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Tbe Story of Monday
APRIL 3, 30 A. D.
Jesus and his disciples left Bethany at an early hour, and evidently without breakfast.
On the way to the city, Jesus saw a fig tree, whose abundant foliage gave promise of fruit, although it was early for figs. They approached the tree, which was found to bear no figs, but only leaves. Jesus rebuked the hypocrisy which the tree symbolized, and he and the disciples passed on; but next morning as they passed that way the disciples saw that the tree had withered, and Jesus turned the lesson to one on faith
Entering Jerusalem again, Jesus repeated his cleansing of the temple. This he had done at the beginning of his ministry, but the abuses had crept back. Under pretense of keeping the letter of the law, and giving to the treasury no money save the sacred shekel, a system of money exchange had been established in one of the outer courts. For the convenience of those who would offer doves and other animals in sacrifice, covetous dealers had been permitted to establish their stalls and bring their cages within the area of the temple. Jesus drove these forth, the popular conscience proving his ally, and no one questioned his right. The people approved the act, and the priests dared not challenge it. The people “all hung upon him, listening”; the children sang his praises, the busy day closed, leaving Jesus still Master of the temple. When evening came, he returned, with his disciples, to Bethany, and spent the night among his friends.
The TIME OF Figs.
In attempting to explain the expectation of Jesus that figs might be found on a tree before the time of figs, and of his cursing of the tree because no fruit appeared, it has sometimes been said that what Jesus expected to find was the left-over figs from the previous
This explanation may be dismissed at once. No such figs remain over until spring in Palestine, and a tree growing by the roadside near to a large city would be the last place where it would have been reasonable to expect to find them. If any figs had remained through the winter they would not have been good. The following may be accepted as the true explanation:
In Southern Palestine the fig tree puts forth its leafbuds sometimes as early as February, and the fruit appears simultaneously with or even a few days in advance of, the leaf. These grow together till the fruit is perhaps as large as a cherry; but the precocious figs are commonly shaken off by spring storms, and the real crop of figs follows later. One of the editors of this booklet plucked from the tree, and ate, a Palestine fig, about three weeks earlier in the spring than the time of the cursing of the fig tree.
In the spring of 1906 these early figs were for sale in Jerusalem ar Easter time, and there were others on the trees lato in April. These figs cannot be called good, and they seldom ripen; but the natives sometimes eat them with salt, or pluck them by the way to stay their hunger.
These early figs are called by the natives "nefful" or “tuksh" and are commonly all off the trees before
the appearance of the buds of the very good figs, which are called “defur.” There is a third crop ripening later and of inferior quality to the second, called “teen." The “nefful” are as near maturity about Easter as they usually get; the “defur” ripen about the middle of June; the “teen” or common figs ripen in August.
The tree which Jesus saw was in full leaf, while some other trees were not so forward. Its foliage was a proclamation that it had early fruit if it ever was to have any. Thus the parable was a warning against profession without performance.
The TEMPLE AND ITS COURTS, The temple of Jesus' day was the third erected on the same site The first was built by Solomon, and was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.,C. The second was erected by Zerubbabel after the exile, and was partly taken down, to make room for the third, which was erected by Herod, and was in some respects the grandest of them all.
HEROD'S TEMPLE. The following description is adapted from the eminent Jewish-Christian Scholar, Edersheim:
As rebuilt and enlarged by Herod the Great, the Temple area occupied an elongated square of nearly 1,000 feet, an area more than one-half greater than that of St. Peter's at Rome, whose length measures 613 feet, and nearly double that of St. Paul's, in London, whose extreme length is 5201 feet. Towards the north-west corner of the square the Temple itself and its special courts were placed. They were not all on a level, but rose terrace upon terrace, till the sacred edifice itself was reached. A colossal bridge on arches spanned the intervening Valley of the Tyropæon, connecting the ancient City of David with what is called the “Royal Porch of the Temple." Each arch spanned 411 feet, and the spring-stones measured 24 feet in length by 6 in thickness. The view from this "Royal Bridge" must have been magnificent. The roadway which spanned this cleft for a distance of 354 feet, from Mount Moriah to Mount Zion opposite, was 50 feet broad, and crossed the valley at an elevation of 225 feet. The “porches,” or cloisters, were among the finest architectural features of the Temple. They ran all around the inside of its walls, and bounded the outer enclosure of the Court of the Gentiles. They. consisted 6f double rows of Corinthian pillars, all monoliths, each pillar being 371 feet high. The “Royal Arch,” by which we are supposed to have entered the Temple, was the most splendid, consisting not as the others, of a double, but a treble colonnade. When Herod the Great rebuilt the Temple, he incorporated with it this site of the ancient royal palace. The great Court of the Gentiles, which formed the lowest or outer enclosure of the Sanctuary, was paved with the finest variegated marble. According to Jewish tradition, it formed a square of 750 feet.
Its name is derived from the fact that it was open to all, Jews or Gentiles, provided they observed the prescribed rules of decorum and reverence. The Sanctuary itself consisted, first, of three courts, each higher than the one next without, and, beyond them, of the Holy, and Most Holy Places, with their outbuildings. Entering by the principal gate on the east the worshippers would pass, first into the Court of the Gentiles, then into that of the Women, thence into that of Israel, and from the latter into that of the Priests. The Court of the Women covered a space upwards of 200 feet square, and obtained its name, not from its appropriation to the exclusive use of women, but because women were not allowed to proceed further, except for sacrificial
purposes. The eight side gates were all two-lcaved, wide, high, with superstructures and chambers supported by two pillars, and covered with gold and silver plating. But far more magnificent than any of them was the eastern gate, the principal entrance into the Temple. This was the “Beautiful Gate." In the Court of the Priests was the immense altar of unhewn stones, a square of not less than 48 feet, and 15 feet high. In the Holy Place were the golden candlestick, the table of shewbread, and beyond them the altar of incense, near the entrance to the Most Holy. Such was the Temple as restored by Herod, a work which was not yet completed in the time of Jesus, after fortysix years' labor.
MONEY CHANGERS IN THE TEMPLE. The yearly temple tax of half a shekel was due from every Jew, however poor (Exodus 30:15). At the time this law became operative, the Jews had no coinage. When, much later, they obtained a brief right to coin money, the “shekel of the sanctuary” became the only coin in which this tax was legally payable. It was already scarce in the time of Jesus, so that Jews who came to the feasts were required to exchange their money, much of which was counted profane because of its heathen symbols. It is to be noted with interest that when Jesus paid his temple tax he paid it in the Roman stater (Matt. 17:27, R. V. mg.).
THE SHEKEL OF THE SANCTUARY.