April 5, 2020
On Palm Sunday people were hailing Jesus as their King. But we all know that in a matter of days, they would arrest him, mock him, beat him, and condemn him to die on a cross. So what happened in between those few days?
Let’s follow the order in the Gospel in Matthew… In the 21st chapter, as you heard in our first Scripture reading (Matthew 21:1-11), Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, fulfilling the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9. People were laying their coats on the ground in front him, as well as palm branches they had cut, as a show of honor. They shouted “Hosanna”, which means “Save us!”, believing that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah who had come to save his people.
It was after this, in the same chapter, that Jesus entered the temple in Jerusalem, and was so angered that the some people had turned his Father’s house into a den of thieves, that he turned over the tables of the moneychangers and those selling doves and chased them out of the temple. But at the same time, he healed all of the blind and lame that came to him, as the children continued to praise him. Then Jesus and his disciples spent the night in Bethany. It was on their way back to Jerusalem, that Jesus cursed the fig tree that did not have any fruit on it, and it immediately withered. Of course, that tree represented his people, Israel, who were not bearing fruit. This is confirmed a few chapters later in Matthew 24 when Jesus spoke the following prophecy, “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” Many theologians believe this refers to Israel finally becoming a nation once again in 1948, followed by the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967, and more recently the declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel 50 years later in 2017. Praise God we are in the generation that will see everything leading up to Jesus’ return come to pass.
Continuing in Matthew 21… Jesus told the parable of two sons, which we read last Sunday (vs. 28-32), followed by the parable of the tenants, after which Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.” (vs. 43). This greatly angered the Pharisees, for they knew he was referring to them. But they still feared the crowd and so secretly conspired as to the best way to go about having him killed.
Jesus continues his teaching in chapter 22. He tells the parable of the wedding banquet, in which his invited guests do not come, and so he calls in those in the streets – again, referring to his people as the invited guests who would reject him, and would not attend the wedding feast in the 19th chapter of Revelation. The Pharisees, continuing to get more and more enraged, try to trick him with a question hoping he will answer that they do not have to pay taxes to Caesar, for which they could have him arrested. Of course, his answer, “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s”, (vs. 21), gave them no foothold. Then the Sadducees tried their hand at outsmarting him with a question about marriage in the resurrection, but were also unsuccessful. So the Pharisees tried again, asking him which is the greatest commandment. Of course, Jesus answer is one we all know well, and hopefully do our very best to follow, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (vs. 37-40). And then Jesus asked them a question. ‘“What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?’ ‘The son of David,’ they replied. He said to them, ‘How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says, ‘The Lord said to my Lord: ‘”Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.” If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?’ No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.” (vs. 42-46).
Jesus steps it up several notches in chapter 23, when he first gives a warning about hypocrites, and then speaks seven woes on the teachers of the law and the Pharisees. His parables have turned into direct accusations, which speak the truth. The Pharisees will soon endeavor to turn the tables with their own accusations, which speak nothing but lies.
But before that happens, we still have chapter 24, in which Jesus predicts the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and then speaks about the time of the end, and his return to the earth, urging us all to be ready.
He continues his instructions on readiness in chapter 25, with the parable of the ten virgins (vs. 1-13) and the parable of the talents (vs. 14-30), followed by speaking of the final judgment and the separation of the sheep and the goats (31-46).
And then in chapter 26, he tells his disciples exactly what is about to happen when he says, “You know that the Passover is two days away, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.” (vs. 2). For he knew all along during his ministry what was going to happen, that it was God’s will that he die for our sins upon that cross, and that he would rise from the dead three days later. He knew the hearts of those who would reject him and the hearts of those who would love him, just as he does today.
People have not changed over the centuries. Politicians still try to crucify each other. Religious leaders that do not have the love of Christ in their hearts still hate those who do. One day soon it will all peak when the Antichrist steps up and demands people swear their allegiance. Some will give it willingly and others only under threat of execution. But some will remain loyal to Christ, and go on to their heavenly reward, willingly suffering the same persecution that the early Christians did. So, would you become a turncoat? Or would you die for Jesus, as he did for you? I pray your faith is strong enough to remain true to Jesus no matter the cost. Amen.
"Jesus Enters Jerusalem" (Son of God) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBquuyfPe_U
"Til the Day I Die" (TobyMac) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4KtfKGZkhHI