It is Easter season. The flowers are blooming in all their glory in celebration and we are preparing to celebrate the blessed hope that we have in the resurrection of Jesus. Each year as I come into this season I am reminded of my time visiting Jerusalem almost 20 years ago now. The impact that walking in the footsteps of Jesus had on my life at that time forever changed me.
His Word came alive in new ways for me in that season as I experienced the land and people where Jesus lived on earth. As I walked in the garden of Gethsemane and sat on the hillsides of Galilee, ate a Passover meal in Jerusalem and sang in the streets, hillsides and citadels of Israel, His life in me was renewed. Through the years my faith has been nurtured and challenged by wonderful teaching of many great scholars and preachers. But each year as we approach Palm Sunday and Easter my mind goes back to my experiences in that place and the teaching of a great man of faith Ray Vanderlaan. Much of what I am writing today I learned from his Biblical teaching series.
So today as you read, I encourage you to use your imagination and try to place yourself in the setting of the land of Israel and the ancient city of Jerusalem. Jesus is making his way to Jerusalem with his disciples for the Passover. He passes through the same Judean wilderness where He was tempted. It is barren, rocky, dusty. I wonder what He was thinking as He passed through that desert place. He is on His way to die on a cross for your sin and mine. Surely He wonders, “Is there no other way?”, but again He presses on in His mission.
On the Sunday before Passover when Jesus enters Jerusalem, his heart is set toward the cross. He enters on the side of the Mount of Olives and the bustling city lays ahead of Him. The Sunday before Passover, according to Exodus 12, was the day the people began the celebration of Passover. The city would have been crowded with people for this day was lamb selection day, the day when each Jewish family picked the lamb that was to die on the following Friday. This was the day when the people would choose a perfect lamb for the Passover. On that day the Lamb of God entered the city among the crowd riding on a donkey to fulfill the prophecy in Zechariah.
On this Sunday Jesus came not just as a triumphant King, but as the Lamb. It was almost as if God was saying, “Here’s my Lamb. Will you choose Him?”
God’s perfect, spotless Lamb chose this day to enter the city where He would die. But the people did not recognize who He was.
Passover was a season of freedom, when the people celebrated their freedom from slavery in Egypt in a feast. During this time, it was not unusual for there to be uprisings among the crowds and so the Romans brought in extra troops to keep order in the city. As Jesus entered the people began to shout out, “Hosanna! Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” Hosanna was a very different cry of God’s people than the songs and shouts we speak in our churches on Palm Sunday. For today we recognize Him as the Lamb of God, the Conquering King of our souls who reigns in Heaven. But the day that Jesus entered Jerusalem their cry, “Hosanna, Save us!” was a political statement - save us - deliver us - from the Romans!
Try to place yourself among the crowd of people oppressed by the Romans when the One enters whom you believe can deliver you. As Jesus, the Messiah comes, the excitement grows, almost like a parade the people clamor to see Him as they wave their palm branches.The palm branches were also a Jewish symbol of freedom. They were crying out for national deliverance, not the kind of deliverance the Lamb of God had come to bring.
The Scriptures tell us that Jesus wept as he entered the city. The people were crying out joyously as they welcomed the Messiah, but Jesus wept! The week before Jesus had wept at the death of his friend Lazarus, even though He knew He would raise him from the dead. He wept in silent sobs at the sorrow of his dear friends. He grieved with them for that is the kind of King we have. Now, a week later, He wept again.The Greek word for weeping used here means He cried aloud, in convulsive sobs. Jesus, the King, rides in on a borrowed donkey and the people throw their cloaks down on the road before Him and begin to praise God for all the miracles He had done and their voices rise to such a level that the Pharisees ask Jesus to hush up the people. They fear, I suspect, the emotion and love of the people for Jesus, they fear the Romans reaction, and they fear this Jesus who questions their integrity and undermines their authority.
But Jesus says to them, “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” Luke 19:40
Then Jesus approaches the city. It is a breathtaking sight of beauty, lush gardens, watch towers surrounded by stone walls, and Jerusalem’s crown, the temple, gleams like a jewel within.
"But to Jesus it is a panorama of pain." Ken Gire
As He approached Jerusalem and saw the city, He wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” Luke 19:41-44
He heard their cries, saw their future and knew that the people, His people, were seeking peace in the wrong way. Jesus had another way to peace, another plan for battle. Jesus does not weep for Himself and the pain and curses and cross He will bear in the days ahead. He weeps for Jerusalem, for the millions who will suffer and die. Jesus knew as He wept that the battle for our peace could only be won on the cross. Before the week was done, Jesus, the King, who rode in on a borrowed donkey, would lay in a borrowed grave.
How does Jesus cry for you today?
Does He cry as your Savior and friend for the brokenness and sorrow of your heart?
Or is He weeping bitterly because He has come as the Lamb of God for you
and you have missed it?
In Jerusalem, this Palm Sunday, Jesus has at last come to reveal himself as King, but He is not the kind of King they are looking for. Jesus came for you and me as a King, but his kingship would be different. He came as a servant King, a King who was willing to give his life as the Lamb of God to usher in His kingdom.
So as we prepare our hearts for the celebration of Easter week, the coming of Palm Sunday, Good Friday and the cross, Easter and His resurrection, I think it’s important to pause and ask some questions.
What are we looking for in a King, in our Messiah?
Are we willing to recognize Him as the King, the Lamb of God that He truly is?
Do we recognize Him as the Servant King who gave His life that we might have forgiveness
for our sins and eternal life?
Do we recognize Him as the Savior who weeps with us in our sorrow, and weeps at our sin?
Are we willing to be part of ushering in His kingdom as the servants He has called us to be?
Jesus, thank you that You know the answer to the cry for peace in my life and the nations that so desparately need peace in our world today. We know so little of the true peace that you offer. Thank you for the tears you weep with me in my sorrow. Help me to understand that as you refine the character and compassion in my own life sometimes it can only come through suffering.Thank you Jesus for the sacrificial love that carried you into Jerusalem that Passover week and on to the cross for Your glory and my salvation. Thank you for being my servant King who saves. Teach me what it looks like to be a part of ushering in your kingdom as the servant you have called me to be.
In the blessed name of Jesus, God's chosen, perfect Lamb,
Teaching and writings by Ray Vanderlaan and Ken Gire
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