We have come to the very heart of the ministry of Jesus. He is in the final week of his public ministry â€“ the passion week where he is preparing to go to the cross. Everything that Jesus says and does in this week is designed to show his disciples who he is and what he is doing â€“ so that they will be able to carry on his ministry after his resurrection.
Jesus has already said three times that he is going to die â€“ and that he will be raised from the dead. It is true that the disciples don't understand what this means yet. But they will.
Tonight we are looking at three encounters between Jesus and the Jewish leaders. - The first focuses on an image from Israel's past: the vineyard. - The second focuses on an image from Israel's present: Caesar. - The third focuses on a question from Israel's future: the resurrection.
It is also important to understand who Jesus is talking to in each situation: - in the first he is talking with the chief priests, scribes and elders (they are the ones in charge â€“ the tenants of the vineyard!) - in the second he is talking with Pharisees and Herodians (not usually considered allies!) - and in the third he is talking with the Sadducees (a wealthy and powerful constituency in the Sanhedrin) so that in these three episodes Jesus encounters all the power brokers in Judaism.
But Jesus seeks no alliance with any of them. He is no politician campaigning for votes.