Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Theme: Palm Sunday - Hosanna
Volume 7 No. 408 April 8, 2017
 
II. Palm Sunday Reflections

Appointment in Jerusalem

By Dr. Ray Pritchard

This is Holy Week, and around the world Christians are celebrating the momentous events that took place 2000 years ago. Although there are many things that separate us, here is one thing about which all Christians agree. Holy Week is at the center of the Christian faith. For one glorious week, differences of language, culture, race and doctrine are forgotten.

And what a week it is, eight days that begin with Palm Sunday and end with Easter Sunday. Two great events bracket Holy Week - the Triumphal Entry on Palm Sunday and the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday. Without controversy, it is truly a Holy Week because it encompasses the most sacred events of the Christian faith. All the things that we hold most dear were proved to be true during this great week in Jerusalem.

The Majority Will Never Desire the Truth

This morning our focus is on Palm Sunday. I'm sure that most of us know the general outlines of the story. But I suspect that most of us have never considered the story in any detail. Why did Jesus ride into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey? Why did the people wave palm branches? Why did they cry out "Hosanna!" as he passed by? What does it all mean? Of all the events of Holy Week, the Triumphal Entry is the most-overlooked and least-understood.

As a place to begin, let's consider these words by the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard:

The truth must essentially be regarded as in conflict with this world; the world has never been so good, and will never become so good that the majority will never desire the truth.

On Palm Sunday, the Truth rode into Jerusalem on a donkey's back. Although the crowds cheered the Truth, beneath the surface a conflict was raging. The majority did not want the Truth that day, nor have they wanted the Truth on any day since that day.

Sunrise in Bethany

That day began as all other days, with an early sunrise and the sound of merchants opening their little shops. Bethany wasn't a large town, or even a town at all. More like a village, really, a simple cluster of homes. Here and there the farmers made ready to go to the fields - planting season was upon them. Mothers busied themselves getting their children up and dressed.

In one home things were different because Jesus was there. It was the home of Mary and Martha - two sisters who lived together along with their brother Lazarus. Jesus had visited with them many times. Their home was a special place of refuge for him. But this time his visit had been different. This time he had come for a funeral but had turned it into a celebration. Just a day or two earlier he had publicly raised Lazarus from the dead. Hundreds of people had seen him do it, and by now thousands more had heard the news. It seemed so impossible … But Jesus had done it! The celebration had gone on late into the night.

Now the morning had come. It was clear to everyone that Jesus was not staying anylonger. He had that look about him of a man on a mission. No one else knew what was about to happen. No one - not even the most perceptive among his disciples - realized what was about to happen on this cloudless Sunday morning.

The Master's Plan

I pause to insert two facts into the narrative. One is that the story of the Triumphal Entry is repeated - in detail - by all four gospel writers. That fact is noteworthy because it tells us that something critical is about to happen. The other fact is that as you read this story, one impression overwhelms you: Jesus is in complete control of everything that happens on Palm Sunday. Unlike other events in his life, he is not reacting to anyone or anything else. No one - repeat - no one expects him to do what he does. There are no sick people, no Pharisees to confront, no storms to still, no dead men to raise, no puzzling questions to answer. What Jesus does, he does of his own accord.

An Ancient Prophecy

The story of Palm Sunday really begins with a donkey. Most of us have heard how Jesus sent his disciples to a neighboring village (probably Bethphage) with instructions to bring back a donkey. When you read Matthew's account you realize that the two disciples actually brought back two donkeys - a mother and her young colt which had never been ridden. Jesus rides into Jerusalem on the young colt with the mother walking alongside.

Matthew also tells us that by riding a donkey into Jerusalem Jesus was fulfilling an ancient prophecy from Zechariah 9:9. Those words - written 575 years earlier - predicted that when Messiah came to Israel, he would come riding on a donkey. "Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your King comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey." Those words tell us two specific facts about the Messiah. First, he will come as a gentle king riding on a donkey. Second, he will come as a righteous king bringing salvation to his people.

Nothing would have seemed more unlikely than for a king to come riding on a donkey. Jesus could hardly have chosen a more unlikely way to present himself to the nation. If the Scripture had not predicted it, no one would have dreamed it up. That explains why the Romans sat idly by on Palm Sunday while tens of thousands of people flocked to Jesus. From their point of view, the whole thing was a joke. A king on a donkey? You must be kidding. No self-respecting king would be caught dead on a donkey. If you wanted to make an impact, you would come in on a war-horse or surrounded by soldiers or mounted on a chariot. But on a donkey? No way.

It's not hard to imagine the Romans laughing as they watched the spectacle. A pauper king, riding on a borrowed donkey, his saddle a makeshift layer of cloaks, attended by an unruly mob whose only weapons were palm branches.

