Matthew 21:8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” [NIV]
Today is Palm Sunday. I know many of us will have the opportunity to hear the message of Christ provided by our Pastor’s via the internet. That’s a blessing. We are living in a new reality where dependence on community worship is restricted. We won’t be surrounded by a crowd of like minded people gathering together to remember this day as the moment of triumph when Jesus begins His final journey to the day of our salvation. We won’t be hearing other voices raised with our own as we shout Hosanna! There are no waving palm branches to prompt our memory of the past.
The pomp and circumstance of public celebrations has been temporarily swept aside but Coronavirus can’t deprive you of your Hosannas, “help” or “save, I pray!” Today we are the ones who must prepare the way for Jesus to enter into the midst of our exile. “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” Blessed is he who comes to complete His identity in you right there in your own home and offers you the opportunity to complete your identity in Him through a different kind of personal experience. Today Palm Sunday worship is up to you.
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
NRSV Matthew 12:29 Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property, without first tying up the strong man? Then indeed the house can be plundered. 30 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
NRSV Mark 9:38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 Whoever is not against us is for us.
NRSV Luke 9:49 John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” 50 But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you.”
After reading several versions of these passages and looking at commentaries written by people at various levels of prestige from St. Augustine to names I didn’t recognize this is my #1 question. Is Jesus speaking more about people outside the disciple’s experience of faith rather than those in opposition to Jesus? Is Jesus challenging us to check the balance of our focus on the relationship between doctrine and comfort?
Apparently doctrine is an age-old conflict. What if Jesus is speaking of people who operate outside the body of faith as we know it but don’t actually oppose Him? What if Jesus’ emphasis is about “tying up the strong man” with dependence on doctrine, rather than Himself. Can that be what makes the “strong man’s house” vulnerable to plunder? What if these three passages reveal the very words of Jesus that lead us from doctrine to comfort?
That makes sense to me when I read the Mark and Luke versions of this passage. I feel like I can read between the lines of John’s words in Mark. Sure the man is “casting out demons in your name” but how can what he’s doing possibly be OK “because he was not following us”? John’s concern for the corporate integrity of their ministry was real. Jesus matches his assurance to John with the same group-inclusive pronoun, “us.” “Whoever is not against US is for US.”
John’s invested his own life and identity in Jesus’ ministry. Jesus knew the question of integrity was still very personal to John. John’s own conflict was finding the comfort between doing things the way they “should” be done [doctrine?] and his commitment to the ministry of Jesus. Jesus words from Luke challenged John to move from doctrine to the exclusive assurance of comfort of a personal pronoun, “you.’ “Whoever is not against YOU is for YOU.”
NASB John 1: 35–39 As John the Baptist stood there with two of his disciples, Jesus passed and John stared hard at him and said: “Look, there is the Lamb of God.” Hearing this, the two disciples followed Jesus, and Jesus turned around, saw them following, and said, “What do you want?” “Rabbi [which means “teacher”], where do you live?” “Come and see,” he replied. So they went and saw where he lived and they stayed with him the rest of the day. It was about the tenth hour.
There’s no simpler or more effective way to tell people about Jesus than to invite them using His own words…“come and see.” They are gentle words with a mystery about them. That invitation to a one-on-one engagement with Jesus is what makes that relationship a “personal” and effective one. “Come and see” for yourself.
NASB Isaiah 32:18 Then my people will live in a peaceful habitation, And in secure dwellings and in undisturbed resting places;
Colossians 2:1 I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. 2 My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. 5 For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is…9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness…13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled tqhe charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.
The word “you” is used twenty-two times in the first fourteen verses of this Chapter. You is a personal pronoun. The Apostle begins with simple words “I want you to know how hard I am contending for you… and for all who have not met me personally.” It only takes a couple more verses before he’s swept away that separation of knowing him personally, and time. I’m certain grammar and pronouns were the furthest things from Paul’s mind when he wrote this Word but his goal is still alive and well because of them. We’ve become part of the inner circle of “the mystery of God, namely, Christ” in you. “God made you alive with Christ,”
The impersonal has been swept away because of these words written so long ago by a man we’ve never met. Here’s the grand finale. It’s very personal, we’re now part of the inner circle of Christ. The indisputable confirmation of Scripture being Living Word is it still speaks loud and clear to the heart today with two more pronouns – us and our.
“He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.”
