Holy Week Musings: Palm Sunday- Evaluate Expectations

Today, 4/1/2012, is celebrated as Palm Sunday. It is the day Jesus made is triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a colt and people laid palm fronds before Him proclaims Hosanna. Jesus came to Jerusalem for Passover and excitement was buzzing. He had raised Lazarus from dead and taught from the Mount of Olive. People were excited about what Jesus was about to do. They eagerly expected that the tyranny of Rome would be shaken off and that Jesus would take his place on David’s throne to rule as Messiah. On that day, many years ago, Jesus entered Jerusalem in the way that scripture prophesied Messiah would enter Jerusalem. The buzz that day had to be immense and it culminated in a huge spontaneous celebration. Palm Sunday was in essence really the first flash mob, only there was no planning involved, it just happened. People were excited. God was about to change everything and life would soon be better for all. Unfortunately, they missed the reality. Yes, God was about to change everything, just not in a way that matched expectations. Rather, God moved in a greater way that was beyond improving our life now, but rather making a way for all to be made right, fully. For Jesus did not lead a revolution or take the throne. He did not destroy Rome and life was not going to be any different. Now certainly the throngs and cries of the people had to bring temptation to invoke the plan of doing whatever to make life best for now. He could have taken the throne and undid of Rome but that would have missed the point of undoing what had been done. Adam had put all of creation under a curse of sin by one action. Jesus by one action made the way of restoration and redemption. He made it possible for man to be in direct relationship with God. He suffered greatly to bring freedom.

People expected and wanted one thing but God had something else in mind. Today, often times we are not any different than the Palm Sunday crowd. We want God to make our life best in the moment. We are focused in what God is doing for me know. We get upset if God doesn’t somehow bring circumstance to our liking. Personally, I have had my own expectations shattered at times and it did lead to periods of great anger and sin. God didn’t do things the way I thought He should. See our expectations are dangerous things and are usually wrong. Our expectations are based on our view of the world and what we think is best in the moment. Our expectations come out of our selfishness. Life doesn’t play out in accordance with what we think is “our best life now.” Things do not work out in accordance with what we want. And if we get what we want, the how we get there is usually not the way or path chosen on getting there. The story that plays out in life is never what we expect and always filled with surprises. There are many reasons for the many twists and turns of life that run contrary to even the most honorable of expectations.

So does that mean we should not have expectations? No, but we need to be constantly evaluating our expectations and desires. We need to continually be submitting whatever we expect or want before God. We need to exam self and the motives behind what we expect. We need to continually pursue God and his truth and change our own perspective to line up with His perspective. We need to move beyond the momentary and temporary and be open to whatever greater has in store. Ultimately, God meets our wants, desires, and expectations. When God does act, He acts in ways that far exceed whatever we could hope or imagine. Just like God’s plan of redemption truly met the needs of all who are willing to accept it. God had a better way. This remains true to this day. So, take time to examine where you are at, what you expect of God, what you expect with others, and what you expect of self. Examine all in light of scripture and ask God to direct paths and steps, even if things to do not go the way you expect. For Gods ways always exceeds expectations, even if we do not grasp it.

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Holy Week Musing: Remembrance and the Last Supper

Today, Wednesday is considered the day historically the Passover feast occurred known as the Last Supper.  One can imagine with the events that occurred and the place being provided for the meal as directed by Jesus that there was great anticipation by the disciples.  Surely Jesus would explain what was going on.   Essentially he did just that and it was only realized later by the disciples.  See Jesus intended the day to be a day of remembrance.  The Passover meal was already one God established as a day of remembrance, Jesus filled it up with meaning and gave the disciples images and lessons they would not forget in spite of everything to follow.

Before looking at what Jesus did that was so memorable, it is worth briefly reviewing what Passover provided a reminder of: Salvation!  It is the day the Jewish nation and all that were under the blood of the lamb to be saved from death.  It was the day the Jewish nation was freed from the Tyranny of Egypt and all its gods.  It was a move from the way of the world to the way of God.  The Passover meal brought all this to reminder every year.   The point of this article is not to review all the Passover gives remembrance of, but to focus specifically on what Jesus added to the memory. (It is worth the time to do a search and examination further of the messianic Passover symbolism and encourage all to take time to do such examination.)   There are four key memorable moments that are worth highlighting: the identification of His betrayer, the call to remember the bread and wine, not drinking the last cup, and the washing of the disciples feet.

