The Messianic King and The Passover Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. Two parallel roles which Christ fulfills. This being the 11th episode, I found it appropriate how the number 11 would signify those two parallels.
In this 11th episode of the podcast, we will be studying what is often referred to as the ‘Triumphal Entry’ or ‘Palm Sunday’ These titles speak of the occasion in which Jesus rides a young donkey into the city of Jerusalem during the time of Passover, on the Sunday prior to His crucifixion.
The Messianic King and The Passover Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. Two parallel roles which Christ fulfills.
We will be taking a look at what is often referred to as the “Triumphal Entry” or “Palm Sunday”.
These titles speak of the occasion in which Jesus rides a young donkey into the city of Jerusalem during the time of Passover, on the Sunday prior to His crucifixion. This event is recorded in all four gospel narratives.
The Triumphal Entry / Palm Sunday Matthew 21:1-11 (donkey and colt) Mark 11:1-10 Luke 19:28-40 (only colt) John 12:12-19
Though we will be connecting portions of each gospel account, our primary text will be focused on the narrative found in Matthew’s gospel.
Matthew 21:1-11 1 As they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, on the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt beside her. Untie them and bring them to Me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them right away.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: 5 “Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your King comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ ” 6 So the disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and laid their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. 8 A massive 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 were shouting: “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest!” 10 When Jesus had entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” 11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Jesus and His disciples have traveled from Galilee, across the Jordan river, and through Jericho. Jericho is about 17 miles east of Jerusalem. Passing through Jericho is where Jesus encountered Zacchaeus, the chief tax-collector who climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Jesus. Along this road is also where Jesus healed the two blind men, one of which was named Bartimaeus.
Jesus’ approach towards Jerusalem comes from the east, and the eastern side of the city is marked by a series of mountain ranges and valleys. So the trek would’ve been up hills and down through valleys. On the top of these ranges, are two small villages called Bethany and Bethphage.
We’re told in John 11:18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, a little less than two miles away.
Bethphage was a sister city located about a mile east of Jerusalem on the southeastern slope of the Mount of Olives. The Mount of Olives rises some 2,700 feet above sea level, and directly overlooks the temple area. Most of the photographs you see looking over Jerusalem and the Temple Mount are taken from this elevated position on the Mt. of Olives.
During the final days of Jesus’ earthly life and ministry, the gospels mention how He would often return to spend the night on the Mount of Olives. I like to imagine Him sitting up there, praying and looking out over the city below.
Why the journey? Jesus and His disciples have been making their way up to Jerusalem in order to celebrate the Passover. The Passover was one of the most holiest festivals of the Jews, as it commemorates their deliverance from Egyptian bondage. In fact, common law stated that all Jewish males 20 years and older, who lived within a 20 mile radius of Jerusalem had to travel to the city to celebrate the Passover.
So there would’ve been thousands of other travelers along this road also, coming to celebrate the Passover festival at the end of the week. The city of Jerusalem would’ve been filled with people.
Passover commemorates the Biblical story of the Exodus, where God freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. In order to protect their firstborn children from God’s final plague on Egypt, the Israelites were instructed to mark their doorposts and lentils with the blood of a lamb. The angel of death would see the lamb’s blood applied and ‘pass over’ that home, sparing the life of the firstborn inside. Thus the name Passover.
The instructions for keeping the Passover are prescribed in the Old Testament book of Exodus.
Exodus 12:3-7 3) Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man must select a lamb for his family, one per household. 4) If the household is too small for a whole lamb, they are to share with the nearest neighbor based on the number of people, and apportion the lamb accordingly. 5) Your lamb must be an unblemished year-old male, and you may take it from the sheep or the goats. 6) You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel will slaughter the animals at twilight. 7) Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it.
So on the 10th day of Nisan the lambs were to be selected, and then taken into the home. For the next four days, the lamb would be inspected by the family. Then on the fourth day, which would be the 14th of Nisan, the animal would be sacrificed at twilight (the distinct boundary between daytime and nighttime), and consumed by the household.
According to the Jewish calendar, Passover always takes place on the 14th of Nisan. This coincides with March-April on our calendar.
Other Scripture references: (Passover on the 14th)
Leviticus 23:5 The Passover to the LORD begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month.
Numbers 28:16 The fourteenth day of the first month is the LORD’s Passover.
The Passover lambs were selected on the 10th day, and it was on that 10th day that Jesus made His Triumphal entrance into the city.
Jesus is about to enter the city of Jerusalem through the east gate, on a Sunday, the first day of the week. Over these next several days, Jesus will teach in the temple grounds and be interrogated by the religious leaders trying to discredit Him. These four days Jesus spends in the temple are a fulfillment of Scripture.
While each family in Jerusalem will be taking a lamb into their homes, to be inspected for blemishes or defect, at the very same time, Jesus will be entering into His Father’s house – the Temple, to be “inspected” or scrutinized by the religious leaders.
As the families take their lamb with them into their homes, for the remaining days leading up to the Passover, as you can imagine, this would’ve allowed time for somewhat of a bond to begin to develop. Why is this important? Because, when that animal was then to be given up as a sacrifice for that particular family, it caused them to realize, “that should be me… this animal, though it had no fault of its own, had to give up its life in order to atone for my sins.”
The Passover lamb clearly foreshadows Jesus, who is our Passover Lamb, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Just as the blood of the Passover Lamb saved the Hebrew people from death, so too, it’s the blood of Jesus that redeems us and saves us from the bondage of sin and death.
Staying in Bethany with Lazarus
In John chapter 12:1-2 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with Him.
This tells us when Jesus arrives, and why He is staying in Bethany. He stays and has a Sabbath meal with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead.
During this dinner, is when Mary anoints Jesus with a pound of expensive perfume, and then dries His feet with her hair. We get an idea of how costly this perfume would’ve been because Judas gets upset about it and asks, “Why was this not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” The text also makes clear that Judas did not ask this genuinely out of concern for the poor, but because he was the treasurer in charge of keeping the money, and he would often steal from it. An average days wage was about one denarius, therefore three hundred denarii would’ve been almost a years wage. What an extravagant display of worship seen by Mary, to honor the Lord before His death and burial.
Also notice John 12:9 When a large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of Him but also to see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead.
Lazarus now had an amazing and unique testimony. He had been dead for four days before Jesus came and called him out of the grave.
This emphasizes some of those who made up the large crowd surrounding Jesus as He enters the city. Part of the crowd had come with Him from Galilee and Jericho, another part streamed in from Bethany, excited by the recent resurrection of Lazarus (John 12:17). Some went before Him, some followed. As they advanced they were met by a fresh crowd pouring forth from Jerusalem to welcome Him into the city.
But notice the reaction of the chief priests John 12:10-11 But the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.
Lazarus had become an object of interest. The large crowd came not only to see Jesus, but also it says on account of Lazarus whom He had raised from the dead. Now the chief priests wanted to put him to death also. What had Lazarus done wrong? What had this man done to deserve death? The answer is nothing. It was not anything Lazarus had done. It was what Jesus had done in his life. Lazarus was not trying to attract attention, it was simply that he had now become a living testimony.
John 12:17-19 The crowd that had been with Him when He called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet Him was that they heard He had done this sign. So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after Him.”
This man, Lazarus, was now an undeniable testimony to the authenticity and power of Jesus. Many in the crowd were bearing witness to this great miracle, which was causing many of the Jews to believe in Jesus. Because of this, these religious leaders were plotting to snuff them both out. Lazarus had already died, and was four days in the tomb whenever Jesus raised him from the dead. And yet their plan is to kill him again. How much sense does that make? It would seem that they had at least enough sense to understand that they had to kill both men though, because if not, Jesus was fully capable of simply raising Lazarus to life all over again.
