Sunday, March 29, 2015

Hail to the Chief!

Scriptural Reading: Mark 11:1-11
Devotional Reading: Isaiah 45:20-25

I remember when Pope John Paul visited St. Louis in 1999. Traffic slowed down to turtle crawls even more. Millions of people came to see him, including President Bill Clinton, although it was reportedly a simple pastoral visit. St. Louis pulled out all stops with over 2,300 journalists reporting each move and activity. There was an enormous youth rally, a prayer service at the Cathedral, and an even larger mass at the Trans World Dome. I was left speechless many times when I thought of the loyalty toward the sitting Pope. The current pope, Pope Francis, recently made the statement that he was no longer able to go and get a pizza as he had done in the past. His position as Pope had made him so popular he was confined to the Vatican hotel, serving himself cafeteria style like the other guests. However, while riding through the crowds in his pope mobile in Naples, a man reached over and gave him a pizza. The crowd cheered to the loyalty the man showed their leader. The Pope is a symbol of their church and their followers are loyal to both Jesus and the Church.

Although the above are two examples of how people show their loyalty today, there are many who are consumed with loyalty to money, jobs, laziness, drugs, etc. Isaiah prophesied where God intends for us to place our loyalties/priorities. In Isa 45:21-23 he prophesied, “Tell and bring forth your case; Yes, let them take counsel together. Who has declared this from ancient me? Who has told it from that time? Have not I, the LORD? And there is no other God besides Me, A just God and a Savior; There is none besides Me. Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself; The word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness, And shall not return, That to Me every knee shall bow, Every tongue shall take an oath.” (NKJV) Hail to the LORD of LORD and King of Kings! Hail to the Chief!

This quarter of study is entitled “The Spirit Comes.” We are in Unit I – “The Pledge of God’s Presence” of the three units of the quarter. This is the final of a five-lesson study focusing on the promise of the Holy Spirit. In our lesson today we review the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem as He rides upon a donkey. The Jews had great and long-standing dreams for a Messiah to emerge to deliver them from an occupied province of the Roman Empire. Jesus seemed to fit all the ancient prophecies and His triumphal entry is recorded in each of the four gospels. (See Matt 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:29-40; and John 12:12-19) Our lesson is from Mark’s record.

Here we have a record of the triumphal, public entry of Jesus into Jerusalem at a time when the enemies have warrants against Him. He is not going to go into the city under the cover of the night or incognito. Jesus plans to come into Jerusalem as the Messiah King in full view of everyone. The disciples will be encouraged by how brave their Master will enter the city against their enemies. Jesus had never been afraid of His enemies. It was just not His time to present Himself. Now He makes preparation for the public entry in the city, four or five days before His death. He issues instructions to two of His disciples in Mark 11:1-3, “Now when they drew near Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples; and He said to them, ‘Go into the village opposite you; and as soon as you have entered it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has sat. Loose it and bring it. And if anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The LORD has need of it,’ and immediately he will send it here.” (NKJV) Because of His foreknowledge Christ knew exactly what would happen in the future. He also shows His power over the wills of men. Jesus told the two disciples to go to the village where they would find an unbroken colt (of a donkey) as soon as they entered. He instructed them to simply take the colt. An unbroken colt was considered a fit animal for royalty to ride. Jesus was familiar with the Zechariah tradition when He entered Jerusalem with His crucifixion looming – riding on an unbroken colt. Zechariah prophesied at 9:9b, “Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (NKJV) Jewish kings often used donkeys as their royal mounts.

It pays to be obedient to the instructions of the LORD. He knows what will happen in the future and what is best for us. We don’t understand it many times, but it is best to be obedient. The two disciples were obedient and all that Jesus instructed happened. Mark 11:4-6 records their actions as Jesus commanded, “So they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door outside on the street, and they loosed it. But some of those who stood there said to them, ‘What are you doing, loosing the colt?’ And they spoke to them just as Jesus had commanded. So they let them go.” (NKJV) Each of the details was completed by the disciples without their questioning Him. The principle of obedience to the LORD applies to all undertakings, including the difficult and mysterious ones. The unbroken colt was more than likely a burden, but it would bring glory to the LORD. They were able to get the colt despite questioning from some onlookers simply by saying “…the LORD hath need…” He has need of each of us as believers also. We are the compensation for His going to the cross. He wants us for His Church. You never know what stone the Great Master Builder, our Chief Corner Stone, will require next. Just be ready to take instructions without questioning when He has need of you. It is for His glory and your salvation.