The first key moment of memory is when Jesus identified Judas as the betrayer and he left.  Jesus told them someone would betray him, none pointed at anyone else, all wonder if it was them.  Jesus did not directly identify but did with symbolism.  The one who dipped into the bitter herbs the same time as Jesus, Judas was identified. Judas then left.   Certainly the disciples remembered that act, but also had it fresh in their minds their own ability to do such an act.  For they all questioned and the memory would stick.

The second point of memory is when Jesus declared a specific point of remembrance: the taking of the bread and wine.  Unfortunately some of the meaning has been forgotten in the church as a whole. We remember the symbols of blood and wine, but we lose the important and central part of Passover Jesus was pointing out.  The bread consumed was the “afikomen.” It is the last thing eaten. It is the bread broken and hidden.  When Jesus broke and ate this bread, declared it His body, He declared himself as Messiah. He declared the coming salvation through His death and resurrection as symbolized by that element of the Passover meal.  The wine was the third cup known both as the cup of redemption and the cup of blessing.[i] When he drank this cup, called it His blood, he declared His blood the source of redemption and blessing.  He then made certain He proclaimed himself as Messiah and set forth significant points of remembrance.

One memorable element to the disciples but clearly forgotten in the church today is that Jesus did not drink the final cup, the cup of praise.  He state he would not drink of the fruit of vine again, until His Kingdom comes (Luke 22:18). It is said that Jesus will finally drink the fourth cup after His second coming after His wrath has been meted out and the millennial reign begins.  One of the reasons it is easily forgotten, as it has yet to be fulfilled, it is coming and there are many other images and thoughts that fill our mind than the drinking of the fourth cup. It would be fresher in our minds if the church had not set aside the participation in the Passover feast.

The finals act of remembrance worth commenting on was Jesus showing himself a servant and washing the feet of His disciples.  Now there is plenty of moments of “washing” in the Passover meal, and the meal finishes with that ceremonially washing. Jesus took further. He took the meaning of the cleansing the washing a step further, to illustrate He was humbling self, serving us, and would clean us wholly. It was an astounding act unheard of, unthinkable.  Peter was so taken a back that He wanted to refuse to let Jesus serve Him in such a way.  The impact of the message definitely stuck with the disciples.

Now, there is much more that went on at the last supper that Jesus gave the disciples to remember. He spent great deal of time teaching and explaining, trying to clear their confusion and redirect their expectations.  Jesus did this day what He set out to do, created a time that would be remembered and examined, pointing to what He was about to do and gave meaning to the Passover meal.

God wants us to remember and we do, even though what we remember has been reduced and diminished.  We still take time each year to remember.  God sent His son to die that we might live.  Sure we miss plenty, but we still remember and thank God for the gift of the eternal Passover lamb, the eternal afikomen, the eternal cup of salvation and blessing. He died, so that all who turn to Him shall live, just as all who lived who came under the blood on the doorpost. The question for each, has the blood of the eternal Lamb been set on your doorpost, are you marked within so you may live.  Now is the time, while it is still today, to consider and act so that you may be saved.   And if you have your doorpost marked, celebrate and remember for He has freedom us from the tyranny of sin and death and given us true life.

Passion Week Musings: The Last Passover Supper

After the Olivet discourse the events documented in the Gospel’s really focuses on events of preparation leading up to the Last Supper which was a Passover meal.   Prior to that meal there are two other significant documented events.  Jesus was anointed with perfume by some woman, which Jesus described as his being prepared for burial.  During this same time the other event described in the Gospels is Judas making a deal with the religious leaders to betray Jesus.   Up until the last Supper all the tensions were mounting and the crescendo was building.   As Jesus spent time preparing both himself and his disciples for what is coming there had to be an emotional storm building in Jesus.  The anticipation of what was to come had to far more intense than anything any of us have gone through.  Tomorrows post on the Garden will touch a bit more on the emotions of Jesus.  Here the focus is really about the preparation and Jesus pointing ahead and trying to prepare his disciples for what is to come while the pieces were moving and being set into play.  Jesus focus during that last Passover supper was all on what is to come.

