Category Archives: Lent

The Triumphal Entry

The world has seen many kings. But arguably none crueler or more demented than Nero. The Roman Emperor, responsible for the executions of Peter and Paul, reigned from 54-68. One source states: Nero’s rule is often associated with tyranny and extravagance. He shed the blood of many, including that of his mother, and the probable murder by poison of his stepbrother Britannicus. He is infamously known as the Emperor who “fiddled while Rome burned” and as an early persecutor of Christians. He was known for having captured Christians to burn them in his garden at night for a source of light Nero, who sought to serve himself and sacrifice many others in the process, was Rome’s best offer as a king.

What kind of a king would you be? Certainly, there are many perks. For instance, you would live in a large home known as a palace. You would have staff delivering every kind of food you desired. There would be no shortage of resources. You would have power, prestige, and influence. Every whim and wish granted by a host of servants. You wouldn’t even have to use words- just hand gestures.

Palm Sunday is about the recognition of a king; but not just any king; a special king who was willing to serve, not be served. Palm Sunday is a coronation, of sorts.

The account of the Triumphal entry is one of the few events recorded in all four gospels. A great crowd of pilgrims always came to Jerusalem for the Passover Feast. On one Passover, Josephus records that 2.7 million gathered in Jerusalem for the event. We take up in verse 12:

“The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!’”

Many in the crowd that day would have been Galileans familiar with his ministry. Others would have heard about the raising of Lazarus and would have been eager to see Jesus, the one who could raise the dead!

For this reason, people laid their cloaks and palm branches in the roadway, so Jesus could ride across them. Palm branches were a national symbol. Donald Carson notes that these, “…may have signaled nationalist hope that messianic liberator was arriving on the scene.” Riding into the city on a donkey’s colt would have been a fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9:

“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, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. …He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.”

Jesus was truly a king! But the real question is this. Is He your king? Every person has one of two kings. Jesus referred to Satan as “the ruler of this world,” but that is masked by the fact that many people live as if they were their own ruler, that self is king. But Palm Sunday reminds us that Jesus is the One King, “Faithful and True.”

After this incident, Phillip is approached by some Gentiles that wanted to see Jesus. Verse 20 states: “Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”

Everything in Jesus’ life had an intentional design to it- a fulfillment of Scripture. This was symbolic, and indicated to Jesus that His time had come to go to the cross. His ministry to Jewish people of His day was complete and now He has now appeared to the nations, a book end to the visit of the wise men in Matthew 2, the conclusion of what we know as Epiphany. These Gentiles trigger what we know as Jesus’ Passion. Up to this point, Jesus often said: “My time has not yet come.” But now He says: “The hour has come.” There is a shift in the story. Jesus will now be faced with his imminent death. It will end with His resurrection, but there would be much pain and suffering to experience beforehand. It is His time; the time for which He came to this earth.

In verse 24, Jesus describes the purpose of this time, and His calling as king. Unlike other kings of the earth that demand so much from their subjects, Jesus is willing to give His life so that we might find ours. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

But unlike other worldly kings that shed the blood of others freely, King Jesus would lay down His life for us, that we might become children of God. Jesus would give His life. He would sacrifice Himself. What king does that? Only One. It is as one poet wrote:

Full many a king a golden crown has worn,
But only one a diadem of thorn:
Full many a king has sat on jeweled throne;
But only One hung on a Cross alone:
Through garlanded gay streets, cheered by the crowd
Great kings have ridden—One, with His head bowed
Beneath the burden of His Cross, passed on
To die on Calvary, one King, but one:
All other kingdoms pass; are passing now—
Save His Who wore the bramble on His brow.

Jesus’ choice to giving His life for us secures atonement for our sin, but it also functions as a model of service. Jesus would go on to say in verse 25: “He who loves his life loses it; and he who hates his life in this world shall keep it to life eternal.” Jesus is using hyperbole to prove a point; an exaggerated statement to drive home a lesson. One commentator notes of the two kinds of people in this world: “Those who are absorbed by the interests of life on earth encounter ruin while those detached from worldly interests will through Christ’s work attain to eternal life.” It is a matter of value and priority. This, friends, is the key to spiritual fruit: prayer, Bible study, the obedience that comes from faith, and a willingness to sacrifice self for the blessing of others.

