Mark 11:9 Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” 10 “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” 11 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.
This is probably one of the most familiar Biblical stories associated with the week leading up to Easter Sunday. I’m sure you know it. There was the donkey, a prophetic symbol, the ride of choice for a king coming in peace. The cheering crowd confirming that Jesus’s ministry was spreading and the palm branches were the modern-day equivalent of their rolling out the red carpet for him.
The details of this story in the four Gospels vary a bit but the main idea is the same; Jesus’s determination to begin his final confrontation with sin in the city of peace, Jerusalem. “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.’ ” Luke 19
Jesus knew exactly what that triumphal entry was really about. The crowd’s Hosannas weren’t at all shouts of praise as I’ve come to think of them. They were cries of it’s literal meaning; “help” or “save, I pray” from people longing for Jesus to prove himself as the conquering Messiah they expected. That conflict between Jesus’s determination and their expectations explains why a short five days later their cries had changed from Hosanna to “crucify him.”
Thank God for this Palm Sunday reminder…sometimes repentance includes surrendering my expectations of how Jesus should prove himself to me and celebrate that he already has. Hosanna!
Luke 17:3 So watch yourselves. “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. 4 Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”
I thought I clearly understood the relationship between repentance and forgiveness. I repented, God forgave. That’s the model to follow, right? “They” repent, “I” forgive. Hmmm…I’m having to think a little deeper about that because seven times in a day seems like too much to ask.
Could it be that there’s critical heart-change element tied to forgiveness just as there is for repentance? If my words speak forgiveness while my heart does not, isn’t that just a “prettified” form of judgment? In that case, who is more in need of forgiveness…them or me? Does that mean the reality of forgiveness is yet another part of my own repentance?
Why did that verse have to begin with “So watch yourselves?” I’m sorry Lord, that I even have to ask these questions. I thought I understood. Forgive me.
Romans 2:4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
It seems harder to deal with repenting after you’ve walked with Jesus for a while. The “big” stuff was so obvious there was no hesitation about what needed to go. That was good, but this is the season to take another look. There’s a hidden closet where the evil one has stashed some of my less obvious sins. That makes them really easy to forget about. They’re smoldering, fiery darts that will be used as weapons of contempt for God’s “kindness, forbearance and patience” and to discredit the reality of his work in me. I caught a whiff of smoke and realized where there’s smoke…there’s fire. it’s time to put out these fires.
• The well-meaning prayer request with “too many details” about someone else’s crisis can become a weapon that impacts other people’s response to them. I need to remember God already knows every detail!
• The wrong tone of voice, even when used with “just the right” words, is a devilish eraser capable of wiping out the validity of God’s work in my life to the ears that hear them.
• Using the Word of God as a weapon to verbally discipline someone or manipulate their behavior is a serious violation of my trust in God’s sovereignty, and it’s unkind. The power of the Word lies in “realizing that God’s kindness is [what’s] intended to lead you [both] to repentance.”
The closet has been aired out. I’m waiting for the smoke to clear. Amen [So be it!]
Luke 5:31 Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
Today is Ash Wednesday; the beginning of the observance many of the faithful call Lent. This is the period leading up to Easter and the resurrection of Jesus. Your church may not “officially” observe Lent but why not think of it as your own forty-days visit with Jesus in whom you have placed your life and your eternity?
We can make these days a personal, purposeful opportunity to examine our own spiritual health. That’s how we honor the Savior’s sacrifice. We can choose to repent of believing we are “good enough” because of the work he has already done in us AND we can choose to celebrate we are still under the “doctor’s” care with the promise of complete healing.
“Just because I have listened carefully and intently to one thing from God does not mean that I will listen to everything He says.” From Devotion of Hearing by Oswald Chambers
These last few days I’ve spent some time thinking about what my goals are when I read the Bible. Sometimes I am unsure about what to read. I really am trying to “hear” what I read but nothing “speaks” to me. It seems presumptuous to look at God’s Word and say, “nope, not that” but I do that at times. Here’s the bottom line of even that very selective reading plan…I’m there and so is God.
It’s times like that when the devotional “words” of personal heroes of the faith like Oswald Chambers can be a welcome catalyst of direction. His title and simple confession I quoted above reminded me that even my written words can become a “devotion of hearing.” The secret is learning to be a better “listener” as I read what God has to say for himself…and write myself a note so I’ll remember.
Jeremiah 33:3 (ESV) Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.
Romans 10:17 (ESV) So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Luke 11:28 (ESV) But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
Hebrews 2:1 (ESV) Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. Luke 15:21-24
There’s the truth of Advent in Luke’s story of the son who came home. It’s a revelation of the heart of God that shows his desire to welcome and celebrate the life of those who bear his image if they will just do that one thing, come home.
That’s God’s promise to a world filled with needy people like us really, convinced we can figure out life if given the chance. God has gone beyond chance to provide for our need. Advent is the celebration of His promise in the flesh. It’s our reminder every year of why He sent a baby in a Christmas cradle, ready and waiting.
After all what else can a baby do but wait? There’s no forced compliance at the cradle, no persuasive words, no clearly laid out “do it this way” doctrine, but a waiting baby…an invitation…to come home to the celebration of an unexpected and undeserved reality of new life that triumphs over circumstances.
Luke 2: 19 & 20
19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Luke 2:14 -18
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
Luke 2:1- 7
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register. 4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
I have traveled many moonless nights
Cold and weary with a babe inside
And I wonder what I’ve done
Holy Father you have come
And chosen me now
To carry your son
I am waiting in a silent prayer
I am frightened by the load I bear
In a world as cold as stone
Must I walk this path alone
Be with me now
Be with me now
Luke 2:8-11 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field,
keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
Each of us were taking our shifts through the night to keep watch over the lambs.
It seemed like an ordinary night but honestly you’ll have to take my word for it, what happened next had us all up and on our feet in an instant.
Shepherds have to be ready for anything. There’s danger from wild animals and from thieves but in the darkness of the wilderness, and when we heard that voice coming out of nowhere, it seemed like our worst fears had become reality.
I don’t know if I actually saw a figure but for sure every one of us heard the voice. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” Sure, we’d heard of a Savior, but this was a very different reality. Angels just don’t appear to shepherds. We don’t count for much except for the occasional perfect lamb we manage to provide for the Temple.
This is the awesome part…here we were, ordinary shepherds…Of All People…and God chose us to see first-hand His own perfect Lamb in the temple he’d provided!