After all the pieces were in place, Jesus and the disciples had the Passover meal and celebration. Now if the reader is not aware, the Passover points to the night Israel was delivered from Egypt with the tenth plague, the death of the 1st born males in Egypt.  There was instruction to sacrifice a lamb and place the blood on the doorpost, resulting in being spared having the first born killed.   The Passover meal reminds us of sin and bondage and points to God’s once and for all sacrifice in Jesus.  Jesus declared himself the “Afikomen” when he directed his disciples to eat the bread. He declared himself “salvation” when he drank the third cup.  He really told the disciples about what was coming and it would be for salvation.   Jesus also spent time giving the disciples words to remember and a significant object lesson of serving and loving one another.  His actions were all about preparing the disciples for what was ahead, even though he knew they did not understand that they could not possibly understand. When Judas left the meal, after likely dipping the parsley at the same time as Jesus and announced as a betrayer, imagine the confusion and shocked the disciples experienced.  I can imagine the indignation the disciples felt as they were told that they would all falter.  Imagine after the resurrection, the disciples talking and discussion the events of the Last Passover Supper with a new grasp and understanding that had failed them in the midst.  The point that really hits home today thinking about this, is the Jesus and the Father both spent a lot of time preparing the disciples and those around for the events that were to unfold.  The essential point here is God does prepare us for what is ahead. 

Now our being prepared is not something that we are fully aware of at the time.  We like the disciples may be confused and lost in the midst.  We wonder the who, what, when, where, and whys of things we do not grasp. Yet, God does go before us and prepare us. God is in control.  Sometimes many pieces come into play that converge, but God is not caught off guard or surprised by anything and he gives us what He knows we need, which is often different than what we think we need.  Jesus spent personal time with his disciples during an important and meaningful time to prepare them for what is to come.  As what was to come in the next few days was an apex of darkness before the point of victory occurred.  The time leading up to the Last Passover supper was all about preparation,  it was the “middle” part of the story that at the time seems insignificant and can even get  bogged down but really is the essential time as it was the time the pieces moved into place, the character moments established that build to the climax, which in the cause were the death and resurrection to come. 

In this day and age, when pieces and events seem to be moving us ever closer to the second coming, it is important to know that God has us undergoing times of preparation. Whatever we are doing and going through, it really serves to build us up and prepare us for what is yet to come.  God is working in each of our lives to give us the teaching, training, and growth needed for what is yet to come.   Each day is a day closer to Jesus return.  Just like the cross, the moment of victory will be preceded by a time of great darkness and the appearance of victorious darkness. Yet, Jesus is coming and Victory is assured.  God has prepared us for what is ahead and will go before us and lead the way.  We just need to stay the course, be sober, be alert, and remain awake.  God is and will test all claiming to be in the faith. Lines are being drawn, pieces are moving, and we are nearing the end.  It is both a terrible and glorious day.  But worry and fear not, because it is God that prepares our hearts and minds, it is he that enables us to stand firm.  Just seek and pursue truly loving God and others, walk the path God directs and points you and trust that God will prepare you for what is ahead.