For the true follower of Christ, this world does not compare to the blessing with following God. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” And so His subjects do not place the value of their lives in this world either.

The benefits are tremendous: forgiveness of sin, abundant, eternal life, becoming a child of God. But the cost is great! It involves a shift in priorities: one in which Jesus must increase, and I must decrease. Paul would write in Galatians 2:20:

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Friends, when you become a Christian, your life belongs to another. You are not your own.

In contrast, those who love this life, devote themselves to wealth, prestige, advancement and recognition; things that become idols that replace God. To live for this world means that you live for those things mentioned in 1 John 2:16: “For everything in the world– the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does– comes not from the Father but from the world.”

But the mark of a disciple is to give one’s life unreservedly to God and to the advancement of the gospel. Peter Waldo, the probable leader of the pious Waldensians who lived in the 1200’s, was a rich merchant from France. He was converted through the death of a friend. At one point in his life gave up all his wealth to follow the Lord. Everywhere he went he preached the claims of Christ, using the words, `Look to Jesus! Listen to Jesus! Learn of Jesus!’ These are the prerequisites of discipleship. This is our calling: “Look to Jesus! Listen to Jesus! Learn of Jesus!”

Which is your life? Who is your king? Is it Jesus? Or self?
Don’t answer so fast, that you don’t know what is required. Henry Drummond was a Scottish evangelist who lived in the latter half of the nineteenth century. He was once asked to address a meeting of a select West-End Club in London. On his arrival he found his audience assembled and everything arranged for him to give his message. He commenced his address with these words: ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, the entrance fee into the Kingdom of Heaven is nothing: the annual subscription is everything.’

I would tell you the same thing. `It doesn’t take much of a man to be a Christian, but it takes all there is of him,’ said Thomas Huxley. My prayer is that Jesus Christ would be the king of your life.

The Reason for Easter

Although often crowded by the attention given to Spring or the expectation of the Easter Bunny, today has been the foundation of the Christian faith for 2,000 years. Resurrection Sunday is why Christians exist. It is what separates Christianity from all of the world’s religions. It is the deal maker. It is the day that we gather to say: “He is risen! He is risen indeed!”

Jesus has had a monumental effect on human history. Consider the following statements made by both believers and unbelievers. H.G. Wells, British writer who died in 1946 said:

“I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as an historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all of history. Christ is the most unique person of history. No man can write a history of the human race without giving first and foremost place to [Jesus].”
Daniel Webster, 19th century American politician and the founder of Webster’s dictionary, said: “All that is best in the civilization of today, is the fruit of Christ’s appearance among men.”

Kenneth Scott Latourette, former President of the American Historic Society:
“As the centuries pass by, the evidence is accumulating that measured by its effect on history, Jesus is the most influential life ever lived on this planet. The influence appears to be mounting. No other life lived on this planet has so widely and deeply affected mankind.”

And finally, Will Durant, popular modern historian and philosopher, when asked what he felt the apex of history was, replied: “The three years that Jesus of Nazareth walked the earth.”

Jesus said many powerful things. His Sermon on the Mount has been acclaimed as the most powerful message delivered in all of history. But His influence is not due to the fact that he was a sage. Sages come and go. It is not because He was wealthy, because he was not. Jesus was born into poverty. It is not because of His great heritage. This is why many could not get past that He was apparently the son of a carpenter from Galilee. Rather, it is because of His resurrection from the dead and its practical and historical effect on all who follow Him.

The influence of Jesus’ life is found in the short verse of Romans 4:25: “Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” To explain this statement, let us compare these two sections of Scripture, found in Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter four and Mark’s version of the resurrection, found in Mark 16. We first understand that…

JESUS WENT TO THE CROSS FOR A REASON.

The Apostle Paul gives us that reason in verse 25: “He who was delivered up because of our transgressions….” Jesus did not die a passive death, as if he was a victim of a horrible circumstance. His death was a part of God’s ultimate plan to provide the means of atonement for our sins. Each person has a deep spiritual need that cannot be met by himself or philosophy or money or sex or relationships or a career, etc. It is only met through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Each of us has a God-shaped void that can only be filled by Him. The fourth century church father Augustine once prayed: “O Lord, our hearts are restless, until they find their rest in You.”

