black, The Aramaic Approach to the Gospel and Acts, 87-89; Blass-Debrunner, 299.4].) (The phrase thelô ei is also Semitic [see LXX Isa 9:4 (5); Sir 23:14].) The reason that Jesus wishes that the fire be kindled soon is that the nation's judgment will presuppose his own suffering, as Luke 12:50 indicates, so that he would prefer to be done with this unpleasant fate (Manson points out that the closest parallel to Jesus struggle with his salvation-historical calling is the prophet Jeremiah, who had similar reservations about what awaited him as a prophet [The Sayings of Jesus, 120]).
In the second saying, "But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed," Jesus refers to the "baptism" that he must undergo, by which he means the suffering that he must endure, which is the consequence of his rejection. (For meaning of "baptism" see notes on Mark 10:38 above). Calamity expressed by the metaphors of water and fire together occurs Ps 66:12; Isa 43:2; Ezek 38:22). Jesus also expresses his distress at what awaits him (see G. Klein, “Die Prüfung der Zeit [Lukas 12, 54-56],” ZThK 61  373-90). (The verb senechô) has the sense of being in distress.)
The saying in Matt 10:34 ("Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword") is found in another version in Luke 12:51 ("Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division"), which helps to interpret the Matthean version (Luke 12:51-52 = Matt 10:34-35). Probably, two independent Greek translations of an original Aramaic saying of Jesus were produced, one ending up in Matthew and the other in Luke. The other alternative is to posit heavily redactional activity on the part of Luke, which is improbable. Jesus explains that he has not come to bring peace to the earth but division (Matt: "a sword," which seems to be metaphorical of Luke's "division") (see Gos. Th. 16 for a parallel to this saying). Matthew’s expression “to throw peace” is probably a more literal translation of an Aramaic idiom, whereas the Lukan “to give peace” is more acceptable Greek but still a Semitism; see Genesis Apocryphon 22.8: "to throw upon them" (M. Black, An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts, 3d ed., 132-33).
In other words, people will be divided on account of Jesus. His appearance in salvation-history forces those with whom he comes into contact to choose between accepting and rejecting him. But enough have rejected him and his message of the Kingdom of God that the result is division not restoration. As a result, Jesus brings dissension and conflict (or a "sword") and not social harmony ("peace") among his contemporaries. In fact, this saying seems to presuppose Jesus' rejection by the majority, so that the minority that does accept him and his message will find themselves in conflict with the majority. The phrase "from now on" (apo tou nun) in Luke 12:52 confirms this interpretation, for it presupposes that there has been a change in the historical context of Jesus' teaching, from a non-rejection context to a rejection context. There is a probable allusion to Micah 7:6 in the Matthean and Lukan versions of this saying: "For a son dishonors his father, a daughter rises up against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man's enemies are the members of his own household." In Luke 12:53, the second half of Micah 7:6 is lacking, whereas Matt 10:35-36 is a idiomatic rendering of the prophetic passage, identical neither to the LXX or the MT.
The prophet speaks about how, with the disappearance of the righteous, society breaks down, so that even family members are at odds with one another. Jesus may be re-applying this to his own generation: the unrighteous will persecute the righteous, those who have recognized and responded positively to the proclamation of the Kingdom of God, Israel's eschatological salvation. (In the second-Temple period, social chaos, including division among families, is sometimes said to be part of the crisis just prior to the eschaton, the so-called Messianic woes [see Isa 34:5; 66:16; Ezek 21; 1 En. 63:11; 91:12; 100.1-2; Jub. 23:16, 19; 4Q174 1.10-13; 2 Bar. 70.3-7; 4 Ezra 6.24].) One should contrast Jesus' saying with the conciliatory role that Elijah is to play at the eschaton (Mal 4:5-6). Clearly, Jesus' saying implies that his mission has not been successful.
About six days before his arrest and execution, while he is reclining (to eat) at the house of a man known as Simon in Bethany, Jesus allows Mary to anoint his head and his feet with expensive perfume (Mark 14:3-9; Matt 26:6-13; John 12:1-8). She intends it to be an act of devotion. When she is criticized, Jesus defends her by saying that what she is doing is appropriate expression of her devotion to him, since it is as if she is anointing his body for burial (Mark 14:8; Matt 26:12; John 12:7) (see John 19:38-42). Jesus' response presupposes his awareness of his imminent death.
In light of the rejection of the Kingdom of God by the majority of his contemporaries, Jesus describes his generation as obstinate and resistant to God’s purposes. He sees it now as being under the judgment of God because of its rejection of the offer of the Kingdom of God. Regrettably, only relatively few have responded positively to the message.
There are two slightly different versions of a parable, its application and concluding saying in Matthew and Luke (Luke 7:31-35 = Matt 11:16-19). In the parable Jesus compares ‘this generation’ to disagreeable and peevish children who will not cooperate with one another long enough to play a game together.
Although it is somewhat ambiguous, the parable seems to depict two groups of children who argue about which game to play: "We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not cry" (Luke 7:32). As a result of this quarreling, neither game is played. Jesus’ generation is like the children in the parable, insofar as it is so querulous that it will not respond to or cooperate with any of God's salvific overtures to it.
In particular, it criticizes and rejects John for being demon-possessed because of his extreme asceticism, but it also criticizes and rejects Jesus as too indulgent and morally lax, as demonstrated by his association with tax-collectors and sinners: "a glutton and a drunkard." But this generation cannot reject both men at the same time, because the reasons for their rejection are opposites. Thus, Jesus and John find themselves in a "no-win situation," for there is no pleasing this generation. Jesus is criticizing his contemporaries for their rejection both of John’s message of looming judgment and of his own proclamation of the Kingdom of God. The use of the phrase "son of man" in Jesus' saying is self-referential, an indirect reference to the speaker, Jesus, used in order to avoid making a direct claim for himself.
Attached to his parable is a related saying: "Wisdom is proved right by her children" (Luke 7:35) or "But wisdom is proved right by her works" (Matt 11:19). (Luke's "by her children" is metaphorical way of saying "by her works," as found in Matthew: one's "works" are like children insofar as they come "from" a person and define that person.) Wisdom's "children" or "works" represent those who accept Jesus' message of the Kingdom of God (see Prov 8:32 and Sir 4:11 for other references to Wisdom's children). Jesus' point is that his message (and that of John) will prove to be the wisdom of God in a soteriological sense. Thus, those who believe his message will be vindicated eventually. In this saying, Jesus makes use of the Jewish tradition of Wisdom as a hypostasis of God's communication to human beings, the agent sent to disclose the mind of God, assumed to be hidden and inaccessible to human beings (Prov 8; Sir 1, 24; Bar 3-4; Wis 7:22-8:1; 1 En. 42).
In a saying, of which there are two versions, Jesus pronounces irrevocable judgment on his contemporaries because of their rejection of him and his message (Matt 23:34-36; Luke 11:45-51). Both versions of the saying should be handled as originally independent and so their contexts in Matthew or Luke should not be used in their interpretation. The speaker in the two versions differs: in Luke 11:49 the Wisdom of God speaks, whereas in Matt 23:34 Jesus speaks directly on behalf of God. But there is no contradiction if one assumes that Wisdom is a personification of an attribute of God, who sends messengers to human beings.