He didn't look much like a king that day. But that was the whole point. He's a king, but he's not like any earthly king. The Triumphal Entry was an "acted parable," in which Jesus was sending a clear message to the nation. "This is what I am! I am your King, but I am not the King you were expecting!"

A Symbol of National Liberation

Speaking of the unexpected, as Jesus began the three mile journey from Bethany to Jerusalem, the people along the road began to do something no one could have predicted. As Jesus passed by, they waved palm fronds. What does that mean? In the Old Testament, the Jews were told to wave palm fronds as a part of the Feast of Tabernacles. Two hundred years before Christ, during the Maccabean Rebellion, when the Jews temporarily regained control of the Temple from the Syrians, they celebrated by waving palm branches. Thirty years after the death of Christ, during the rebellion that led up to the sacking of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, the Jews minted coins containing an image of palm branches on one side. Taking this all together, we may say that in the time of Christ palm branches represented joy and celebration. They were also a symbol of national liberation for the Jews. Waving palm branches before Jesus was similar to giving him a ticker-tape parade. Or we might think of those huge parades that welcomed back the soldiers from Operation Desert Storm. As they marched down the street, they were welcomed by a sea of American flags.

When the Jews waved the palm branches as Jesus rode by, they were saying, "This is the man and this is the day!" It was the welcome given to kings and conquerors. "Ride on, King Jesus, no man can hinder you."

Five Days Before Passover

It is now Sunday morning, five days before Passover. That fact is significant because it means that Jerusalem will be clogged with pilgrims who have come from every part of Israel for the great celebration. Josephus says that during Passover the population of Jerusalem could swell to 3 million people. It was the closest thing in Israel to a national town meeting. Everyone who was anyone would show up for Passover. Long-forgotten friends would meet on the streets, families would travel hundreds of miles to be there. In such an atmosphere of festive anticipation rumors would quickly spread like wildfire. As word of the raising of Lazarus spread, people began to wonder if Jesus would come to Jerusalem for Passover (John 11:53). Everyone knew the animosity that existed between Jesus and the Temple leaders. Would he take a chance and come anyway? Or would Jesus choose the safe route and stay away altogether?

Add to that the general political ferment that always existed in Israel. There were three main political parties: The Pharisees who patiently endured Roman rule; the Zealots who didn't patiently endure anything, especially the hated Romans; the Sadducees who ran the Temple complex and cooperated with the Romans. Finally, you have the Romans themselves and the two key rulers, Pontius Pilate and Herod Antipas. The stage is now set for a great confrontation. Into this unstable situation rides Jesus on the back of a young donkey. What will happen next?

Two Strange Sights

Picture the scene. As Jesus leaves Bethany for Bethphage and the Mount of Olives, hundreds of people come running to join him. Soon the crowd swells as whole families drop what they are doing and line the narrow dirt road. If you read John's account, it is clear that another large crowd in Jerusalem, having heard that Jesus was on his way, leaves the city to meet him as he approaches the Mount of Olives. Somewhere on the far side of the Kidron Valley, the two groups join in a melee of shouting, singing, laughing, dancing and chanting. It is a day of unbridled joy as the common people welcome Jesus to Jerusalem.

Meanwhile inside the city, the chief priests and scribes monitor the situation with increasing alarm. A public display of support for Jesus was the last thing they wanted. It appears to them that the entire world has gone over to Jesus' side. Their shock turns to dismay and then to anger as the reports keep pouring in. The minutes turn to hours on Palm Sunday while two streams of human emotion converge. On one hand there is rising excitement as Jesus nears the Eastern Gate; on the other hand there is mounting opposition as the leaders decide that Jesus will not leave the city alive.

Holy Hurrahs

Meanwhile the procession makes its way toward Jerusalem, the shouts of the people growing louder by the minute. All four gospel writers make a point not only to mention that the people shouted, but also what they shouted. They specifically mention two things: First they cried out "Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna!", and second they said, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord." "Hosanna!" is a Hebrew word meaning "Save us now." As one writer put it, "Hosanna!" was a kind of "Holy Hurrah." Every observant Jew immediately recognized the second statement as a quotation from Psalm 118. They all knew it because Psalm 118 was one of the best-known Messianic psalms. By shouting these words, the people were in effect explicitly identifying Jesus as the promised Messiah. No other meaning could reasonably be construed from their exultant shouts. These people believed that at long last the Messiah had come.

They were right.