If you are a member of the human race, you are a sinner. Jesus said in John 8:34: “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. But if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Sin is defined as any transgression against God’s moral law. By being a sinner, you are at odds with God. You cannot conquer your sin by “doing better next time.” As someone once said, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Each of us has a sin problem that can only be adequately dealt with by God.

But God, in His love, has reached out to you in the life, death and resurrection of His one and only Son, Jesus Christ. Both Jesus’ death and resurrection addresses our two greatest spiritual needs, which are forgiveness and restoration. You cannot have Easter Sunday without Good Friday. That tells us that our greatest need is not to have a good self-image. Our greatest need is not to feel positive about yourself. It is not to overcome the trials that come your way or achieve your greatest potential. Rather, your greatest need is to be reconciled to the One that you have offended. And that One is God. As Charles Sell wrote: “If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator. If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist. If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist. If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer. But our greatest need was forgiveness, so God sent us a Savior. He has provided the means of your forgiveness. This is why Jesus went to the cross. “He was delivered up for our transgressions.” Secondly, we are told that…

JESUS LEFT THE TOMB FOR A REASON.

If you’ll notice from Mark’s resurrection account, that reason was not automatically known. In fact, you see that the three ladies who went to the tomb on that Sunday morning, fully expected to see the body of Jesus there, awaiting anointing, which was a gesture of devotion. They are met with shock to see the stone rolled away and the angel seated, announcing Jesus’ resurrection. So griped with fear and amazement that they ran back to the where Jesus’ disciples were and talked to no one on the way. They are not sure what just happened. Common in all of the gospel accounts of Jesus resurrection is that the disciples did not expect it. As, they all meet an angel and they all react in fear and amazement.

Mark was written, most likely before the other three gospels were. Matthew and Luke are thought to have used Mark as a template for their accounts. Mark and Romans were probably written at the same time. Mark describes the resurrection event, Paul interprets it. Paul says that Jesus coming back from the dead is a testimony that God can do the impossible. He links the resurrection faith with that of Abraham. Abraham is the father of all those who believe, mentioned at least three times in Romans chapter four, verses 11, 16 and 17. Only God: “…gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did.” And verse 21: “…what He had promised, He was able to perform.”

This event occurred in 33 or 34 A.D. Fast forward about twenty years, when Christians were going through persecution and the expansion and dispersion of the church. Now, Paul, writing to the believers in Rome, seeks to teach these new converts of the similarities between them and Abraham, the father of the believing. Abraham believed God and God counted it to him as righteousness.

Verse 25: “…who was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.” Jesus died for your transgressions and mine. Each of us needs a right relationship with God. Justification means “…to set free, acquittal.” Jesus death and resurrection are two sides of the same coin. We cannot have forgiveness of sin without His death. Nor can we have justification/acquittal without His being raised from the dead. Charles Hodge, was one of America’s greatest theologians who taught at Princeton in the 19th century. He said: “This verse is a comprehensive statement of the gospel. His death and His resurrection were alike necessary; His death, as a satisfaction to divine justice. Had He not risen, it would have been evident that he was not what He claimed to be. We should be yet in our sins, and therefore still under condemnation.”

Therefore, there are four spiritual laws that are important for everyone to know before they leave this earth. One is that God loves you and has a plan for your life. In other words, you were made for a reason. You are not here by chance, a product of circumstance. You were made by a loving Creator God. But your sin has separated you from Him. You have offended Him by Your deeds. Some may judge a deeds ethics by the hurt it does to others; and if it causes no hurt, then it is not wrong. But God does not believe in situational ethics. He has established eternal standards of what is right and wrong and demands their obedience. When one of His principles is broken, it is as if we’ve broken them all. And we are worthy of His wrath. Hell is a real place because God is a just God.

Thirdly, Jesus came as the God-provided means for your forgiveness. He gave His life so that you could be reconciled with God, your Creator. Lastly, you must receive Christ by faith, in which the same way that Abraham believed God’s promise, and it was credited to His account as righteousness. Jesus lived the life God demanded from you and died the death you deserved. For your salvation, Jesus left the tomb on that morning so long ago. Jesus’ resurrection means life-giving change for you and me. That is why Christians are people of tremendous hope.