Matthew 2:1-2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”…11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
The Magi were men who still had the desire for God in their hearts. Desire was why they watched for a sign. When they recognized the star they prepared their gifts and took that first step of a long journey expecting God would to lead them to a king.
People really do still have the desire for God in their hearts. God has pulled out all the stops for us during this season with many different and personal signs to guide us to “the one who has been born king,” the Big Event. This is our modern-day version of the journey but it’s still all about desiring God, watching for the signs, preparing our gifts of worship and then taking that first step expecting God will lead us to the King.
These are the perfect gifts of worship if you’re short on gold, frankincense and myrrh.
• Give Jesus your desire.
• Offer this new born priest your long journey.
• Let him be King of all your expectations.
God bless our journey.
27…“Who do people say I am?”
29 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
33…“Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
34…“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
Who? Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” Right answer but which was the right question: “Who do people say I am?” or “Who do you say I am?” The right question mattered to Jesus not just the right answer.
“Who do people say I am?” The cultural heritage of the Jewish people was that Messiah would come as a warrior-like king in a battle to redeem their long history of oppression and remake their world. That was a powerful and appealing identity any Jew would recognize about Messiah
Jesus presses on with a far more personal question. “Who do you say I am?” It was an identity destined to be an uphill battle for their mind. Jesus was talking about being killed and rising from the dead…for heaven’s sake! Messiah WOULD redeem their long history of oppression and remake their world…BUT by giving up his own life in exchange for their souls and asking them to deny themselves and lose their life for him.
It’s no wonder Peter was worried about the messaging. It’s no wonder Jesus called him on it! “Who do you say I am?” is still the right question. It’s still an uphill battle to keep “in mind the concerns of God,” and not just settle for knowing the right answer.
Titus 3:4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. [NIV]
I discovered there is one more thing to be added to my list in last Sunday’s post about the Holy Spirit. I missed this very important point but as so often happens, God has a way of building something more complete than what I already knew.
Everything on my original list – inspiration, truth teller, guarantee, within, teacher, support, helper and confirmation – was God’s own truth from his word. God designed the work of the Holy Spirit in us to be very personal to each of us but there’s one thing more…
God has added this Word from Titus 3 to my list. It’s important because it reveals the work of the Holy Spirit in each of us is very personal to him too: so “we might become [his] heirs…” Now it’s a complete list!
Ephesians 6:13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
*Sword of the Spirit”
I often start my devotional time by jotting key points of the scripture I’m reading. What came to mind first from these verses was a graphic image of a figure wearing this armor but my visual imagery struggled with two of the pieces of armor; “feet fitted with the readiness” and “the sword of the Spirit.” The rest of the armor was clearly for personal protection but these to pieces seemed different. That made them worth thinking more about.
Shoes that are that are “fitted” to your own feet are a big deal when it comes to readiness to go anywhere. You’re virtually lame if your shoes don’t fit; too small and they pinch…too big and they can trip you up. That makes your personal fit for these special shoes dependent on knowing the truth of the gospel of peace!
The Sword is an odd image. The Word of God often confronts, challenges and convicts the one who uses it. This is what makes it personal; the Sword is more like a surgical instrument meant to save a life rather than a weapon to slay an enemy. It’s like the “physician heal yourself” idea. A surgeon’s has to be skilled and well trained!
Those two short paragraphs are what I was meant to learn today. All the other pieces of armor are protection more readily picked up and put on but shoes and swords are unique. They require more personal attention to become part of what will protect you enough to be ready to reach out to a world of broken people. The shoes are custom “fitted” so you can step out in peace to share the gospel. Your hand picks up the sword that has surgically changed your own heart and mind to become the life-saving “sWord” that reaches beyond your hand to a broken world.
The observance of Advent and Christmas has served it’s purpose. The darkness of night was lit up with the special lights we hung. We heard the annual music of bells being rung outside many stores. Those once-a-year cookies were both the taste and the aroma of the season.
It’s complete, but it’s not over.
Everything around us in that season was designed [by God] to reawaken our physical senses. Once again we’ve been stimulated by the external celebration to see for ourselves whether the fullness of these words from Mark 12:30 can become real in us: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”
The season is complete, but it’s not over.
These words from I Timothy 3:16 are our challenge now to carry on: “Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great: He appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.”
We’ve moved beyond the external stimulation of this Christmas season and that long-ago story of God’s intervention to restore “our” broken world. Now it’s become personal; can Jesus, the Christ, restore “my” broken world?
It’s not over, it’s just beginning.