Sometimes it is overlooked that Jesus gladly accepted the praise of the people on Palm Sunday. What a change this was. For most of his public ministry, whenever he worked a miracle, he told people not to spread the word. He wanted people to see him as more than a miracle-worker. But not today. The time for silence was long past. If he once discouraged publicity, he now counts silence inconceivable. The time for truth had come. When the Pharisees heard the crowds praising him, they urged him to rebuke his disciples. Jesus refused, saying, "If I tell them to be quiet, the rocks themselves will break forth in praise to me."

Jesus Weeping

Now something very strange happens. Luke is the only writer who tells us about it. At the height of the celebration Jesus begins to weep. It happened as the road to Jerusalem wound around the southern shoulder of the Mount of Olives. As you travel that road, you come to the crest of a small rise. As you reach the crest, the whole city of Jerusalem suddenly appears before your eyes. It is an awesome, breathtaking sight. When Jesus saw the city, he began to weep.

It must have seemed very strange. I can imagine a little boy saying, "Mommy, why is Mr. Jesus crying?" And the answer, "I don't know, sweetheart." The answer is not hard to find. Jesus was weeping, not for himself, but for the city that was about to reject him. Jesus saw beyond the cheering crowd to the mob that would soon crucify him. He knew on Palm Sunday that Good Friday was only five days away. And through the dim mists of history, he saw into the future, to the time when the Roman army would sack Jerusalem in A.D. 70. These are his words: "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace - but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you." (Luke 19:42-44) In the midst of the joy Jesus saw the future clearly. He knew that Good Friday was only five days away. He knew that the nation would soon turn away from him. He also saw through the misty future to the day when the Romans would destroy the city stone by stone, killing men, women and children by the thousands. Because the nation would reject its Messiah, such awful judgment would soon fall. Why? God's Son had come and they did not recognize him. God's Son had come and they crucified him.

- He knew the crowds were fickle.|
- He knew the leaders were plotting against him.
- He knew the cheers would soon turn to jeers.
- He knew on Sunday what would happen on Friday.
- He knew the cross lay directly in his path.

He knew all those things but he went anyway. King Jesus rode on toward the city because he had an appointment in Jerusalem.

How Could He Have Made It Plainer?

In the days to come some would look back and say, "If only we had known." But after Palm Sunday no one could truly use that excuse. They knew! No one could ever say, "He didn't make himself plain." How could he have made it plainer? He made himself so clear that no one could miss it.

On Palm Sunday no one was under any compulsion. The nation had a clear choice to make. So did the rulers. The Romans did nothing to interfere. The priests stood by and watched it all happen. Every man had a choice to make that day; every man in Jerusalem made a choice. For better or for worse, the die was cast. Jesus called for a decision and the nation rendered its verdict.

Mixed Reactions

Now Jesus has come into the city. Wild confusion reigns. The King has come. What will the people do? The answers are not hard to find:

- The disciples praise him openly.
- The children praise him innocently.
- The crowds cheer him but they do not understand him.
- The city is curious but not committed.

That leaves only one group - the religious leaders, that large group of Scribes and Pharisees, the "elders of Israel," the rulers of the Sanhedrin. What will they say? How will they respond? The people have spoken, but will their rulers follow suit?

Three words sum up the "official" reaction to Jesus on Palm Sunday:

Fright … Frustration … Anger.

Fright because they do not know what Jesus is up to.
Frustration because so many people cheer him as he rides into the city.
Anger because they now see him as an enemy of their interests, an enemy who must be eliminated.

Short Rows

My friend Bruce Tanner has an expression that he uses to describe anyone who finds themselves in a tight spot. "You're down to the short rows now." It's a figure of speech taken from the way farmers often plow their fields. When you plow diagonally, you start out with the long rows and end up with the short rows. It takes extra skill to handle the short rows properly.

The people of Israel were down to short rows now. The luxury of idle discussion is now past. The time for decision has come. Very soon the nation must render its verdict concerning Jesus Christ. The evidence is in, the jury has been instructed, and a verdict must soon be returned.

Kierkegaard gave us another penetrating word that applies to this moment in human history: "Jesus Christ is the object of faith - one either believes in him or is offended by him." There are two choices and only two. You either believe or you are offended. The truth about Jesus is a two-edged sword. It cuts both ways. No one can stay in the middle forever.

In Matthew's account he includes a fascinating note. As Jesus approached Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, Matthew says that the whole city was stirred. The word means to be shaken to the core. People began to ask each other, "Who is this man?" And the answer came back, "It is Jesus the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee." Think about that answer for a moment. It is true as far as it goes. Every detail is correct. But it doesn't go far enough.

He is a prophet but he's more than a prophet. He is from Galilee but that's not his ultimate hometown. The people of Jerusalem asked the right question and gave the almost-right answer. But in spiritual things almost-right is not good enough. They were close but not close enough!

