Journey to the Cross: Sunday

Jesus Enters Jerusalem as King (Palm Sunday)

The most significant week for Christians is the week of Easter, often called Holy Week. I thought it would be neat to look at this week from the perspective of Mark. Next year maybe I’ll choose another Gospel author to follow along with. I’ve always liked Mark, though. He’s short and to the point. Yet, he includes interestingly specific details that the other authors do not.

Palm Sunday has always fascinated me. The whole passion narrative is thick with irony. The passion narrative in Matthew contains perhaps the most examples of the ironies of the last days of Jesus’ life, but Mark has them, too.

Here’s what happened on Sunday of Holy Week as found in Mark.

Mark 11:1-11

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’”

They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,

“Hosanna!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.

It starts off in an interesting way. As they get to the Mount of Olives, a set hills just outside of the walls of Jerusalem, Jesus tells two of his disciples to go get a donkey colt in the town just ahead of them. He knows that it’s there. He knows what the disciples should say to anyone who asks about what they are doing.

Jesus shows he knows everything that is about to happen. Nothing is a surprise to him. The fact that he knows a colt was tied to a doorway was not just a good guess. It had been prophesied and he knew that it was there.

I wonder what the conversation looked like between the disciples on the way there.

“Uh…so let me get this straight. We are going to get into town, assuming there is a colt that hasn’t been ridden and we’re just going to…take it?”
“Yeah…I guess so.”
“Let’s just hope no one is around. I really don’t want to have to tell them that we are taking it and we’ll return it later. What if they say no?”
“Hey man…Jesus knows what he’s doing. There’s a reason he’s telling us to do this.”

Sure enough, when the disciples got to the nearby village there was a colt tied to a doorpost. As they untied it people ask them what they are doing. Another conversation I would love to see…

“Hey! What are you doing?”
“Uh, don’t worry. We’re not stealing it. The Lord needs it and will bring it back shortly.”
“Um…ok? But it has never been ridden before.”
“Perfect! We’ll bring him back in a bit.”

Then they bring it back to Jesus and throw their cloaks over the back of the colt and Jesus sits down and begins riding into Jerusalem. The people around recognized Jesus and began throwing down their cloaks on the road and went out to the fields and brought back branches and spread them around (hence Palm Sunday).

They celebrated Jesus as King. They shouted “Hosanna!” That is a shout of celebration, a “hurray!” so to speak. It can mean “Save, please!” too. They celebrated as the people of Israel once celebrated David, the greatest and most famous of all the Jewish kings of the past. They celebrated Jesus as their savior – but not a savior from death and sin, but of politics and religion. But they were praising and celebrating a Jesus they had hoped for and wanted, not the Jesus they needed. The people celebrated and were basically worshipping Jesus as he entered into Jerusalem. But by the end of the week some of these same people would be screaming for him to be crucified.

Jesus knew that. He knew that the praises that sprang from the lips of these people were accurate and true, but void of their true meaning. Herein lies the irony of Palm Sunday. The praises the people say are indeed true. He is there to save them. He has ushered in the coming kingdom of David. It was right for them to say these things, but they didn’t understand what they were saying.

What must have that been like for Jesus? To hear people say things that were true, but to have the people not know what they were saying or singing or praising. Perhaps it’s similar to many Sundays around the world. We sing songs filled with meaning and theological truths and oftentimes have no understanding of what we are singing. Our words are empty. We may even understand what we are singing, and allow the words to have meaning in that moment — but by the end of the week we are cursing Jesus and slapping him in the face by our own actions, thoughts, words, and behaviors.

But Jesus sat there and accepted their praises. I’m sure the disciples loved being with him then. Proud to be with someone so respected, so worthy of praise. He was loved. They probably felt so special, very important. But by the end of the week, they too would desert Jesus and even deny knowing him.

And thus begins Holy Week.

 

Christ’s view on the Authority of the Old Testament

Jesus lived a life of humility, born of a woman, and born under the law (Gal 4:4). He lived His life in obedience to Scripture. He trusted the Old Testament Scriptures to be the Word of God, and therefore authoritative in all manners of life. He obviously knew the Scriptures very well, and could call vast portions to memory at a moment’s notice. He believed the prophecies of the Old Testament, that they were going to be fulfilled, and then went on to fulfill every prophecy concerning Himself. Before the first words even left the lips of Jesus Christ, He had fulfilled Old Testament prophecies. In every single act accomplished and in every single word spoken, Jesus Christ was constantly concerned about fulfilling, not destroying, the law and the prophets. He did not hide this fact either. He made it aware to His followers (Matt 5:17), to the religious Jews (Luke 4:21), and to His disciples (John 15:25).