Jesus criticizes his generation along deuteronomistic-historical lines for being the latest in a long procession of those who have rejected God by rejecting God’s messengers. In Luke’s version, looking prospectively, it is said that the Wisdom of God will send to Israel prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute. By prophets is meant the biblical prophets, while apostles are more generally those sent by God in whatever capacity. Wisdom foretells that Israel will kill and persecute some of them. In Matthew’s version, God sends prophets, wise men and scribes to Israel. Prophets are the biblical prophets, wise men are those who understand the ways of God and scribes are those who are learned in the scriptures. Each class of people represents God and God’s interests to Israel. But Jesus, speaking on behalf of God, says that the nation kills, crucifies, flogs these men in its synagogues and pursues them from city to city. In general, it is clear that for its entire history the nation has been disobedient and unresponsive to God, which climaxes in Jesus’ own generation with the rejection of the Kingdom of God and its messenger.
For this reason it is said that Jesus’ contemporaries will be held responsible for all the innocent blood of those whom God has sent to the nation. Matthew’s version has, "And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth" (23.35), while Luke’s version reads, "Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world" (11:50). Probably, the term "prophet" in Luke is used loosely, as virtually synonymous with Matthew's "righteous," different from its use in Luke 11:49. These martyrs are then defined temporally as those from Abel to Zachariah who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. It is not that Jesus’ generation is appreciably worse than other generations. Rather the point is that Israel has been intergenerationally filling up the measure of its sin, so that with the rejection of Jesus and his message of the Kingdom of God the measure will be full and the entire wrath stored up will be visited upon the nation. This presupposes the idea of national solidarity. The idea of fullness of sins is also found in Dan 8:23 (LXX and Theod.); Jub. 14:16; 2 Macc. 6:12-17; T. Levi 6:11; Wis. 19:3-5; LAB 26:13; 36:1; 41:1; 47:9; Matt 23.32 (see also 4 Ezra 15.6; 2 Bar. 41). Similarly, in Sipre Num. 18.1 (116), it is said that the desecration of sacred things led to the sealing of Eli’s judgment and that of those living in Jerusalem.
In two independent traditions, Jesus points out that, if the people of his generation are able to predict the weather based on empirical observation, then all the more should they be able to discern the salvation-historical significance of their recent experience (Luke 12:54-56; Matt 16:2-3). But tragically they are not able to do so. In Luke 12:54-56, Jesus points out that his hearers know that it will rain when they see a cloud rise in the west and that it will be hot when the wind is blowing from the south. Based on present experience they are able to forecast the weather. In Matt 16:2-3, Jesus appeals to the well-known adage that a red sky at sunset foretells fair weather for the next day, but a red sky at dawn means that the weather will be stormy for that day. Each saying concludes with a rhetorical question intended as a criticism. (There is a parallel in Gos. Th. 91: "He said to them, 'You examine the face of heaven and earth, but you have not come to know the one who is in your presence, and you do not know how to examine the present moment'.")
Jesus’ purpose in these two sayings is to condemn his generation for not being able to recognize that their present is the time of the inception of the Kingdom of God. In Luke 12:56, Jesus expresses this by saying that it cannot discern "the present time" (ton kairon touton). What Jesus means in Matt 16:3 by "not discerning the signs of the times" (ta sêmeia tôn kairôn) is that his contemporaries have not been able to discern that the Kingdom of God has drawn near in spite of the fact that they have ample evidence of this from their own experience. The reason that Jesus calls his hearers hypocrites is that he is offering an implicit qal vahomer argument (from minor to major): he argues that being able to recognize the signs of in-breaking of the Kingdom of God should be easier than being able to predict tomorrow's weather, were it not for their spiritual obduracy. This makes his generation's rejection of him and his message of the Kingdom of God irrationally tragic.
Luke 11:31-32 and Matt 12:41-42 represent two versions of a saying in which Jesus criticizes his generation for missing the salvation-historical significance of the present. The saying consists of parallel comparisons of Jesus’ generation with the Ninevites and the Queen of Sheba. The Ninevites repented when they heard Jonah’s preaching of imminent judgment, and the Queen of Sheba traveled a long way to hear the wisdom of Solomon. Both sayings end with the same concluding statement: “And behold something greater than X is here.” What is greater than Solomon or Jonah is the Kingdom of God. At the resurrection, the examples of Ninevites and the Queen of Sheba will serve to condemn Jesus’ generation at the final judgment, since it did not respond positively to Jesus’ message of the Kingdom of God, in spite of all the empirical evidence, which neither the Ninevites nor the Queen of Sheba had. Jesus is offering a qal vahomer argument: if gentiles responded positively to Jonah’s preaching and Solomon’s wisdom without signs then how much more should Jesus’ contemporaries have responded positively to his proclamation of the Kingdom of God, since it was accompanied by signs.
Matthew and Luke have similar dominical sayings that implicitly compare entering the Kingdom of God with the experience of going through a narrow entrance (Matt 7:13-14; Luke 13:22-24). Jesus’ point is that tragically only a few have responded positively to his message and so will enter the Kingdom at its future culmination. Both sayings begin with an imperative followed by explanatory hoti-clause. There are enough differences between them, however, to conclude that they are two independent sayings of Jesus.
The saying in Luke 13.24 uses the metaphor of entering through a narrow door, but with no corresponding wide door; in addition, unlike the version in Matthew, there is no reference to the two ways. The metaphor probably presupposes the setting of a banquet hall where the eschatological banquet is to be held. Jesus tells his disciples that relatively few will be saved from the eschatological wrath of God and exhorts his disciples to strive to enter the narrow door into the banquet hall, by which he means to meet the conditions of entering the Kingdom of God in its future culmination.
Matt 7:13-14 uses the metaphor of entering through two city gates, a narrow gate and a wide gate, and two corresponding ways, a narrow way that leads to life and a broad way that leads to destruction. Jesus urges his disciples to enter the narrow gate into life. He compares the decision to meet the conditions of future entrance into the Kingdom to entering a narrow city gate and travelling on a narrow way. By contrast, without taking steps to do otherwise, most people will enter the wide gate and by default find themselves on the broad way to destruction. (The motifs of the way to life and the way to destruction are common in the Bible and second-Temple Judaism: Ps. 1.6; Prov. 14.2; Jer. 21.8; Sir. 21.10; 1QS 4.2-14; T. Ash. 1.3-5; 6.3; 2 En. 30.15; 4 Ezra 7.6-8, 48, 129; 2 Bar. 85.13.) The point is that a deliberate choice is required to avoid this outcome: a man does not find himself on a narrow way or entering a narrow gate unintentionally. It is probable that the two gates and two ways are intended to be interpreted as complementary metaphors not as two parts of a single metaphor.