Palm Sunday Lessons

Mark ends his account of the Triumphal Entry by telling us that after Jesus entered Jerusalem he went to the Temple, but because it was so late in the day no one was there. So he left Jerusalem with his disciples, went back to Bethany and spent the night there. It is a strange way to end such a momentous day. But it does raise a valid question. What did Jesus accomplish that day? What was Palm Sunday all about? Why the Triumphal Entry?

If you want the answer in one sentence, it goes like this:

Jesus was sending a message to Israel on Palm Sunday, a message that the time for decision had come. No longer would the people have the privilege of discussing his credentials in an abstract manner.

On this day Jesus presented himself to the nation, asking for an immediate decision. The answer he received was not encouraging. Although the crowds cheered, they did not truly understand him. Although the leaders understood him, they did not cheer him. Israel came close, so close on that day to embracing him as God's Messiah. But close wasn't good enough.

After Palm Sunday the only thing left was Golgotha.

Nearly 20 centuries have come and gone since Jesus met his appointment in Jerusalem. Three abiding lessons remain for our consideration.

1. Spiritual Opportunities Don't Last Forever.

Where Jesus Christ is involved, no one can wait forever. No one can sit on the fence forever. There comes a time when a decision must be rendered for or against the Son of God. In spiritual matters, not to decide is to decide. To say "not now" is really to say "no."

It's not enough to be interested in Jesus. Millions of people who are interested in him have no living relationship with him. The people of the first Palm Sunday were interested. The whole city was stirred to the point of discussion … but not the point of action. Mere interest will never save you. The gospel saves only those who believe … not those who talk about believing. Interest is good if it leads on to action; if not, interest will eventually harden into disinterest and ultimately into hatred.

Spiritual neutrality is a temporary way-station, not a permanent destination. No one stays there forever. Kierkegaard was right. "One either believes in him or is offended by him."

There is a time to think and a time to decide; a time to be silent and a time to speak; a time to discuss and a time to make up your mind. Palm Sunday reminds us that each of us must sooner or later make up our minds about Jesus Christ.

Rollo May offers a very helpful word at this point:

The reason we do not see truth is not that we have not read enough books or do not have enough academic degrees, but that we do not have enough courage.

He is exactly right. If knowledge alone would save us, the whole world would be saved by now. But knowledge without courage leads you to an intellectual cul-de-sac. It takes courage to believe in Jesus. For that matter, it takes courage to make any important decision in the spiritual realm. Rarely is knowledge the root of our problem. Mostly we just lack the courage to embrace the truth.

2. The World That Rejected Christ Then Still Rejects Him Today.

The people of the world hate religious emotion in the same way the Pharisees hated the way the crowds cheered Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem. They hate religious emotion because they do not understand it. To them religion is an intellectual affair that never touches the heart. But Jesus will have none of that. If a man will not give him his heart, Jesus wants no part of him. Although it sounds strange to say, if Jesus came to Chicago, he would be crucified all over again.

3. The Invitation is Not to Believe But to Be Brave.

Christ comes again and again to the human heart. Each time a verdict must be rendered. Look! He's coming down Lake Street. Jesus has come to Oak Park. Your King has come. What will you do? Will you join with those who crucified him or will you join with those who cry out "Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna!"?

Our greatest need is for moral courage to make the right moral choices. When the time comes to take sides with Jesus, all you need is enough courage to do the right thing. The Palm Sunday invitation is not to believe but to be brave. The brave join the little children who praise him gladly while the timid are left to dream about what might have been.

© Keep Believing Ministries

March 29, AD 33: The King Comes for His Kingdom

by Andreas J. Köstenberger and Justin Taylor

The year was AD 33.1 The excitement in the cool spring air of Jerusalem was palpable. Thousands of Jewish pilgrims had gathered from around the world for the upcoming Passover feast, and word had spread that Jesus - a thirty-something itinerant rabbi, prophet, and healer from Galilee - had raised Lazarus from the dead, had withdrawn from Bethany - a village just a couple miles east of Jerusalem - to a town called Ephraim in the wilderness (John 11:54),and was staying at Bethany during the weekend prior to Passover (John 11:55-12:1, 9-11).2 Many had gone to Bethany to see Jesus and Lazarus, with the result that they believed in Jesus and returned to the capital city with reports of his miracle-working power to raise the dead (John 12:9-11, 17-18). The Passover crowds in Jerusalem were like a powder keg ready for a spark - filled to the brim with both messianic fervor and hatred of Roman rule.

Winds of revolution whipped through the air of Palestine throughout the first century, and Jesus, with his teaching authority and ability to capture the imagination of the masses, not least on account of his ability to heal and raise the dead, looked very much the part of the long-awaited Messiah. In order to gain and maintain power, the Romans could kill - which they did quite effectively - but how could they defeat a leader who could raise the dead at will?

