Understanding The Bible
STUDY REFERENCE
Douglas B. MacCorkle "Prophetic Peaks, Exposition of the Olivet Discourse"
CHAPTER TWO - The Setting of The Olivet Discourse in the Gospel of Matthew

Chapter Two
The Setting of The Olivet Discourse in the Gospel of Matthew


In stating that Jesus waited until Tuesday of Passion Week to speak out in the Olivet Discourse, we have implied that certain recorded facts were cumulating which dictated the timing of it. An assessment of these very facts is made by Messiah on the threshold of the discourse:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem that killeth the prophets, and stoneth them that are sent unto her! How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you. Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say. Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. Matthew 23:37-39

From this assessment we single out five important statements through the eyes of which we may visualize the setting of the discourse.

First, is the record Jerusalem had made in slaying and stoning them that God had sent to her. On the way into the city (Luke 19:41-44) Jesus wept over it because it did not know the season of its visitation by Him. This statement gives a clue to look for the opposition of Jerusalem, especially its religious leadership (Matt. 23:1-36), to the prophetic ministry of Messiah.

Secondly, the statement "often would I have gathered you" indicates His will toward them and His persistence in satisfying it. The type of gathering is spelled out, for they were a scattered people spiritually. This statement shows the purpose of Messiah toward the nation Israel and His admittance of temporary failure to accomplish it.

Thirdly, the statement "ye would not" shows the state of the will of Israel toward the offer of Messiah. This calls to mind the striking 110th Psalm and especially verse 3 "thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power." At the Second Advent Israel will be willing to receive Messiah.

Fourthly, the statement "your house is left unto you" indicates a judgment. The term "house" in Matthew is often used to describe the organized national family of Israel (Matt. 5:15; 10:6; 12:43-45; 15:24). He is officially discharging them from His attentiveness, as a nation but only temporarily.

Fifthly, Messiah says "you will not see me until." It is almost as if He took hold on the statement numbered three and extended it thus: "ye would not ... ye will not." Again we are faced with a carefully limited judgment. Added to this is the connection of their national hope with His second advent. Lodged in the bosom of this hope is the key to it all at the second advent He predicts that they will recognize His deity and acclaim Him willingly as Lord.

Granting the validity of this assessment by Messiah, we must ask how all of this battle of the national and Messianic wills advanced and why the discourse was not given at the commencement of His public ministry.

To portray this we will selectively scan the contexts of Matthew chapters 1 through 23 by means of three channels: The channels of Preparation, Presentation, and Proclamation. Before one step was made in His official and formal public ministry to the nation Israel, Matthew gives special attention to Messiah's background in Old Testament prophecy and to His royal preparation. The channel of prophecy is evident in Matthew 1-2. In chapter one Jesus is introduced as Messiah in the genuine tradition and line of David (1:1). The genealogy is a further accentuation of His royalty in connection with Israel. The virgin manner of His birth is the sign that features His deity (1:23 and Isa. 7:14). In chapter two He is appraised in prophetic ways by the magi, by Herod and by Joseph. Immediately elements of rejection are introduced (2:16-19; and 2:23), while the prominence of Daniel's prophecy is seen in the insight of the magi.


The channel of preparation
The Channel of preparation is seen in Matthew 3-4. Messiah is royally announced by His forerunner (3:1-12) and by His Father (3:13-17). Before His public ministry is commenced, He is announced properly and introduced in connection with an earthly kingdom. He is also attested in His person by His opposition the Devil (4:1-11); in His preaching (4:12-17); and in His powers (4:18-25).

The imprisonment of John the Baptizer (4:12) was the signal for the opening of Messiah's official and formal ministry to the nation Israel. It was an official visitation (Luke 1:68, 19:41-45). Everything was prophetically proper and properly prepared.


The channel of powerful presentation.
Two major means were employed by Messiah to make His presentation powerful. These were His words and His works.

The penetration of His words is noted often in the Gospel (7:28-29; 9:3-7). They declared and denied His objectives and insights. They spelled out His claims upon the nation Israel. We will refer to them more particularly on ensuing pages.

The power of His works was sensed by all. A study of the twenty miracles in Matthew will show a build-up of reaction against His action therein. One can chart the miracles to see their peak reached in the violent reaction of the leadership in the Beelzebub episode (chap. 12). Matthew so weaves the narrative, under the Holy Spirit's direction, that the miracles tell the story paralleling His words of definition and declaration. Perhaps the point of the first miracle recorded by Matthew (8:1-4) is sufficiently striking to be specially singled out for comment. It centers in a leper who was healed by the Lord's power. It is significantly the first recorded miracle in Matthew. The punch line is in verse 4 "go, show thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them."  Notice the plural pronoun "them" referring, of course to the entire priesthood. Messiah sent the healed leper so that the entire priesthood might know that a most unusual worker was on the field in Palestine. They now had the evidence first, fast, factual and formal. How often would I have gathered thee.