Since they reveal a defeated attitude towards the prospect of bringing about national repentance and renewal, these two sayings need to be placed in a rejection context. With the rejection by the majority, Jesus now understands that only a small number of his hearers will respond positively to his message of the Kingdom of God. Only a minority of his hearers will enter the narrow door into the Messianic banquet, and only a relatively small number have chosen to be on the narrow way and to enter the narrow gate. For this reason he exhorts his hearers to be among this minority.
The consequence of Jesus' generation’s decision to reject him and his message of the Kingdom of God will be the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem. At least for a time the Kingdom of God will no longer be centered in Jerusalem and will be independent of the Temple, contrary to what the Old Testament prophets announced, and what Jesus presupposed in a non-rejection context (see Matt 5:17-19; Luke 16:17).
Jesus tells a parable of the unfruitful fig tree growing in a vineyard (Luke 13:6-9). (It was the practice to plant fig trees in vineyards; see the close association of vineyards and fig trees in 1 Kgs. 4:25; 2 Kgs. 18:31; Cant. 2:13; Jer. 5:17; 8:13; Hos. 2:12; Joel 1:7, 12; Mic. 4:4; Zech. 3:10; see Pliny, Nat. hist. 17.35, 200. ) After three years of futilely looking for fruit, its owner in frustration instructs his gardener to remove the tree: "Cut it down. Why should it use up the soil?" The gardener intercedes on behalf of the fig tree and asks that the owner for a reprieve of one year, during which time he will give it special care by digging around it and providing applications of manure. If it has not produced any figs in a year’s time, the tree can then be cut down. The outcome of the story is left open.
Jesus intends the fig tree to represent Israel. He can assume that his hearers are already familiar with the metaphor of a fig tree as Israel and fruit as actions.
If the fig tree is Israel then its owner must represent God, who threatens judgment upon the nation because of its lack of fruit, i.e. its lack of obedience. This raises the question of whether the gardener is intended to have a metaphorical value. Some argue that the details of the parable must not be pressed for equivalences and so turned into an allegory; rather it must be interpreted as making the general point of the urgent need for repentance in light of impending divine judgment. It is more probable, however, that a fourth metaphorical identification is intended: the gardener as Jesus. John the Baptist describes the impending eschatological judgment metaphorically as an axe being ready to cut down every tree that does not bear fruit (Matt 3:7-10 = Luke 3:7-9). Jesus understands his role as messenger and mediator of the Kingdom of God as likewise to prepare his generation for "the coming wrath." Like John, he expects his hearers to believe his message and produce the fruit of repentance. But at some point he begins to see evidence of the irreversible rejection of the Kingdom of God: the expected fruit—repentance—is not produced. This parable addresses this dire situation. Jesus warns that, if in the next little while there is still no fruit, the nation will fall under God's judgment: "If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down." (Whether the one year in the parable can be taken to indicate that Jesus saw his generation as having only one year remaining before judgment becomes irrevocable is not clear.)
There are two versions of a saying of Jesus, an announcement of judgment, that have substantial verbatim agreement, but are found in different contexts in Matthew and Luke (Luke 13:34-35 = Matt 23:37-39). Jesus laments the fact that Jerusalem, representative of the entire Jewish people, would not accept his message about the Kingdom of God and become his disciples. Jesus begins by pointing out that Jerusalem has an inglorious record of "killing the prophets and stoning those sent to it." In other words, the covenant people have had a history of spiritual obstinacy that has manifested itself in rejecting those whom God has sent to them. The use of present participles serve to express Jerusalem’s historically ever-present attitude of rebellion towards God and the prophets sent to it. In the saying in Luke 13:33 to which the Lukan version of the saying has been added, Jesus explains that it is only appropriate that he go to Jerusalem, because a prophet should not perish outside of Jerusalem: "I must journey on today and tomorrow and the next day; for it cannot be that a prophet would perish outside of Jerusalem." In order to describe the relationship to him that his contemporaries have rejected, Jesus uses the metaphor of a mother bird who gathers her chicks under her wings. He is implicitly appealing to the natural order against his generation.
It is natural for chicks to seek out the protection of their mother; so by analogy his contemporaries should recognize that the Kingdom of God has drawn near and then choose to become his disciples. (The metaphor of a mother bird gathering its chick under its wings occurs in Deut 32:11 in order to describe Yahweh’s relationship to Israel: "Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, which hovers over its young, he spread his wings and caught them; he carried them on his pinions." See also "in the shadow of your wings" (Pss 17:8; 36:7; 57:1; 63:7), "in the shelter of your wings" (Ps 61:4) and "under the shadow of his wings" (Ps 91:4). Other uses of the metaphor include: Ruth 2:12; 2 Bar. 41:4; 4 Ezra 1:30.) To reject Jesus is as unnatural and senseless as chicks refusing to be gathered under their mother’s wings. So the result is that Jesus’ generation desires the opposite of what he desires.
Jesus says that as a result of his generation’s rejection of him and his message, "Behold, your house is abandoned." His use of "behold" (idou) conforms to the Old Testament use of hnh occurring at the beginning of prophetic threats, and the present tense expresses prophetic certainty. By the term "house," he probably means the Jerusalem Temple. "House" sometimes refers to Jerusalem, but in this case such an interpretation is unlikely: since "your" in "your house" refers back as its antecedent to a personified Jerusalem, a pars pro toto for the Jewish people, it would be awkward and confusing if what belongs to Jerusalem ("your") is Jerusalem itself. But it does not ultimately matter much whether "house" means city or Temple since the two are inseparable: the fate of one is the fate of the other. Jesus warns that with the rejection of him and his message of the Kingdom of God judgment against the nation becomes unavoidable. God will abandon the Temple, and its abandonment will mean the deliverance of the Temple and city to destruction. Jesus concludes by saying that they will not see him again until they greet him with the words from Ps 118.26: "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord" (Ps 118.26). This implies that God’s abandonment of the nation is not a permanent condition, but will come to end in the future when Jesus returns to the nation.
Luke inserts the tradition represented by Luke 19:41-44 into a block of Markan material (Luke 19.:29-22:13 = Mark 11:1-14:16). It bears the linguistic marks of a being slightly-redacted Lukan special tradition. Jesus predicts the destruction of the city of Jerusalem. He addresses the personified city and specifies what will be done to it: "Your enemies will lay siege to you, and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will raze you to the ground, you and the children within you. They will not leave one stone on another" (19:43-44). What is being described is the siege of the city, followed by the destruction of the city’s fortifications and killing of its population. Although it conforms generally to what Titus will do to the city years later, it does not follow that what is being described is a vaticinium ex eventu. This is because the language used probably derives from Old Testament prophetic predictions of the destruction of Jerusalem. Besides, the description of the siege and conquest of Jerusalem in this passage is typical of any siege; there is nothing so unique that one should suspect that it is a vaticinium ex eventu.
