Monthly Archives: March 2013

Make No Mistake: If He Rose at All

 

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that–pierced–died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

Seven Stanzas at Easter, John Updike, 1960.

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It’s Friday, But Sunday’s Comin’ (S.M. Lockridge)

(HT: Thom Rainer)

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Links to Help Your Grip (3.30.2013)

Each Saturday, I pass along various links (regarding the church and our culture) to help fulfill the mission of this blog to connect canon (Scripture) with our culture.

Culture

Old Testament Law and the Charge of Inconsistency (Tim Keller)

It is not that I expect everyone to have the capability of understanding that the whole Bible is about Jesus and God’s plan to redeem his people, but I vainly hope that one day someone will access their common sense (or at least talk to an informed theological advisor) before leveling the charge of inconsistency.

The Internet ‘Narcissism Epidemic‘ (The Atlantic)

In virtual space many of the physical interactions that restrain behavior vanish. Delusions of grandeur, narcissism, viciousness, impulsivity, and infantile behavior for some individuals rise to the surface.

Is Legalized Gay Marriage Inevitable?  Don’t Be So Sure (Matthew Cooper)

Backers were once convinced that the Equal Rights Amendment was unstoppable, too. But 90 years after it was introduced, the ERA is going nowhere fast.

Washington State Weighs First Abortion Mandate in the US (USA Today–Jonathan Kaminksy)

The Reproductive Parity Act, as supporters call it, would require insurers in Washington state who cover maternity care — which all insurers must do — to also pay for abortions.

North Dakota Now First State to Ban Abortions Based on Down Syndrome (Lifenews.com)

With the governor’s signature on the ban today, North Dakota has become the first state to ban abortions based on genetic “defects” like Down Syndrome. When diagnosed before birth, such genetic abnormalities prompt couples to have abortions 90 percent of the time.  The measure would also ban abortion based on gender selection, an issue of increasing concern in the United States has people from nations like China and India migrate to the United States and bring their cultural preference for boys with them.

Leading Atheist Branded a ‘Heretic’ for Daring to Question Darwinism (National Post)

His secretary at New York University says there have been hundreds, all wanting to reach the modern “heretic,” as a current magazine cover labels him, but he is not taking the bait.  All he did was argue in a new book the evolutionary view of nature is “false,” and now grand forces have descended upon him. He does not want to talk about it.

The Money Man Behind the ‘New Atheism’s’ Activism (Dan Merica, CNN)

For Todd Stiefel, a slim, scruffy ex-Catholic, his public persona is his wallet and activism. Through the Stiefel Freethought Foundation, the 38-year-old has made an indelible impact on the nation’s fastest-growing “religious” group: the nonbelievers. Most of the highest-profile atheists campaigns –- flashy billboards in high-traffic areas, news-making efforts to get atheists to come out of the closet, and boisterous rallies – are funded by his fortune.

 Church

Russell Moore elected as President of the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission (SBC) (Baptist Press)

Moore, 41, a native of Biloxi, Miss., will be the eighth president of the entity charged by Southern Baptists with addressing moral and religious freedom issues. With a background in government, the pastorate and seminary training, he already is well-known as a commentator from a Southern Baptist and evangelical Christian perspective on ethics, theology and the culture.

A Christian Man’s Travel Plan (Garrett Kell)

As I prep for my trip, there are three basic things that are on my mind: family, purity, and ministry. I thought I’d share how I plan for each of these when I’m on the road in case it might help you prepare for your own travels.

What Yahoo! Can Teach Us About the Church (David Murray)

It’s realized that for all the benefits of telecommuting, there were three areas where more was being lost than gained.

What Shames Us (Tim Challies)

While it is common for someone to ask how toput off a particular sin, it is rare for someone to ask for guidance in putting on a particular godly trait. We are ashamed of our sin and bothered by it. This is good. But we are less ashamed of our lack of Christian character and less bothered by it. This is not good.

The Introverted Evangelist (Seth McBee)

When we train in evangelism, this is the picture most either point to or think of. Which is one of the major reasons evangelism and evangelist have such a negative connotation for both the believer and non-believer. Essentially, we train folks to fit into a specific personality type and call it evangelism training. We are training people to be extrovert evangelists.

Beware Before You Share:  Starbucks, Worldviews, and Jumping to Conclusions (Matthew Perry, Gospel Gripped)

Regardless of which side of the argument you are on, we must beware before you share. Take time to read through an article before you jump to conclusions.

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They *Will* Respect My Son: Will This Friday Be Good for You?

