Saturday, April 19, 2014

Hosanna – Save Now!

As we saw last week, God used ordinary things to convey the extraordinary meaning of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, when He rode on a donkey and was hailed by His people. John tells us that the multitude cried Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord (John 12:13).

“Hosanna,” which appears six times in the Gospels referring to the triumphal entry, has similar forms in the Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. It means "save now,” “rescue," or "savior," and in Hebrew, it is “Jehovah hoshiah-nna” which means “I beseech thee, O Lord, save now.”

Those shouting it on that day most likely did not realize the true significance of their greeting, as they were not looking for salvation from their sins or for eternal life, but for a warrior and king to deliver them from Roman oppression.

Luke’s Gospel says that as Christ approached the mount of Olives, the disciples rejoiced and praised God for the miracles He had done, shouting Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest (Luke 19:38).

This greeting is prophesied in Psalm 118: 25 Save now, I beseech thee, O Lord: O Lord, I beseech thee, send now prosperity. 26 Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord: we have blessed you out of the house of the Lord.

But Psalm 118 goes on to emphasize what the crowd did not realize: 27 God is the Lord, which hath shewed us light: bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar.

As Jesus, Light of the world (John 1:9; 8:12) entered Jerusalem on this occasion, it was not to conquer Israel’s enemies and to rule over the city, as His followers had hoped (Matthew 20:21). Instead, it was to sacrifice Himself, the perfect, divine God the Son (Isaiah 53:5-12). He would “save now” by laying down His life (John 15:13) to pay for the sins of all mankind (John 1:29), so that all who would repent and trust in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6) would have everlasting life (John 3:16). 

Despite their blindness to His true purpose, Jesus’ followers praised Him mightily and loudly on that first Palm Sunday, so much so that the Pharisees demanded that He stop their acclamations (Luke 19:39). The world will always throw a wet blanket on Christian praise, but it is ironic that the chief religious elders of that day were the ones to do it.

But God’s creation cannot be silent in worshipping Him, and Jesus answered “If these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out (v.40).” Genuine Christian praise ultimately can’t be suppressed because even the creation praises the Creator – bird songs, babbling brooks, flowers wafting their scent upward to Heaven all glorify Him.

Sadly, the crowd of about 2,700,000 Jews gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate Passover offered Him genuine praise, but for the wrong reasons. Matthew 21:10 tells us that they were “moved,” with the corresponding Greek word meaning “convulsed” or “stirred” as by an earthquake.

They cried “Hosanna,” recognizing that He was the son of David, as expected for the King Who would deliver them (Jeremiah 22:2; Revelation 22:16). They knew He was of the right lineage to rule over them, but not that He should be called Lord by David himself (Psalm 110:1; Matthew 22:44; Mark 12:36). They realized that Jesus came in the name of the Lord, but not that He Himself was Lord of all (Matthew 21:9-10; John 13:13; Revelation 17:14;19:16).

They asked the question that is the most significant question in all history: “Who is this?” (v. 10). And they answered their own question incorrectly, saying that Jesus was the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.

“Who is this?” is the trillion-dollar question for all time, which every person must deal with to determine their eternal destiny. Not one of us can ignore the question of who Jesus is to us. We can be hostile and reject Him altogether as a blasphemer (Matthew 26:65, Mark 14:64) like the Pharisees who pridefully placed their trust in their own good works and religiosity to get to Heaven (Luke 18:10-14),. But our destiny will be eternal hell, for we are saved not by works but by His grace through our faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).

We can get our emotions stirred up over praising a popular hero, like many in the crowd who waved branches and shouted praises without knowing or accepting Him. Their feelings were shallow and short-lived (Matthew 13:20-21), as was evident when they cried out for His crucifixion five days later. But God knows the hearts (Luke 16:15; Acts 15:8), and mouthing empty praises will not change our destiny from eternal punishment in hell (Luke 13:23-28).

We can even honor Jesus as a good man, teacher, and prophet, or God’s messenger to tell us God’s will. But if we reject His claim to be God in the flesh (John 1:1-14), our destiny will still be eternal torment in hell (John 3:18).

Only if we call on His Name, accepting Jesus as Lord, God and Savior, will we have eternal life with Him in Heaven (Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13). Only if we ask Him “Save now!” – “Hosanna” – recognizing that we are sinners in need of a Savior, that our good works apart from His salvation are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), and that faith in His death, burial and resurrection is the only way to Heaven, do we have the right answer to that crucial question.

Psalm 24 asks that fateful question and gives a paradigm-shifting answer, affirming that Jesus is LORD!

8 Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.  9 Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.  10 Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah.

He is our risen Savior Who conquered sin and death forever more! (Isaiah 25:8; 1 Corinthians 15:54-55) Through Him alone we have eternal life! Trust Jesus today as God, King of glory and Lord of your life!

© 2014 Laurie Collett
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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Ordinary Things; Extraordinary Purpose

When I was in college, decades before I was saved, I saw “Jesus Christ Superstar” on Broadway. Even then I was struck by the contrast of the meek, humble Jesus, washing His disciples’ feet (John 13:5), as portrayed in the Bible stories I had learned in Sunday School, and the rock star idol on the fast track to fame, as depicted opulently in the bright lights and glitter of the stage production.

The unfortunate trend to glamorize and sensationalize Christ, as if His Truth were not enough, is prevalent today in some churches. In theme parks such as The Holy Land Experience, glittering gold, purple velvet, jewel-encrusted thrones, and lavishly produced but cheesy musicals have sadly replaced Biblical accuracy and Scripture-based singing. But God came to us in the flesh not in a royal bassinet lined with silk and linen, but in a feeding trough filled with scratchy, dirty hay (Luke 2:7,12,16).