Will Jesus Even Show Up?
Because of this hostility of the religious leaders, there was an air of expectancy as to whether or not Jesus would even show up during the feast.
John 11:55-57 55) Now the Jewish Passover was near, and many people went up from the country to Jerusalem to purify themselves before the Passover. 56) They kept looking for Jesus and asking one another as they stood in the temple courts, “What do you think? Will He come to the feast at all?” (Is He even going to show up?) 57) But the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who knew where He was must report it, so that they could arrest Him.
Jesus is basically a wanted fugitive at this point.
But notice the anticipation of the people, the text says they were looking for Him, asking about Him. “Do you think He will show up?” This is the one whom everyone wanted to see. This is the one who had cast out demons, cleansed the lepers, healed the sick, given sight to the blind, and even raised the dead.
Mark 14:1-2 Now the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were two days away, and the chief priests and the scribes were scheming to arrest Jesus secretly and kill Him. “But not during the festival,” they said, “or there may be a riot among the people.”
Notice how they realized if they didn’t take Jesus underhandedly in secret, the crowds would possibly cause an uproar.
John 11:47-51 47) Then the chief priests and Pharisees gathered the Sanhedrin and said, “What are we to do? This man is performing many signs. 48) If we allow Him to go on like this, everyone will believe in Him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” 49) Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all!” 50) You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” 51) He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation
Jesus did not fear the chief priests and Pharisees. He knew they were plotting to kill Him, yet He came openly and publicly to the city in the sight of all as their Messiah. He knew well that there would be no turning back from this point.
After all, Jesus had clearly foretold of His death, this was not a surprise to Him
Matthew 20:18-19 (see also Mark 10:33-34) “Look, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes. They will condemn Him to death and will deliver Him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. And on the third day He will be raised to life.”
Mark 10:33-34 “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and will hand Him over to the Gentiles. They will mock Him and kill Him, and three days later He will rise again.”
Jesus is not a victim to circumstance. These things aren’t just happening to Him. He is in control as He is making His way to Jerusalem. God is orchestrating all of this as His Son is being led by the Spirit, and Scripture is being fulfilled which had been written centuries earlier.
Sending For the Donkey
John 12:1 Jesus was in Bethany 6 days before the Passover, this was a Saturday John 12:12 says “The next day..” this would be Sunday
After Observing the Sabbath in Bethany, Friday evening through Saturday evening, Jesus arose Sunday morning to enter the city of Jerusalem. This was the first day of what would be Jesus’ final week on Earth.
He sends two disciples into the neighboring village of Bethphage, in order to bring back a donkey and her young colt. He explains in detail where they will find these animals, and even what they are to respond to the owners if asked why they are untying the animals.
Naturally if you start to take someone’s property, they’re going to ask, “Hey, what do you think you’re doing?”
In Mark’s gospel, we see it happens just like this. Mark 11:1-6 1) As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent out two of His disciples 2) and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as soon as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it here. 3) If anyone asks, ‘Why are you doing this?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it and will return it shortly.’ ” 4) So they went and found the colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. They untied it, 5) and some who were standing there asked, “Why are you untying the colt?” 6) The disciples answered as Jesus had instructed them, and the people gave them permission.
And also from Luke’s gospel Luke 19:32-34 32) Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as He had told them. 33) As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34) The disciples replied, “The Lord needs it.”
I like to imagine the owners response was something like, “Oh, well in that case, here let me help you with that, I’ve got a tricky slip-knot on the tie out there.”
The Lord Has Need of Them
“The Lord has need of them” What a phrase. This is somewhat of a paradoxical statement.. yet it illustrates how Jesus came in humility. In His humanity, He merely borrowed everything He would use throughout His ministry. He was laid in a borrowed manger at His birth. He was laid in a borrowed tomb at His death. Here, we see that Jesus borrows this young donkey, to ride to His own humble Coronation. Though the crown that was about to be placed upon His head was not one of jewels, but of thorns.
Travelers this way would indeed ride donkeys, but this of course, was not due to any weariness. Jesus had travelled on foot all the way from Galilee to Bethany, and He certainly could have continued on for the final two miles. However, this was done so that He might enter into the city of Jerusalem as was prophesied of Him in Zechariah 9:9.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon writes: “What a singular conjunction of words is here, ‘the Lord’ and ‘hath need!’ Jesus, without laying aside his sovereignty, had taken a nature full of needs; yet, being in need, he was still the Lord and could command his subjects and requisition their property.” (Spurgeon)
Maybe you’re familiar with the expression, “God owns the cattle on a thousand hills.”
This is taken from Psalm 50:10 ”For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.”
Everything in creation belongs to God, to use as He sees fit. When we refer to God as ‘owning the cattle on a thousand hills’, we are simply acknowledging that God is the rightful owner over all His creation. And this serves as an encouragement to us as believers because we understand that God has the means to provide for His children. He is able to move and to allocate these provisions according to His will.
In this case, someone owned these particular animals, and yet ultimately they were still God’s property. These owners knew that they were simply stewards, in charge of what God had given them. So when this situation came about, and these men said this phrase, “the Lord has need of them”, they knew that this was an opportunity to be faithful and permit them to be used for His purposes, for His will.
May we too, remember that we are to be faithful stewards of all that we own. Nothing we own truly belongs to us- it remains God’s property, even as He allows us to possess it for a time. We should approach our possessions with that same understanding- Our needs are met by God and what we currently possess ultimately belongs to Him.
Was This Event Prearranged?
Now, the question has been asked by some- Is this a prearranged event? Did Jesus have all this set up in advance? And was this response, “the Lord has need of them”, some kind of code-phrase He had given to the disciples, so the owners would recognize and know these were the right guys? While that certainly is a possibility, none of the four gospel narratives gives us an explicit indication to this. To assume that these events were set up beforehand, one would have to use more imagination and mental gymnastics than what the plain reading of the text provides. We must be careful when it comes to gap-filling above and beyond what is written.
I lean more towards this being a supernatural display of Christ’s foreknowledge. When Jesus sends the two disciples to get the colt, He tells them where to go, what they will find, what will happen once they find it, and what they are to say in response.
Why do each of the gospel writers devote so much attention to the way Jesus acquired the animal? If there’s no real significance, why is so much detail given? Because I believe in these details, there is a witness to Jesus’ true identity.
Was it also a prearranged event when Jesus told Peter to drop a line in the lake, and that the first fish he caught would contain a coin in its mouth, which would be the sufficient amount in order to pay for both their taxes? (Matthew 17:27) No, this was a clear demonstration of the foreknowledge of Christ.
Or when Philip tells Nathaniel to come and see Jesus. John 1:47-49 Jesus saw Nathaniel coming and said “Behold, a true Israelite, in whom there is no deceit.” Nathaniel asked Him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathaniel answered Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
We know that this doesn’t simply mean that Nathaniel was taking a rest in the shade under a fig tree, and Jesus happened to look across and see him from a distance. No, It’s clear that this reveals a supernatural knowledge from how Nathaniel himself responds. He says, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God, the King of Israel.” He is acknowledging that what you saw and know, no man could have known.
Upon Which No One Has Ever Sat
The writings of Mark and Luke add the detail that this young donkey had never before been ridden. God’s providence had made sure that this animal had been reserved, sanctified and set apart for this very purpose.
This highlights the holiness and importance of that moment. In that day, an animal reserved for royal use would not be used for common purposes. It was set apart, or sanctified.
An example is found in the selection of the red heifer Numbers 19:1-2 Then the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the statute of the law that the LORD has commanded: Instruct the Israelites to bring you an unblemished red heifer that has no defect and has never been placed under a yoke.