On this Good Friday, we come at this holy time in Holy Week to remember.  Some may find the name of this day a bit odd:  Good Friday?  How can a day that’s so bad in the killing of an innocent man on a cross be so good?

While the process was not good in our eyes, the end result was!

Turn with me to Matthew 21:33-46 (take time to read through this now).  This passage is known as the Parable of the Tenants.  Jesus used these parables during his earthly ministry as he spoke with unbelievers to both instruct and to conceal.

This parable begins with a master of the house who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants.  After this was accomplished, he left to another country.  If you read through Isaiah 5:1-2, you will see the parallel.

Let me sing for my beloved
my love song concerning his vineyard:
My beloved had a vineyard
on a very fertile hill.
He dug it and cleared it of stones,
and planted it with choice vines;
he built a watchtower in the midst of it,
and hewed out a wine vat in it;
and he looked for it to yield grapes,
but it yielded wild grapes (Isaiah 5:1-2).

Jesus brings this picture into play, showing that His Father is the “master of the house” and the house of Israel is the vineyard.  He provided everything needed for it not only to bless them but to bless every tribe, tongue, people, and nation with its provision.  The fruit it bore was to be sweet to the world, but it yielded the wild grapes, sour to the taste.

God made every provision for His people. “When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit.”  These servants are the prophets that God sent—all throughout history.  And all throughout history, the ‘tenants’ (God’s people) who professed God with their mouths at their religious functions, denied His Word by their actions.  Jesus even said:

Therefore I will send you prophets and wisemen and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar (Matthew 23:34-35).

But notice what the master of the house (Yahweh) did.  Well, first look at what he didn’t do!  He could have sent an army that was at his disposal to bring retribution.  While they deserved that, He loved them enough to send them one more person—His Son.  Now, we must read what he says with the proper inflection.  “They will respect my son!”  He is not saying this in a clueless, pie-in-the-sky type of mentality.  No, He is saying, “They will respect my son.”  And if they didn’t?  Consequences will ensue.

Did they respect him?  No!  In fact, they existed as if they were the ultimate rulers of the land!  And the implication?  They acted as if God did not exist.  Everytime God sent someone to check on their condition, they beat them, killed them, or stoned them.  But God still let them press on—He loved them enough to discipline, but still maintained His patience and preserved them as a people.

With the Son?  “They took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.”  Why is this so important?  Hebrews 13:12-13 says:

12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. 13 Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.

A boy was turning the pages of a book on religious art.  When he came to a picture of the crucifixion, he looked at it for a long time, and there came a sad look on his face.  Then he said, “If God had been there, he wouldn’t have let them do it.”

In this Parable, we must see what Jesus is doing here.  This is the earthly father who would say, “They will respect my son.”  In Isaiah 53:4-6, we read:

Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

The Lord laid on him our sin.  In Isaiah 53:10, Scripture tells us that “it was the will of the LORD to crush him.”  While the tenants did do Him in, God used them as an instrument of judgment, mercy, and a sacrifice for sin.

They intended to throw Him out!  But they took him outside the camp where the lambs were sacrificed for the forgiveness of the sins of His people.  He bore their reproach.  He was rejected by His own, but God used that as an instrument of both judgment against those who rejected, but also as an instrument of mercy to those who would receive him.

Remember, Jesus is telling His listeners a parable—and they were certainly caught up in it!  When Jesus asked them, “When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” (v. 40).  How did they respond?  At this point, they were not totally tracking with Jesus’ point.  So their response was blunt and forceful:

“He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons” (v. 41).

They just condemned themselves.  They thought they would have the land as an inheritance, but the way they treated God’s messengers indicated they did not want to really be a part of the owner’s territory to begin with.  You cannot have the blessings of the Master and reject the Master.

42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:

“‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;[a]
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. 44 And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”

Every person in this place and in this world will react to this “stone” in one of three ways:

  • You will stumble over it
  • You will be crushed by it
  • You will be aligned with it.

At this point, some in his audience believed in aspects of him, but rejected other aspects.  He’s a great teacher, they would say, but is he a political king that will overthrow?  Where’s his army?  Where’s his ambition?  They stumbled.  They had created a Messiah in their own thinking influence by the culture around them—rather than the Word and the Spirit informing and transforming their thinking.

Some will be crushed by it.  Whether they were an atheist who outright rejected, or a faithful church attender who is going not to get to know Christ better but to simply be seen—both will be crushed!  Both are aligning themselves up with their own thoughts, wanting even God’s things for selfish reasons.

