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Decisions V: YES!
As we have been seeing in our “Decisions” series Jesus’ nature, claims, actions and teachings make it impossible for us to remain undecided about him: either he is who said he was and that makes all of the difference or, he is not, and we can ignore him. As it were, we must “pay our money and make our choice” regarding him. The sooner the better. Today, as we trace the last week of Jesus’s earthly life, we will see some stunning decisions people made about him. Turn with me now to Luke 19:28-40 and let’s start with the Triumphal Entry.
28 After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 As he approached Bethpage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30 “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it.’” 32 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 They replied, “The Lord needs it.” 35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. 37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: 38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name
of the Lord “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” 40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
Jerusalem is all abuzz for two reasons: It is Passover, the greatest national and religious annual holiday of the Jews, which lasted a week and culminated in the re-enactment of the Passover tradition. Furthermore, there’s all the rave and anticipation over the arrival of a young miracle worker from Galilee. News was that his career and popularity were back on the upswing after the crowds deserted him in Capernaum. Why? Because he restored the peoples’ confidence after he raised his good buddy Lazarus from the dead. For that amazing feat, Jesus wins the People’s Choice award and now if he will just play his cards right, smooze the powers that be, he’ll be king by the end of the week. Indeed, what better place to be coroneted as such than in Jerusalem, the city of David, and what better time, than on the greatest day of the year when the city is packed to the max and filled to the gills. Jesus’s choice of transportation, a donkey, further leads many “in the know” to think that this will
shortly come about (Zechariah 9:9).
Hosanna! Hosanna! Jesus Appreciation Day
As Jesus strides into Jerusalem on the beast of burden all pandemonium breaks out. Spontaneously, Palm Sunday Praisers begin to throw leafy palm branches and clothing on the street before him. This was an ancient custom signifying honor to dignitaries as they entered important cities. Furthermore, the sound, “Hosanna, Hosanna” reverberates through the air (“God save us we pray”). The Palm Sunday Praisers then break out in joyous antiphonal singing of the great Hallel Psalms (113-118) of the OT. These Psalms commemorated God’s mighty power when he delivered the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. Here’s one:
118:14 The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. 25 O LORD, save us; O LORD, grant us success. 26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.
As the Palm Sunday Praisers sing these psalms they are hoping for another kind of Exodus, an Exodus from Roman bondage. If ever there was a Jesus Appreciation Day, this was it.
The Palm Sunday Praisers decide Jesus is the One despite the fact that there were a plethora of young upstarts and revolutionaries that came and went during this time. Well, mostly they went, directly to their deaths because Rome was so brutally efficient at snuffing out uprisings andeliminating would-be messiahs. Since Rome occupied Palestine in 64 BC revolt seethed like an infected oozing sore. The Jews, primarily through the ultra-nationalistic group called the Zealots, were dedicated to the overthrow of Rome at all costs. They, along with the rebels known as the sicarii (assassins) were everywhere, killing Romans and any Jews (Sadducees: Jewish politicians aligned with Roman interest) who cooperated with them. Judah of Gamla may be the most notorious of them all. He incited rebellion against Quirinius, the governor of Syria. However, he was caught, and quickly executed, by Herod Antipas. If you remember, this was the same Herod that ordered the beheading of John the Baptist. Although a
number of “Judah of Gamla” types emerged over the past century, messianic brouhaha was still at its zenith and most feverish pitch. Now, it’s all laser focused-on Jesus.
Jesus Fits the Bill
Obviously, the crowd believes that the outcome will be radically different with Jesus because he is radically different. He seems to have total command of, well, just about everything. His unusual birth-was he really born of supernatural means? His ability to exorcize demons. He, unlike the Old Testament prophets, healed blindness. On multiple occasions, he raised the dead.He controlled and commanded the weather. Even his harshest critics conceded that his teachings were other-worldly and authoritative. Let’s not even touch upon all of his “dinner church” miracles, whereas he often created meals virtually with little or nothing at all and fed thousands upon thousands of people at a time. And then his claim of being sent by God because he was God the Son, was ok, but no doubt, he confidently believed it and acted like it. One could not convince him otherwise, even under the threat of capital punishment. But he did indeed consistently back up everything with compassionate compassion, truthful
truth, graceful grace, and merciful mercy. He not only had the “skills to pay the bills” but also a sterling character that was authentic and easy to be around. Furthermore, his charismatic personality lit up the room and attracted and magnetized the crowds. If his is not a messianic resume it should be. Who has loftier credentials?Who has such pedigree? He has IT whatever IT is! He’s the One. No way will he suffer the same fate of previous revolutionaries.
The Pharisees Object
Not surprisingly, the Pharisees, Jesus’s chronic antagonists, don’t take too kindly to the spotlight swinging away from them and zooming onto Jesus. They rush to him and tell him to quell the hoopla. Jesus tells them if people don’t praise him, or decide for him right then and there, “the stones will cry out.” From the OT, this is a metaphor of impending doom on any who ultimately decide against him.
Jesus’ reaction to the crowd deciding “yes” to him is odd. One would think he would soak it all in and say, “After all those years of ministering in obscurity I finally have my moment.” Or that he’d go all Sally Fields at the ’85 Oscars, “You like me, and I can’t deny the fact you like me.” But he doesn’t. Instead he does two things: (1) He prophesies and (2) He cries. Come back on Friday and find out why. See you then.