Also, for transporting the Ark of the Covenant 1 Samuel 6:7 Now then, take and prepare a new cart and two milk cows on which there has never come a yoke, and hitch the cows to the cart
So by requiring an animal that had never been ridden upon, this was a testimony to Jesus’ royal and holy identity. God in His divine sovereignty, has made sure that this animal has been reserved, consecrated and set aside for His Son, for this particular day, for this particular occasion. He had orchestrated the circumstances well in advance, in order to make provisions for this very moment. I mean, the colt would have to be birthed at the right time, and in the right place, and never have been ridden upon. All of this is a testimony to God’s divine provision.
Also, because this animal had never been ridden, and no yoke had ever come upon it’s neck, it was an unbroken animal. Normally, it would be incredibly difficult to ride an unbroken animal through a crowded and chaotic scene, all while carrying an unfamiliar burden on its back. And yet, despite the noise and calamity of the crowd, the colt remains calm under the One who quiets the winds and stills the waters of the storm.
Matthew’s gospel is the only account in which we’re told that both the donkey and the colt were brought. Why would both animals be needed if Jesus only rode the colt into Jerusalem? The simple answer is that the colt was young and still attached to its mother, and vice versa. I see this as a generous consideration. Bringing the mother along would’ve provided a comforting familiarity for both animals in an otherwise uncomfortable and unfamiliar situation.
What’s the Significance of Riding a Donkey?
What’s the significance of riding in on a donkey anyway? Matthew gives us that answer in verses 4-5 quoted from the prophet Zechariah 9:9 which had been prophesied some 500 years earlier.
Matthew 21:4-5 This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your King comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ ”
Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you, righteous and having salvation is He, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
In that time and area, Horses were rare and generally only used in warfare. You would ride a horse into a city as a show of power, if you intended to make a threat. Mules and donkeys were more common, and associated with times of peace. For a king or a prince to ride into a city on a donkey was a gesture of peace, not aggression.
King Solomon rode a mule to his coronation. (1 Kings 2:33)
Jesus’ choice to ride into Jerusalem upon donkey was certainly deliberate. He did so to fulfill prophecy and reveal Himself as Israel’s long-awaited Messianic King, the promised descendant of Judah and Son of David.
Notice how the text mentions that He would come in “gently” – that is that He would be non-threatening, humble. Jesus did not come in prominence, as a conqueror mounted upon a warhorse in a show of power. Instead, He came in meekness and gentleness, seated on a young donkey. Jesus came not in majesty, but in mercy, in order to work salvation.
He was not coming at that time to conquer through force, but to reconcile through sacrifice. Though He was indeed a King, this King did not come to be seated on a throne, but to be nailed to a cross.
Cloaks and Palm Branches
Verses 6-7: So The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and laid their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. This was almost like a makeshift saddle for Jesus to sit on.
Verse 8: A massive crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.
John’s gospel in 12:13 tells us they were palm branches.
Verse 9: The crowds went ahead of Him and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest!”
This was a King’s procession, and by the people casting down their cloaks and laying out palm branches, they were creating a layer on top of the ground for Jesus and the colt to walk upon. This was the equivalent to, ‘rolling out the red carpet.’
This gesture of the crowd spreading out their cloaks on the road, symbolized their acknowledgement and honor of Jesus as their King.
We see an example of this in the Old Testament 2 Kings 9:13 Quickly, each man took his garment and put it under Jehu on the bare steps. Then they blew the trumpet and proclaimed, “Jehu is king!”
John 12:13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”
At that time, palm branches were a symbol which conveyed joy and triumph. Palm motifs commonly appeared on Jewish coinage as well as in the decorations of their synagogues.
Palm branches were also seen as a symbol of national victory and liberation for Israel. In the First Book of Maccabees, though not considered to be inspired Scripture, but a historical book, it documents the account of an early victory during the Maccabean revolt against the Seleucid Empire. In 142 BC, Simon and his men had just recaptured the Temple.
1 Maccabees 13:51-52 ” On the twenty-third day of the second month, in the one hundred and seventy-first year, Simon and his men entered the citadel singing hymns of praise and thanksgiving, waving palm branches, and playing harps, cymbals, and stringed instruments, because a great enemy had been defeated and removed from Israel. Simon decreed that every year they should celebrate this day with rejoicing. He strengthened the fortifications of the temple hill alongside the citadel, and he and his men lived there.”
The Temple was then cleansed and rededicated, which became the source of the Hanukkah festival, or the Feast of Dedication. The Hebrew word Hanukkah actually means “dedication”.
It seems as though you and I as believers will also get the opportunity to wave palm branches to participate in a proper victory celebration of our Lord Jesus.
Revelation 7:9-10 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
The Crowds Cry “Hosannain the Highest!”
This large, enthusiastic crowd greeted Jesus with words from the Messianic Psalm 118:25-26.
Psalm 118:25-26 Save now, I pray, O LORD; O LORD, I pray, send now prosperity. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you.
Hosanna is a Hebrew word ‘hoshiah-na’ which is a compound of ‘Yasha’ : to save, to deliver and ‘anna’ : to beseech, to earnestly pray
Originally, this was used as an urgent plea for deliverance or salvation. Later, the word became used as more of a jubilant praise, such as ‘Hallelujah!’ Much like how it’s used in our modern worship music.
As an example: In its original meaning, “Hosanna!” is what someone who was drowning would cry out. “Help, please save me!” While in its later meaning, “Hosanna!” is what someone who had just been rescued from drowning would cry out. “My life has been saved, Praise the Lord!”
William Barclay “Essentially it is a people’s cry for deliverance and for help in the day of their trouble; it is an oppressed people’s cry to their savior and their king.”
Their intent is made clear as the crowd adds another line which is not found in the Psalm: “Blessed is the King of Israel!” (John 12:13)
Pharisees Tell Jesus to Rebuke His Disciples
The chief priests, scribes, and Pharisees certainly observed the proclamations of the people toward Jesus as their king, because they were astonished and told Jesus to rebuke His followers for making such statements.
Luke 19:37-39 (The Pharisees tell Jesus to rebuke His disciples) 37 And as He approached the descent from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of disciples began to praise God joyfully in a loud voice for all the miracles they had seen: 38 “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39 But some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples!”
The Pharisees want Him to stop His disciples from making these claims, because they understand that they are Messianic statements. They see this as blasphemy.
How does Jesus respond?
Verse 40 “I tell you,” He answered, “if they remain silent, the very stones will cry out.”
In hearing the praises of the people, some of the Pharisees in the crowd tell Jesus to rebuke His disciples. However, to do this would be to deny the validity of their proclamations. Therefore Jesus responds, “I tell you, if these were to keep silent, the very stones would cry out.” In other words, He is saying that this day had been prophesied, and nothing was going to prevent God’s word from being fulfilled. His word cannot be broken. Even if these crowds did not recognize Him as Messiah and rejoice, then the very creation itself would! On this day, in this moment, Jesus was going to be praised.
Throughout most of His earlier ministry, Jesus would discourage people from publicly celebrating Him as Messiah. After Jesus fed the multitudes, the crowds had wanted to crown Jesus as King by force, but He did not allow it.
John 6:14-15 When the people saw the sign that He had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” Perceiving that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by Himself.
This time Jesus does not suppress the enthusiasm and the proclamations of the crowds.
We do well to pay attention to what’s happening here. The Pharisees say to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples!”
For what? Singing a Psalm?
Whenever you and I as outside readers run the risk of missing a point, the reaction of the Pharisees help to explain the significance of that particular moment. Anytime they become upset, we want to understand why.
The Pharisees understood what maybe the crowds had not. In their enthusiasm, they are declaring Him to be the Messianic King. This is why the Pharisees become offended and tell Jesus that He should prevent them from proclaiming such a thing.