But the rejected stone becomes the cornerstone.  We can only see it when the Lord marvelously opens our eyes to receive it.  By this new people, these nations, these Gentiles—they would produce fruit thanks to the Spirit who produces fruit through them.  This can happen if Christ is the cornerstone of your life—with the foundation of the Word of God, and we being the living stones.

The cross of Christ shows us the heinousness of our sin that caused him to writhe in agony!

The cross of Christ shows us the love of God who was patience enough not to leave us in our rebellious, sinful condition.

The cross of Christ is necessary—for without His death, we would die.  Without His death, there would be no resurrection.  Without His resurrection, there would be no resurrection for us!

Stumbling?  Crushed?  Or aligned?  Either way, God’s Word still speaks:  They will respect My Son.  What will you do with the Son today?

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Why No Friday Funny Today? Because Today is Good Friday!

32 As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross. 33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), 34 they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. 35 And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots. 36 Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. 37 And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” 38 Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. 39 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41 So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.

45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 47 And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” 48 And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. 49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.

51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised,53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. 54 When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

55 There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, 56 among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.
62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’64 Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.

— Matthew 27:32-66, ESV

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Rejected Stone or Cornerstone?

22 The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord’s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.

25 Save us, we pray, O Lord!
O Lord, we pray, give us success!

26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
We bless you from the house of the Lord
(Psalm 118:22-26).

As we have gone through the Psalms thus far, we take a diversion from going through them in numerical order to touch on a portion of a Psalm that deals directly with Holy Week.  As you read through the final days of Jesus’ life prior to His crucifixion and resurrection, as well as the days following His ascension, Christ and His disciples used this passage to convey a significant truth to not only the scribes and Pharisees, but also as a way to encourage the believers about their position in Christ.

1.                  The rejected stone is now the cornerstone.

Psalm 118:22 is an oft-quoted verse in the New Testament—and for good reason.  In Matthew 21, Jesus told a parable known as the Parable of the Tenants.  The Apostle Peter quotes from it twice—Acts 4:11 and 1 Peter 2:4-7.  Paul alludes to it in Ephesians 2:19-21.  Clearly, this verse is an incredible passage in regards to Jesus upcoming crucifixion.

Jesus uses it in context of the Parable of the Tenants (which I will spend a good deal of time on on Good Friday) in how God sent his prophets to His people, only to have them killed—then He finally sent His Son.

The Apostle Peter used this passage as he was standing trial before the Sanhedrin after preaching and healing a man in the Temple.  In his defense that he stood for Jesus Christ, “whom you crucified. . . . This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone” (Acts 4:10, 11).  The Sanhedrin (the Jewish Supreme Court, if you will) recognized that Peter was using Psalm 118 (a Messianic Psalm they knew well) to condemn them for doing away with that very cornerstone Yahweh sent to the people.  They did nothing at that time because (1) the man who they had seen ill had been healed and was standing right there, (2) they were surprised at their knowledge, even though they had not been to their rabbinical schools.

Peter also incorporated this into his first epistle, along with Isaiah 28:16 and Isaiah 8:14:

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture:

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,

“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone,”[a]

and

“A stone of stumbling,
and a rock of offense.”

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

The Apostle Paul alluded to it strongly in Ephesians 2:19-21:

19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens,but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.

In looking at this passage, we see a number of things:

First, if it were up to us and our finite position, we would have laid our own foundation and rejected the stone who is Christ.  Peter identified the Sanhedrin as the “builders” (Acts 4:11) who were responsible for stewardship of God’s Word, yet had rejected its intention to show people who Christ is.  Instead, the Word was used as leverage for their own practices—simply as prooftexts for their own traditions.

We in 2013 as members of the church would do well to take note of how the Pharisees and Sadducees slid.  We are the ones God has entrusted with His Word to build His Church.  The more we find ourselves in ministry, the more temptation there is to forget about Jesus, the purpose of that ministry.  In order to build our own foundation, Jesus may be that stone that we throw away to clear out room for our own personal kingdom.

Secondly,  with Christ as the cornerstone, he is the One by whom all things in regards to His church and the world are measured.  The cornerstone is laid first on the foundation (the Word), then the living stones (the members of His Church) are laid down in line with that cornerstone.  If the stones fail to stay aligned with the cornerstone, the stability of the church will be lacking and will crumble.

