Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The One Who Comes

One Year Bible
New Testament passage for Monday, March 3, 2014:  Mark 11:1-26

Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their clothes on it, and He sat on it. And many spread their clothes on the road, and others cut down leafy branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then those who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: “Hosanna!  ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’  10 Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!”  11 And Jesus went into Jerusalem and into the temple.  Mark 11:7-11 (NKJV)

He Might Surprise You

Mere days before His crucifixion, Jesus came to Jerusalem riding on a donkey.  We call this "The Triumphal Entry."  We celebrate it on Palm Sunday.  It is however a study in contradiction and misunderstanding.  This great day is not what it appears at first glance.

The crowds welcomed Him expecting deliverance from Roman domination.  As such, they laid down their cloaks, waved palm branches, and shouted adulation.  This same crowd would within days curse Him and call for His death.

Political freedom had been their long-awaited hope for years.  Over 150 years prior, Simon Maccabaeus had entered Jerusalem in similar fashion.  Maccabees 13:51 says, "And he entered into it the three and twentieth day of the seventh month, seventy and first year, with thanksgiving and branches of palm trees, and with harps, and cymbals, and viols, and hymns and songs, because there was destroyed a great enemy out of Israel."  He and his brothers had won temporary victory over the Romans, and he entered Jerusalem as a conqueror.

The people expected Jesus to do what the Maccabean brothers had done -- and more.  When He did not deliver, they turned on Him.

How often do we falter because of false expectations?  We claim promises that seem so right, but God simply has a better plan.  I find an epidemic among God's people today of DISAPPOINTMENT because God didn't do what they thought He would do.

God's plans are ALWAYS GOOD.  His ways of doing them might surprise you.

The Surprising Entry

Here are some observations about "The Triumphal Entry."  It might better be called the Surprising Entry.

1.  Jesus came riding on a donkey.

This should have been a huge tip-off to the crowd.  In those days, when a king went to war, he rode a horse.  When he came in peace, he rode a donkey.  Jesus did not ride into Jerusalem declaring political victory.  He did not come to conquer the Romans with swords and spears.  His kingdom is of a different type.  His kingdom begins with humility.

2.  The people's praise was conditional.

They shouted Psalm 118:24, "Blessed in He who comes in the name of the Lord!"  The Hebrew syntax allows an alternate reading here.  It might better be, "Blessed in the name of the Lord is He who comes!"  HE WHO COMES is another name for the Messiah.  It is an expression that grew during the Maccabean Revolt that believed the Messiah would someday come to restore national Israel.  

They shouted, "Hosanna!"  We think of this as a word of PRAISE.  It really is not.  It means, "Save now."  It is a prayer.  It is a request for immediate relief.

The festival of The Triumphal Entry was not celebrating Jesus for Who He is.  Rather it was excitement over what He would do.  So, do we worship ON THE CONDITION of blessings that will come our way?  Or do we praise based on His unchanging CHARACTER?

3.  Jesus showed incredible courage to enter Jerusalem.

He knew the people expected something from Him that He would not deliver.  He also knew that they would soon turn on Him.  He knew that He rode to His death.

Few things are as enticing as the praise of "friends."  He felt the pressure to rise to their expectations.  One might expect Him to enter Jerusalem secretly so as not to inflame this unfounded zeal.  Instead, He rode openly. He did not flee to safety and sanity.

4.  His purpose was to cleanse the Temple.

It is important to look back again to the days of the Maccabees.

In 167 B.C., Antiochus Epiphanes, Roman ruler out of Syria, had run roughshod over everything Jewish.  In an endeavor to promote Greek culture and religion, he had outlawed the worship of God.  He made it illegal to even own a copy of the Torah.  Circumcision of your child was punishable by death.  He desecrated the Temple by erecting statues of Zeus in the Holy Place and turning the Temple courts into a place of prostitution.  He even offered a pig as a sacrifice on the Altar.

Then, in 163 A.D., Judas Maccabaeus rose up and led a massive revolt.  Howard Fast tells this amazing story in his great novel My Glorious Brothers.  He drove Antiochus Epiphanes out, re-purified and re-consecrated the Temple, and, for a brief few years, re-established Israel independent of foreign domination.  History records that Psalm 118 was sung celebrating this victory.  "Blessed in he who comes in the name of the Lord!" (Ps. 118:24)  This victory is celebrated by Jews today as Hanukkah.

I am sure the crowd that met Jesus expected something similar.  Once again, Jesus' actions were very different from what the people look for.  Mark 11:15-19 says that sure enough Jesus entered the Temple, but rather than driving the Romans out, He turned over ceremonial tables.  He attacked the Temple system of selling sacrifices (doves is mentioned in vs 15).

The cleansing was not aimed at pagan pollution but rather at the religion of the scribes and chief priests (vs. 18).

He Always has a Different Way

Jesus always comes to us in different ways than we expect.  We get worked up in our plans for personal advancement, and He rides in on a donkey.  We think He is going to vanquish our enemies, and instead He takes us to the woodshed.  Peter summarizes this when he says, "For it is time for judgment to begin at the house of God." (I Pet. 4:17)

A day will come in which Jesus will return riding on a white horse (Rev. 19:11), but today He rides on a donkey.  A day will come in which every foe will be vanquished, but today He calls everyone to repent.  It is our joy to see the Lord in all His glory even as the world does not yet see Him so.

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