A study of the whole question would profit the reader for there is much to fill in, for which there is not here a space.


The channel of prophetic proclamation.
In Matthew's Gospel there are three major prophetic discourses. Unfortunately they are not always conceived this way by readers and students. These discourses are: the Sermon on the Mount (chaps. 5-7), the Prophetic Parables (chap. 13), and the Olivet Discourse (chaps. 24-25).

These discourses were given at significant points in the official ministry of Messiah to Israel. It is helpful to seek out the mood of Messiah as He gave each discourse; the means of Messiah upon which He presented His points; the method of Messiah as He developed His discourse.

The mood of Messiah has to do with His attitude at the juncture of His ministry at which the discourse involved was given. In the case of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus was calling for national repentance this was His mood in His early Galilean ministry. In the case of the Prophetic Parables, Jesus has just been informally rejected by national leadership. Thus His mood was that of rejection. In the case of the Olivet Discourse, as noted above in the term "until" of Matthew 23:39, His mood concerns His return. The change in mood as His ministry advanced to its climax has thus been observed to be from repentance to rejection to return. This pictures the temper of Messiah's mind at valuable check-points. In each discourse there is prophecy. Amplification of prophecy increases with each succeeding discourse.

The means center not so much in the temper of His mind as in the truths of His message. The resources, properties or means differ in character in all three discourses. In the case of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus employs eschatological ethics to underline the importance of national repentance to the actualizing of the earthly kingdom. In other words Jesus emphasizes that His eschatology (doctrine or system of last things) is based on ethical considerations. In the case of the Prophetic Parables, Jesus employs eschatological explanation. Due to the historical crisis found in Matthew chapter twelve, an explanation of the change in direction is eschatologically explained: Herein is given an explanation of the effect of Israel's judgment of national blindness.

In the case of the Olivet Discourse, Jesus employs eschatological event. In corroborating Old Testament predictions and casting them in a future framework, He majors in events such as the Tribulation, His Return, and His Millennial Reign.

The method centers in the tie-ins of His mission as the mood centered in the temper of His mind and the means centered in the truths of His message. It was Messiah's method to tie the Sermon on the Mount in to the Old Testament covenants. There are five: Abrahamic, Davidic, Palestinian, New, and Mosaic. In the Prophetic Parables He ties the discourse in to the New Testament mysteries. These mysteries are strictly New Testament secrets (13:35) concerning the period of His absence and Israel's blindness at the national level. In the Olivet Discourse Jesus ties in the prophecies of both Old and New Testaments. This settles the fact that the postponement of the earthly kingdom of Messiah explained by the mysteries of Matthew 13 does not nullify the prophecies of Scripture. They are valid and will come into force in connection with His second advent.

Each of these three major discourses in Matthew had an original historical stimulus or cause. Each discourse fits a geographic period of Jesus' public ministry. In terms of spiritual context, the reality of rejection is present in all three but increasingly so. In discourse one the rejection is presupposed. In discourse two the rejection is the pivot. In discourse three the rejection is the cause of the postponement of the kingdom on earth until His second advent.

In these notable and dimensional ways Matthew has made it eminently possible for us to sense the setting of the Olivet Discourse in the Gospel which he wrote as well as in the official ministry to national Israel. The disciples' minds were full of the subject which Messiah had so powerfully proclaimed and punctuated with a power program of miracles namely, the earthly kingdom (4:17). They had experienced not only the informal rejection of Messiah by national leadership but also Messiah's formal rejection of that generation's national leadership (23:1-39). All of this prepared them as it now does us for a contextual understanding of the Olivet Discourse.


  [1] The Writings of Douglas B. MacCorkle (also see brief Biography)

Prophetic Peaks, Exposition of the Olivet Discourse. Copyright 1968 by Douglas B. MacCorkle. Third Printing 1972. Printed by Careers With Christ Press, Philadelphia College of Bible, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Printed in the United States of America. Published by the not for profit MacCorkle Bible Ministries, Inc. Books. P.O. 320909, Cocoa Beach, Fl 32932-0909. Used by permission through the generosity of Judith and Ray Naugle.

God's Own VIPS, Copyright 1987 by Douglas B. MacCorkle. MacCorkle Bible Ministries, Inc., Printed in the United States of America. Published by the not for profit MacCorkle Bible Ministries, Inc. Books. P.O. 320909, Cocoa Beach, Fl 32932-0909. Used by permission through the generosity of Judith and Ray Naugle.

Dr. MacCorkle's Books and Study materials on this website are made available here free, through the generosity of Judith and Ray Naugle, and may be copied for use in Bible study groups, in limited numbers, providing that no charge is made for them.  No further distribution or use of these materials is allowable under U.S. or International Copyright Law without express permission.

Additional copies of Dr. MacCorkle's books are available from Judy Naugle, 2201 Harmony Hill Dr, Lancaster PA  17601.

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