Jesus allows this rejoicing and praise. Because what is taking place and being celebrated is true, even if those who are celebrating do not fully understand its significance in this moment.
-J.C. Ryle ”It was not fitting that the Lamb of God should come to be slain on Calvary privately or silently. Before the great sacrifice for the sin of the world was offered up, it was only right that every eye be fixed on Him. It was suitable that the crowning act of our Lord’s life should be done with as much notoriety as possible. The atoning blood of the Lamb was about to be shed and this deed was not to be done in a corner.”
This was an intentional display for all to see. Purposefully dramatic. He does not slip in stealthily, but boldly center stage. The appointed time had come, and Jesus was publicly making an unmistakable claim to be the Messianic King which God had promised.
Misunderstood Expectations of the People
Unfortunately, many in the crowds who welcomed Him that day by shouting out “Hosanna!”, were hoping and expecting that Jesus would deliver them from the oppression of the Roman Empire.
-Randolph Tasker, commentary “They greeted Jesus as a king, though ignorant of the nature of His kingship. It would seem that they looked upon Him as a potential nationalistic leader, with whose help they might be able to become wholly independent of foreign powers.”
Jesus was certainly entering the city that day bringing with Him salvation, but not in the way that they may have expected.
They welcomed Him out of their desire for a deliverer, one who would lead a revolt against Rome. Unfortunately, they did not understand the spiritual mission which Jesus would accomplish during His first coming. They were expecting Him to ride into the city, be proclaimed as King, and to overthrow the Roman occupation. They were anticipating Jesus to liberate Israel politically, and to finally establish the Davidic Kingdom.
Even when questioned by Pilate in John 18:36 “Are you a king?” Jesus replied, “My Kingdom is not of this world.”
While it now remains a spiritual Kingdom, there is coming a day when Jesus will return to establish His physical Kingdom on the earth. At that time, He will not come again in humility riding on a donkey, but in power and glory mounted on a white horse.
At the beginning of the week, when Jesus was whom they thought Him to be, the people cried out “Hosanna in the Highest!” and praised Him and honored Him as a king by laying down their cloaks and waving palm branches. However, only days later, at the end of this very same week, whenever Jesus did not meet their expectations, many of this same crowd who were chanting “Hosanna!” would be crying “Crucify Him!” Instead of welcoming Him as king, they would fashion a crown made out of thorns, and place it upon His head to jeer and mock Him as a king.
Think about that for a moment.
This used to puzzle me when I was younger. How could they flip like that?
But as I’ve grown older, and experienced more of life’s hardships, I’ve come to understand how human nature can become jaded and disillusioned when faced with severe disappointments.
These people had all their stakes set on a particular outcome, and were then greatly disappointed whenever things didn’t play out that way. Instead of conquering and overthrowing the Romans, there is Jesus chained and beaten in their custody. Surely the people were thinking, “No way, that’s impossible. This can’t be our guy…” But make no mistake, this switch-up of the people never fooled our Lord.
Earlier in His ministry, in John 2:23-25 While He was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the signs He was doing and believed in His name. But Jesus on His part did not entrust Himself to them, because He knew all men, and because He had no need that anyone should testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.
Human beings are fickle creatures, often filled with, and governed by fleeting emotions. Folks may applaud and praise and cheer for you one moment, only to deny, reject, and betray you the next.
When Jesus did not do things the way they expected Him to, many of the people turned away and rejected Him. There are plenty who are willing to accept Jesus for whom they imagine Him to be, but few who will accept Him as He truly is. Let this be a lesson to us as well, that we may be wary of only being excited and willing to accept Jesus on our own terms, so long as He fulfills our own specific expectations.
Let us be mindful that our part is to trust and obey Him, regardless of how the circumstances seem, so that we do not become disillusioned and fall away whenever our own expectations are not met. We do well to remember, that it is we who must submit to His will as Lord, not the other way around.
Jesus Looks Over the City and Weeps
It was here, on the final descent from the Mount of Olives, that Jesus looked over the city and wept, knowing the judgment that would come upon Jerusalem.
Luke 19:41-44 As Jesus approached Jerusalem and saw the city, He wept over it and said, “If only you had known on this day what would bring you peace! But now it is hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will barricade you and surround you and hem you in on every side. They will level you to the ground, you and the children within you. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”
This was a deeply moving moment for Jesus. He wept. His tears were not for His own fate which was shortly to take place, but for the fate of the city itself.
He said, “If only you had known this day what would bring you peace!” This is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), saddened by the stubborn rejection of the nation He came to redeem.
We see another similar lament of Jesus over the city In Matthew 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I would have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”
Notice here, how Jesus speaks as though He were the One looking through the corridors of time, pleading with the nation to make righteous choices, as time and time again they failed to obey the will of God. He speaks of Himself as a mother hen who longs to gather her babies beneath the shelter of her wings, as though He were actually in a position capable to have been that nation’s ultimate protector. All this of course, points much beyond the mere 33 years of life which Christ spent on earth.
He says, “This was My desire for you, I was willing and able, but you were unwilling.” We must not lay so much weight on the sovereignty of God, that we ignore the reality of man’s choices and responsibility. We make real choices, for which we are held fully accountable.
Deuteronomy 30:19 (Choose Life) I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live,
When men have the choice of life and death set before them, and they choose death, it is a tragic thing. When we have a Savior who can weep over the choices of men, then there is something wrong with our view if we believe that men are not responsible for their choices. If this were not so, then the tears of Jesus would’ve been merely an act.
Luke 19: 43-44 ”For the days will come upon you when your enemies will barricade you and surround you and hem you in on every side. They will level you to the ground, you and the children within you. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”
It’s a matter of recorded history that 38 years later, in 70 AD, just 3 days before Passover, Titus Vespasian lead the Roman legions to lay siege on Jerusalem. They eventually leveled the city and set fire to the Temple. Jewish historian Flavius Josephus writes that there were over a million people slaughtered. The Arch of Titus was then built in Rome to honor this conquest, and can still be seen today. The monument depicts the treasures of the Temple, including the Menorah, being looted and carried away by his armies.
Notice how Jesus refers to this as a “visitation.” A visitation is brief, it’s not ongoing. He came in His first visit in order to make atonement for sin, not to set up the eternal Kingdom. The Jews did not recognize this, and therefore they are still awaiting their Messiah to this day.
”Because you knew not the time of your visitation.” Jesus was holding them accountable for not recognizing the time. Why? How were they expected to know?
Daniel’s 70 WeekProphecy
Because this was the time which had been foretold by the prophet Daniel in chapter 9. Jesus held them accountable to know what was written in their very own Scriptures.
The Book of Daniel is one of the most authenticated books of the Old Testament, both historically and archaeologically. It’s also important to understand that the Book of Daniel existed in documented form almost three centuries before Christ was born.
Daniel 9:2-3 I, Daniel, understood from the sacred books, according to the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. So I turned my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and petition, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes.
While Daniel is praying on behalf of his people, The angel Gabriel comes to give him insight.
Daniel’s Seventy Weeks Daniel 9:24-25 ”Seventy weeks are decreed for your people and your holy city to stop their transgression, to put an end to sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy Place. Know and understand this: From the issuance of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem, until the Messiah, the Prince, there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks. It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of distress.”
”Seventy weeks” The Hebrew word used as week here, “shabuwa”, also known as a heptad, and simply refers to a unit of seven. It could be used to speak in terms of days or years. Here the literal rendering of the text is, “seventy units of seven.” We know that it’s being used here to speak of years.
”Your people” that is the Jews, “and your Holy city” that is Jerusalem.
Verse 25 “Know therefore and understand this: that from the issuance of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem, until the Messiah, the Prince, there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks.”
”Restore and rebuild Jerusalem” At the time Daniel was writing, the city remained in ruble. In 586 BC the Babylonians had destroyed Jerusalem.