Because of Easter, we can have a new life. Because of Jesus’ resurrection, we can have a new identity. Because of Jesus being raised from the dead, we can go to heaven when we die. But you must follow Him. You must seek forgiveness for your sins. You must become a disciple.

Jesus dying on the cross and being raised from the dead has been the hope of Christians for 2,000 years. Governments can try to stamp that out, to no success. In some of the places where the church is heavily persecuted, it is also expanding at an unprecedented rate. When all is said and done, Jesus’ death and resurrection is the only hope that we have.

As Vice President, George Bush represented the U.S. at the funeral of former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. Bush was deeply moved by a silent protest carried out by Brezhnev’s widow. She stood motionless by the coffin until seconds before it was closed. Then, just as the soldiers touched the lid, Brezhnev’s wife performed an act of great courage and hope, a gesture that must surely rank as one of the most profound acts of civil disobedience ever committed: She reached down and made the sign of the cross on her husband’s chest. There in the citadel of secular, atheistic power, the wife of the man who had run it all hoped that her husband was wrong. She hoped that there was another life, and that that life was best represented by Jesus who died on the cross.

Following Jesus remains the most important, the most critical decision you can ever make. Have you done so?

Jesus Knows Your Needs

When Jesus died on the cross, He experienced emotional, spiritual and physical pain. Consider the words found in John 19:28: “Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”

All of this happened as a result of the work being finished and His life as a fulfillment of Scripture. There were many times in Jesus’ life that He avoided death. At each time, the gospel writers would record something to the effect: “His time had not yet come….” For instance, in John 7:1, we are told that the Jews were seeking to kill him. He said to them: “My time is not yet here…Go up to the feast yourselves; I do not go up to this feast because My time has not yet fully come.”

Jesus’ life was a fulfillment of Scripture. Regardless of how we might view the Bible, Jesus saw that it as our chief authority deserving of reverence. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that not even the smallest portion of the law would pass away until all of it was fulfilled (Matthew 5:17).

Jesus viewed His suffering, His death and His resurrection as a glorious fulfillment of God’s plan. In contrast, we don’t look at suffering as God ordained. We think that life should be free of pain and adversity. But that just is not realistic, is it? He explained to two of his discouraged disciples on the Road to Emmaus in Luke 24:25: “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

And shortly before He died, Jesus said: “I am thirsty.” The fact that Jesus was parched tells us that He experienced so much of His humanity. His statement proves that Jesus was a real human being. He experienced betrayal, discouragement, and now his body is racked with pain; at the very end, He expresses thirst. Psalm 22:15 describes the level of thirst: My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth…. A potsherd is a broken piece of pottery, dried hard and good for nothing.

Because of the physical stress He was under, it most likely He was reaching a state of extreme dehydration. He probably had not had anything to drink in at least 24 hours. Water is needed for circulation and other bodily processes including respiration and converting food to energy. It has been shown that if you lose just 2.5% of your body weight from water loss, you will lose 25% of your efficiency. For a 175 pound man that is only about two quarts of water. This causes the heart to work harder and circulation of blood to be less efficient. Jesus had been flogged and crucified. All of this under a blazing Middle Eastern sun with the presence of extreme emotional stress. His statement reminds us of His extreme suffering on our behalf.

A mockery of satisfying His thirst, John 19: 29 tells us that they filled a sponge with sour wine, and put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. Hyssop was a plant used for sprinkling blood or water in Jewish religious ceremonies. The way that they treated his thirst was cruel, sour, wine-vinegar would hardly quench a thirst; would make most of us sick.

But this is what Jesus went through for us. We call it Good Friday because those who believe realize that they cannot be good apart from that great sacrifice. Someone once said that all the world’s religions are marked by man’s efforts to reach out and grasp God, or the idea of God. It is Christianity that teaches that God reached out to man by sending Jesus to this earth to go to the cross on our behalf. 2 Corinthians 5:21 states: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

This is why Christians for centuries have believed what the Nicene Creed has taught for centuries concerning Jesus: “…Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried, and the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures….”

Have acknowledged your need for Him? He invites you today to receive His forgiveness, be reconciled to His Father and follow Him.