Friday, March 31, 2023
On Sunday we will celebrate the “triumphal entry” of Jesus into Jerusalem. It is also called “Palm Sunday”, the day when the people of Israel who had gathered for the feast of the Passover waved palm branches before Jesus as he rode a donkey toward the city. The people were hoping that Jesus would be their promised Messiah and deliver them from the oppression of the Roman Empire, establishing God’s Kingdom once and for all. They thought this was the fulfillment of almost 500 years of waiting for the prophecy to be fulfilled. If they had only understood the teaching and ministry of Jesus from God’s perspective, they would have known that it was the time of spiritual deliverance. But instead they had their own purpose in mind and ultimately rejected Jesus. Even His disciples were guilty of unbelief.
But God used the celebration of the people to accomplish His perfect plan for the redemption of the world. Two weeks earlier Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead and it caused a major division in the nation of Israel. People who had been neighbors and friends were now secretly either believing in Jesus or reporting His actions to the Pharisees. Some were living in fear that they would be rejected by society for their newly found faith, while most were living in fear that the comfort and benefits of their way of life would be taken from them if Jesus was allowed to gain any more popularity and power. Those in power used hyperbole to accomplish their own objectives, claiming that “the whole world has gone after Him.” They wanted Jesus dead and were already scheming to see that happen. Even those who claimed to believe in Jesus would eventually succumb to the pressure of the status quo and turn against Jesus.
As I consider the world in which we live I sense that things have not changed. Day after day the Name of Jesus is being attacked by the people of the world who are living in the fear that the comforts and benefits of their sinful way of life are being threatened by the truth of Jesus Christ. Even those who claim to know Jesus and be His followers are rejecting some elements of the truth so they can better fit into modern society and not face rejection or suffering. It seems that the cry of the Pharisees that the whole world has gone after Him is still being heard today, and the plans of the powerful to eliminate Jesus from the world are becoming more elaborate.
But we need to see the good news in all of this: opposition only happens when the opponent feels threatened. For the opponents of Christ to feel threatened they must be observing a “triumphal entry” of sorts of Jesus Christ into their territory. Preachers, evangelists, and missionaries are boldly proclaiming the Name of Jesus and His truth like never before. Churches are filled with vibrant and mature believers who are taking their faith into the workplace and living lives that honor Jesus rather than self. Some are even sacrificing everything they own to take the Gospel to the far reaches of the world, even though they face making the ultimate sacrifice of death to bring life to those who are dead in their sin. The church of Jesus Christ is alive because Jesus is alive, and the world is being threatened.
But there is one more reality that we must face – the world will not lay down their lives for Christ. They will continue to implement more and more schemes designed to eliminate Christ from society, and they will succeed. They will partially succeed when they cause many who claim to believe in Christ to fall away from their faith and turn to the world’s system – and that is already happening. They will claim ultimate success when all the Christians are removed from this earth by Jesus in preparation for His judgment of their sin. But it was not their plan that succeeded; it is God’s plan that is being worked out for His glory, and we are a part of it. The people of the world are not in control, as they think they are. God is!
So don’t be like the people of Jesus’ time, who wave palm branches celebrating their King one day and then succumb to the pressures of their personal comforts and social acceptance the next day. Don’t fall away! Don’t even slip a little. Be faithful! Let’s not only be one of the crowd that goes after Jesus, but one of the few that stays committed to Jesus.