Gabriel reveals to Daniel the starting point for the seventy-weeks prophecy. A decree to restore and build Jerusalem would began this specific period of time.
”From the time the decree goes forth to rebuild it, until the time Messiah the Prince comes, there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks.”
In 445 B.C., King Artaxerxes issued such a decree, giving Nehemiah permission, safe passage and supplies to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and its walls. This can be found in (Nehemiah 2:1-8).
“Until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks”: 7+ 62 = 69 weeks, ie. ‘heptads’ or units of seven years. 69 X 7 = 483 years That’s how much time would pass from the time the decree was issued, as recorded in Nehemiah 2:1-8, until the appearance of Messiah the Prince.
Ancient Israel followed a lunar calendar, not a solar calendar, so their year consisted of 360 days, not 365.
We clearly see in the book of Revelation that a ‘time’ or year, consists of 360 days. In Revelation 12:6, we’re told that the woman flees into the wilderness for a period of 1,260 days. When we read the equivalent passage in chapter 14, it refers to this period as “a time, times, and half a time” (Three and a half, or 3.5). Therefore, if we divide 1,260 by 3.5, we get 360 days per time.
The full equation: 7 and 62 = That is 69 (69 x 7 years) = 483 483(years) x 360 (days/year) = 173,880 days
Thus, we see a remarkable fulfillment of prophecy unfold. A gentile ruler, King Artaxerxes issued a decree to restore and rebuild the city of Jerusalem, and then 483 years later to the day, Jesus rode into the city presenting Himself as Messiah, the Prince.
He Came in Meekness, He will return in Glory
Although He first came in gentle and lowly, Jesus will return in power and great glory. At that time He will no longer be the suffering servant riding on a donkey, He will be the conquering King mounted on a white horse.
Revelation 19:11 Then I saw heaven standing open, and there before me was a white horse. And its rider is called Faithful and True. With righteousness He judges and wages war.
In righteousness He judges and makes war. We’re also told that at that time, the word of His mouth will consume His enemies.
John Walvoord, in his commentary “There is nothing more inflexible than divine judgment where grace has been spurned. This scene of awful judgment is in flat contradiction of the modern point of view that God is dominated entirely by His attribute of love.”
It’s good for us to remember that this dramatic display of judgment comes only at the end of a long period of grace, patience, and mercy. Jesus has allowed an ample amount of time and has displayed His patient nature of mercy, forgiveness and grace to this fallen world. He now comes to judge with righteousness, a world hardened and totally given over to their rebellion against Him.
Thomas Torrance, Scottish Theologian “The world likes a complacent, reasonable religion, and so it is always ready to revere some pale Galilean image of Jesus, some meager anemic Messiah”
See, many people don’t mind the lowly and humble Jesus. Jesus as the suffering servant, the meek one who turns the other cheek, the one who weeps, and who bleeds. They prefer the Jesus on the cross. Or the little baby Jesus tucked away in a manger- because that’s non intrusive you see. Non threatening. He can be ignored, spit upon, and rejected.
But Christ our Lord will return in power and great glory. At that time He will no longer be the suffering servant, He will be the conquering King. He will not be riding on a donkey in meekness, but mounted upon a white horse in majesty. And this time, every knee will bow & every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord! Hallelujah!
Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked. For whatsoever a man sows, that he will also reap.
What exactly does it mean to mock God?
The Greek word used here in this verse is, mukterizo (mook-tay-rid’-zo) specifically having to do with the nostrils, to turn up the nose or sneer at, to mock
Merriam-Webster defines the word, mock: to treat with contempt or ridicule to jeer or scoff at to defy or challenge
Mockery always finds its source in an attitude of pride. To have an upturned nose, and to look down upon someone or something. There are several occasions in the Old Testament where God responds to this kind of prideful mockery.
Zephaniah 2:8-10 (God pronounces judgment on Moab and Ammon) “I have heard the reproach of Moab and the insults of the Ammonites, who have taunted My people and threatened their borders. Therefore, as surely as I live,” declares the LORD of Hosts, the God of Israel, “surely Moab will be like Sodom and the Ammonites like Gomorrah—a place of weeds and salt pits, a perpetual wasteland. The remnant of My people will plunder them; the remainder of My nation will dispossess them. This they shall have in return for their pride, for taunting and mocking the people of the LORD of Hosts.”
2 Chronicles 36:15-16 (The Fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar) Again and again the LORD, the God of their fathers, sent word to His people through His messengers because He had compassion on them and on His dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of God, despising His words and scoffing at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD against His people was stirred up beyond remedy.
Notice how verse 16 says, “despising His words.” To mock God does not always mean blatantly ridiculing His divine character or Holy name. More often, it has to do with making a mockery of His statutes and principles by disregarding His wisdom and instructions and thereby showing contempt for His Word. Whenever we turn our nose up and scoff at God’s Word, or when we attempt to oppose and defy His will, we are in essence mocking His very nature. We are assuming that we’re able to establish our own kingdom, to pursue our own endeavors by whatever means we deem necessary, and without all the hoopla of having to adhere to some rigorous moral standards.
The Word of God makes clear that we are to exemplify His goodness in all that we do, so that it may go well with us and that we may prosper. There is an established paradigm. However, if I am able to achieve my own success by way of selfish shortcuts and treacherous dealings, then I didn’t have to bother myself with some ‘divine dictator’ or ‘religious rulebook.’ If such were possible, then I will have made a mockery of God’s Word. He says in His Word, “it must be done this way,” but I do it my own way instead. For instance, let’s say that I’m a hotshot business investor, and with the goal of growing my own company name, I’ve seen fit to lie and cheat and backstab, in order to come out ahead of the competition and acquire the most profit. By all outward observation, it would appear as though I’ve prospered. That my selfish ambition and greed has paid off. I will have managed to achieve personal success and accomplish my goal, even if it were at the expense of others. After all, what’s that to me, now that I’ve gotten what I wanted all along? My way has paid off in the end right? No.
Let’s go back to Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked. For whatsoever a man sows, that he will also reap.
Here, Paul writes of a divine principle that is universal and unchanging. This truth is communicated by using an agricultural understanding of sowing and reaping. Whatever type of seed a person chooses to plant, this is the same type of crop they can expect to harvest. One should not plant vineyards of tomatoes and expect to harvest bushels of strawberries instead. You may be sure of this, that whatever is sown and cultivated, this is what shall be reaped. Keep in mind that this analogy was given in a time well before the conveniences of grocery stores and fast food shops. There weren’t options on every corner. This is also why seasons of rain and harvest times were so important. The simple fact was that whatever you reap is what you will have to eat.
This Scripture begins with a warning, “Do not be deceived.” Obviously, this implies the potential of falling into deception and error. How might one become deceived in this? The answer is found in the latter half of the verse, which gives the example of sowing and reaping. In the process of agriculture, the cause and the effect are not immediately evident. There is always a lapse in time between the sowing and the reaping. Between that which is buried beneath the soil, and that which manifests to the surface. A person might be able to fool themselves for a time, into believing that sowing seeds of selfishness and unrighteousness will yield more benefit than sowing seeds of sacrifice and servitude for the sake of God’s will. But this is not so. As we see in the following verse,
Galatians 6:8 For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life.
The Greek word used here for ‘corruption’ conveys the process of decomposition which takes place in death. Paul is saying that the one who sows in order to satisfy their flesh, will from the flesh reap the corruption or decay of death. It is fleeting and empty. Worthless. On the other hand, the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap life which is everlasting. It is eternal. Priceless.
Therefore, sowing is very similar to investing. Whenever someone chooses to make an investment, the wise decision is to invest in something which appreciates in value, rather than depreciates. Sowing to the flesh is investing into that which is and perishable and passing away. There is no lasting substance.