Jesus attributes this expected fate of the city to the fact that its inhabitants did not recognize the "time of their visitation" (ouk egnos ton kairon tês episkopês sou), meaning that they have not recognized that the time of eschatological salvation, the Kingdom of God, has arrived. The use of the term "visitation" (episkopê; Heb: pqydh) to mean eschatological salvation for the sons of light and judgment for all others occurs in some of the Qumran sectarian texts (1QS 3.14, 18; 4.6b-14; 4Q286 frg. 7 col. 2.3b-5a). They did not recognize that this was the time when God would give his people "peace"; in this context, "peace" is a synonym for the Kingdom of God.
In what form-critically would be defined as a Pronouncement Story, Jesus predicts the destruction of the Temple (Mark 13:1-2, 14-20 = Matt 24:1-2, 15-25 = Luke 21:5-6, 20-24). The disciples marvel at the magnificence of the Jerusalem Temple; Jesus takes this opportunity to warn them that this magnificent structure will be destroyed: "Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down" (Mark 13:2).
The reason that the Temple will be destroyed is the appearance of "the abomination that causes desolation." In Mark 13:14-20 = Matt 24:15-25, Jesus speaks about the coming time when "the abomination that causes desolation" will stand in the Temple (lit. "holy place") (Matthew) or standing where it does not belong (Mark). The phrase means an abomination that causes the Temple to be desolate or deserted (by the righteous). In the Matthean version, Jesus says that the coming destruction of the Temple was prophesied by Daniel. He is no doubt referring to Dan 9:27b, where the prophet predicts: "And on a wing he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him." Jesus believes that what Daniel prophesied about the destruction of the city and the Temple is close at hand; Daniel's prophecy is to be fulfilled in part, at least, his own time. In the near future, "the abomination that causes desolation" will appear in the Temple, which must be synonymous to "wing" in Dan 9:27 (see LXX Dan 9:27 epi to hieron ["upon the sanctuary]); when this occurs the disciples are to flee the city, because total destruction will soon follow.)
Now the identity of "the abomination that causes desolation" is not disclosed by Jesus. It may be significant, however, that in Mark there is an unexpected change of gender from the neuter to bdelugma tês eremoseos ("the abomination that causes desolation") to the masculine estekota ("the man standing"); this may imply that "the abomination that causes desolation" finds its historical manifestation in a particular man. If so, then the Roman general Titus, as a representative of the Roman empire, is a prime candidate for this role. This interpretation is borne out by Luke's account: "When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies." Read in light of Mark 13:14 and Matt 24:15, the armies surrounding Jerusalem, commanded by Titus, are "the abomination that causes desolation." Titus, along with his generals, did enter the holy place of the sanctuary (tou naou to hagion), which, of course, was prohibited (War 6.260). In addition, the Romans sacrificed to their standards while the Temple was in flames (War 6.316), which Jews would consider to be an idolatrous act. It should be stressed, however, that, as a prophecy, Dan 9:27 is not exhausted in Titus' destruction of the Temple in 70. It seems that Jesus sees Titus as a prefiguration of an eschatological persecutor of Israel (see references to him in Dan 7:8, 23-25; 11:36-45), just as Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who is also said to set up an abomination that causes desolation, prefigured Titus. This is why he can cite Dan 9:27 as being fulfilled by Titus: Titus, who was prefigured by Antiochus IV, is the historical prefiguration of still future persecutor of the covenant people. The antecedent of "he" in Dan 9:27 is probably "the people of the ruler," who destroy the city and Temple in Dan 9:26. Nevertheless, whereas Dan 9:26 refers to the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 (and so Titus is to be identified as "ruler" in the phrase "the people of the ruler" in Dan 9:26), Dan 9:27 refers to a future, final assault by another "people of the ruler."
While being led away to be crucified, Jesus warns that destruction that is coming on the city (Luke 23:28-31). As Jesus is being led to the place where he is to be executed, some women follow him, mourning and wailing for him. (Sipre Deut 308 refers to how a mother and father weep and mourn for their son who is about to be crucified.) Jesus turns to them and warns them that they should be mourning for themselves because of the trouble that is to come upon the nation. He concludes with the saying: "For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?." The central idea is that dry wood burns more readily than green wood. Whatever exactly he may have meant by it, this proverb is a warning of future judgment. Perhaps Jesus' meaning is that if God does not spare Jesus who is innocent of wrongdoing, how much less will God spare this guilty generation.
According to Jesus, the negative response to the offer of the Kingdom of God results in the suspension of its progress already under way. The Jewish leaders who reject Jesus and the Kingdom of God will likewise be rejected by God. Having been rescinded for Jesus’ generation, the offer of the Kingdom of God instead is extended to others, those who were not initially invited to enter the Kingdom of God. In other words, gentiles are now offered the Kingdom of God, which would be at variance with the eschatological expectations of Jesus’ contemporaries.
In order to communicate that because of their rejection of him the Jewish leaders are themselves rejected, Jesus tells a parable in which he compares his generation to homicidal tenant farmers who are evicted from their land, which is then given to others (Mark 12:1-10 = Matt 21:33-41 = Luke 20:9-16). Given the many differences between Matthew, Mark and Luke, it is probable that there are at least two versions of this parable, although some of the differences between the versions are no doubt redactional in origin. It is likely that Jesus uses variations of this parable, resulting in two or more different versions of it in the tradition. All versions of the parable presuppose a situation of an absentee landowner who lets his vineyard to tenant farmers, who contract with him to give him a portion of the harvest.
The versions agree that at the proper time, the landowner sends servants to obtain his share of the harvest, but they are unsuccessful. He then sends his son, whom they murder. The tenant farmers intend to seize the vineyard for themselves and propose that, by killing the son and heir, they will gain possession of it. In response, the landowner kills the tenants and gives the vineyard to others. Jesus’ parable is actually an allegory, for it consists of several interconnected metaphors. The astute hearer is expected to make several equations between elements in the story and reality. Unlike many of his other parables, his hearers are able to decode this allegory, since it is not difficult to decipher.
The description of the construction of the vineyard in Matt 21:33 and Mark 12:1 provides direction to the interpretation of the allegory insofar as it alludes to LXX Isa 5.1-7, in which the covenant people are represented as an unfruitful vineyard that God, the owner of the vineyard, threatens to destroy. But even without this intertextual clue the hearer would be able to make the equation, since this was a conventional metaphor. (Luke’s version provides no details about the construction of the vineyard.) The identification of the vineyard with Israel and correlatively the owner of the vineyard with God is the point of departure for the interpretation of the parable, but there is a shift of focus in the parable from the vineyard to the tenants. Since in the parable, as in Isa 5.1-7, Israel is represented by the vineyard, it is natural to take the tenant farmers, absent in Isa 5.1-7, as representing the Jewish religious leadership, responsible for the cultivation of the vineyard and the rendering to God, the owner of the vineyard, his due, represented by the fruit.
Complicating the interpretation is the introduction of servants and the son of the landowner into the parable. The hearer would understand the servants in the parable to be the prophets, for this was a conventional metaphor at the time of Jesus and the narrative context permits this equation.
