Holy Week: The Olivet Discourse

Holy Tuesday is also called Fig Tuesday. The events attributed to Christ on that day begins with the cursing of the fig tree in Matthew 21 and includes all of the sermons and teachings until Matthew 26.

This includes the Olivet Discourse, the portion of scripture that covers when Jesus prophesied that the temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed. This greatly disturbed the Twelve, who asked Jesus to clarify and expand what that meant. They couldn't fathom the events that would result in the temple at Jerusalem, the center of their Jewish faith, being destroyed. They felt great fear at that prospect and wanted answers for what this would mean for them.

What came from that questioning was part of Matthew 23, 24, and 25. And in Latter-day Saint tradition, we have Joseph Smith-Matthew in the Pearl of Great, the JST of Matthew 24.

Receiving difficult truth and having the courage to face a future of hardship is part of what we learn here. Jesus did not come to destroy Rome on behalf of the Jewish people, despite their expectations that this would happen when the Messiah arrived. Instead, Jesus revealed the spiritual violence and oppression that existed in his community. He gave God's power and authority to his disciples, knowing he would leave them until a later time. Even Jesus did not know when he would return to them again, to finish his work as the Messiah.

The salient parts of his instruction here that I think matters for us is what it means to wait. The kind of sacred waiting that can go on for lifetimes, maintaining hope for a future that we may never see. To be the servant of God that endures well through all the trials of life, becoming a better servant because of them. And Jesus provides instruction in Matthew 25 of what qualities those servants have.

The parable of the ten virgins teaches wisdom in planning and thinking ahead, in gathering and conserving resources that allow us to last through the night.

That parable of the talents teaches us to make the most of the talents and resources God has given to us, to multiply and magnify them in our service to the Lord.

The parable of the sheep and the goats teaches us self-awareness in ways that are only obvious if you've had the experience of working with sheep and goats. Goat are ornery and self-defeating, making messes and breaking out of their enclosures simply because they can. They resist all attempts to care for them, instead choosing to do only as they please, even when it puts them in danger. They taunt, bicker, and fight with one another constantly. They are troublemakers in every sense of the word. Every person I've known who has a herd of goats knows that to make good decisions goes against their every instinct. In a cultural agrarian shorthand that is lost on many today, the parable of the goats invites people to do self-reflection, identify those tendencies in themselves, and to confront the ways we actively resist the love and care of Christ.

And of course, one of the most important teachings of Christ in the scriptures, the contemplation of how we treat the undesirables of society. Do we understand that's who Christ was in his society, and that how we treat those people is exactly how we would treat him if we saw him? Humility and universal love are difficult and go against human reason and much of our nature. But it's impossible to be a good disciple, to withstand the difficulties of this life and maintain a sense of human dignity intact, if we reject and spurn people based on how we've been socialized. To be a good disciple of Jesus Christ, we can't judge people that way.

All of these lessons form an image of the trust Jesus has in us. While we contemplate how to deepen our faith in God, I think it's equally important during Easter to realize how much faith they have in us. They've given us so much responsibility, trusting that we are equal to the task they've given us.

We are capable of seeing the holiness in ourselves and in each other. We are capable of bringing forth good fruit, in contrast to that fig tree. To me, this is what it means to multiply and replenish the earth. It's not just about bearing children. It's bringing goodness, health, vitality, and healing into the world where it did not exist before.

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