For April 2, 2023
The eventful week began on what we refer to as Palm Sunday today with Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into His beloved Jerusalem, the City of David.
He chose not to ride a horse, as would a conquering hero. Instead, He rides the donkey’s colt, a symbol of peace, as He presented Himself as God’s humble emissary sent to redeem a fallen humanity.
His calculated actions fulfill the Messianic prophesies of Isaiah 62 and Zechariah, given 700 and 500 years before, respectively,
The Lord has made proclamation to the ends of the earth: “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your Savior comes! See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.’ ” They will be called the Holy People, the Redeemed of the Lord; and you will be called Sought After, the City No Longer Deserted. Isaiah 62:11-12 (NIV)
Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zechariah 9:9 (NIV)
Enormous crowds gathered around their Messiah, laying palm branches in His path and shouting,
Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven! Matthew 21:9 (NIV).
The Lord strategically planned His Triumphal Entry to coincide with the festive week of the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread. Thus, it was not coincidental that His Messianic presentation happened during this high-holy week of consecration and celebration, when Jerusalem’s population increased exponentially, as Jews from around the world converged on Jerusalem to fulfill the requirement of Mosaic Law to attend the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
These feasts were associated with the Children of Israel’s release from four-hundred years of Egyptian slavery. (Exodus 12:1-13:16, 23:17, 34:23) Festive revelers, musicians, and celebrators packed the streets with song, dance, and reverie.
Jesus was well aware that His Triumphal Entry with Messianic overtones would hasten His death on Calvary’s Cross before week’s end. Yet, He humbly and meekly presented Himself as the Passover Lamb, whose blood would pay sin’s price for His people and all of humanity.
One author refers to the critical spiritual implications of Jesus’ earthly ministry,
But Jesus addressed himself primarily to spiritual rather than to physical need. He fed hungry hearts rather than hungry stomachs. His gospel was by no means an economic gospel; nor can it be characterized in general as a social gospel; primarily and essentially the gospel which Jesus proclaimed was an ethical and religious gospel.1
Yet, one must wonder what the Lord and His Disciples were thinking and feeling, especially within the context of this commentary on our Lord’s actions (my emphasis),
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But, God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8 (NIV)
Jesus’ critical mission was for our spiritual benefit because the first Adam’s disobedience introduced sin into God’s perfect world, which resulted in our spiritual and physical deaths. Our spiritual death (sin), which separates us from God, happened instantaneously while our physical death came gradually.
God created us to be holy (sinless) beings to live forever in His perfect world. But Adam’s disobedience introduced our world to sin, sadness, pain, disease, and death. Thus, as the Bible teaches, all of us will sin and die. (Romans 3:23, 5:14, 6:23)
Since we are sinners by nature, our “good deeds” are sin-polluted. One illustration is how when we commonly carried fountain pens in the breast pocket of our white dress shirts. When ink leaked from the pen, it left an ink spot that irrevocably ruined the shirt.
Just as the ink spot spoils the shirt, sin spoils our self-righteousness. So that even on our best day, we are still worthless before a holy God (who is not sin-spoiled), and we fail before His righteousness as filthy rags,
We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind. Isaiah 64:6 (NLT)
Jesus Christ was without sin and fully aware His death would redeem all fallen humanity from sin and restore us to a loving, eternal fellowship with God,
Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. Romans 5:18-19 (NKJV)
It is unfathomable how a sinless Jesus Christ freely offered Himself to redeem the entire world—whether Jew, gentile, black, white, rich, poor, believer or non-believer. All of us can vicariously receive the full benefit of His perfect sacrifice—without preference or distinction.
No longer do Satan, sin, and death bind us, because our faith in His perfect work determines our righteousness (or lack thereof) before our Heavenly Father.
Ultimately, Jesus redeemed those who love Him, those who hate Him, those who believe in Him, and those who do not believe in Him. This concept of “equal atonement” is difficult for the modern mind to capture fully. Not concerning Christ’s saving efficacy as His sacrifice remediates all our sins forever.
However, His commitment to give Himself freely and willingly for every man, woman, boy, and girl—past, present, and future—so comprehensively is difficult to fathom. For it is not a normal human response, especially toward someone we feel is “less desirable.”
Sacrificing for a loved one is conceivable when our love for them or our desire to protect them motivates us. However, choosing to sacrifice our lives for an enemy or someone who dislikes us is extremely hard to envision.
History has shown there may be certain situations where we would risk life and limb for someone we might not care for. During the Second World War, for example, cultural issues fostered adversarial relationships that fragmented our troops occasionally. Although these valiant men and women may have been divided, they proved themselves more than willing to sacrifice for their adversary’s greater good by fighting and dying to spare the world from the global tyranny of the Axis’ powers.