Since in the second-Temple period it is used in this sense, the hearers would have no choice but to decode the figure of the son in the narrative as the Davidic Messiah. They would probably understand that Jesus is making an indirect claim to being the "son," whom the leaders of the people have rejected and intend to execute, just as leaders from previous generations rejected and killed the prophets. The leaders who reject Jesus include the chief priests, scribes and elders (Mark 11:27; 12:12). Of course, the High Priest would also be included in this group.
The consequence of rejecting the son, i.e. the Davidic Messiah, will be rejection in turn. The hearer would agree that the landowner, "the lord of the vineyard,” is justified in killing the tenants who murdered his son and in giving the vineyard to others. The question, "What will he do?" is rhetorical, because the hearers know what he must do. So by parabolic analogy, God is equally justified in removing and destroying Israel’s leaders, who reject and are about to murder the Davidic Messiah, and in giving the leadership to others. The identity of these others is not clear from the context. T Perhaps Jesus is thinking of the twelve disciples as the new tenants, to whom he promised a share in the administration of the Kingdom of God (Matt 19.28; Luke 22.30). The implication may also be that Israel, represented by the vineyard, will be reconstituted under this new leadership.
includes an isolated saying in 21:43 after the citation of Ps 118:22-23
in 21:42. Jesus says, "I say to you that the Kingdom of God will
be taken from you and given to a people who produce its fruits."
The use of dia touto to introduce the saying suggests that its
inclusion in this context is redactional. Matthew has inserted it into
its present context based on the common theme of taking away and giving
to others and link-word karpoi. But there is no reason to consider
the saying itself a Matthean creation. The fact that Kingdom of God (basileia
tou theou) and not the more typically Matthean Kingdom of Heaven (basileia
tou ouranôn) is evidence of its traditional provenance. In this
saying Jesus is probably addressing the Jewish people as a whole and not
simply its leaders; in a context of rejection, he tells them that the
offer of the Kingdom of God has been rescinded because of their lack of
fruit, which is a metaphor for actions. The implicit subject of the passive
verbs is God. The actions in response to his message of the Kingdom of
God that Jesus expected from his generation was to believe the good news
about the Kingdom of God and to repent if necessary. But, since this fruit
is not forthcoming, the Kingdom now will be given to a people who will
produce the expected fruit. The people (ethnoi) to whom the Kingdom
will be given can only be those—considered collectively—to
whom the offer of the Kingdom was not initially made. In other words,
they are gentiles.
Speaking parabolically, Jesus teaches that, in spite of its rejection, the banquet, which is a metaphor of the Kingdom of God, will still be held, but with different guests, who are replacements for the ones originally invited (Matt 22:1-10; Luke 14:16-21) (see Banquet as Metaphor). He intends obliquely to communicate that the Kingdom of God is now to be offered to gentiles
Although they each tell a similar story, the two parables in Matthew and Luke are too different from each other to be ascribed to a common written source (Matt 22:1-10; Luke 14:16-21). In fact, they are so different that it is advisable to handle them as literarily and tradition-historically independent of each other, rather than as two versions of the same original parable. It is conceivable that Jesus tells both parables at different times to make the same point. In general, each parable is a narrative about a man who holds a banquet, sends out his servant(s) to summon the guests to the banquet to which they have been previously invited. (It was the practice to summon the guests to the banquet at the moment when everything was ready.) When the invited guests do not come to the banquet, however, the man becomes angry, writes them off and sends out his servant(s) again in order to find replacement guests among those who would not ordinarily be invited to one of his banquets. The point made in both parables is that the banquet is still held even when those invited refuse to come and in their place the host must invite his social inferiors to the banquet.
are allegories, although not every narrative detail is intended to be
decoded. The use of hyperbole pushes the narrative to the point of incredulity:
a hearer would not expect first that none of the invited guests would
come to the banquet and second that the host would be so indiscriminate
in his choice of replacements. This lack of realism serves to guide the
hearer in the decoding of the allegory, insofar as it focuses the hearer’s
attention on those two points. Jesus presupposes knowledge of a conventional
metaphor on the part of his hearers: eschatological salvation is a banquet.
From this point of departure, the allegory unfolds. If the banquet is
metaphor for the Kingdom of God, which is Jesus’ preferred term
for Israel’s eschatological salvation, then the host in each parable
must represent God. The invited guests would be understood to be Israel:
God offers to the nation the opportunity to accept the Kingdom of God.
What comes next in the parable has the potential to cause great offense
to his readers. When the offer of the Kingdom of God is refused, God offers
it to those who were not originally invited, who are the inferiors of
Israel in a salvation-historical sense. These others can only be gentiles,
since Jesus offers the possibility of entering the Kingdom of God to all
Israel, even to "tax-collectors and sinners."
In response to the failure of his mission, Jesus establishes a community composed of his disciples and others who have accepted him and his message of the Kingdom of God. He turns from the nation as a whole to a minority of Jews defined by their relationship to him. Jeremiah’s new covenant, a synonym for the Kingdom of God, is established for Jesus’ community, and this by means of his death, which is discontinuous with popular messianic expectation. Presumably, to this community will be added those gentiles who respond positively to the offer of the Kingdom of God.
Following Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Davidic Messiah, Jesus explains that henceforth he will concentrate his efforts on creating his community and Peter is to be the foundation of this new people of God.
Matt 16:13-19 represents a longer version of Peter’s Confession than that found in Mark 8:27-28, one that includes Jesus’ response to Peter’s confession of him as the Davidic Messiah (Christ) (Matt 16:16-19). The origin of Matt 16:17-19 has been disputed by commentators, but one position that the evidence does not support is that it is Matthean redaction. There remain two options: either Matt 16:17-19 was interpolated into the Markan framework or it originally belonged to a longer, non-Markan version of Peter’s Confession. The latter explanation is the best, since Matt 16.13-19 gives evidence of being a unity. (Matt 16:17-19 is a triad, and each of the three parts consists of three lines having a thematic statement followed by an antithetically structured distich.) Using wordplay, Jesus says to Simon that his name is "Rock" (petros) because on "this rock" (petra) he will build his community.
In the original Aramaic the same word, kyp' (Cephas), would have been used in both clauses. In response to his realization that he and his message of the Kingdom of God will ultimately be rejected (see Matt 16.21), Jesus says that he will create a community under the leadership of Simon (Simeon), one of the twelve disciples. No longer is he thinking of the restoration of Israel as his goal, but now seeks to create a community consisting of a believing remnant from Israel, those Jews who have accepted his message of the Kingsom of God. Jesus compares his community to a building and Simon to the bedrock foundation on which that building rests. The same metaphor is used in the Hodayot (Thanksgiving Hymns) to describe the building of the Qumran community: "For you have placed the foundation upon a rock (sl')" (1QH-a 14.26). Likewise the founder prays, "And you have established my house upon a rock (sl')" (1QH-a 15.6-9). The Qumran use of the metaphor differs from that of Jesus insofar as in the former there is no one individual identified as the foundation. Nevertheless, in 4QpPsa (4Q171) 3.15-16 the Founder is said to be the means by which the community is established.