Just as God uses foolish things to confound the wise (1 Corinthians 1:27; 3:17-19), He uses ordinary things to accomplish the extraordinary. Aaron’s walking stick became a serpent as a sign of God’s great power (Exodus 7:9,10,12); and a burning bush in the wilderness was not consumed but revealed God’s presence to Moses (Exodus 3:2).

In Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday (Matthew. 21: 1-11; Mark 11: 1-10; Luke 19:29-38; John 12: 12-19), He used an ass and colt for the most significant journey in history, and clothes and branches to worship Jesus as the King.

Even by contemporaneous standards, Christ’s approach to Jerusalem was more in keeping with His humble and modest impoverished lifestyle as an itinerant preacher (Matthew 8:20), rather than with the pomp and circumstance expected for a celebrated ruler or warrior. He rode on an ass and colt, procured by His foreknowledge and the disciples’ obedience to His seemingly strange command as to where to find and how to acquire them

It makes me wonder how many times we miss out on the blessing of being part of God’s plan because we don’t understand the logic of what He is asking and therefore disobey, rather than simply trusting that He knows best (Isaiah 55:8). If Joshua and his army had recoiled at the idea of defeating Jericho by circling it seven times while blowing their trumpets (Joshua 6:1-16), or if Naaman had not finally humbled himself by bathing seven times in the dirty Jordan River to be cured of leprosy (2 Kings 5:1-14), their human “wisdom” would have kept them from tremendous blessings.

God’s plan will be done, regardless of our participation, but believers will suffer loss of rewards when we face Christ at the judgment seat and realize that we failed to enter the doors He opened (1 Corinthians 3:15). In contrast to their overall reluctance to accept what Jesus was telling them about His upcoming betrayal, arrest, false trials, crucifixion, death, and resurrection, the disciples appeared to show unquestioning obedience and unity of purpose in fulfilling the mission of finding the ass and colt their Lord needed.

In some of today’s churches, there would first have to be an explanation, a committee presenting a proposal, a vote on whether to go, a vote on who would navigate, who would get the ass, who would get the colt, who would answer if they were asked why, who would pack refreshments for the trip, etc., etc. By then, the resurrection, much less the triumphal entry, would have long since been accomplished. But the disciples just immediately went and did as Jesus commanded them (Matthew. 21:6-7).

The disciples’ faith was rewarded as Jesus proved Himself faithful. They found the ass and colt where He said they would, and He had told them what to say to the animals’ owner so that they would not have to steal. We should trust and obey God, knowing that He will never put us in a compromising situation that would go against His will and His commandments, and that we will be rewarded for our obedience, if not in this world, than in the next. No doubt the owner also received a blessing by providing what the Lord needed.

Christ’s followers, thinking He was now ushering in the promised Kingdom, may have thought it would have been more regal for Him to enter on a procession of camels or even elephants in noble trappings, but that would not have fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy that the King of the Jews would enter Jerusalem on an ass and a colt (Zechariah 9:9). Similarly, Solomon rode on David’s mule when he was to become king in his father’s place (1 Kings 1:33).

As today’s society worships pop idols of the entertainment industry, or even honors dignitaries visiting on foreign soil, we “roll out the red carpet” so that they need not place their feet where we ordinary mortals walk. As a bride goes down the aisle, she may have not only a carpet, but her path may be strewn with flower petals.

Jesus lacked such an opulent display, yet the path He rode was far more meaningful, as His followers took the very clothes off their backs to pave the way. Garments in that day were not plentiful and cheaply made as many are now. His disciples in particular did not have any extra clothes with them (Luke 9:3). Clothes were not only expensive and made to endure many years of hard wear, but they were necessary for survival in the brutal desert sun and cold of night.

I believe that those who laid their coats in Jesus’ path made a considerable sacrifice to honor their King, as these would not have been useable after being laid in dusty streets and trod upon by a donkey, colt and the crowds following. God took ordinary, readily available, yet essential belongings and transformed them into symbols of their admiration and worship of Christ. If we freely give back to Him what He gave us in the first place, He will use our gifts mightily for our good and His glory, as He did in the miracle of the loaves and fishes (Matthew 14:14-21).

As Jesus passed by, the crowd worshipped Him not with silk banners and trumpets, but by waving branches they cut from the neighboring trees. John tells us that these were palm branches (John 12:13), and this is the only reference to palm trees in the Gospels.

In contrast to His first entry into Jerusalem on the ass and colt, Christ will enter in glory on the Warrior’s great white horse when He comes again to judge and defeat Israel’s enemies (Revelation 19:11).The redeemed of all nations will again worship Him with palms in their hands (Revelation 7:9).

Those branches remind me that we are fruitful branches only as long as we abide in Him, the True Vine, without Whom we can do nothing (John 15:5). Sadly, these palm branches, hastily torn from the trees nearby, no doubt withered and dried as quickly as the crowd’s ardor for their King. A few days later, the crowd would no longer honor Him, but would instead cry out for His crucifixion (Mark 15:13-14).  

Although these Jews were His chosen people and in a perfect position to be nourished by Christ, they ultimately did not accept Jesus as their Messiah and cut themselves off from Him. Praise God that He gave the Gentiles, people of all other nations, the opportunity to be grafted in as wild branches of the olive tree, representing Christ and His Kingdom!  (Romans 11: 15-25). 

© 2014 Laurie Collett

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