Good morning Summit Family,
We have entered one of the most significant weeks in the Christian calendar, Holy Week. I have been sharing morning devotions from the letter James sent to his Christian brothers and sisters scattered throughout the world. Please allow me to take a temporary departure from James’ letter and retrace the journey Jesus took this week on his way to the cross. We hope it will make your Easter celebration even more meaningful.
Holy Week began on Palm Sunday. Jesus and His disciples approached Jerusalem and He sent two of His disciples ahead with these instructions: “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.” (Matthew 21:2-3) That action fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy written centuries earlier. (62:11) Remembering prophecies from the Old Testament is important because they are a reminder that God had a salvation plan from the very beginning of creation. It also serves as a reminder of the depth of God’s love for us!
As Jesus entered Jerusalem, “A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.” (v.8) They shouted: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (v.9)
While that may seem like a celebrative occurrence, it is important to remember that Jesus KNEW the eventual result of His return to Jerusalem, His arrest, trial, crucifixion and resurrection. He had already predicted His death on two separate occasions. “From that time on Jesus began to explain to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, “Never Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (16:21-23) Just a short time afterwards, Jesus again predicts his death. “When they had come together in Galilee, He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill Him, and on the third day He will be raised to life.” And the disciples were filled with grief.” (17:23)
Mark, Luke and John also record Jesus’ return to Jerusalem. It is often referred to as Jesus’ “triumphal entry.” While some may have thought it was triumphant in the sense that it represented Jesus establishing an earthly kingdom, we have come to understand just how triumphant an entry it was. It ushered in a series of events that resulted in the ultimate sacrifice being offered for our sins!
It is easy to conclude those following Jesus at that time were not able to understand the kingdom he was establishing. Matthew recorded that Jesus had to rebuke Peter because he “did not have the concerns of God, but merely human concerns” in mind. Peter’s understanding was not coming from the Spirit but his human perspective.
Paul referenced the challenge of understanding the wisdom of God. “No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has hear, and what no human mind has conceived – the things God has prepared for those who love Him – these are the things God has revealed to us by His Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 2:7-10) “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.” (v. 14)
Those verses remind us that it is important to allow ourselves to perceive the events in our lives through the wisdom of God, through the “eyes” of the Spirit. The issues we face in our lives should be interpreted through the Spirit of God, not human perspectives, maybe even issues like the Coronavirus!
It is also interesting to note that while Jesus shared with the disciples the details of what He was about to experience, it seems their singular focus was on His suffering and death, not on the final victory – His resurrection. It should be noted that in each instance Jesus shared that He would be raised to life. Isn’t it interesting His disciples seemed to overlook the fact that He specifically said that His resurrection would occur on the third day? Maybe they were so preoccupied by their perception of the defeat Christ was about to endure (in their understanding) they were unable to understand the ultimate victory that would be achieved, both by Christ and those who followed Him.
Those of us living today should also reflect on that incredible message. Are we more preoccupied with human concerns or the concerns of Christ in whatever circumstances we are facing? Are we able to see beyond the trials and struggles of the moment, focusing instead on the victories that are available through Christ? Instead of being filled with grief, I wonder why the disciples were not filled with a hopeful assurance that Jesus Christ would be victorious. Instead of being filled with anxiety and fear, I wonder why believers today are not able to experience our life events with the hopeful assurance that God is in control!
Monday also records a significant Holy Week event. Jesus clears the temple. “Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” He said to them, “My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.” (Matthew 21:12-13)
This was not the first time Jesus cleared the temple. John records that some time earlier Jesus went to Jerusalem for the Jewish Passover. The temple courts were filled with people selling cattle, sheep, and doves while others were sitting at tables exchanging money. He made a whip out of chords and drove them from the temple courts. John records Jesus’ words: “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” John records his disciples remembered that it was written in Psalms 69:9 that “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
The action taking place in the temple court was offensive for several reasons. It is possible the greatest failure is that it kept people from worshiping God. The money changers and merchants set up “shop” in the court of the Gentiles. There was so much activity that it crowded out the Gentiles who were attempting to gather for worship. In addition, a number of people attempting to purchase animals for their sacrificial offerings were being taken advantage of due to unscrupulous merchants. It seems conclusive that these events would have interfered with genuine worship of God.
The point is that God’s temple was being misused. It seems there is a also message for church leaders and Christians today. While we may declare the buildings and rooms we gather together for worshiping God are not “holy,” the Spirit that fills those edifices is holy because it is the Spirit of God. We should evaluate our reason for coming together. It isn’t for any other reason than for the purpose of WORSHIPING GOD! Wouldn‘t it be great if we had a zeal for God’s house that consumed us!
This is a season where we are unable to gather together for worship, person to person. I speculate that when we are able to gather together again, the sense of praise and worship will be great for our Lord and Savior will be tremendous. I can’t wait!