Jesus adds that the gates of Hades shall not prevail against his community, founded upon Simon. In other words, in spite of Satan's success at thwarting the national realization of the Kingdom of God, Jesus intends to build a community that Satan cannot thwart. The phrase "the gates of Hades" is a metaphor rooted in the Old Testament; Sheol or death is depicted as a city, and the phrase "the gates of Sheol" or "the gates of death" represents the metaphorical "city" of Sheol, the gates standing for the whole city as an example of synecdoche (figure of speech in which a part is used to refer to the whole) (Isa 38:10; Job 17:16; 38:17; Pss 9:13; 107:18). The phrase "gates of Hades" also occurs in Wis. 16:13; 3 Macc. 5:51; Ps. Sol. 16:2, with the same meaning. Jesus’ use of the metaphor "the gates of Hades" does not mean, however, the realm of death, but the realm of evil, which is depicted as an organized power, expressed by the use of the metaphor of a city. Simon is given "the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven." "Keys" are a symbol of authority (see Isa 22:22). His authority is over the Kingdom of Heaven, which implies that Israel’s eschatological salvation, in part at least, continues to be a present reality, but now only for the community, the believing remnant from Israel. Thus, Simon has the authority to "bind and loose" on earth. What this means is that Simon has preeminent authority within Jesus’ community.
At the conclusion of his last Passover meal, Jesus takes the third cup, the cup of blessing, gives thanks for the meal, passes it around, and unexpectedly interprets it in terms of the new covenant (Mark 14:24 = Matt 26:28 = Luke 22:20 = 1 Cor 11:25). In all probability the more original version of the word over the cup is: This cup [is] the new covenant in my blood (touto to potêrion hê kainê diathêkê en tô haimati mou).The cup, or more precisely, the red wine in the cup, is metaphorical of the blood that he is about to shed. Jesus' word over the cup can be paraphrased as follows: "The wine in this cup represents the blood that I will shed when I die in order to establish the new covenant." The tertium comparationis in the case of the wine is that it was a red liquid, like blood. Wine as a metaphor of blood is well-attested in the Bible and second-Temple Jewish writings.
Jer 31:31-34 is the obvious candidate for the religious-historical background of Jesus' use of the term "new covenant." The prophet speaks of a time in the future when Yahweh will make a new covenant with Israel and Judah. This new covenant is an eschatological idea insofar as it pertains to Israel’s restoration (Jer 30-33). The covenant that Yahweh made with the generation of the exodus (Exod 24:8) is contrasted with the covenant that he will make with the generation of the eschaton (Jer 31:31-34). In Jesus' view the new covenant is coming to realization at his time, but with two expectional discontinuities. First, different from the original prophecy, the new covenant is not actualized for the entire nation but now only for Jesus’ community, symbolically represented by his disciples. In Jesus’ understanding, the realization of Israel’s eschatological salvation was conditional on the nation’s co-operation. Because this condition was not met, the promise of that salvation remains unfulfilled on a national basis. Now only those Jews who have accepted Jesus and his message, whom Jesus describes as his community, will receive the benefits of the new covenant, but in a modified form. Second, according to Jesus, the Jeremian new covenant is coming to realization by means of his death: Jesus causally connects the realization of the new covenant with his own death. But nothing is said or even implied in Jer 31:31-34 of such a condition.
As Jesus uses it, the concept of the new covenant is a synonym for the Kingdom of God: both denote Israel’s eschatological salvation. There is nothing unusual about his speaking of the new covenant when he has already spoken of the Kingdom of God. So when he speaks about establishing the new covenant for his community he also means that the Kingdom of God is established. The reason that he uses the term new covenant, rather than the more usual Kingdom of God, is probably because he says what he does at Passover. The new covenant is a conceptual correlate of the Jewish understanding of the Passover in the second-Temple period. The annual celebration of the Passover was an eschatologically-charged festival: it was the day of the realization of God's eschatological promises. So, if Nisan 15 was to be the day of Israel's final redemption, it must also be the day on which God would bring to realization the promised Jeremian new covenant. Jesus seems to have made this connection: he understands his last Passover as the day of Israel's eschatological redemption, the day on which the new covenant, or Kingdom of God, will be established, but only for those who have accepted his message and no longer for the entire nation.
The resurrected Jesus sends his disciples to the nations (Matt 28:19-20; Luke 24:46-47). In Matthew, they are to make disciples baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. In Luke, Jesus says that repentance and forgiveness will preached in his name to the nations.
After his resurrection, Jesus tells his disciples to remain in Jerusalem until the Spirit comes upon his community. He says, "And behold, I am sending forth the promise of my Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:29). A parallel to Luke 24:29 occurs in Acts 2:4-5: "Gathering them together, he commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, 'Which', he said, 'you heard of from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” It is clear from Acts 2:5 that what Jesus means by "the promise of my Father" in Luke 24:29 is the giving of the Spirit, which will give the recipients a power to do God's will that comes from God and is not natural to human beings (see Luke 12:12 = Matt 10:20 (see Future Giving of the Spirit). The phrase "from on high" (ex hupsous) is a n idiomatic circumlocution for "from God" (see Isa 32:15 "Until the Spirit is poured out upon us from on high"). John the Baptist foretold that the one who came after him would baptize not with water but the spirit of holiness, or the Holy Spirit (see Mark 1:8; Matt 3:11a,c-12 = Luke 3:16a,c-17). Through Jesus the eschatological promise of the spirit of holiness is realised, but no longer for the entire nation but now only for Jesus' community, to which will be added gentiles (see Spirit of Holiness).
In the context of his rejection and his anticipated death, Jesus speaks about his eventual return when he will reassemble the tribes of Israel in the land, as the prophets foretold. (Earlier, it was noted that Jesus said that his people would not see him again until they they say "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord," which would be a messianic confession [Luke 13:34-35 = Matt 23:37-39].) It seems that Jesus teaches that the eschatological salvation offered to Israel but rejected will still come to realization upon his return. The interval between his death and his return will see the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem, the building of his community (ekklesia) and the discipleship of the nations. In a non-rejection context Jesus taught that the Kingdom of God was a historical process that began with John the Baptist and his appearance and would culminate in eschatological reversal, restoration to the land, resurrection, judgment, removal of Satan and allied spirits. (This was continuous in many ways with Jewish eschatological expectation.) In a rejection context, Jesus teaches that the Kingdom of God will still come to completion for the nation, but now at his second appearance. Israel retains a hope for the future. At his return Jesus will assume the role of judge of not only Jews but also gentiles. He instructs his disciples that until his return they must wait and be faithful. How Jesus' community relates to the Kingdom of God in its culmination is not specified in Jesus' synoptic teaching. It seems clear, however, that the building of his community is a manifestation of the Kingdom of God in a rejection context. At his return, the Kingdom of God will be present in a way that it was not before his return.