Thirdly, this is the Lord’s doing.  The Pharisees and Sadducees did not nor could not determine whether Jesus was an adequate cornerstone.  Pilate through all of his questions could not determine it.  The disciples could not determine it outside of God’s revelation (read Matthew 16:13-16).  No atheist or agnostic is in position to determine the veracity or validity of Jesus of Nazareth.  No moral human being may gauge in their own ‘goodness’ the goodness of this carpenter’s son.

The world will reject, but the fact that Jesus is the cornerstone did not happen because of our faith—but because of God the Father ordaining it to be so.  “This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.”  In other words, look at what God has done—the very One the world rejected, God raised up and gave him a name above every name (Philippians 2:9-11).

Fourthly, the foundation is the “apostles and prophets”—a term used to describe the NT (“apostles”) and the OT (“prophets”).  In other words, the foundation is the Bible, the Word of God.   Without that foundation, the church nor any other life or institution has any stability on which to stand.  We know about the work and will and nature of God from the Scriptures.  We know about the condition of man from the Scriptures (Romans 3:9-26).  We know about the rescue plan from the Scriptures (Matthew 1:21).  And we know about where God would have us work from the Scriptures (Romans 12:1-2).  Outside of this, we would have no clue and we would only move along by the dictates of our ill-informed consciences.

Lastly, the mortar for the spiritual Temple of the church is the Holy Spirit.  Ephesians 2:21-22 says in regards to Christ as our cornerstone, “. . . in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God bythe Spirit.”  Christ came, lived, died, rose again, and is now ascended to the Father.  The Father sent the Holy Spirit to make “Christ in you, the hope of glory” a reality (Colossians 1:27).  Not only does this provide fellowship with the Father and the Son, but with all those who have surrendered to Christ and have been provided the sealing work of the Spirit (1 John 1:1-4; Ephesians 1:13-14).

Christ is our cornerstone!  Is He a stone you rejected because you needed to clear Him out to lay the foundation of your own Kingdom?  Or is He your cornerstone?

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Everywhere Jesus Looked Caused Him to Weep: When the Hosannas Fade

Jesus Weeps Over His Beloved Jerusalem

41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying,“Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation” (Luke 19:41-44).

About 600 years before this even, the prophet Jeremiah wept over the city of Jerusalem when a nation named Babylon came in and carried the citizens off into exile away from the Holy Land, and destroyed the city—including the Temple!  If you wonder about how broken Jeremiah was, reading the book of Lamentations in the OT.

Here, Jesus was weeping over Jerusalem, not simply over the past, but over the present and the future.  Wiersbe rightly noted that “no matter where Jesus looked, he found some cause for weeping.”  Looking back¸ He saw a nation for whom was the “time of visitation” of the Messiah suffered from wasted opportunities.  Looking within, he saw a nation filled with hearts blinded with spiritual ignorance.  Looking around, he saw much religious activity, but little accomplished for any eternal significance.

But then he looked ahead.  His words about the upcoming days “when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you” set an ominous tone to his triumphal entry.  A scant 40 years later, the Romans would lay siege to Jerusalem for 143 days (almost five months), kill 600,000 Jews, take thousands more captive, then destroy the Temple and the city—and like Jeremiah who saw this happen 600 years prior, he wept with a loud lamentation.

We look at the church of Jesus Christ and remember from 1 Peter 4:17 that judgment begins with the house of God.  How is Jesus looking at His church now?  If he were to show us in looking back, would there be a time filled with wasted opportunities to connect with Jesus and connect Him to others around us?  Are the buildings that house the church also filled with those who are spiritually blind and ignorance to the grace of God?  Would he look around and see a lot of religious activity that may bring some sort of security and comfort to those inside the buildings, but are really accomplishing little spiritual activity?   And what is He seeing ahead?

Just as God used the idolatrous pagan Babylonians and Romans as an instrument of His judgment, He may well use secular governments and kingdoms as judgment toward those who “have a form of religion but deny its power.”  The very people who were praising the Savior would be the ones who would turn around and shout “Crucify Him” at the behest of the Roman guards.  When things seemed to go according to their plan, they praised.  But what would happen when things turned?

Even the subsequent arrest, kangaroo court trial, and His crucifixion were not ultimately at the hands of the Romans and Jewish leaders at that time.  The King was working out His plan!

And regardless what even the court systems say in regards to what God has spoken, we cannot live or die based upon what they say or even what the majority says.  God has spoken–and that (unlike public policy) will never change because He never changes.  Come what may, trust in His Word and His plan (Psalm 119:15-16).

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Peace in Heaven, and Glory in the Highest: The Plan Palm Sunday Helped Roll Out

The Triumphal Entry

36 And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. 37 As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, 38 saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39 And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Luke 19:36-40).

