With all that is happening in the world today I have struggled picking out a blog subject for this week. The whole world of course is fighting this pandemic that has left very few of our lives unchanged. We are sadden by the fact that in all probability only on-line services will mark these important days in the Christian calendar. This Sunday is Palm Sunday and is the start of our Lords journey to the cross. We will hear the falmilar verses and sing those falmilar hymns as we, the Church, celebrate this eventful week in Christendom. The fact is that without the cross, the crrufixtion and the resurrection, there could never be hope for mankind. Sometimes we need to get past the usual rote of worship or even reading of the Scripture, we need to go beyond the words. It would be impossible for us to feel the persecution of Christ, the unfairness of judgement passed on him, the tremendous pain of leather straps tipped with knife edged bone that tore the skin apart and the thorns that were pressed into his head, we just can’t truly feel that physically. It is even harder to access the pain and the endurance of our Lord as he carried the cross to Golgotha on that fateful day. The following is from Wikipedia.
“Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem
The Via Dolorosa (Latin for “Sorrowful Way”, often translated “Way of Suffering”; Hebrew: ויה דולורוזה; Arabic: طريق الآلام) is a processional route in the Old City of Jerusalem, believed to be the path that Jesus walked on the way to his crucifixion. The winding route from the former Antonia Fortress to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre — a distance of about 600 metres (2,000 feet) — is a celebrated place of Christian pilgrimage. The current route has been established since the 18th century, replacing various earlier versions. It is today marked by nine Stations of the Cross; there have been fourteen stations since the late 15th century, with the remaining five stations being inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.“
Words can paint a picture in our minds and they can bring forth emotions, they can even inflict pain but unless they reside in our hearts and find a place in our souls they are like seeds sown in a field, some will grow increasing our knowledge while others will die not even finding a place in our memories. Join me now as we go beyond the words in our Plan Sunday remembrance.
Day 1: Triumphal Entry on Palm Sunday
Jesus’ triumphal entry is recorded in Matthew 21:1-11
It is the time of the Passover in Jerusalem and the city and surrounding areas were packed. It was a Jewish law that every adult Jewish male within fifteen miles of Jerusalem must attend Passover. This, the greatest of their national festivals brought Jews from not only Palestine but from all over the world. Here in this city full of people who were there primarily for the religious significance and expectations of their Jewish faith came Jesus. He could not have picked a better time but as we will read it was not a spur of the moment thing. Jesus had a plan… He sent his disciples ahead to the village to get a donkey, the way the text reads he had already made arrangements for this to happen. Now Matthew names the village as that of Bethphage, but Mark 11:1 mentions Bethany. The general consensus is Bethany would have been the village where the donkey was and also Jesus stayed there after his entry into Jerusalem. Bethany was the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus and the home of Simon the Leper. Mark in 11:2 also gives us another point that is not all that well known. Old Testament scriptures lend authority to the fact that this donkey was special because it had never been ridden before. (Numbers 19:2, Deuteronomy 21:3.) We know they spread their cloaks on the ground before him, they welcomed him like a King. As Jesus entered the city they shouted Hosanna, their excitement at a fever pitch. A people’s cry for deliverance in the day of their oppression. Stop for a moment, savor this moment of the people crying out to their savior and King. This would have been like a ticker tape parade down Fifth Ave, the frenzy of the crowds growing with every step and the ruling Jewish council’s concern rising with every wave of a palm branch and shout of Hosanna. It is very plain that Jesus’ intent was to awake the people with the methods of the prophets. Words were no longer enough, he felt led to go beyond the words. There was within the Jewish faith a growing casual and indifferent attitude to the will of God. You can call it a parade, a pep rally or whatever you wish, it was in all intent a dramatic action accompanied by symbolic actions that a Jew would recognize, it was a call to salvation. Jesus showed his courage in a city he knew to be hostile to him. Those in authority hated him and were plotting a way to get rid of him. Here he put forth his claim and underscored his calling. He was the God’s Messiah, the Anointed One! It gets even better. Jesus had a certain quality that people found appealing. He sought their hearts, he came humbly among them seeking the kinship of mankind not the throne. He came on a donkey and in this land and this time a King who came on a donkey came in peace. So we see the courage of Christ, the affirmation of his claim and also his last invitation to men and women to open their hearts to him.
Day 2: On Monday, Jesus Clears the Temple
On Monday evening Jesus stayed in Bethany again, probably in the home of his friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. If some would consider the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem one of defiance knowing that he knew the Jewish ruling council hated him and his message, then what was about to happen would be defiance with a Capital D. This is a picture we need to paint with just a few words. The actual Temple itself was a small building but it was surrounded by four adjoining courtyards. Without going into much detail we will focus on the area that defiance ceases to be just a word and became an action. The courtyard of the Gentiles into which anyone could come was always busy but at the time of Passover it was packed with pilgrims from all over the world. Two things that were problematic were the money-changers and the Temple Tax. The temple tax was one half-shekel and had to be paid close to the Passover time. You could pay that tax at various places set up in advance of the Passover but after a certain time it must be paid at the Temple only. Enter the money-changers…their function was to change unsuitable currency into correct currency. Because so many people came from all over they would need to pay this tax at that time. This was a big business at this time. I’ll not bore you with details but the underlying problem here was that a necessary service had become a questionable practice. The money-changers charged a commission for changing the currency, so people ended up not only paying the tax of a half-shekel but also the extra charge of the money-changers for their services. This extra burden was hard for the ordinary people. Now to be fair this was not an abuse but it led to some instances of the money-changers taking advantage of the situation. The selling of doves, brought for offerings was worse. Any animal to be used as a sacrifice had to be without blemish. You could buy an animal outside the Temple but there were official inspectors who could reject an animal, then direct you to the stalls and booths within the Temple. The problem here was that a pair of doves could cost as much as fives times more from these Temple vendors. His anger was directed against those who would exploit others, using their faith to gain profit in the name of religion. I am sure there were many who came just to pray and worship and were distracted by the din among those buying, selling and bargaining. It was within this context that Jesus allowed his anger to come upon these people. There is a beautiful ending to this in that there still remained in the Temple Court the blind and the lame and the fact that he remained to heal them. Not all had been run out, those that truly needed him had stayed. We best consider this. There is such a thing as the wrath of God, we don’t hear it preached as much these days but we also must allow for the love of God. Both are needed to ensure the Kingdom.
I will wrap this up with these verses:
When the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children shouting in the Temple: ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ they were angry. ‘Do you hear what these are saying?’ they said. Jesus said to them: ‘Yes! Have you never read: “Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings you have the perfect praise”?’ And he left them, and went out of the city to Bethany, and lodged there.
Next week I will have two blogs, one mid-week concerning days three and four to be followed by my usual Saturday blog.
Life is Good