Jesus still holds out hope for the nation. The condition of being under the judgment of God is not permanent but only temporary. At a time in the future, the progress of the Kingdom of God will resume for the nation. When this will occur, however, is not specified. This hope is expressed primarily in what is known as the "eschatological outlook" (Luke 22:14-16, 18) (see Mark 14:25) (but see also Luke 13:35 = Matt 23:39). See also Dispute about Greatness and Granting of Kingdom.
During his last Passover meal, Jesus twice indicates his belief in an abiding eschatological hope for Israel, in spite of its rejection of the Kingdom of God and him, its messenger and mediator. Before the Passover meal begins, he tells his disciples, ‘For I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God’ (22:16). He indicates that this is his last Passover meal with his disciples before he dies, but he expects to celebrate Passover with them again (22:15). By the phrase "in the Kingdom of God," he is referring to the time of culmination of the Kingdom, so that, in spite of the fact that it has been rejected by his contemporaries, Jesus still expects the Kingdom to come to realization for the nation. Later Jesus commands his disciples to take the first Passover cup, the Qiddush cup, which he has blessed, and to divide its contents among themselves (Luke 22:17). What Jesus does likely departs from the usual practice. The practice of passing around the first cup is not found in the historical sources, although there is evidence for the passing around of the third cup. (The disciples may have drunk from their own cups in addition to the cup passed around by Jesus.) Jesus then adds, "I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the Kingdom of God comes" (22:18). Luke 22:18 is close to Mark 14:25 and arguably is a variant of it. Mark’s version is as follows: "Truly I say to you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the Kingdom of God." There are no substantial differences between the two versions: both refer to the time of culmination of the Kingdom of God when Jesus again will be drinking wine in a festival setting. No doubt Jesus is alluding to the eschatological banquet, which he may have further specified as an eschatological Passover (see Luke 13.29; 14.15; 22.29-30). Again this saying presupposes that Jesus believes that, in spite of its rejection by his generation, the Kingdom of God will still come for the nation. It should be noted that, whereas in a non-rejection context he taught that the Kingdom of God would culminate within the lifetime of some of his contemporaries, Jesus now says that there will be an indeterminate period of time between his death and the realization of the Kingdom of God for the nation.
Matthew combines material from Mark and another source, which Luke keeps separate from his Markan source. These two sources provide information about Jesus' view of the future. The material in them can be organized as follows: Mark 13:24-32 = Matt 24:29-36 = Luke 21:25-33; Luke 17:22-37 = Matt 24:23-28, 37-42; Luke 12:39-40 = Matt 24:43-44.
7.2.1. Mark 13:24-26 = Matt 24:29-30 = Luke 21:25-27
Jesus says that the son of man will come upon the clouds of heaven, which is a unmistakable allusion to Dan 7:13-14. Jesus interprets his future coming as that of the son of man (see Jesus' Titles for a more complete discussion of Jesus' use of the term "son of man.") This description follows immediately upon Jesus' prediction of the destruction of the Temple, and could be interpreted to mean that Jesus expects to return immediately after 70, a little less than forty years after his departure. (See Jesus' interpretation of Dan 7:13-14 in a non-rejection context: Twelve Thrones.) Indeed, Jesus says, "I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened" (Mark 13:30 = Matt 24:34 = Luke 21:32), which seems to mean that his generation would see both the Temple destroyed and Jesus' return as the son of man. If so, then Jesus' return is delayed. But a better explanation suggests itself. Jesus' return could immediately follow upon the destruction of the Temple in the sense that no other eschatologically significant event will intervene between the two. The phrase "in those days" (en ekeinais tais hemerais) is an eschatological reference, pointing to the time of the end when God would bring salvation and judgment to the world (see Jer 3:16, 18; 31:29; 33:15-16; Joel 3:1; Zech 8:23). In other words, it does not necessarily mean the time immediately following the destruction of the Temple. Indeed, Jesus teaches that his coming will be unexpected (Luke 12:39-40 = Matt 24:43-44; Matt 24:36), since no one can know its exact hour or day, which would not be the case if it were to occur immediately following 70. Thus, Jesus interweaves two perspectives into his discourse, the imminent and the eschatological. These are unified by Dan 9:27, which he takes to predict the destruction of Temple by Titus but also to refer to the coming of an eschatological oppressor of Israel, who will emerge just before Jesus' appearance as "the son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory" (see Dan 7:8-12). This explains the reference to the "distress" (thlipsis) prior to appearance of the son of man (Mark 13:24; Matt 24:29). The period in which Jesus "builds his community" is situated between the destruction of the Temple and the appearance of himself, the son of man, on the clouds. As such this salvation-historical period is depicted atemporally, so that these prophetic events appear to be close in time, but only in prophetic time. Jesus provides no information on how long this salvation-historical period of the church will actually be.
The idea that penultimate to the end would comes a time of great distress is common in second-Temple Judaism (see Apocalypse of Weeks [1 En. 93:1-10; 91:11-17]; 4 Ezra 5:1-13; 6:20-24; 8:58; 8:63-9:13; 13:14-20; 16:70-75; 2 Bar. 25-30; 70; 1QH-a 3.6-18; 3.19-36). Jesus also warns his disciples to ignore any false Messiah or false prophets who will appear before his return.
7.2.2. Mark 13:27 = Matt 24:31
Angels will gather the elect from the four corners of the earth. The gathering of the elect is probably the reassembling in the land of all Jews alive at the time of the coming of the son of man. (This is a dominant expectation in the Old Testament and the second-Temple literature.)
7.2.3. Luke 17:34-36 = Matt 24:40-42
The appearance (parousia) of the son of man (Matt 24:39) (or, as Luke has it, "the day on which the son of man will be revealed [apokaluptetai] [17:30]) will be a time of judgment. In particular, there will be a separation of human beings for the purpose of judgment, expressed as the taking of one of a pair and the leaving of the other. In Matthew's version, of the two in a field, one is removed while the other remains. Likewise, there are two woman grinding at a mill; one is taken and the other is left. In Luke's version, instead of the two in the field, the picture is of two in a bed: one is removed while the other remains. (It seems that Matthew and Luke had access to different versions of this saying, which explains most of the differences between them.) Whether it is Jews or all human beings who are being judged is not clear from the context.
Jesus instructs his disciples to be watchful and prepared for his return, because they will not know when he will return. They are to act on the assumption that Jesus will return, and will hold them accountable for what they have done (Matt 25:1-13; Matt 25:14-30 = Luke 19:11-27; Luke 12:35-48 = Matt 24:45-51; Luke 12:41-48).
In Matt 25:1-13, Jesus tells the Parable of the Five Foolish Young Women, the point of which is that the disciples must be prepared for Jesus' coming. In accordance with the custom of the day, a bridegroom would come to his house during the night to take his bride, who was brought there earlier. When the bridegroom's approach was announced, women would leave the bride to meet the bridegroom; they would light their way with oil lamps and then accompany him to his house. There could be quite a delay between the arrival of the bride and that of the bridegroom. The wedding party then moved on to the house of the bridegroom's father, where the guests were entertained (Jeremias, The Parables of Jesus, 173). This is what is being described in Matt 25:1: "At that time the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom." Jesus then relates a story about five "wise" young women who had brought enough oil to keep their lamps lit until the bridegroom arrived and five "foolish" young women who did not. Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven to this situation; his point is that the Kingdom of Heaven in its future culmination will come with his appearance, so that the disciples must be prepared for this eventuality. This is the application of the parable: "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour" (Matt 25:13).