Jesus never disputed the Old Testament. His teachings were completely based from Scripture. His teachings were already found in the Old Testament, but many times He clarified the applications to focus on the heart, rather than on the outward appearance. Jesus expected the religious leaders to know the Scriptures very well and to be applying them to their hearts. When the Jewish leaders and various other Jews would challenge Him with questions, Jesus would rebuke them for their lack of Scriptural knowledge. In seven separate occurrences in the Gospels, Jesus replied to such questions by saying, “Have you not read?” and then went on to allow Scripture to speak for itself. This shows that Jesus believed in the authority and the truthfulness of the Old Testament and that it can and should be applied to one’s own daily life.

Jesus believed in the purity of the Scriptures, and that they needed no addition, nor subtraction. He warned against those who added to and subtracted from the Scriptures, and rebuked those who did. Jesus exposed the Pharisees and other teachers of religious law of holding their own customs and laws above God’s law found in the Old Testament. The Pharisees and other teachers accused Jesus’ disciples of breaking tradition by not washing their hands before eating. However, Jesus replied very sternly to them by quoting Isaiah and saying, “Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men’” (Mark 7:6-7). Jesus showed the dangers of upholding that which was not commanded by God, and gave Scripture the authority above any manmade tradition.

Jesus also believed in the power of the Scriptures. He put a high standard in believing and knowing the Scriptures. When Jesus recounts the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16, the rich man in hell begs Abraham to send Lazarus to his family to warn them of the torments of hell. Abraham replies and says that they can listen to Moses and the Prophets, speaking of the Old Testament Scriptures. The rich man is not satisfied with this, and tries to explain that if only his brothers will witness someone from the dead, that they will believe. Abraham, disagrees, and tells the rich man that if his brothers will not believe Moses and the Prophets then they will not be changed by even someone who has been raised from the dead. Jesus, in telling this story, shows just how important the Old Testament Scriptures really are. They are more important than any sign, miracle, or wonder Jesus ever performed. This is exemplified in Jesus’ own life on earth. Before His ministry began He entered into the wilderness to fast and to be tempted by the devil (Matt 4:1). Even though He was impoverished physically, He had internalized the Scriptures and had allowed them to be his nourishment (Matt 4:4). When Satan tempted Him in a number of ways, His reaction was to always use Scripture. He knew them well, and how to apply them. He rebuked Satan with the Scriptures even when Satan himself had used them against Him. Jesus allowed the power of the Word of God to sustain Him in His physical weakness.

Jesus quoted from twenty-four different Old Testament books. He took the Scriptures to mean what they said. He believed the Old Testament to be historically accurate and factual. He affirmed the creation, the flood, Abraham, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot and his wife, Isaac and Jacob, God’s provision of Manna, the brass serpent lifted by Moses, Jonah and the great fish, Isaiah, and Daniel. He trusted the Scriptures as fact.

Jesus showed the authority and validity of both the Scriptures and His resurrection by explaining how He fulfilled everything that the Scriptures had said about Him (Luke 24:25). In fact, Jesus had expected anyone who had read to Old Testament to have expected for Him to have had to suffer and die and rise again from the dead three days later. Jesus had been in the Scriptures from the very beginning, and He explained it to the two people walking to Emmaus and then later to His disciples. He had been in the Word of God since the beginning because He was the Word of God which became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:1,14). Jesus was the Word and the giver of the Word, and for Jesus not to believe in the authority of Scripture would be for Him not to believe in His own authority as God and LORD.

Jesus desired for all to know the Scriptures and to view them as authoritative because faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Rom 10:17). The people who challenged Jesus were those who did not have a sufficient knowledge of the Scriptures and therefore insufficient faith; and He properly rebuked them for it. It was His understanding of the authority of Scripture that made Him stand out among teachers “as one having authority” (Matt 7:29). It was the fulfillment of these authoritative Scriptures that proved He was God.