Passion Week Musings: Jesus displays anger at temple

Today’s thoughts focus on the first then Jesus did upon arrival in Jerusalem. Since he went about his Father’s business, the first place he went was to the Temple. Now the temple was set up as was normal for the week of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and Passover. There were booths selling animals for sacrifice and booths for exchanging money for “Temple coins.” It seems to me those coins were the equivalent of an arcade token. You could not spend other money in the temple; instead, you had to have the special coin of use nowhere else. Add to that, the merchants were making it easy for those traveling to Jerusalem. They did not have to select a lamb or dove prior to making the trip to Jerusalem. They did not have to tend to it for a week while traveling to Jerusalem. All they had to do was show up, purchase a sacrifice and go on their way. It was profitable and ingenious. It was making it easy for folks to do their duty at little cost to self. So Jesus arrives, sees this grand program all set up in the court of Gentiles (only place foreigners allowed) and comes across this scene, which in my find would be similar to a country fair. If it was today there probably would also be assorted thrill rides somewhere close. So Jesus arrives, gets angry and disrupts the whole scene driving them all away. The portrayals of this event most likely do not even come close to doing justice. Jesus was angry and likely angry for many reasons. The chief reason though is summed up in Luke 19:46B (ESV) “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”

There is a contrast between what God intended for the Temple including the court of Gentiles, and what the process had became. The Temple was about communion and interaction with God with space designated for those not part of Israel to engage in communion with God. The temple was all about facilitating connection with God almighty. Now the feast day and Passover in particular was very important. Instead, it became a big commercial enterprise serving everyone of Israel and all that came to partake. The offered services really in essence made sacrificing easy for you did not really have to bring your own. If you did, most likely it was disqualified as imperfect forcing you to buy one at the temple, which most likely was an animal disqualified from someone else. The whole scene served as huge barrier to people truly seeking to connect with God and follow through with what God required. A time of solemn remembrance and celebration became about either creating an obstacle for genuine worshipers or providing short cuts for those who did not care to give the whole devotion and simply intended to follow through with the duty.

In thinking over why Jesus became angry, it is worth reflecting how we manage church today. The gifts and talents God has given to members of the body are sold just as readily as the goods offered in the court of the Gentiles. We readily depend on what God has given others to aid our growth and communion with God. More often than not we pay for it. We cycle and recycle Sermons, worship music, and teaching usually at a cost. The Gospel is even denigrated to something cheap and easy with no real cost to the individual. The Gospel has become just the frame around which many build their own Kingdoms, separating things from others that is meant for own profit. In a large sense, we have developed a self-involved approach to worship that involves passive engagement with no real true engagement of self. It would be the equivalent of waiting to get to the temple and buying a dove or goat because it is easier. The truth is, the Church as we know it had digressed far away from a fellowship of believers supporting one another to often what is a group of individuals gathered together engaging in corporate worship as individuals. There are people seeking genuine interaction with God and other believers, and there are those who are not. However, we have great barriers between self and others and people all too to sell prefabricated information that prevents true engagement and attachment, creating a barrier between God and us. Far too often there is very little genuine response to God’s reveal reality much less following and acting with dependence and gifting from the Holy Spirit even by those making claims of same. Each of us need to take a look at ourselves and see are we engaging in genuine worship that reflects community and a house of prayer, or do we simply engage in a machine moving money and filling the pockets of others with money? Now it is worth noting that there are those out there following God in spirit and truth and moving beyond the machine around us that professes to aid God’s kingdom but simply places barriers or cheapens God’s grace.

Take time, seek God, pray and ask for revelation of how robbers have been let into or engaged in your own walk with God, for we all have given money and time to thieves. Examine yourself and see are you genuinely seeking God, or after something to simply satisfy and build self? Do we walking in loving God and loving others, or do we simply engage in what is expected and put in some time. Does God daily impact your life? These and many other questions come to mind but all revolve around living surrendered to God or serving self. So two paths are clear, the path of thieves who draw the anger and wrath of God, or the path of a genuine worshiper seeking to come under God’s rule and bring Him glory.