After observing the Sabbath (Friday evening through Saturday evening) at Bethany, Jesus arose Sunday morning to enter the city of Jerusalem. It was March 29, AD 33 - the first day of the last week of his earthly life.

Sunday, March 29, AD 33

Jesus Enters the City (Matt. 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:29-44; John 12:12-19

The Passover crowds and inhabitants of Jerusalem were filled with messianic expectation, and Jesus does not disappoint. On Sunday morning, Jesus and his disciples are on the Mount of Olives as they approach Jerusalem. He sends two of his followers to the nearby village (Bethphage or Bethany), instructing them to bring a donkey and colt on which he will sit for his entrance into Jerusalem. By this intentional symbolic action, Jesus will clearly communicate his kingship to the expectant crowds of Passover pilgrims by fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9, that Israel's future king would come riding on the foal of a donkey, and by copying Solomon's entrance into Jerusalem when he was declared king.3

As Jesus makes his westward descent down the Mount of Olives and toward the Holy City, the crowds rightly interpret his actions with expectant joy and respond in kind by spreading robes and leafy palm branches in his pathway to create a royal red carpet (see 2 Kings 9:13) and by acclaiming him their Davidic king:

Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!
(Matt. 21:9; Mark 11:10; see also Isa. 9:7).

The crowds are openly acclaiming Jesus instead of Caesar as king!

The whole city is shaken by the events, and the crowd keeps spreading the word to any in Jerusalem who have not yet heard who Jesus is (Matt. 21:10-11). Some Pharisees instruct Jesus to rebuke the crowds for their dangerous messianic exuberance, but he refuses to correct or curtail the excitement of the crowd over his entrance into the city (Matt. 21:15-17; Luke 19:39-40). It would be hard to overestimate the political and religious volatility incited by Jesus' actions - the Pharisees were taken by surprise and had no idea how to respond (John 12:19). Up to this point in Jesus' ministry, he could still have managed to live a long, happy, peaceful life, but his actions on Sunday set in motion a series of events that could result only in either his overthrow of the Romans and the current religious establishment - or his brutal death. He has crossed the point of no return; there would be no turning back. Caesar could allow no rival kings. As Jesus approaches the city, he weeps over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44).

Jesus Predicts His Death (John 12:20-36)

Some Greeks who were among the Passover pilgrims seek an audience with Jesus. John does not record the Greeks' question, but Jesus responds by predicting his death and describing it as the very purpose for which he has come into the world (John 12:27). A voice from heaven, thunderous in sound, affirms God's commitment to glorify his name through the coming death of Jesus (John 12:28-29). Jesus goes on to clarify the kind of fate he will meet: death by crucifixion (being "lifted up from the earth," see Isa. 52:13). Yet by his death, Jesus will deal Satan a crushing blow (John 12:31; see also Luke 10:18; Gen. 3:15).

The Jewish crowd, of course, does not like this kind of talk and objects that according to the Mosaic law, the Messiah must remain forever. Jesus does not directly answer their objection but instead commands them to "walk while [they] have the light" (i.e., Jesus himself, the "light of the world," John 8:12; 9:5) and believe in the light in order to become sons of light before it is gone and darkness comes (John 12:35-36).

Jesus Visits the Temple (Matt. 21:14-17; Mark 11:11)

Before returning with the Twelve to Bethany at the end of the day, Jesus visits the temple complex. Jesus continues to upset the religious establishment: healing the blind and lame, and receiving the praise of children.

This initial visit to the temple sets the stage for the unforgettable events that were to occur there the following day.

Notes

1. Most scholars believe that Jesus was crucified in AD 30. We are persuaded that the evidence strongly points to a date of AD 33. For an introductory discussion of the issues, see Andreas J. Köstenberger, "The Date of Jesus' Resurrection," The ESV Study Bible, ed. Wayne Grudem (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008), 1809-10. See also Colin J. Humphreys and W. G. Waddington, "The Jewish Calendar, A Lunar Eclipse and the Date of Christ's Crucifixion," Tyndale Bulletin 43.2 (1992): 331-51.

2. Many Jews came to Jerusalem a week early to ceremonially cleanse themselves and prepare for the Passover.

3. 1 Kings 1:32-40. Matthew makes mention of two animals, a colt (the animal that would have carried Jesus) and a donkey (presumably the colt's mother; Matt. 21:7). Mark and Luke both mention only the colt and note that no one had ever ridden it before (Mark 11:2; Luke 19:30), hence perhaps the need for the colt's mother to steady it as it carried its first rider.