Jesus climbs on the donkey and begins to ride into Jerusalem.  The crowd knows the prophecies and recognize that this is one of the major displays regarding the Messiah who would come to rescue His people.  The gospel of John notes that those in attendance at the Passover “took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him” (John 12:13).  Palm tree branches?  We know now that this is why they call this Palm Sunday and that it’s the beginning of the week that would lead to Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.  But palms?

About 150 years earlier, when Israel and Rome came to blows, a national hero emerged named Simon Maccabeaus who led an army to drive Rome out of the holy land and giving them about 100 years of peace before Julius Caesar sent his army through to regain the Holy land in the 40s BC.  But they celebrated his victory with palm fronds and is known as the 2nd Maccabean Revolt.

So these Palms represent a deliverer, showing that the people recognized that this is a King who would be their rescuer and deliver them from the power of Rome.  And his disciples began began to “rejoice and praise.”  These were Jesus’ followers of the crowd.  John’s gospel shows that the twelve did not understand what was happening, and didn’t understand until Jesus was raised from the dead.  But John’s gospel also said that the crowd “that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness.  The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign” (John 12:17-18).

They finally had their outlet.  Keep in mind, this is the first time in Jesus’ entire ministry that he had gone public—but the time had come.  And the Pharisees rebuked Jesus to rebuke His disciples.  Why?  Kent Hughes noted that (1) they were afraid the Romans would hear, and (2) they were afraid that their influence had been lost to him (see John 12:19).

Warren Wiersbe brings out another rationale: him riding on a donkey, clearly claiming Messiahship, forced them to act.  The Pharisees were wanting to wait until after the Passover, but the prophecy was that Jesus would be the Passover Lamb sacrificed at Passover!  Just as the Passover Lamb was sacrificed before the people of Israel would be set free from the tyranny of the slavery in Egypt, so would this Lamb of God be sacrificed to set us free from the slavery of sin.

Jesus came to bring peace–not in the sense that there would be no more war, for even He said that there would be “wars and rumors of wars, but the end would not yet come.”  But as the Prince of Peace, he brings “peace in heaven and glory in the highest”—sounding much like the angels song when He was born in Bethlehem!

What kind of peace?  The Apostle Paul says that we must “be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20), showing that we as sinners as part of the Babylon world system (Revelation 17:6) are at war with the Creator—and are in need of reconciliation as sinners to a Holy God.  Christ came to accomplish that (see 2 Corinthians 5:21).  Skeptics say, “What kind of peace did Christ bring?”  Many skeptics do not hold to any aspect of the supernatural–what they see is all there is.  But just like the Swiss watch that’s found in the desert, it did not arrive there by itself, coming about by accident.  That watch has a design, just like those molecules, those galaxies, in all their complexities.

Christ came to bring a peace that reconciles sinful humanity to a holy God through the cross and empty tomb.  Palm Sunday began rolling out a roller coaster week known as Holy Week.  Soon, one would betray (Judas Iscariot), another would deny (Peter), the rest would scatter, and He would be crucified as an atonement (and a seeming vindication of the scribes and Pharisees’ thinking of him being a criminal).  He would be raised again to seal the work that God had begun from before the foundation of the world.

Christ the King is working out His plan!  I pray we are all the beneficiaries of that plan!

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Beware Before You Share: Starbucks, Worldviews, and Jumping to Conclusions

Across the Facebook landscape, I came across a ‘share’ in my newsfeed that said, “Starbucks CEO: If You Support Traditional Marriage, We Don’t Want Your Business.”  In fact, many others who are friends of mine brought this to my attention, with the understanding that if this is what Starbucks believes and thinks, we shall take our business elsewhere. (I confess, I even forwarded this article before I read the whole thing.)

But let’s notice something about this article.

