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Saturday, June 7, 2014

Jesus Enters Jerusalem as a King and Cleanses the Temple

Jesus Enters Jerusalem as a King and Cleanses the Temple

Matthew 21




One of the many prophecies in the Bible concerning Israel’s promised Messiah is a passage foretelling that the Messiah would come into Jerusalem as a king bringing salvation and humbly riding on a donkey.  This prophecy was given by the prophet Zechariah in around 520 B.C.  And it reads: “Rejoice greatly, O daughters of Jerusalem!  Behold, your King is coming to you.  He is just and bringing salvation.  Lowly and riding on a donkey.  A colt, the foal of a donkey.”  (Zechariah 9:9)


 In this verse we see how much God’s ways differ from human ways.  The Jewish people   were looking for their Messiah to be a conquering king.  They might have pictured him as a pompous warring king charging in on his white horse with his army of mighty men and flashing swords ready to fight and conquer their Roman oppressors.  But instead of a proud warring Messiah, the Jewish people were told by their prophets that their conquering Messiah would be a lowly Servant Messiah riding into Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt.  


 The Jewish religious leaders may have overlooked this prophecy in Zechariah since it did not fit with their expectations of what they wanted their Messiah to do for them.  They wanted their Messiah to deliver them from the hated Roman rule.  But it might have been difficult for them to grasp that their Messiah – Jesus - was coming to do so much more!  Do we make the same mistake and try to make Jesus fit into our expectations?  We decide what we think He should do and then have trouble believing that He is doing so much more?  Can we let God be God?  Or do we try to put God in a box? 


Soon after Jesus triumphantly entered into Jerusalem on a donkey with crowds praising him as their Messiah; He was arrested, judged and crucified.  And after He spent three days in the grave He rose from the dead.  So our humble Servant Messiah – Jesus -  conquered death and hell and saved us from our sins.  He was and is indeed a Conqueror!    


During the last week of Jesus’ ministry, just before He was arrested and crucified, He fulfilled this prophecy in Zechariah 9:9.  In this dramatic way – by riding into Jerusalem as a king to the praise and cheers of the people - Jesus was proclaiming that He was and is the Messiah.  Scripture tells us that Jesus told two disciples to go to a certain place where they would find a donkey tied there with her colt.  Jesus told the disciples to untie the donkey and bring both the donkey and the colt to him.  The disciples were to tell the donkey’s owner, “The Lord has need of them.” And Jesus assured them that the owner would let them take both the donkey and her colt.  Jesus as Son of God is able to see and know these things.  Both animals were brought to Jesus and since He rode the colt, the mother donkey was needed there to quiet the little colt that had never been ridden before.


Scripture describes what happened when Jesus rode the colt with the donkey following  it into Jerusalem.  “A very large crowd gathered to greet Jesus as their king and to spread their clothes over the roadway before him.  And others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road to honor Jesus.” (In those days a king’s subjects paid homage to him by providing a carpet for him to walk or ride on.)   Thousands of people ran ahead of Jesus and shouted out: ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!’”  (Matthew 21:8-9)


 Biblical prophecies foretold that the Messiah would come from David’s line, so when the crowds greeted Jesus by calling him the “Son of David” they were publically acknowledging Jesus as their long awaited Messiah.  And the Hebrew word “Hosanna” means “Save now.” The shouts of Hosanna from the crowd in Jerusalem were recognition that Jesus is the Lord who will save – He is God.  Scripture says that after Jesus had ridden the donkey into Jerusalem the whole city was moved!  (Matthew 21:10) 


Right after Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem He went into the temple and became angry at what He saw there.  Scripture says: “Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves.  And He said to them: ‘It is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.’”.  (Matthew 21:12-13)


Tradition has it that the outer court of the temple had stalls where animals were sold and foreign money was exchanged for Jewish shekels.  This large money making market was controlled by the high priest Annas and was a source of extortion.


 The priests were supposed to be humble men of God and shepherds of God’s people, helping people come to their God.  Instead the priests set themselves up as a higher status than others, proudly considering themselves to be more pious and better that the rest.  God had not intended this.  They prayed long pompous prayers in the center of the streets so that everyone could see how righteous they were.  Elevating themselves above their people while becoming rich by cheating their people, and all the while using God’s Name!  


No wonder Jesus was angry with these men of God gone wrong!  They were not bringing  people to God but keeping them away from God.  Jesus said that they lay heavy burdens on the people, keeping them from God. (Luke 11:46)  These wealthy self righteous priests had turned the temple, which was supposed to be a house of prayer, into what Jesus called a “den of thieves.”  Temple costs were unreasonably high and worshippers were being taken advantage of financially each time they came to God’s house to pray.  And these fraudulent money making practices were protected by the priests who were misusing their God given power  


Would Jesus find any of the same problems He found in the Jewish temple so long ago if He were to physically walk into any of our churches today?  Would He turn over any of our money tables?  Would He need to cleanse our churches like He cleansed the temple?  Or would He find our churches to be houses of prayer as He said they should be?


What is a Christian church today supposed to be?  Scripture says that we believers in Christ are the Church – that the Church is the humble body of Christ.  But some of our churches have moved from modeling themselves to be the humble body of Christ and instead are trying to follow the models that the popular culture uses.  The culture today admires elegance, money, opulence and success.


 People today must be constantly entertained.  We must have big expensive fast moving productions with lots of action. Rock stars, fast games, flashing lights, loud music and movers and shakers for our leaders.  And some churches have retrofitted themselves to add these things.  Is that always good or not?  Mega churches and huge event centers have arisen sometimes with stages and theater lighting instead of altars.  If the church doesn’t provide entertainment then they are told that the people will be bored and not show up.  Does the church have to change being the humble body of Christ and compete with the world in order to survive?


So many churches try to play the game and follow the models that are popular in the world today.  Is that good or bad?  Some folks think they must “do” something outwardly to gain salvation - work their way to heaven.  Give more money, go on a mission, say more prayers.  We are an action oriented generation.  So we must do something to win salvation, work to earn righteousness, or so some think! 


But Jesus tells us that He is the only One who can give us salvation.  We can never add anything to that or work our way to heaven or do anything.  Jesus has done it all and He alone offers us the one and only free gift of salvation.  All we need to do is accept it.  Believe it inwardly. (Ephesians 2:8-9)  It all seems too simple, too easy because it is.  If there is anything we have to “do” it is just to believe.  Have faith.  Jesus said: “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.”  (John 6:29)   


And we need churches that help us believe in Jesus and churches that try to be what they are supposed to be – the body of Christ!  Churches that provide fellowship and love and spread God’s Word and minister to the sick and the poor.  We need church leaders and pastors who are humble shepherds and who help the people come to God.  Would Jesus find these qualities in our churches if He were to physically walk in and visit today?  Would He be pleased with what He would find in your church?     










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