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Thursday, May 24, 2018

Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem – Part 2

          Last week, we saw that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a lowly donkey as a meek and humble King prepared to die for the sins of all. They took palm branches and went out to meet Him, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel!” Palm branches were used in victories and celebrations. They symbolize victory and rejoicing. Hosanna is a Hebrew expression meaning “save.” Later it became an expression of “praise.” Jesus is not just an ordinary Jewish rabbi. He is the Word of God (all Truth) and a King. The crowd saw Jesus as the King of Israel, but Jesus will show them eventually that He is King of all kings and Lord of all lords. 
         “Blessed Is He who comes in the name of the Lord” comes from Psalm 118:26 which is known as the Hallel psalms – Psalm 113-118 -- the Songs of Ascent. Portions of these psalms were sung at services of certain feasts. Those shouting this psalm knew they were shouting to the Messiah. Matthew, Mark and Luke said that the crowd also put their garments upon the donkey colt and the road before Jesus. This is a symbolic act of submission to royalty. Followers of Christ are to shed the garment of our fleshly nature, laying it down in submission to King Jesus and His authority. As we do, Jesus will transform us into His image and likeness slowly and progressively so we can radiate His Truth, love and spiritual nature to the world. We are called to a “high calling” and a “holy calling.” (Philippians 3:14; 2 Timothy 1:9) Sanctification means to make holy, to consecrate, to separate from the world and to be set apart from sin so we may have an intimate fellowship with God and serve Him. We are to “love the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind” (Matthew 22:37), “blameless and holy”(1 Thessalonians 3:13),“perfecting holiness”(2 Corinthians 7:1), in “love which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5), “pure and blameless” (Philippians 1:10), “in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.” (Romans 6:19)
A foreshadowing of Jesus riding on a donkey into Jerusalem was when David had his son Solomon, who was to be king, ride on a donkey to Gihon where Solomon would be anointed king over Israel by Zadok the priest and Nathan the Prophet. (see 1 Kings 1:33-35) Solomon means “peace/peaceful.” Jesus came into Jerusalem as the King of peace fulfilling this scripture and eventually the reign of Solomon – the King of peace. Solomon, the son of David, built the earthly temple in Jerusalem, but Jesus, the Son of God, builds His temple in the hearts of His followers. Jesus brings His eternal temple into the hearts and lives of those who love and serve Him. As we submit to Jesus and His Word, we become more like Him and He reigns greater and greater in our hearts. We radiate His love, peace and ways to a lost and spiritually dying world. In the New Jerusalem, those who love and serve Christ will radiate His light and glory. This is to begin right now as we walk on earth.
Jesus came to Jerusalem riding on a donkey as the Savior-King of peace. He will complete the fulfillment of His triumphal entry in Revelation 19:11-16.  Jesus who is called Faithful and True, will ride on a white horse. This is the righteous King of kings and Lord of lords coming from heaven to earth as a Warrior King to establish truth and justice, to wage war against the nations and to wage war against evil. His army will be His followers who are already in heaven. They are clothed in white as He is clothed in white – signifying purity. Speaking of Christ’s Bride, Revelation 19:8 says, “And to her (Bride), it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.” The righteous acts that we do on behalf of God and Jesus are eternal. The Bride of Christ will be clothed in righteousness like her King.