There are two versions of a parable that Jesus uses in order to prepare his disciple for remaining behind in the world after his departure from it (contrary to Jeremias, Parables, 62). He compares his disciples to servants to whom their master gives captial to invest while he is away for an extended period of time. Their responsibility is to increase their master's net worth while he is absent, which in Roman law was known as peculium. Since by law a servant could not own property, whatever property he acquired belonged to his master (Luz, Matthew, 3.251). Upon his return, the master evaluates what the servants have done with what they have been given. Since there are so few parallels between Matt 25:14-30 and Luke 19:11-17, it is improbable that Luke's version as a redaction of the more original Matthean version, as is sometimes asserted (on the independence of two parables see Schulz, Q, 288-93; Sato, Q, 22-23; Riniker, Gerichtsverkündigung, 237; Luz, Matthew, 3.247-48; Snodgrass, Stories with Intent, 525, 529-31).
In Matthew a master, who leaves on a journey, gives three servants different amounts of money, five talents, two talents and one talent. A talent was a large sum of money, worth the equivalent of 6,000 denarii; a denarius was the equivalent of a day's wage (Davies and Allison, Matthew, 3.405). In Luke a master, who is planning to leave his territory in order to receive a kingdom, gives ten servants each a mina, worth one sixtieth of a talent, but the performance of only three of them is later evaluated. In the Matthean version, each servant receives "according to his own ability," and so not the same amount, unlike the servants in Luke's version (Matt 25:15). The purpose of the first two servants in both versions is to serve as a foil for the third servant. In Matthew the first and second servant double their money; in Luke the first servant had a tenfold increase, whereas the second a fivefold increase. In both versions the master commends the first two servants. The third servant in Matthew out of fear of his master did not want to take a risk with his master's money and hid his talent in the ground. To bury the money was to keep it safe since this was the only way to ensure it against theft (Snodgrass, Stories with Intent, 528). In the Lukan version, the third servant wrapped his mina in a cloth for safekeeping. The master's criticism of the third servant in both versions is that he allowed his fear to prevent him from taking a risk necessary in order to make a profit. Jesus' point in both versions is that those in the church should serve the interests of Jesus, their master, while he is absent in spite of the risks that they will face. He stresses that there will be a judgment of the church upon his return, and rewards granted to those who have proven themselves to be productive: "Enter into the joy of your master" (Matt 25:21, 23) / "You are to be in authority over ten cities"; "you are to be in authority over five cities" (Luke 19:17, 19).
In Luke 12:35-40, there is found a series of sayings that probably once circulated independently; Matthew has the two sayings represented by Luke 12:24:39 (= Matt 24:42-43) (Matt 24:42 may be Matthew's own introduction to the parabolic saying) and Luke 12:40 (= Matt 24:44). Luke 12:35 is joined to Luke 12:36-38 by means of the link-word "to gird one's loins" (perizonnumi), which is then joined to the following saying (12:39) by the common theme of unexpected coming; the final saying is joined to the preceding not only the common theme of unexpected coming by also by the link-word "hour" (hora).
In Luke 12:35, Jesus commands his disciples to be ready; he does so by means of two metaphors. First, he says that they should gird up their loins. In the first century, most Jews in Palestine wore the Greek chiton (Latin: tunica), an long, ankle-length, loose-fitting garment with a belt around the waist. (The outer garment was the himation [Latin: toga].) In preparing for work or other activities, a person would pull up the garment and hold it in that position with the belt; the excess garment would hang over the belt. In using this image, Jesus is instructing his disciples always to be prepared. Second, Jesus says that the disciples should keep their lamps lit. Again his point is that the disciples should be in a state of readiness. In Luke 12:36-38, Jesus advises the disciples to be like servants who wait for the return of their master from a wedding feast, which lasted well into the night, even until "the second and third watches of the night." Thus, Jesus is using another metaphor to describe his expectation of his disciples: they are the servants who wait for Jesus' return, their master. He promises the disciples that the master will serve them upon his return, symbolized by the master's girding up his loins; this could be an allusion to being a participant at the Messianic banquet (12:37). In Luke 12:39 = Matt 24:43, Jesus compares his coming to that of a thief: since a householder does not know when a thief will come to break into his house, he must be prepared for the thief to come at any time. In the final saying, Jesus says, "But you must be prepared, because the son of man comes at an hour when you do not expect him to come" (Luke 12:40 = Matt 24:44).
In Matt 24:45-51 = Luke 12:41-46, Jesus tells his disciples to be like a "wise" servant, who, while waiting for his master's return, behaves circumspectly. He will be found to be blameless when his master comes back, and rewarded by being given charge of his master's possessions. By contrast, the wicked servant, who does not know when his master will return, behaves criminally, and is caught unawares when his master returns. Such a servant will be punished. (Luke adds another saying at the end of the parable [12:48b].)
Jesus foresees a judgment of the nations at the end, the time of his return (Matt 25:31-46) (see Matt 28:19-20; Luke 24:47). In Matt 28:19-20, Jesus, after his resurrection, instructs his disciples to go to the gentiles and make disciples of them, teaching them to keep everything that he commanded them. In Luke, Jesus tells his disciples to preach in his name a repentance for the forgiveness of sins to the gentiles. In Matt 25:31-46, Jesus says that at his return, he—the son of man—and all the angels with him will sit upon the throne of his glory. This, no doubt, denotes the culmination of the Kingdom of God. Jesus refers to a future judgment of all human beings, not just Jews: "All the nations will be gathered before him; and he will separate them from one another" (25:32). After this, he will separate the righteous and the wicked among the nations as a shepherd separates sheep and goats. (He compares this judgment to a shepherd's separation of sheep and goats.) The righteous—the sheep—inherit the Kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world. The wicked—the goats—are removed to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. It is not clear whether this judgment is of the living and the dead or just the living. (In a non-rejection context, Jesus spoke also of judgment at the culmination of the Kingdom of God, but the judgment concerned only Israel.) The criterion of this final judgment is what a person has done. Jesus also refers to the fact that "the devil and his angels" will be punished by means of being sent into the same eternal fire as unrighteous human beings (25:41). It is a commonplace in second-Temple texts to find that, at the eschaton, the devil (or one of his other designations) and the angels under his control will be removed from the earth and judged (see Jub. 23:14-31; 50.5; 1 Enoch 55; 61; 90:24-25; T. Levi 18:12; T. Dan 5:10-11; T. Judah 25:3; T. Zebulon 9:8; 11QMelch; 1QM 1.9-15) In 1 Enoch 55.4, in fact, it is the Messiah, "my Elect One," who judges Azaz'el and his allied spirits (see also 1 Enoch 61.8).