Excerpted From: 'The Final Days of Jesus: The Most Important Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever Lived', by By Andreas J. Köstenberger, Justin Taylor, with Alexander Stewart. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, www.crossway.org.

Source: Todays Tropical Study Bible

The King Is Coming: Love's Last Appeal
Gospel: John 12:12-19

Summary: The King continues to come to all who will receive Him.

INTRODUCTION:

It is not unusual in our day of mass media productions, to see in the news great throngs of people gathered around some political candidate. Needless to say, highly publicized personalities generate a lot of excitement wherever they go. The more popular the personality the more excitement is generated.

And so it was with Jesus. By the time He entered Jerusalem, on His way to be crucified, His popularity had soared. It is estimated that at the Passover Feast, 256,500 lambs would be slain (a minimum of 10 lambs per person), which meant that at least 2,700,000 people were present for the Passover Feast. On this feast day, like many of the political candidates in our day, He was ignored by some, hated by others, but there were many who loved Him. On the part of Jesus, going into Jerusalem, in the words of one writer, "It was an act of the most superlative courage, for it was the defiance of all that man could do; and it was an act of the most superlative love, for it was love's last appeal before the end."

Having presented this brief introduction to the passage under consideration, John 12:12-19, let's now consider what the King's coming, i.e., the coming of the Messiah, meant to the people who assembled in Jerusalem, at the Passover, and what it means to us today.

First, the King's coming was ...

I. A FULFILLMENT OF PROPHESY

It was the prophet Zechariah who prophesied the coming of the King ...

"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey" (Zech. 9:9).

The synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, recorded this triumphant event, as well as the passage under consideration in the gospel of John. It was John, drawing from the prophet Zechariah, who wrote ...

"FEAR NOT, DAUGHTER OF ZION; BEHOLD, YOUR KING IS COMING, SEATED ON A DONKEY'S COLT" (John 12:15).

In light of the prophetic message, we must ask, as did the people who gathered on the streets of Jerusalem, during the Passover Feast, AWhat does this mean?" For some it meant that ...

1. His long awaited coming was not as they expected. These were those who had unrealistic expectations of His coming. They expected a king to come riding on a horse bent on war. He did not come in that way. A truth. Unrealistic expectations ultimately set us up for disappointment. Down through the ages, dates have been set for Jesus' return. When He did not come on these dates, many were disappointed and their faith was shaken. A proper understanding of Scripture, and a proper interpretation of it, will help us avoid disappointment and strengthen our faith.

2. For yet others, His coming brought many questions concerning His identity. They were asking, "Who is this" (Matthew 21:10). Yet others were saying, "This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee" (Matthew 21:11). It is no different in this 21th Century. Many are still asking the same questions concerning Jesus' identity. There was a documentary on television recently, titled: "In Search of The Historical Jesus?" The ultimate question is not, as recorded in Matthew 16, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" (Matthew 16:13). NO! The ultimate question for you and me, concerning Jesus' identity is this, "But who do you say that I am?" (Matthew 16:15). Peter responded correctly for himself and the other disciples present on that occasion, when he responded by saying,"Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16).

3. For many others, His coming to Jerusalem, brought fear. John records these words...

"So the Pharisees said to one another, "You see that you are not doing any good; look, the world has gone after Him" (John 12:19).

This was fear of the religious status-quo, on the part of the Pharisees, being disrupted. Religious business as usual could not stand the test of Jesus' new order. Imagine the fear that will accompany His second coming as belief systems will crumble in His wake.

4. To everyone, He brought salvation. Some received it while others did not ...

Remember the prophecy of Zechariah? "He is ... endowed with salvation" (Zech. 9:9).

"He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him" (John 1:11).

"But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name" (John 1:12).

"This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him" (John 2:11).

"When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, "Who is this?" (Matt. 21:1).

"The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David; BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Hosanna in the highest!" (Matt. 21:9).

What does the King's coming mean to us who are living now? It means that Christ, as King, is continually coming to His people.

Second, the King's coming ...

II. REVEALED THAT JESUS IS THE PRINCE OF PEACE.

Having been oblivious to ancient prophesy, simply ignoring it, and not connecting with the teachings of Jesus, Himself, or for whatever reason, the King's coming, and the method in which He came, was totally misunderstood.

"These things His disciples did not understand at the first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things to Him" (John 12:16).

