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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17 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. You are a blessing to me, dear one!
      Laurie

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  2. I've never seen Jesus Christ Superstar. Even before I was saved, I didn't want to see things that might inaccurately portray Jesus. A healthy fear of blasphemy maybe? I did grow up in the church and had that influence behind me (thank you to my mom). :) The visual of the coats on the ground is pretty powerful. Something small to us, that probably was as you said, not small to the person doing it. I'm glad God evokes that kind of love.

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    1. Oh my goodness, Laurie. The sermon today in my church was about this very thing, including the coats in the dirt. The pastor even brought up a scene from Jesus Christ Superstar, hahahaha. Are you and my pastor working together today? :) I just came back to tell you since it was such a coincidence. Have a great week.

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    2. That's awesome, Rosey! I love when God does that. It happens often to me that I teach a Bible study or write a blog post, and then the pastor of our church preaches on similar verses & topics on the same day!
      Thanks as always for your uplifting comment & God bless,
      Laurie

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  3. Now in Polish TV is a lot of religious films... But: religious. Here is a lot of religion, people go very often to their churches, but someone told, that in my country is less Evangelical Christians than in... Saudi Arabia. It means, that we need a lot of work and prayer.
    Today our pastor had word and he told that second time: that in future will be persecution in Poland. Now we live in peace, but there is more and more religious fanatics (especially in small settlements) or left-wing environment, who tell, that we are "intolerant".
    So now is time to build our spirits and work on Christ's field.
    Greetings from rainy Cracow :)

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    1. So true, Zim, there are many who are "religious" but who do not know Christ. There is much work to be done and souls to be saved before Christ returns. May He make us bold and give us wisdom through His Holy Spirit.
      God bless you,
      Laurie

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  4. Dear Laurie,
    Back in 1974 or -5, I was sent to London by the company I worked for to see Jesus Christ Superstar in one of the West End theatres, for a series of magazine articles they wanted to write.
    I actually enjoyed the show, but that was what it was - a performance. My verdict at the time was that Jesus Christ should not be addressed as a superstar, but as Lord.
    However, I was aware that there were some church leaders that gave the show a positive verdict, and their reasoning was that the show brought Jesus Christ to the attention of a very secular society.
    Your article also reminded me that today is Palm Sunday.
    Wishing you and your husband a very happy Easter.
    God bless.

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    1. Dear Frank,
      I enjoyed the show also, but my perspective at the time was as a Broadway devotee rather than as a born-again believer. I think there is an unfortunate trend in the church to believe that Christ Himself is not enough, and that we need to arouse the curiosity of the unsaved through entertainment or other means. We have the answer and the cure for sin and death, and preaching that message should be enough of a draw to the sin-sick world. And if it isn't, entertainment, snacks, giveaways, etc. won't be enough either, because all of these are not only available in the world but are usually better there than what the churches provide.
      Thank you as always for your comment and for your Easter wishes, and may you and Alex have a blessed Easter also!
      Laurie

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  5. How often people get caught up in the big and flashy things, and miss seeing the power of God because he uses the still small voice, the weak things and the things that are not to show his power. Thanks for the reminder.

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    1. Amen, Donald! May we not be distracted by the world from hearing His still, small voice.
      God bless,
      Laurie

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  6. Truly inspirational. Thank you for the reminder. Coming to you from #TellMeTrueStory blog party

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    1. Thanks so much, Shandra, for your visit and sweet comment!
      May you have a blessed Easter week!
      Laurie

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  7. I can understand how God can use a religious play or movie and speak to people. Your post is awesome and so full of wisdom. Thank you for sharing with us here at "Tell Me a Story."

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    1. Thank you, Hazel, for your encouraging words & for hosting! Happy Resurrection Sunday to you and Robert!
      Laurie

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  8. Hi Laurie! You make such a wonderful case for simplicity. Jesus was so uncomplicated, and really didn't get into all the fame and glory at all. As a matter of fact, he used to tell the people he cured to "not say anything" to avoid the fame.
    A simple heart turned to him is what he requires. And trust that his way is the best way. I struggle with that sometimes, as my husband has been out of work for so long, but I must stay faithful. I don't want the Lord to judge me as not accepting his will.
    Have a blessed Easter!
    Ceil

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    1. Great points, Ceil! Jesus rightfully accepted worship, for He was God in the flesh, yet He did not seek fame, but only to do His Father's will. Your faithfulness in trials is an inspiration. Praying for your situation.
      May you both have a blessed Easter!
      Laurie

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