  1. The title in the headline by Victor Medina (at the website “Restoring Liberty: Published by Joe Miller) does not contain quotes, meaning that Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, did not say this.  This serves as an example of journalists who use this tactic to get traffic.  It worked.  But the problem is, Schultz did not say this exactly.  Beware of jumping to conclusions.
  2. As you read the article, which links to the original Forbes.com article, you see that, yes, Schultz does hold to the same-sex ‘marriage’ agenda, we see the true thrust of the article.  Schultz was confronted by a shareholder who had a problem with Schultz gay ‘marriage’ stance, and this led to a decline in profits.  The article points to a Huffington Post article noting that the shareholder, Tom Strobhar, the founder of the anti-gay marriage Corporate Morality Action Center.  The article does not say whether Strobhar’s issue was with the moral stance or the financial profits (or lack thereof).
  3. In response, Schultz gives the figures, acknowledging the boycott by Starbucks customers and the affect it had on profits.  But he went on:  ““Not every decision is an economic decision. Despite the fact that you recite statistics that are narrow in time, we did provide a 38% shareholder return over the last year. I don’t know how many things you invest in, but I would suspect not many things, companies, products, investments have returned 38% over the last 12 months. Having said that, it is not an economic decision to me. The lens in which we are making that decision is through the lens of our people. We employ over 200,000 people in this company, and we want to embrace diversity. Of all kinds.”
  4. At the end of the day, Schultz response was to this particular shareholder and all shareholders, concluding:  “If you feel, respectfully, that you can get a higher return than the 38% you got last year, it’s a free country. You can sell your shares in Starbucks and buy shares in another company. Thank you very much.”  I hope you can see that this is different than saying, “Traditional marriage advocates are not welcomed at Starbucks.”  He’s saying, “This is where we stand.  If you are investing in this company and do not agree with this stance, you are welcomed to invest elsewhere.”  This is in essence what traditional marriage advocate companies such as Hobby Lobby, Chick-Fil-A, and Domino’s say as well–this is where they stand.

Regardless of which side of the argument you are on, we must beware before you share. Take time to read through an article before you jump to conclusions.  If Howard Schultz’s stand is something you as a consumer do not agree with, sure, let them know with your patronage (or lack thereof) where you stand.  And he is doubling down on his stance in this matter.

Let’s just make sure we are conveying accurately what’s being said so we have the whole picture.

Categories: culture, homosexuality, Marriage | Tags: , , , , | 19 Comments

Coincidences or Course of Action?: Examining the Events Surrounding Palm Sunday

28 And when he had said these things, he went on ahead, Jerusalem 29 When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, 30 saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’” 32 So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. 33 And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” 35 And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it.

Jesus was on his way up to Jerusalem.  This was part of Jesus’ work—He did not go up by accident.  His entire ministry was on a heavenly timetable.  We may say to ourselves, “Wow, it is such a coincidence that Jesus came to Jerusalem at such a time as this—right at the week of the Passover—right at the time when Jesus’ was prophecied to be crucified.”  But this was part of the work of the King.

He came to Bethphage and Bethany—east of the city, just southeast of the Mount of Olives.  There, Jesus commissioned the disciples to do something rather odd.  In verse 30, Jesus tells them, ““Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here.”  And what happened?  Verse 32:  “So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them.”  Was this coincidence?  Are we saying, “Wow, Jesus got it right again!  He’s two-for-two!”  But no, this was part of the work of the King, putting the plan into motion.

Was there any significance that Jesus sent them for a colt, and that they found a colt?  Yes, actually, there was significance.  Five hundred years earlier, God sent a prophet named Zechariah who prophecied in the ninth verse of the ninth chapter:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem
Behold, your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Another coincidence?  No!  God ordained and foretold what would happen (showing His sovereignty) and how specific Jesus was in making sure this was fulfilled (His responsibility in being obedience to the plan).  This is a king at work, rolling out His plant.  Let’s move along—no coincidence to see here.

Let’s look deeper.  Was there any significance to the colt being tied—other than him being tied so he wouldn’t get away?  Believe it or not, yes!  In Genesis 49:10-11, we see over 1400 years ago, God gave Moses an account that happened 700 years prior to that (that’s 2,100 years prior to the time of Jesus)—and it reads as follows:

10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until tribute comes to him;
and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.
11 Binding his foal to the vine
and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine,
he has washed his garments in wine
and his vesture in the blood of grapes.

Who do “scepters” belong to?  Kings!  And the peoples shall listen to their king, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.  In verse 11, this king’s foal was binded (tied) to the vine.  So, another coincidence that Jesus came to this tiny village in Bethany and Bethphage to find this colt tied up?  No coincidence–this is the work and the plan of a king!

One more for you.  Was there any reason behind this colt being one on whom no one had ever sat?  Even though no prophecy occurred regarding this, in that tradition if something is used for sacred purposed, it must be unused or untested.  Was there coincidence that this colt that Jesus sent his disciples to retrieve had never been ridden?   Not at all.

You see, God is moving and working His plan. Never underestimate the sovereignty of God in rolling out His plan–regardless of how issues and situations may look around us.

Categories: Christ | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment