JESUS TAKES CENTRE STAGE
"After saying these things, Jesus headed straight up to Jerusalem. When He got near Bethphage and Bethany at the mount called Olives, He sent off two of His disciples with instructions, 'Go to the village across from you...you'll find a colt tethered...untie it and bring it...'
"The two left and found it just as He said...They brought the colt to Jesus. Then, throwing their coats on its back, they helped Jesus get on. As He rode, the people gave Him a grand welcome, throwing their coats on the street.
"Right at the crest, where Mount Olives begins its descent, the whole crowd of disciples burst into enthusiastic praise over all the mighty works they had witnessed. 'Blessed is He who comes, The king in God's name! All's well in heaven! Glory in the high places!'
"Some Pharisees from the crowd told Him,'Teacher, get your disciples under control!'
"But He said, 'If they kept quiet, the stones would do it for them, shouting praise.'" Luke 19:26-40 (The Message).
This event, which is called Palm Sunday on the Christian calendar, was both highly significant and highly provocative in the life of Jesus, and at this particular time in the Jewish year.
It was the eve of Passover. People were gathering in the city for the feast from all over the country. It was a time of religious fervour and political ferment. The Roman authorities were on high alert for any signs of trouble. Messianic expectation was reaching flash point and all eyes were on this rabbi who was saying and doing outrageous things.
The religious authorities were well aware of how volatile the situation was and were keeping a sharp eye out for any signs of uprising from Jesus and His followers. They knew that the only solution was to eliminate Him to bring things back under control before Rome stepped in and set off a blood bath, but they could do nothing at Passover because there were too many Jesus-supporters in the mob.
Then, into this tinder box situation, Jesus calmly entered on the back of a donkey! This was what they feared the most because it was public announcement that He was making a bid for kingship! They desperately implored Him to shut down the exuberant praise that was being stirred up in the mob, but Jesus laughed them off and they were even more enraged and determined to silence Him.
What was the significance of this provocative act? First of all, it was yet another fulfilment of an ancient prophecy, "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey." Zechariah 9:9 (NIV), a Messianic fingerprint that would confirm the claim of Jesus that He was the king of the Jews.
Secondly, Jesus was claiming a kingship that was in no way intended to challenge their Roman overlords, but they did not understand that. They waited with baited breath to see what He would do when He entered Jerusalem. Would He head for the governor's palace to throw down the gauntlet? They did not understand His hot tears over the city. Instead of heading for the governor's residence, He turned towards the temple.
The meaning of this prophetic action went right over their heads. They did not understand that Jesus was claiming the right to rule over the lives and destiny of His people that went far deeper than political authority. He was representing a kingdom that overrode every other kingdom, the kingdom of God. In a few days, He would authenticate that right by giving His life to remove the barrier of sin that stood in the way of access into that kingdom, and that would give anyone who believed in Him the right to approach the Father.
Jesus was no threat to Rome. Rome was only a pawn in the hands of a far more sinister domain, the domain of Satan, the god of this world. "And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." Colossians 2:15 (NIV).
But this action was imperative for Jesus because it was also the final nail in His own coffin. Like it or not, the religious leaders were forced to take action, spurred on by the offer of the treacherous Judas, because Jesus had to die as God's sacrificial Lamb at the precise moment when the Passover lambs were being slaughtered!
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