Of all people, the disciples should have understood why Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey, but they did not. In our society, a donkey does not have much respect. Not so in the East. In the East, a donkey was a noble animal. When a king rode into a city bent on war, he came riding on a horse. When the king came riding a donkey, however, he was coming in peace. As one commentator put it, AThis whole action of Jesus is a sign that He was coming in peace; that He was the Prince of Peace." Jesus continues to come into a culture that has a total misunderstanding of who He is, and why He came. Nevertheless, He continues to enter our God forsaken, God rejecting cities, bearing peace for all who will receive it. He wept over Jerusalem. I am sure that He still weeps over the cities today. The city to which we are going in October, is a city of 7 million inhabitants. Only 2% are Christian. This city of polytheist beliefs (many gods) has simply misunderstood there is only one true God, and that the only way to heaven is through His Son. He brought, and brings, to all who will believe, APeace that passeth all understanding, as represented by His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, on a donkey."

Do you know this Prince of Peace?

Third, the King's coming was ...

III. A DISPLAY OF HIS ROYAL POWER

Not many days earlier, prior to His entry into Jerusalem, Jesus had performed a miracle in the raising of His friend, Lazarus, from the dead. Needless to say, that had elevated his popularity. Thus, by the time He entered Jerusalem, on that triumphant day, He attracted huge crowds...

"So the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead, continued to testify about Him. For this reason also the people went and met Him, because they heard that He had performed this sign. So the Pharisees said to one another, "You see that you are not doing any good; look, the world has gone after Him" (John 12:17-19).

Note the phrase, "that He had given miraculous signs" (v. 18). A word needs to be said about miracles here, in retrospect of Jesus' raising of Lazarus from the dead.

First, a miracle is not an end in itself. We must always look for the message in the miracle.

Second, "Miracles show Jesus is King and His kingdom will surely come."

Third, "The word translated miracles (Greek - dunamis) means literally >powers or powerful works." This same word "dynamis" is the word used for "power" in Acts 1:8. These powers or powerful works, " ... show Jesus' royal power. His healings resulted in the praise of God. God continues to show His kingdom power among His people. One day every person will see Jesus as King." In the words of Paul, in his letter to the church at Philippi, he wrote...

"For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2:9-11).

Fourth, concerning the word Adunamis" or power, there is an important message for us to see. It has everything to do with our testimony. Note verse 17, once again ...

"So the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead, continued to testify about Him" (John 12:17).

They "... continued to spread the word."

Hear the words of this commentator on this passage, "Jesus' miracle works had great power to convince others and bring them to faith. Testimony to Christ and His saving grace is powerful in any age and is a vital part of evangelism. Such testimony disturbs those who oppose the Lord, as it did the Pharisees. God still show His miraculous power to support His witnessing people."

Therefore, what should our response be to the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem? We should bear witness to others of His coming into our lives as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, our Ruler, Sovereign Lord, and Savior of our souls. Unlike the disciple, who did not understand until after the Resurrection, why Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem on the Feast Day, we have no excuse, because we know, as Paul Harvey says, AThe rest of the story."

CONCLUSION:

Therefore, go and tell. Let's make love's final appeal to the lost as persuasive as possible. 

Palm Sunday - Victory and Defeat

by Jill Carattini

In churches all over the world this coming Sunday, children will march among the aisles with palm branches, a commemoration of the first jubilant Palm Sunday. The palm branch is a symbol of triumph, waved in ancient times to welcome royalty and extol the victorious. Palms were also used to cover the paths of those worthy of honor and distinction. All four of the gospel writers report that Jesus was given such a tribute. Jesus came into Jerusalem riding on a colt, and he was greeted as King. The crowds laid branches and garments on the streets in front of him. An audience of applauders led him into the city and followed after him with chants of blessing and shouts of kingship.

Hosanna!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!
The King of Israel!
Hosanna in the highest!

The triumph of Palm Sunday is not lost on the young. Long before I could see its strange place in the passion narrative, I loved celebrating this story as a child. It was a day in church set apart from others. In a place where we were commonly asked to sit still, we suddenly had permission to cheer and march and draw attention.

But like many stories in childhood that grow complicated as the chapters continue, Palm Sunday is far more than a triumphant recollection of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem. The convicting irony of the holiday Christians celebrate strikes with each cheer of victory, for these cheering people reenact a scene that dramatically changed in a matter of days. In less time than it takes to plan a king's coronation, cheers of "Hosanna!" became shouts of crucifixion. The honor that was extended with palms and praises was taken back shortly after it was placed before him. The troubling reality to the triumph of Palm Sunday is that we now know the defeat of the cross is yet to come.

But it is also more than this. With Palm Sunday comes the arrival of holy week in all its darkness, in all its blinding mystery, and speculation. Would I have been with the marching crowd that cheered him as king only to cheer again as he was marched to Golgotha? What could be called a fickle crowd, or an illustration of the power of "mobthink," in truth, only reminds me of my own vacillations with the Son of God. How easily declarations that he is important become denials of his existence with the turn of mood or fortune. How readily hands waving in praise and celebration become fists raised at the heavens in pain or hardship. Like a palm laid down and taken back again, honor bestowed on Sunday can easily be abandoned by Wednesday.