Passion Week Musings: Palm Sunday

Today was Palm Sunday. It is the first day of what is celebrated as Passion Week, which celebrates the death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah. Grasping the events of the week really starts with this day, know as Palm Sunday. It is interesting to consider the symptoms of Jesus entry into Jerusalem. An interesting article, http://www.answers.com/topic/palm-sunday, indicates palm fronds were a symbol of victory and triumph. The book “Illustrated Manners and Customs of the Bible” edited by J.I. Packer and M.C. Tenney indicated that palms were also symbolic of righteousness. It also is reported that palm fronds serve as the covering during the Biblical feast of booths. This symbolism is important for us when considering the events of Palm Sunday. Jesus was recognized as coming royalty, acknowledged for righteousness, and prophetically pointing to Jesus serving as our covering as that covering was laid before his path. The aforementioned article also referenced the riding in on a donkey as being symbolic of entering in peace versus entering on a horse which would symbolize war. So take some time to think about that symbolism while taking time to read the Luke account of the Palm Sunday story. Feel free to also take time to read the account in Matthew 21: 1 – 17 and Mark 11: 1 – 11. After reading the passage will offer brief commentary on three reactions that occurred during Jesus approach to Jerusalem.

Luke 19:28-44 (ESV): Luke When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples 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.
If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.'” So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road.
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, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 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.
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
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.”

 

Now let us take a look at three reactions to Jesus entry. First there was the reaction of great expectation. Jesus was recognized as the coming Messiah. The crowd in their response declared Jesus as Messiah, the coming Son of David, with the expectation of deliverance from oppression and living a time of victory and peace. The anticipation and expectations were high. It was seen the time had come for Messiah to act and bring freedom.

The next reaction is that of Jesus. He understood the reactions, and the expectation. He recognized that they did not grasp that for him to become the true covering, to offer true freedom from oppression, to be able to being true peace, he would need to be sacrificed and suffer much. Jesus knew what they were blind from seeing and understanding. Even though the celebrated the Festival of Unleavened Bread and Passover, they did not grasp the meaning. So Jesus wept for he knew the full extent of what was to come. He knew the consequences that would result. He knew that it was necessary for the bringing of true peace.

The third response was that of the religious elite, those in power in Israel. The saw the reactions, heard the proclamations and acted in fear. The conspiracy to bring about Jesus death took full shape and they were not going to rest until they solved the threat to their power and control. They were comfortable with their position and power, Jesus coming and taking over was the last they wanted. What made it worse is Jesus came not giving the honor for faithfully administrating Torah and the people, but rather challenged them at every turn, yet while remaining righteousness an honor. Jesus actions and words brought the shame; they could not have that, so the only way to remove the threat was to see to Jesus death.

The end result of the responses is what lead up to the ongoing events of Passion Week, the very elements that took place so that all may be brought to peace and free of oppression. For true peace is only found through the sacrifice of the innocent and redemption by the power of blood.


 

Why did Jesus fold the Napkin?

The following article was sent to my mother by a friend of hers, Tracy K. who is sister in Jesus from Canada.  I hope you enjoy the article:

WHY DID JESUS FOLD THE NAPKIN?
 
Why did Jesus fold the linen burial cloth after His resurrection?
 
The Gospel of John (20:7) tells us that the napkin,which was placed over the face of Jesus, was not just thrown aside like the grave clothes.
 
The Bible takes an entire verse to tell us that the napkin was neatly folded,and was placed separate from the grave clothes.
 
Early Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance.
 
She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, ‘They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and I don’t know where they have put him!’Peter and the other disciple ran to the tomb to see. The other disciple outran Peter and got there first. He stooped and looked in and saw the linen cloth lying there, but he didn’t go in. Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying to the side.
 
Was that important? Absolutely!
 
Is it really significant? Yes!
 
In order to understand the significance of the folded napkin, you have to understand a little bit about Hebrew tradition of that day. The folded napkin had to do with the Master and Servant, and every Jewish boy knew this tradition. When the servant set the dinner table for the master, he made sure that it was exactly the way the master wanted it.. The table was furnished perfectly,and then the servant would wait, just out of sight, until the master had finished eating, and the servant would not dare touch that table, until the master was finished.
 
Now if the master were done eating, he would rise from the table, wipe his fingers, his mouth,and clean his beard, and would wad up that napkin and toss it onto the table.
 
The servant would then know to clear the table. For in those days,the wadded napkin meant,”I’m done”.
 
But if the master got up from the table, and folded his napkin, and laid it beside his plate,the servant would not dare touch the table, because……….
 
The folded napkin meant, “I’m coming back!”
 
He is Coming Back!