Jesus Cleanses the Temple – Mark 11:15-17; Matthew 21:12-13

          Jesus cleansed the temple at the beginning of His ministry and at the end. Why? He is the First and the Last; the Beginning and the End. What He did in the beginning, He will do in the end. Cleansing the temple of the Kingdom of God is of great importance to Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit. They are holy and reside in holiness! The cleansing of the Temple on earth is symbolic of the cleansing of our hearts that become the spiritual temple of God. Therefore, the Godhead will progressively cleanse our hearts and lives of those things that are contrary to their holiness so we draw closer to God and bring others to the Father and Jesus as we radiate His wisdom and Light.
       The original temple on earth in Jerusalem was to be built meticulously according to God’s Word. Solomon, the son of father David, who oversaw the building of the original earthly temple of God on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem was a king with a throne and a kingdom.  He was full of wisdom. When King Solomon finished the building of the temple precisely as God had instructed and the fire from heaven consumed the sacrifice, the glory of the Lord filled the temple. Jesus said that a “greater One than Solomon is here.” He is talking about Himself who is a King with a throne and a Kingdom who is full of perfect wisdom (Truth). Jesus wants to fill us with His grace and truth so we can establish His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. The wisdom of the Word of God builds the house. Followers of Christ are the Temple of God on earth. Let us show this by not being “conformed to this world, but being transformed by the renewing of our minds, that we may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2

The Crowd Who Saw Jesus Resurrect Lazarus Spreads the Word

        Those who heard about this miracle gathered to see Jesus also. This threatened the Pharisees even more. They said, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after Him!” John 12:18 

                                            (Next week: Jesus Predicts His Death)

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem – John 12:12-19 – Part 1

          Jesus will now journey to Jerusalem with His disciples. He leaves Bethany, the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus, in route to Jerusalem. He stops at Bethpage at the Mount of Olives where He tells two of His disciples to go to a place and get a donkey colt upon which He will ride into Jerusalem. Why would Jesus ride into Jerusalem on a donkey colt? The answer is to fulfill Zechariah 9:9. “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! See, your King comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” When studying the words and works of Jesus, we must understand that He is fulfilling scripture in all that He does and says. Why? Matthew 5:17 gives us the answer in Jesus’ own words. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” To fulfill means “to complete.” Jesus’ mission was not to destroy the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill them perfectly so He could usher in grace and truth. Jesus is the “new” way to the Father. Since Jesus is Truth/Word, He must fulfill all truth. Since God who is perfect gave the Law to the Israelites, it would have to be fulfilled by a Perfect Israelite – Jesus. Therefore, Jesus had to come in the flesh through the Jews. We are not to exalt the fact that He was a Jew in the flesh, but that He is God in the flesh. Many Jews would know Zechariah’s prophecy of the coming Messiah because they were schooled in the Older Testament scriptures. Therefore, they hailed Jesus as King. Zechariah’s prophetic proclamation showed that Israel would be protected by her coming King. That King would be righteous and have salvation.
            The timetable of Jesus’ journey into Jerusalem also fulfills the requirements of the Passover lamb that is to be slain for the sin of every Jewish household. Jesus arrived at Bethany on the 8th day of Nissan – 6 days before Passover. On the 10th day of Nissan, He entered Jerusalem. According to the Law, the sacrificial lamb of atonement must be examined, tested and proved to be without spot or blemish between the 10th and 14th of Nissan. Before Jesus was crucified and died for the sins of the whole world, Jesus was tried, tested and was without spot or blemish. He is sinless. Who tested Him? Before Jesus was crucified, He had three trials to test if He was guilty of sin against God and man. He went before Caiaphas, the high priest. He went before Pilate who refused to crucify Jesus saying, “I find no basis for a charge against Him.” Then He went before the chief priests and their officials who shouted, “Crucify Him!” (see John 19:6) The spotless One was tried and tested by man and found guilty. Jesus knew He was going to the cross before the foundation of the world. Soon Jesus will be God’s sacrificial Passover Lamb without blemish who will die for not only for the sins of Israel but for the whole world.

          Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, not on a horse as a conquering king, but as a humble servant who came to bring peace. A donkey in the Older Testament Law was considered an unclean animal that had to be redeemed by a Lamb. Exodus 34:20: Redeem the firstborn donkey with a lamb, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. A donkey in scripture symbolizes a sinner (unclean).  Jesus, the firstborn and only Son of God, will be the Lamb of God who will redeem all unclean (sinners) fulfilling this scripture. Our humble King Jesus was prepared to die for all. Riding upon a donkey colt would not make Jesus look regal or powerful. The foreshadowing of this donkey ride is in the story of Abraham going to sacrifice his spiritual son Isaac on the altar of atonement on Mount Moriah. Isaac, father Abraham’s son, rode on a donkey before being put on the altar to be slain. Father Abraham, like God, was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac to atone for sin. God stayed Abraham’s hand as he was about to kill his son. Abraham said that “God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” Genesis 22:8 God did – His Son Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the whole world. God’s promise to Abraham reached farther than just the Jews. God is no respecter of persons. Humanity was originally created in the image and likeness of the Godhead. The first Adam and the Woman were holy when God created them. God wants to restore humanity back to that holiness through the blood of His Precious Son whether Jew or Gentile.        
            Jesus told two of His disciples to go to get a donkey colt and bring it to Him. A colt would be unbroken – never ridden. An unridden colt might buck and refuse to go the way of the rider, but when Jesus got on the unbroken colt, it didn’t. Jesus used the “natural” to speak “spiritual” truths. A donkey in scripture symbolizes a sinner. When Jesus rides upon an unbroken sinner, He directs our path as we submit to His authority. The Good News of Jesus Christ is carried by sinners with childlike faith who are in the process of being refined by Jesus and the Word by the power of the Holy Spirit. Matthew says that Jesus told His disciples to bring both the donkey (older) and its colt (younger). The salvation of Jesus is for everyone – old and young.  Instead of the full-grown donkey, Jesus chose the colt to ride upon. Jesus works best with those with childlike faith. We are His children.
            The colt was tied to a doorway. Jesus told His disciples to untie it. In other words, set it free and bring it to Jesus. This is what disciples of Jesus are to do – bring people to Jesus for salvation and setting free from the bondage of sin and the devil. Jesus is the Door we must be tied to and go through for redemption and eternal life.
            No one had ever sat upon this colt. In other words, no human had sat upon it, only Jesus. This colt was set apart for Him. Jesus was conceived in the virgin womb of Mary that no flesh of man or seed of man had entered or touched. He was buried in a tomb that no human had been buried in. Why?  Jesus is holy. Though He came in the flesh, He remained holy – without sin.
            Jesus previously had left Jerusalem because the religious leaders were plotting to kill Him. Now Jesus wants everyone to clearly see and hear Him. He is doing everything openly. He was not going to fit the expectations of Israel who thought their coming king would come as a warrior in battle to set them free from the Romans. Instead Jesus rode into town on a donkey colt! His ministry on earth is about to be completed. He has taught the truth, gathered a harvest of disciples, healed, performed miracles and proclaimed His Kingdom. Soon He would die for the sins of the world and will have His “exodus” from Jerusalem to return to His Heavenly Father in the New Jerusalem in glory.  At  Passover the Jews celebrated their “exodus” from their bondage in Egypt and their journey to God’s Promised Land, Jesus’ death and resurrection will set us free from the bondage of sin, death and the devil and bring us to the Eternal Promised Land with the Father.
            Jesus wasn’t crucified for His truth and miracles. He was crucified because of His claim of equality with God, and His threat to the religious leaders’ power and authority.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Jesus is Anointed at Bethany – John 12:4-11

          Last week, we saw that Mary sacrificed her expensive perfume to anoint Jesus for burial. Mary gave her best as the high expression of her love for Jesus. Followers of Christ are also His vessel that can be broken so His sweet fragrance can be seen in and from us. The world may call our love and sacrifice for Jesus a waste, but Jesus treasures it! Jesus said that Mary’s act of love would be told wherever the gospel is preached. (see Matthew 26:13) Mary’s gift to Jesus was a lasting one. As Mary poured out her sweet fragrance upon the feet of Jesus, Jesus wants us to pour out ourselves upon Him in love and service to Him and others. Jesus gave His all for us. He wants us to give our all for Him. Mary fulfilled Song of Songs 1:12. She knew the worth of Jesus. Love for Jesus must be the motive for all we do for Him. God sees our hearts. Those who want to be like Mary must sit at the feet of Jesus and learn of Him. It was Mary’s devotion to Jesus and His Word at His feet that led her to give her best gift to Him. It is in understanding and doing the Word that brings the sweet fragrance of His sacrificial love out of us. Our sacrifice for Christ is never wasted! All that we do for Jesus must be done with gratitude and love.
         We also learned last week that Martha’s action represented “work,” Mary’s was “worship” and Lazarus was a “witness.” John 12:9 says that a large crowd came to Jerusalem to not only see Jesus but also “Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jerusalem and putting their faith in him.” Jesus wants His followers to have a balance of work, worship and witness. The Sadducee's didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead, and the Jews believed a resurrection would occur on the last day. So, they wanted to not only destroy Jesus but Lazarus also. The religious leaders wanted to keep their power and authority. To do this, they must destroy the evidence and truth to support their own beliefs. Christians must also be careful to rightly-divide the Word of God so they are not led by untruth.