Proverbs 11:18 The wicked earns deceptive wages, but he who sows righteousness will reap a sure reward.
Notice the stark contrast.
The Hebrew word used for deceptive is sheqer (sheh’-ker) deceitful, falsehood, fraudulent that which deceives, disappoints, or betrays
The wages of sin are deceitful and fraudulent. Although they typically provide a measure of instant gratification, they will inevitably disappoint and betray the one who trusts in them. They promise, but cannot deliver. In the end, they always take more than they ever give. Whereas, the one who sows in righteousness will reap a sure reward. It is certain, guaranteed.
Proverbs 1:18-19 These men lie in wait for their own blood; they set an ambush for their own lives. Such are the ways of all who are greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors.
Notice that those who are plotting an ambush for the lives of the righteous, actually end up losing their own blood. See, you assume you have succeeded in taking something, that it has added to you, when the truth is, it has actually robbed you. It is not gain but loss. Judas Iscariot thought he was making a good investment when he betrayed Jesus for the thirty pieces of silver. Yet, once he realized the worthlessness of those coins in light of the sin he had just committed, he attempted to return the silver and then went and hung himself.
A life is built in the same way a building is constructed. One brick at a time. Throughout our lives, we make choices one situation at a time, moment by moment. And with each of these momentary decisions, we set in place another brick. Therefore, the kind of life and character that is built from our decision-making depends upon the countless individual choices that went into its construction. In essence, we are the culmination of our choices.
The Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” There’s a similar idea put forth from American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson:
“Sow a thought, and you reap an act; Sow an act, and you reap a habit; Sow a habit, and you reap a character; Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.”
We have this concept where we’re constantly distinguishing the ‘big things’ from the ‘little things.’ But the truth is, the big things are made up of the little things. It is by remaining consistent and faithful in the small matters, that we are preparing ourselves for the larger matters. While it’s certainly true that some decisions have more significant ramifications than others, the focus of attention should not be so much on the decision, but on the decider. If we are to get to the source, we must first identify the character.
Jesus Himself says, Luke 16:10 “Whoever is faithful with very little will also be faithful with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”
It’s about integrity and consistency. As it’s written in 2 Corinthians 5:17- If you are in Christ, then you are a new creation, the old things have passed away. He has now placed His Spirit within you and He has given you a new nature. Scripture teaches us that righteousness is something we practice, something we exercise. It must be expressed. There’s a phrase in martial arts, “You become how you train.” Whatever individual circumstances may arise, these are simply opportunities which allow for the expression of whatever the inner nature consists of.
1 John 2:29 If you know that He is righteous, you also know that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of Him.
1 John 3:7 Little children, let no one lead you astray; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous.
According to the spiritual, what you sow, you also reap. And what you reap, you must eat. Therefore, you inevitably become synonymous to that which you cultivate and produce.
Now do you begin to see how sowing to the Spirit produces life, while sowing to the flesh produces death?
But what exactly does this mean, sowing to the Spirit? Simply put, it means investing yourself in the things of God, which are Spiritual rather than carnal.
John 4:23-24 Jesus says, ”But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
John 6:63 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”
Notice how the Lord specifically says that the flesh profits nothing. Earlier we mentioned the analogy of investing. A wise man does not continue to invest into that which is worthless.
To sow to the Spirit means to walk by the Spirit.
Galatians 5:16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
Galatians 5:25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. (One step at a time)
The phrase, “keep in step” is an idiom which means to pattern or conform yourself to the rhythm or behavior of someone or something else.
The Greek word used here is stoicheo (stoy-keh’-o) meaning to follow after, walk in order military terminology: to proceed in a row as in the march of a soldier
As believers, we are not to keep in step, or be conformed to the pattern of this world (Romans 12:2). Instead, we are to keep in step, or be conformed into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).
Whatever you cultivate, that is what flourishes. To sow to the flesh speaks of continually gratifying the carnal, sinful nature. It’s like the old Native American proverb, where the grandfather explains to his grandson how there are two wolves at war within each of us. One wolf represents evil, anger, envy, greed, and falsehood. The other wolf represents goodness, love, joy, peace, kindness, and honesty. When the boy asks which of the two wolves wins, the grandfather replies, “The one that you feed.” Which wolf are you feeding? Which type of seed are you sowing and cultivating?
Job 4:8 As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same.
You cannot choose to sow to the flesh time and time again, day after day, and then find it a strange thing to reap a harvest of corruption in your life.
Paul goes on to give examples of what comes from the flesh as opposed to what comes from the Spirit.
Galatians 5:19-23 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I have before, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Sowing to the Spirit means abiding in Christ and in His Word.
Colossians 2:6-7 Therefore, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him, established in the faith just as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
John 15:1-2, 5 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.”
“I am the vine and you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me, and I in him, will bear much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing.”
John 15:7-8 “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciples.”
These Spiritual fruits will be evident in the lives of those who walk by the Spirit, who are abiding in the true vine of Christ Jesus. Notice how the Lord said, “apart from Me, you can do nothing.” The fruit of the Spirit does not originate within ourselves, but comes through Christ, the vine in whom we are rooted. The fruit which comes forth bears witness to the inward nature.
Matthew 7:16-17 “By their fruit you will recognize them. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.”
Matthew 11:18-19 “For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon!’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her actions.”
vin·di·cate to provide justification or defense for to confirm, to substantiate
In other words, wisdom is proven by what it produces.
Each new day, we encounter hundreds of opportunities to sow seed in either one field or the other. With every moment, every choice, every action, we are sowing to either the flesh or to the Spirit. While this concept may seem overwhelming, the truth is, there’s actually a beautiful simplicity and peace which comes in the ability to render down each situation, each predicament, regardless of its size, and to see through the haze of confusion, to part the waters of distraction so to speak, and ask yourself, ‘What is my ultimate intention here? My motivation? Will this bring life or death? Righteousness or wickedness? Which wolf will this feed?’
Galatians 6:9 And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not give up.
Here is that lapse in time again, the time between the sowing and the reaping, between the planting and the harvesting. Paul gives us an absolute, a guarantee: “In due season we shall reap, IF we do not give up.” In due season, or at the appropriate time. Every farmer must learn this kind of patience. They do not immediately expect to see the harvest of what they’ve sown. They understand there is a process which takes time.
Herein lies the importance of not losing heart. The phrase used here for “lose heart” is translated from the Greek word ekkakeo (ek-kak-eh’-o) which means ‘to be utterly spiritless’, ‘to be wearied out’, or ‘exhausted.’ The implication is to fail in heart.
This type of discouragement can be used to describe the weariness a woman experiences during childbirth. Before the delivery, the labor is exhausting work, both difficult and painful. Just when it seems to be unrewarded and all for naught, that’s when the baby comes forth.
2 Thessalonians 3:13 But as for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.
We are given encouragements against both of these Hebrews 12:3 Consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Psalm 126:5-6 Those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy. He who goes out weeping, bearing seed for sowing, will surely return with shouts of joy, carrying sheaves with him.
This is to illustrate the point that although there will be seasons of struggle and of difficulty, we are to remain faithful in our sowing, so that when the time for harvest comes, we may be able to reap that which we’ve sown with joy and gladness. Despite experiencing times of trial and hardship, let us not become discouraged and lose sight of our hope.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon comments of this verse: “They who sow unto the spirit sow in tears, for sowing unto the spirit involves self-denial, struggling against the flesh, running counter to the instincts of our fallen nature. To sow unto the spirit, is to sow in the field of obedience and patient endurance. While for now, our tears may fall with the precious seed, our momentary weeping is scarcely to be thought of in comparison with the sheaves of exceeding glory in the land where tears are divinely and finally wiped from every eye.”