By Roman standards, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was far from triumphal. However, in the Jewish tradition the symbolism would not be missed and prophetic Scripture was being fulfilled. Mark 11:7-8 records His entrance as King, “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.” (NKJV) This was the first day of Passion Week aka Holy Week. There were a number of public events that occurred during that week. So, what was so important about this day that Jesus allowed the people to honor Him as the coming Messiah when He knew they would be calling for His crucifixion before the end of the week? The day is memorable for its surprises and reversals of judgment. The hopes and visions of the people and disciples (His followers) were wide and doomed to disappointment. This day to them promised a throne, but hastened a cross and tomb. The fears and hates of the Pharisees and rulers (enemies) were surprised on this day, but later reversed. Jesus made no attempt at temporal power and offered no resistance. This day truly emphasizes spirituality as the key to the right understanding. The people believed they were honoring Jesus as King, but He is the Son of God and this was actually His coronation as the King of Kings when He sacrificed His life for the sins of the world. It is written in 1 Tim 2:5-6, “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” (NKJV)

After having brought the young unbroken colt to Jesus, the disciples made a saddle with their own coats for Jesus to sit on as He prepared to enter the city. Mark 11:8 does not actually identify the leafy branches as “palms”. The reference to “palm branches” can be seen in only two places biblically – John 12:13 and Rev 7:9. However, spreading cloaks and palm branches out before a king to walk on was a traditional habit expected for royalty in Israel.

Many pilgrims had traveled to the city to celebrate the Passover Feast and the Feast of Tabernacles. The multitude was filled with enthusiasm for renewal of justice. The processional march honoring Jesus heightened to a new level as those who had been healed, who desired healing, had witnessed miracles, etc. joined the march in singing their expectation in Davidic, messianic terms. Mark 11:9-10 records their acclamation for a king, “Then those who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: ‘Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that comes in the name of the LORD! Hosanna in the highest” (NKJV) Jesus knew what they were anticipating by listening to the words of their chant. “Hosanna” was originally meant to be a prayer meaning, “Save, we pray” (Ps 118:25) which later probably meant “Save, we pray from our Roman oppressors”. Later it was used like “Hallelujah”, as a shout of praise to the LORD. “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD,” is a quote from Ps 118:26. The multitude clearly recognized that Jesus was the promised Messiah. "Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that comes in the name of the LORD!" They were looking for the immediate, physical restoration of David’s kingdom with Christ sitting on the throne of David. Jesus was their best candidate. I can hear their thoughts, “Deliver us how we believe is best to be delivered and we shall be loyal”. “Hosanna in the highest” is a call to either praise the LORD in the highest heavens or for Him to save from the highest heavens. Although Christ acknowledges their chant, He desires more than a public honor. Professional respectabilities are not enough. He wants the individual honor and heart sacrifice rather than the hosannas of the multitude. He despised the earthly crown. His victory would be through His suffering and sacrifice on the cross for our sins. That is His ultimate triumphant entry – Death and the Resurrection.

The last verse of our lesson this week is concerning the scene in the Temple. Following the excitement of His procession into the city of Jerusalem, Jesus was led to the steps of the Temple. It was the focal point for Jewish worship. Mark 11:11 reports, “And Jesus went into Jerusalem and into the temple. So when He had looked around at all things, as the hour was already late, He went out to Bethany with the twelve.” (NKJV) This verse does not identify Jesus’ disappointment and disgust for the defilement He witnessed when He entered the Temple. His later action in cleansing the Temple would create a breach between the Temple priests, the expectations of what the people expected (the loyalists?), and His prophetic urgings and priorities. (See Mark 11:15-19)

Written by Deborah C. Davis

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