Judas Protests – John 12:4-6
          Mary is a true believer in Christ. Judas is a false one. Mary is generous and loves and serves Jesus with her whole heart. Judas is greedy and self-serving. There is a result of both.
        But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray Him objected. “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” John 12:4-5 This is Judas’ first words in the gospels. His last words were, “I have betrayed innocent blood.” Matthew 27:4   Deuteronomy 21:8-9 tells God’s people to “purge themselves of the guilt of shedding innocent blood, since you have done what is right in the eyes of the Lord.” Judas knew the Older Testament scriptures and is disobeying this.
            Judas thought Mary’s perfume was wasted on Jesus. Judas was a thief who took care of the money box and stole some of the money for himself. Judas clothed his greed with benevolence. Judas makes it sound like he has concern for the poor, but, he only wants to fill his own pockets. “He (Judas) did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.” Vv5-6 This was the beginning of Judas’ betrayal. Judas loved money more than Jesus! “For the love of money is the root of all evil.” 1 Timothy 6:10  Jesus who is all-knowing knew what Judas would do. “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” John 6:70. Judas and the religious leaders who wanted to kill Jesus were hypocritical but God will use them to carry out His plan. Jesus had to die and be resurrected. The devil empowered Judas to do what he was about to do. His love of money and thievery opened the door for Satan to work. Judas is the contrast to Mary.

Jesus Defends His Own – John 12:7-8
          “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of My burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have Me.” Vv7-8 There will always be need on earth. There will be opportunities to help the poor but Jesus will not always be present. (see Deuteronomy 15:11) He is worth all our unselfish love – more than all the poor of the world. He gave His all for us. We are to give our all to Him. His unending love is worth all that we are and all that we have – our all! Mary understood this.
            Mary anointed Jesus 6 days before His death. She knew the worth of Jesus. She also knew that God’s Perfect Passover Lamb was about to be put to death and then resurrected. She had seen Jesus resurrect her brother Lazarus from death. After Jesus died, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus anointed Jesus’ dead body for burial with myrrh and aloes fit for a king, but Mary anointed Him before He died. Jesus would overcome death and the grave and raise Himself up from death as He had done for Mary’s brother Lazarus, and as He will do for all who believe in Him. “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” 1 Corinthians 15:13-15
            It was Mary’s devotion to Jesus and His Word while sitting at His feet that led her to give her best gift to Him. The Jewish leaders and Judas who wanted to kill Jesus wasted their lives on themselves. Our sacrifice to Christ is never wasted. Mary fellowshipped with His sufferings! The religious leaders and Judas loved power and money.
            It is interesting that Jesus did not reveal Judas’ heart here. The hypocrites will be exposed by their own actions and words. Even at the Lord’s Supper, Jesus did not name Judas. Judas’ own actions and guilt revealed him, as did the guilt of those who condemned Jesus to death. Jesus didn’t come the first time to condemn the world. He came to save it. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. Jesus made it clear that His true followers would be revealed by their fruit – the fruit of the Holy Spirit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit. Matthew 7:17: “Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.” 
                                                 (next week: The Triumphal Entry)