Here in these few verses from Galatians, we are given three primary encouragements: “Do not be deceived,” “do not lose heart,” and “do not grow weary.” As believers, there are certainly times when we labor in doing good, but seem to see no real fruit. We pray, we witness, we give, we serve, but nothing outwardly appears to be producing any results. This is why we must not judge based upon appearances. As our Lord instructed,
John 7:24 “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”
We walk by faith not by sight. Whenever a seed is planted into the ground, it’s buried beneath the soil, out of sight. By all outward observation, it’s gone. But the truth is, although it is no longer visible, it’s still there and it is going to work, beginning to sprout and spread its roots. Faith is trusting this process of growth even though we cannot see the results at the moment. Although we may not fully understand the intricacies of its inner workings, we can still be sure that it is indeed at work.
The physician Luke is the only gospel writer to include the account of Zacchaeus, the short tax collector from Jericho who climbed a sycamore tree in order to get a view of Jesus.
He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received Him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Ironically, the name Zacchaeus comes from the Hebrew root word meaning ‘pure’ or ‘righteous’, but as a chief tax collector, this man would’ve been seen as anything but pure or righteous. Tax collectors, also known as ‘publicans’, were independent contractors commissioned by the Roman government in order to collect the various taxes, which included: income, land, property, commerce, etc. Rome would auction up these tax franchises, which would then be bought by a wealthy native of the province. Anything the purchaser might have collected above the cost of the franchise would be kept as personal profit. As you can imagine, this was a system ripe for injustice and corruption.
The collection agent would line their own pockets by charging an additional percentage on top of the taxes already owed. In the cases with merchants for example, the tax collector would arbitrarily assess the value of the goods being sold, and then charge an inflated payment for that amount. They were also known for accepting bribes and hush money from the wealthy upper class, who would typically be expected to pay more in taxes. So, in order to make up the difference for these underhanded tax breaks, the collector would then charge the common people even more. There was no recourse or method of appeal since these individuals were authorized by the Roman government. Basically, it was legalized extortion.
Not hard to imagine then, why these tax collectors were often socially despised and rejected by their fellow countrymen. They were seen as being in collusion with Rome, and therefore were viewed as traitors to their nation. An ever-present reminder of the foreign oppression.
Because of their close working association with Gentiles, tax collectors were thought of as ‘unclean,’ and were regarded along with the lowest class of sinners. They were excommunicated from all Jewish synagogues, and were not even permitted to testify in a Jewish legal court, since they were well known for being liars and cheats.
Earlier in chapter 3, Luke records that even tax collectors were among those coming out to John in the wilderness in order to be baptized.
Tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he answered them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to.” (Luke 3:12-13)
When they ask John, “What shall we do?” He instructs them to no longer collect more than what is due.
In verse 2, we’re told that Zacchaeus was a ‘chief tax collector.’ So he was the head contractor of this franchise, the top of the tax pyramid, and therefore he would’ve had other collection agents working under him. It wouldn’t be surprising if he were receiving an additional percentage from each of their commissions as well. We’re also told from the text that he was rich.
The city of Jericho was considered as the tax capitol for Palestine. Located in the Jordan valley about 17 miles east from Jerusalem, it was a wealthy center of commerce and travel. Just as we see Jesus and His disciples passing through here, thousands of other travelers would’ve passed through this area, making their way to Jerusalem for the Passover feast.
Jericho, which literally means “fragrant place,” was also referred to as the ‘City of Palms’ (see Deuteronomy 34:3), being known for its many date-palm trees. A lush oasis with plenty of vegetation and therefore a high agricultural area, even to this day. The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus wrote of it as “a divine region, the fattest in Palestine.”
Interestingly, Jericho is considered to be one of the oldest continually-inhabited cities in the world, with archaeological discoveries dating back to 9,000 B.C. Located on the northern end of the Dead Sea, it is also the world’s lowest geographical city at about 780 feet below sea level. Because of its warmer climate, Herod the great actually had a winter palace built there for himself, which brought even more wealth to the area.
So Jericho was a choice location for a man of Zacchaeus’ profession, and we see that he had indeed been financially successful up to this point.
In verse 3 we read, ‘He was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, for he was small in stature.’
Why does he want to get a look at Jesus? To see who this man was?
A mild curiosity perhaps, to see this Rabbi from Galilee that everyone was talking about. Or rather, and this is the direction I lean, perhaps there was something deeper at work below the surface. An undefined drawing within him to this compelling source of goodness that was radiated from Christ. Maybe he has heard of the compassion that Jesus displayed even for men like Him. After all, He had accepted a former tax collector named Matthew to become one of His disciples.
Even if it were on some subconscious level, I believe there was this feeling of discontentedness, a knowledge that all was not right between himself and the Lord God.
Despite all of his acquired riches, there is something missing in Zacchaeus’ life.
There’s an emptiness.
It’s not uncommon to hear of testimonials from celebrities, who, despite all the wealth and the fame, still claim to have a pervasive feeling of discontentment, unhappiness, and unfulfillment.
So often we tend to fix our gaze on material possessions, not realizing that these temporal things can never truly satisfy.
Jesus Himself specifically warns against this in Luke chapter 12 verse 15:
“Take care, and be on your guard against all forms of greed, for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15)
It reminds me of the superficial slogan: “He who dies with the most toys wins.”
What a sad sentiment. The truth is, he who dies with the most toys still dies, and cannot take any of those so-called toys along with him. You will never see a u-haul being pulled behind a hearse.
Due to his being short in stature, and because of the large crowd of people, Zacchaeus was unable to get a visual of Jesus. So In verse 4 we’re told that he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass by that way. This type of sycamore fig actually makes for an easy tree to climb because of their shorter trunks, which are closer to the ground, and for the way their limbs branch out in a crown-like fashion.
Surely this would’ve been an amusing sight to see. Consider for a moment, this well-known rich man, a chief publican, arrayed in his fine apparel no doubt, shimmying up into the leaves and branches of this tree. While this certainly sounds like fun to us, understand that in the culture at the time, this would’ve been seen as undignified behavior for a grown man. Think about it, who climbs trees? Children. Zacchaeus was unknowingly fulfilling Jesus’ teaching about becoming childlike in Matthew chapter 18,
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who then is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to Him a child, He placed him in the midst of them and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you shall never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:1-4)
I like what Matthew Henry writes about this in his commentary, “Children, when they are young, do not desire authority, do not regard outward distinctions, are free from malice, are teachable and dependent upon their parents. Children for the most part, are destitute of ambition, pride, and haughtiness.”
Onlookers would’ve undoubtedly been snickering and jesting, but Zacchaeus wasn’t concerned about any humiliation this action might’ve warranted against him. All he cared about in that moment was finding a way to get a better look at Jesus.
See, we display how valuable or important a particular thing is to us by the tenacity in which we are willing to seek after it.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)
May all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; may those who love Your Salvation say continually, “The LORD be magnified!” (Psalm 40:16)
Seek the LORD while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near.
We see that this is exactly what Zacchaeus is doing here, seeking the LORD while He is near. In fact, this would be the very last time that Jesus would ever pass through this way. He is making His way into Jerusalem for what is now known as the ‘Triumphal Entry.’ Within about a week’s time, He will be scourged and crucified.
In verse 5, whenever Jesus had made His way over to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.”
This is actually quite humorous to consider. Here is short little Zacchaeus perched up in this tree, and for all he’s thinking, is that now he has achieved a way to at least catch a glimpse of Jesus as He and the crowd make their way past. The last thing that was on his mind is that Jesus would somehow turn His attention towards him. He wanted to see Jesus, not to be seen by Him. Imagine though, instead of this large procession simply passing on by, they all come to a halt right here beneath this tree. And there He is, there’s Jesus. And Jesus looks up and sees Zacchaeus amongst the branches, and He calls to him by name, and tells him to hurry down, because He’s coming home with him.
