Face Your Enemies Like Jesus Did
Have you ever faced all your enemies in one day; in fact, in only a few of hours? And what if each enemy wasn’t an individual, but a group, all in a few hours, back to back to back to back? Jesus did that very thing a couple of days before His arrest, conviction, beatings and crucifixion, probably on Tuesday or Wednesday of Passion week. The accounts of that day can be found in Matthew 21-23; Mark 11-12; Luke 20.
The scene needs to be set in order to appreciate those moments. The confrontations took place in the Temple court area in Jerusalem. The city of David normally had about 50,000-80,000 people living inside the city walls and in temporary housing just outside the walls. However, it was Passover time; the population swelled to over 200,000 during that week, many who had to stay in their tents outside the walls. With that in mind, take note that the area inside the walls was only about 350 acres. To put that in terms related to the Texas Panhandle, the area of White Deer inside the city limits is 630 acres. That means that over 200,000 people crammed into half of White Deer every day of the feast. So how cramped were things? As the old expression said, like sardines in a can. And on top of that, guess what everyone wanted to see and where everyone wanted to go in Jerusalem? That’s right, the Temple and the courtyard surrounding it. Now guess where Jesus’ confrontations with all of His enemies took place; that’s right, in the Temple courtyard. Get the picture? The scene is set, the confrontations begin.
First on the agenda was the Sanhedrin, aka- the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders. In an attempt to trap Jesus in blasphemy, they asked, “By what authority are you doing these things?” If He said by God’s power, they had Him on blasphemy. As always, He turned the tables on them by replying that He would answer their question, if they could answer His question first. “Was John’s baptism from heaven or from men?” Lockjaw set in; either answer put them in a bind, so they said that they didn’t know. Round 1 was over; only a mild confrontation; not all enemy encounters that day would be.
Next came the Pharisees behind the scene, the Herodians in the foreground. The Sanhedrin had tried a theological approach to trap Jesus and failed. So the Herodians chose a political approach: “Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?” They had Him trapped whether He said Yes or No; they licked their chops. Jesus said Yes but added theology to the equation. “Give Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give to God what is God’s.” They had Him trapped, then suddenly they didn’t. Round 2 was over; more frustrated enemies. Keep in mind that all of His enemies were so crammed into this area that they were all listening to every word Jesus said.
The Sadducees were up next. Their approach was more of a riddle than a question; a theological and personal riddle. A woman marries 7 times because each previous husband died, so at the resurrection whose wife will she be? Suddenly Jesus turned them upside down. He began by informing them, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?” What a slam that surely infuriated them. Then He explained how different things would be in the post-resurrection time, including that there would be no marriage then.
The Sanhedrin members were fuming with Jesus and still present in the court area. The Herodians were livid too and still there. The Sadducees were furious over Jesus calling them “ignorant” in front of the crowd. The entire time these other confrontations were taking place, the Pharisees had been hanging around in the background, snickering no doubt at how Jesus frustrated them all. Since Jesus could read men’s hearts, He did not have to wait for their question or riddle. During His ministry, the Pharisees had attacked Jesus more times than all the other sects combined. This would probably be His last opportunity to try to help the Pharisees open their eyes.
So for 36 verses in Matthew 23, Jesus lumps the Sanhedrin together with the Pharisees and unloads on them both in front of the Temple court crowd. The other confrontations that day were nothing like this fiery unveiling of their wickedness. No doubt these blistering proclamations contained the same intensity that had filled Jesus as He drove everyone out of the Temple area just 2 days earlier. With 741 words Jesus exposed, for all to see, the spiritual rottenness that had infected both the Sanhedrin and the Pharisees. That day no one dared confront this flaming passion from the heaven-sent Son of God. But His encounter didn’t end there.
As often occurs with humans, powerful tear-filled emotions often follow outbursts. And such ensued with Jesus that day, recorded in 23:37-39. His day with His enemies ended with 70 words of love, even for the Sanhedrin and the Pharisees; so, like the Redeemer. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
This day of confrontations was unlike those earlier in His ministry. Why? Jesus was running out of time to reach the blind with the light of truth. He could no longer beat around the bush, hoping for another time later. However, He did remind us that even when we must confront someone bluntly with the truth, we must end the encounter with God’s love for them and our love for them. That is what Jesus did that day with His closing words. May we do likewise with our enemies.