The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the King of Israel!” 14Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written, 15″Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.”16At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him. 17Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. 18Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. 19So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”
This scene must have been utterly amazing and ironic. There in the shadow of Rome, filled with Roman soldiers, sat Jerusalem: The City of God. This iconic place was the great city of the king, the city of David. There on the hill sat the temple: Grand and Mighty, spectacular. There were the pilgrims ascending the mountain into Jerusalem: Singing the Psalms, shouting joyous Hosannas and quoting from the prophets. They were celebrating the arrival of their great King, their General, the Long Awaited Messiah. There was no doubt now about Jesus: The [miraculous] sign of raising Lazarus had sold them on Jesus: The whole world had gone after him!
And the news was spreading.
I wish I could have been there and seen it. It had to be one of the most amazing things human eyes had ever seen. What a triumphant scene! And I wonder what people were thinking as Jesus entered into Jersusalem? I wonder if they thought something like, “Finally, now the Romans will be summarily dismissed, conquered, defeated, overthrown! Now we will take our place and David’s throne will be restored!” I don’t know if they thought that, but maybe they did: “Blessed is the King of Israel!” Later on someone else would make reference to the ‘King of Israel.’ They would say, “We have no King but Caesar!” People are so strangely fickle like that. Pilate also had some thoughts on the ‘King of Israel’: Above Jesus on the cross, “Here is the King of the Jews” he wrote in three mocking languages.
The King of the Jews. It’s hard to comprehend sometimes the breadth of such a statement. It was the miracle of Lazarus’ raising that provoked this rally-cry. The whole world, evidently, was shouting it too. Either that or the Pharisees were speaking hyperbolically. But where was that ‘whole world’ later? What happened to the ‘whole world’ when Jesus was on trial, being crucified, dying? The ‘whole world’ was easily swayed and as lite as dust in the wind.
Well the Pharisees had to do something. They were losing; big time. The whole world was going after Jesus! I sense that their angst was fueled in part by their ongoing loss of an audience. Jesus was getting more and more and more attention and that is what was making them supremely angry. They were jealous.
Let’s be honest: People are still jealous of Jesus. Muslims are jealous of Jesus. They are jealous that there are some Christians who simply refuse to convert to Islam and would rather be put to death than to give Jesus’ glory to another.
Film makers are jealous of Jesus so they go out of their way to make the most offensive films possible. They simply cannot stand the fact that there are people in the world who refuse to be indoctrinated with their propaganda against Christianity. John Lennon was jealous of Jesus one time too. More recently, Kathy Griffen was.
I think some Christians are jealous of Jesus too. So in their efforts to steal back some glory for themselves, they do everything but preach the Gospel of Christ crucified. They preach about how to have better sex or how to run a better business or other such things. Some preachers, I contend, simply cannot accept the fact that the cross is the center of the Christian faith and that Jesus Christ Crucified and thus go out of their way to avoid it. It’s all jealousy.
DA Carson asks, “Is the cross truly at the center of your ministry?” (See his The Cross and Christian Ministry). I agree, and I’ll take it perhaps step further: If it’s not, then your ministry is purely and simply not Christian. That sounds harsh, but I didn’t say it. The Scripture did: “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” I take this at face value, prima facia. I might ask, “If it was enough for Paul, how much more for us?”
There are many other Christians who are jealous of Jesus too. They are the ones who simply cannot understand the absolute claim that Christ has on their lives. They cannot understand that Jesus calls the Christian to unconditional surrender. They cannot understand that Jesus makes a categorical claim on our existence. We are not our own, we were bought at a price. But those who insist on living their own way, in denial and in spite of Scripture, which is the Word of Christ, are living lives in competition with Jesus Christ. They are fighting a battle that they simply are unable to win.
‘Kicking against the goads’ is how Jesus worded it to Paul.
I’m not about saying that this unconditional surrender is easy or even comprehensible. I’m not saying we can do it in our own strength. I’m not saying we can do it at all. I am saying, however, that it is very apparent those who still ‘kicking against the pricks’ (Johnny Cash’s paraphrase). I think perhaps over time we learn how to completely surrender to Jesus as he continues to take back ground that we gave up to the control of the Enemy.
I hope I have not made too much of a leap, but we also know exactly what path the Pharisees took because of their jealousy of Jesus. We know what direction they went because the ‘whole world went after Jesus.’ I don’t know which is more ironic here: The whole world going after a man riding a donkey or the rest of the world jealous of it.
And imagine how surprised all of them were when Jesus didn’t fight back.
All along there was a group of people following along who were bewildered by all this: Jesus’ disciples. They simply did not know what to make of any of this “blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord” and “Blessed is the King of Israel,” and “Hosanna!” I suppose it all must have looked very strange to this group of folks.
Yet they persisted. They kept following perhaps out of curiosity or because they were swept up in the crowd as it went along. Later, however, these things made sense. But where? “Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him.” ‘Glorified’ here, I think, means when he was crucified. Only, then, through the cross does any of this make sense. It’s only when we, too, put ourselves in a position to look at all that happened in light of the cross will it make sense. I can’t exactly explain it. All I know is that if I live my life in competition with Jesus I will always be jealous. And if I live my life as if Jesus is the conqueror of everyone but me I will always be disappointed and later shout that I belong to someone else.
But if I follow, sometimes confused and bewildered, and keep the cross before me and understand Jesus in light of the cross and understand myself in light of the cross, then all this nonsense starts to make sense. In light of the cross unconditional surrender makes sense. In light of the cross all the irony makes sense. In light of the cross Jesus’ absolute claim on my every breath is perfectly clear. In light of the cross, Scripture makes sense. Paul even writes later that it is only in Christ that the Scripture makes complete sense (see 2 Corinthians 3-4).
This is why we preach the cross. Any other sort of preaching will leave us empty, hollow, and under a complete misapprehension about who Jesus is and what he demands of us. We go to the cross. Only after Jesus was glorified did all this King talk and donkey riding and Pharisee plotting make any sense. And I think this too: If your life makes no sense, try viewing your life from the cross. There it will make sense, be understood, and become.
20 Where are the wise? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let those who boast boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:20-31, NIV)
Soli Deo Gloria!
ps–only 31 Days to go!