The searching sinner meets the seeking Savior.
This is the first and only time we read that Jesus invites Himself to someone’s home.
Another indication that this was far more than merely a superficial curiosity on the part of Zacchaeus. There was something else at work in the soil of his heart, which our Lord fosters into life by His self-invitation.
Notice too, how Jesus uses language that seems to speak of necessity. “For today I must stay at your house.” Is this an accidental encounter?
Jesus chooses to momentarily pause His steadfast path towards the cross, in order to have fellowship in this man’s home.
And how does Zacchaeus respond?
Verse 6 says, ‘So he hurried and came down and received Him joyfully.’
Although it is Christ who initiates the interaction, and extends His own invitation, Zacchaeus received Him joyfully.
This is a perfect illustration of Jesus’ words in Revelation chapter 3 verse 20,
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20)
Jesus takes the initiative. He approaches, He stands at the door and knocks. But He in turn must be received, welcomed into the home, and into the heart.
Zacchaeus received Him joyfully, or with gladness. There is a delight in truly receiving the Lord. You cannot twist a person’s arm to bring about a profession of faith. No one can be argued into the kingdom of heaven. But when the Holy Spirit is at work in a person’s heart, and Christ extends His salvation, that person does not come reluctantly, but joyfully.
Notice then, the reaction of the people in verse 7, ‘And when they saw it, they all grumbled, saying, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”
Even more surprised than Zacchaeus, are these onlookers who question,
“How can You possibly have fellowship with this wretched sinner? This traitor?”
“Don’t You realize what kind of man this is? How he’s acquired all his wealth? What he’s done to us?”
I always appreciated the scene in the old movie Jesus of Nazareth, where Jesus is invited into Matthew the tax collector’s home. We see a similar situation in which the people are grumbling, and someone asks Him, “You would enter the house of a sinner?” And Jesus responds, “I would enter any house where I am welcomed.” He goes on to say, “For I’ve not come to call the virtuous to repentance but the sinners.”
This scenario can be found scripturally in Luke chapter 5 verses 29-32,
Then Levi hosted a great banquet for Jesus at his house. A large crowd of tax collectors was there, along with others who were eating with them. But the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled to His disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered and said to them, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:29-32)
In this same situation recorded in Matthew chapter 9 verse 13, Jesus makes reference to the book of Hosea chapter 6 verse 6 when He says,
“But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:13)
Why did the eternal Son take on fleshly humanity and dwell among us?
To seek and to save that which was lost.
Why did He offer to enter this publican’s home to be his guest, and at the sneers of the crowd, to associate Himself with the outcast?
For that very same reason.
Alexander MacLaren writes of this, “His example is our pattern. A Christian church which does not imitate its Master in its frank and continual willingness to associate itself with the degraded and the outcast has lost one of the truest signs of its being vitalized with the life of Christ.”
In verse 8, Zacchaeus stands up and says to the Lord, “Behold Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will restore it fourfold.”
In receiving Jesus with gladness, and spending just a brief amount of time within His presence, Zacchaeus felt the holy conviction of his sin and therefore naturally knew that he must repent and make full restitution to the many persons he had undoubtedly wronged.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon writes, “Jesus Christ did not teach Zacchaeus by going to his house that character was of no consequence. On the contrary, Zacchaeus perceived at once that character was of the greatest consequence.”
At first glance, it may almost appear as if he’s casting some doubt to his own cheating conduct. But this phrase in Greek, ‘If I have defrauded anyone” does not imply doubt to the fact of guilt, but is better understood as “wherever I have defrauded anyone” or “In so far asI have defrauded anyone.”
The Law required that the wrongdoer was to make full restitution for whatever was taken, plus an additional 20% of the item’s value. (See Leviticus 6:5, Numbers 5:6-7)
Zacchaeus is willing to go above and beyond that which the law required. This is a man who previously, so desired money that he was willing to cheat and lie and to take advantage of his own people, and therefore to be alienated and despised by society. He had a love of money. His sole desire was to “get rich”, to “make that hustle.” And that is exactly what he was, a hustler. A swindler.
In Matthew chapter 6 verse 24 Jesus says,
“No one can serve two masters: Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
What are you serving?
We see here that there is a drastic change in Zacchaeus’ priorities. A shift in his focus. Now he says to Jesus, “Lord,” that is, ‘Master’, this denotes authority, ownership. “I no longer care about the money. I’ll give half of it away to help the poor, and with the rest I’ll make four times the restitution to those I’ve swindled. It’s no longer the money that I want to serve, Lord it’s you.”
One of the chief evidences of a true conversion is a reorientation when it comes to the material world. Lost individuals live as though the material world is all there is. Their focus is set on the treasures and the indulgences of this world. While saved individuals understand of heavenly realities, and therefore set their primary focus upon the spiritual rather than the natural.
Whenever Zacchaeus stands and gives this public declaration of his repentance, he is not seeking to be justified by his works, but by his good works he will now show the sincerity of his conversion. This is not the grounds or the means by which he is saved, but this is the natural evidence of that reality, the outward expression of that salvation.
Does your life demonstrate change? Does it reflect the grace and influence Christ has upon you? Do you live as though He has saved you? Are you being conformed into His image? Or are you still that same old crook?
We know that this is indeed a genuine conversion, because in verse 9, Jesus says to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man too is a son of Abraham.”
I’ve always enjoyed this play on words that the Lord uses here. His very name Jesus, or Yeshua in Hebrew, literally means ‘salvation.’ A combination of ‘Yah’ or the name of God, and ‘Yasha’ meaning ‘to save, rescue or deliver.’ This is why the angel of the Lord instructed this name to be given to Him.
“She will give birth to a Son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)
So in one sense, salvation had indeed come to this home that day, the actual embodiment of salvation, the Savior Jesus Christ. And in another sense, salvation had come in that Zacchaeus had now received and entered into the source of that saving mercy and grace.
This is a beautiful revelation of the Lord Jesus. That whenever we come to Christ in salvation, He not only delivers us from the penalties of sin, but He also delivers us from its bondage, the ongoing habitual nature and power of that sin. He sets us free completely, and thereby changes our focus, our priorities, and our very nature.
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Now, why does Jesus say, “because he also is a son of Abraham”?
Because although Zacchaeus was indeed a physical descendant of Abraham by birth- It was only according to the flesh, in the natural.
As the apostle Paul makes clear in Romans chapter 9 verses 7-8,
Not all are children of Abraham because they are his descendants. So it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise who are
regarded as offspring. (Romans 9:7-8)
And again in Galatians chapter 3 verse 7,
Understand then, that it is those of faith who are the children of Abraham.
So it is here, as Zacchaeus professes his repentance and belief on the Lord, that Jesus now says he is truly a son of Abraham according to faith.
And lastly, the beautiful closing words of Christ in verse 10, “For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Jesus says of Himself, that He came on a search and rescue mission.
This reminds me of when Jesus tells the parable of the lost sheep earlier in Luke
chapter 15 verses 1-7
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear Him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” So He told them this parable: “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the pasture and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ In the same way, I tell you that there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
The physician Luke is the only Gospel writer to include an account about Zacchaeus, the short tax collector from Jericho who climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus. Join me in this seventh episode of the podcast, as we take a closer look into this story to see what details we can learn from this man’s encounter with Salvation.
Did you know that there are only two occasions in the New Testament Gospels wherein we’re told that Jesus Marveled? In this sixth episode of the podcast, we’re going to take a closer look at each of those instances, with the goal to gain valuable insight for our daily walk and relationship with Christ.