Such are the thoughts my adult mind carries through the story in which I once took only delight. With palms in our hands, we carry the burden of awareness that Jesus himself carried through that first crowd. Riding through the streets of Jerusalem, Jesus knew then what he knows now: This honor will be abandoned, the praises will cease, and these branches will be trampled to dust. The cross will still come.

How fitting, then, that in many churches the remains of Palm Sunday literally become the ashes of Ash Wednesday. The palms are burned and the ashes collected. Then on Ash Wednesday services the following year, the ashes are used to mark foreheads with the sign of the cross, a reminder of our humanity, the beginning of another journey toward the mysterious gift of the cross.

This week the church invites the world to remember the one who comes into the midst of a fickle humanity - duplicity, defeat, violence, injustice, pain, and all. He comes near to good and bad intentions, near the ashes of what was meant to be honor, and the ruins of attempts on our own. Despite oscillating thoughts, despite sin we cannot leave, he invites us into a different story of defeat. The Son has made his triumphal entry. And he comes to bring us the cross, to the one sacrifice that takes away the world's pain.

About The Author:

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

Source: A Slice of Infinity
Copyright © 2013 Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, All rights reserved.

Three Gifts Offered by Jesus on His way to the Cross

by Carl E. Olson

Scripture:

• Is 50:4-7
• Ps 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24
• Phil 2:6-11

Gospel:

• Lk 19:28-4
• Lk 22:14 - 23:56

"It is done. We have judged our God and have ordered Him slain.
We will not have Christ with us anymore - He is in the way."

Those lines open Paul Claudel's poem, "The Way of the Cross", a lyrical, moving reflection on the fourteen Stations of the cross. Claudel, who is one of my favorite poets, had a profound love and knowledge of the Bible (he wrote a book titled, The Essence of the Bible). His poetry has often opened up new and wonderful perspectives in my study of sacred Scripture.

In writing that Christ "is in the way," Claudel emphasizes the two choices before each one of us: to embrace Jesus as The Way or to try to remove him from our way.

Those choices are evident throughout today's reading from St. Luke's Gospel. There is, in this reading, a series of gifts offered by Jesus as he, the King of kings, makes his way to his throne, the Cross. These gifts involve choices, not only on the part of man, but also on the part of the God-man.

In the Upper Room, reclining with the apostles, Jesus took the bread and blessed it, and said, "This is my body, which will be given for you…" He took the cup, and said, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you." This, of course, is the gift of the Eucharist, "the source and summit of the Christian life," the Body and Blood which nourishes the sons and daughters of God. This gift was offered along with the gift of the priesthood, through which this perfect and holy sacrifice has been perpetually offered (CCC, 611).

Yet one of the Twelve rejected the gifts. Judas - grasping and greedy - had spitefully judged Jesus and believed he was now in the way. Judas refused to accept and be part of a kingdom rooted in self-sacrifice, suffering, and redemptive love. "But woe," said Jesus, "to that man by whom he is betrayed."

The gift of the cup of the New Covenant, the Catechism remarks, "is afterwards accepted by him from his Father's hands in his agony in the garden at Gethsemani…" (par. 612). This gift of Jesus - offering himself, his fears, and his horror of death - is a profound mystery, for it is bound up in mystery of the Incarnation. The second person of the Trinity, St. Paul states in today's Epistle, had "emptied himself, taking the form of a slave" and had "humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death…" The first Adam had failed the test of love in the Garden of Eden when faced with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But the new Adam, whose sweat in the Garden of Gethsemani "became like drops of blood," humbly embraced the torturous trial of the tree of Golgotha. The anguish endured in private prayer in the Garden would soon be a public lamentation: "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?"

The third gift is that of love, redemption, salvation, reconciliation. It is the gift of the Cross, the gift of the Incarnate Word who did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. "The shame of his passion was not the fruit of his own will," wrote St. Cyril of Alexandria, "but he still consented to undergo it that he might save the earth." Arms stretched wide, Jesus embraced the world. He embraced the thief, who asked to be remembered in Paradise. He embraced the centurion, who gloried God. He embraces each one of us as we kneel in silence and contemplate those humble words of trust and filial devotion: "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit."

Jesus, for many people, is in the way. But for those who gaze upon the gift of the Cross, Jesus is the Way.

In the beautiful words of Claudel:

"There is no cross of our living where His body will not fit.
There is no sin of ours for which He has not a wound."

(Originally appeared in the March 28, 2010, edition of Our Sunday Visitor newspaper.)

Source: Insight Scoop

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