|Posted by donnadawson on February 24, 2009 at 5:18 PM|
"As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. 'Tell us,' they said, 'when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?'
Jesus answered: 'Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many.' " Matt 24:3-5 NIV
I don't know about you but when I read that Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, I pictured a softly rolling knoll covered with lush grass, but in reality the Mount of Olives is a mountain ridge that runs east of Jerusalem. It has three peaks that run north to south, the highest of which is 2,683 ft high. It is well known for its olive groves and has quite a rocky terrain. Interestingly enough it was a place of burial--a strange choice for a Rabbi to preach his sermons. And it was also the perch from which the Romans camped during the 70 AD seige.
When we read this portion of scripture, it's important to remember all that has come before it. Jesus just delivered the seven woes to the Pharisees. He just finished telling his disciples about the hypocrasy of the religious leaders and how they dressed for the sake of importance while their followers were spiritually dying. He mourned over Jerusalem longing to "gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings". He finished off chapter 23 with a direct quote from the book of Psalms where the prophetic teaching is a direct reference to the coming of the Messiah and his rejection. I'm sure his disciples must have been stunned. In verse 39 of 23 he declared himself as the fulfillment of that prophecy and then he went on to pronounce his own prophecy about the temple. The disciples were primed and ready to listen. And as he sat on the Mount--a graveyard and the outlook for the very army that would fulfill his prophecy, his followers wanted to hear more.
When they asked in verse three for Jesus to tell them about the end of the age, they thought they knew what he was telling them. They were Jews after all. They had been raised to know the Torah and the Psalms by rote. It didn't matter that they couldn't read. Every Jewish boy was taught to memorize since God told Moses to proclaim the Word to Israel's children and to tie that Word on their foreheads. So these men--these fishermen and doctors and lawyers and commoners--they knew exactly what Jesus was telling them. That he was ushering in the Kingdom of God. The problem they had was in thinking in earthly terms while Jesus was thinking in heavenly terms.
The kingdom they wanted was one that would rid them of the Romans and set up a King on the throne of David. Jesus fit the bill on both sides of his family tree. We can see that in the genealogies of Matthew and Luke. He was of the line of David through and through. He had just proclaimed himself the Saviour through reference to the Psalmist's prophecies. And they were ready to forge ahead and reclaim the land of Israel. If we could re-write their words, they might lsound something like this: 'Jesus, tell us when you will come in the name of the Lord. How will you publicly announce your kingship? And how will you end the Roman age?'
But Jesus offered a different interpretaion as he spoke. "Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming 'I am the Christ' and will deceive many."
What did Jesus mean? They were waiting for a hero but Jesus was preparing them for the ushering in of a kingdom that was immensely more far reaching than just to the Jewish nation. And in his statement, again, he prophecied. He saw clearly into what would happen. Just as the fall of the temple was fulfilled in 70 AD so was the beginning of the deception that would follow. Jesus knew that with the destruction of Jerusalem would come a scattering of its peoples--and its faith. He knew that usurpers would come calling themselves the Messiah. Men like Simon Bar Kokhba who rose up against the Romans to fight and ultimately lose.
So when Jesus began to summarize the signs that would precede his coming, I'm sure the disciples were overwhelmed. The first sign of his coming would be a long line of deceivers who wanted to take his leadership role. This sign carried horizontally through history. It was not a single event. Jesus tried to show his disciples that there would be a large span of time between his pronouncement and his rule and he did so by saying 'many would come'. He reminded them that these 'many' would 'deceive many'. He knew that these 'many' would ultimately point the way to the one--the anti-christ. He wanted his followers to be prepared for the spirit of deception that would plague the Christian church in centuries to come.