Fast-forward eighty years to our modern day, when we have replaced our noble altruism with a cold-hearted malevolence and barbarism. Truly, the Enemy (Satan) is at work in the callous and malicious disregard for human dignity witnessed in the indiscriminate killing of the unborn and helpless, the calculated euthanization of the weak and aged, and the exploitation, abuse, trafficking, oppression, and violence perpetrated against all those who fall between these two extremes.
Ultimately, we have reduced precious, God-given lives to little or no worth. Our heartlessness is most unfortunate because technology, education, politics, military, and industry do not make our country great. It is our faith in God, and the Judeo-Christian values we embrace and uphold, as the Scriptures attest,
Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people. Proverbs 14:34 (NKJV)
Ours has never been a perfect nation, but no nation is, especially with sin and entitlement issues running rampant as they are today. Yet, there was a time in our not-too-distant past when we understood right from wrong, and we intuitively maintained a line of demarcation between what was morally good and morally bad.
We seem to have erased that line by our existential relativism. Our existentialism celebrates our human subjectivity while our relativism denies the existence of all absolute truth,
Dress as you will, fornicate with whom you will, infect whom you will, wear clothes, or go naked as you will. The only right is what is right for you, and the only wrong is that which produces pain or inconvenience for you. There is no law, no principle, no proper course of action of any kind, so go with the vibes! Whatever is your thing, do it.2
No longer does God’s Word (Bible) and His Helper (Holy Spirit) guide our thoughts, words, and behavior. Instead, whatever feels good or gives us pleasure—at this moment—is what governs our conscience and behavior.
In these Last Days, which feature our ever-changing new ways of thinking and behaving, global catastrophes, rampant hostility, and heightened existential relativism will ensue to our detriment, just as Jesus predicted,
And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. Matthew 24:6-12 (NKJV)
Oh, what sorrow and despair await those of us who insist, “evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter.” Isaiah 5:20 (NLT)
A civilized people must exercise vigilance and due diligence to promote and secure the moral and spiritual well-being of our fellow countrymen and women,
The freedom of God is exercised and illustrated in His government of His moral creatures. It has pleased God to create intelligences possessed of moral freedom and to make their ultimate destiny contingent upon the right use of their freedom.3
God has endowed all of us with the sacred trust to preserve civility, decency, and goodwill for people with whom we work, serve, and live.
Those of us over twenty-one years of age especially should foster a congenial atmosphere since we have matured beyond our childish self-interests to pursue those things that are in everyone’s collective best interest. We who have so matured understand if we persist in raucous discord, no person will be spared from hostility and violence.
At some point, we must stop long enough to ask this question with the utmost sincerity, “What kind of world do we want for our children, and their children?”
With our non-absolute, selfish, proud, twenty-first-century minds, it is extremely difficult to imagine how someone in perfect health, with all His faculties, and less than one week to live would spend His remaining moments teaching enduring lessons that would shape future generations of His Followers around the world as Jesus did.
In His shoes, we would spend our last week fulfilling selfish desires, visiting exotic places, visit our families and close friends, or completing unfinished tasks on our “bucket list,” but not so with our Lord. He knew He would die on the cross shortly, and He spent His remaining moments with His beloved Disciples, sharing lessons most important to them—and us.
The second chapter of the Book of Philippians relates to the humiliation and exaltation of Jesus Christ,
Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:6-11 (NLT)
Proud, self-righteous human endeavors will never invoke God’s favor, as does Calvary’s Cross. It has never been about us; it is about Jesus Christ, and our faith in Him vitalizes our being, position, conduct, and eternal destiny.
The first time, Jesus presented Himself to the world as the Suffering Servant in order to redeem a fallen humanity. Upon His second arrival, He will present Himself as the Eternal Righteous Judge before whom every knee will bow and every tongue will confess.
Those who will not acknowledge Him now will face Him as Eternal Judge when He returns to make His final Triumphal Entry, that will last forever. But those of us who love Him, and whose faith begins and ends with Him, He is our hope, peace, expectation, and glorious reward. Galatians 3:11 reads, “The just shall live by faith,” and 2 Corinthians 5:7 states, “We walk by faith, not by sight.”
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the lord. For Jesus promises, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 (NLT) Won’t you come to Jesus and experience rest, peace, and joy in your life today?
What a Wonderful Savior!
- H.E. Dana, “The State of Jewish Society,” The New Testament World, 3rd ed., revised, (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1937) 147.
- For further discussion, see: Dave Breese, “The Advent of Diffusion: Søren Kierkegaard,” Seven Men Who Rule the World from the Grave, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1990) 217, and William L. Reese, “Existentialism,” Dictionary of Philosophy and Religion: Eastern and Western Thought, 8th ed., (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1980) 163-164, and ibid, “Relativism,”487.
- Merrill F. Unger, “Freedom,” Unger’s Bible Dictionary, 18th printing, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1972) 380.