Well another week has gone by. Some of you have continued working in your workplace, teachers, drivers, workers in Woolies, new Centrelink employees; some of you have been working from home, adjusting to new schedules, finding the best place to work at home; some of you have had the kids at home and you’re expected to teach them or supervise their teaching and then entertain them the rest of the day, day after day. And some of you have been stuck at home on your own, unable to get out to physically meet with others.
We’re all learning, struggling, in some way. There have been lots of suggestions of what you can do with all this extra time you have; 25 things to do during coronavirus; 18 tips for staying sane during this pandemic. Etc All sorts of helpful ideas. Watch a movie, do some exercise; use a YouTube video to guide your exercise; read a book; make a new dish to eat; start to learn a language; do a project that you’ve been putting off; There’s one thing they haven’t mentioned…
This week we celebrate the biggest event in history; I’ll say that again, we remember and thank God for the biggest event in history. This will not be in the news on Channel 2,7,9 or 10 – wherever you get your news from. I want to encourage us in the midst of all that’s new and different in our lives to stop and take time to reflect and ponder on what God did through Jesus. Today we look at Jesus entry into Jerusalem, less than a week before he is to be hung on a cross.
We’re going to briefly look at 3 passages in the Bible, – Zechariah 9:9; Luke 1:77-79 and our reading for today, John 12:1-19 – I want you to think of these as like 3 pictures in different parts of the Bible at different times but they all relate to this one event that we’re talking about today.
We start with John 12 – the crowded city of Jerusalem, people who had come for the Passover, hear that Jesus is approaching the city. He’s been staying the night at Bethany just outside of Jerusalem.
The donkey of peace – this king does not ride to conquer and subjugate; he comes to bring peace. He is already the king now he brings the gift of peace – so John reminds us that Jesus riding on a donkey was the fulfilment of a prophecy 500 years earlier in Zechariah 9:9.
This event and the events of Good Friday and Easter are reminders that God is accomplishing his purposes/plans to redeem his people, to bring about the coming of the Messiah who would establish God’s rule finally and fully. The theme of this book, or the dominant emphasis, of Zechariah is encouragement. Zechariah lived in the time after the Jews had come back from exile – what they call the “remnant” had returned to Judah.
They’re still under the rule of Babylon but they are back in their own country which is only a shadow of its former glory. In this book are contained many promises regarding the coming of Jesus in 500 years’ time. The passage we are looking at reminds us that he would be a king and he would be the one who brings true peace.
Now let’s turn to Luke. It’s another Zechariah that we see here. John the Baptist’s father, a relative of Jesus. The last part of Zechariah’s prophecy about Jesus in Luke 1:77 – 79 is – [Jesus would]“to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” These last 2 phrases are wonderful. Before Jesus had been born Zechariah is prophesying that Jesus would bring light to those living in darkness and the shadow of death. Isn’t this the kind of world we live in today? Well it’s been like that since Jesus’ time but today we are even more conscious of living in the “shadow of death”. Jesus’ light, the light of truth, the light of life, the light of the path/the way. He leads us, guides us.
So, we do not live as if we were “in the shadow of death”, of impending doom; we live as those who have THE LIGHT. Jesus has brought us out of this shadow. We are free to live in his light. And he guides our feet into the “path of peace”. You remember John 14:27 – he gives us the gift of peace. Not just peace in relationships but the true peace of peace with God – in Luke 2:14 the angels announce to the shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.” The Roman world was experiencing the Pax Romana (Roman Peace), marked by an external peace. But the angels proclaimed a deeper, more lasting peace that that – a peace of mind and soul made possible by the Saviour. Peace with God is received by faith in Jesus, and it is on his people, believers, that “his favour rests”. Jesus the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) gives us peace with God.
So back to Zechariah 9:9 – Jesus, our king, comes to us. He is righteous, that means he is without sin, he lives a pure life and he brings salvation. He IS the Saviour – the one we all need. This theme is right throughout the Bible. And this king who brings this gift of salvation comes gently (humbly) riding on a donkey, a colt or a young donkey. He comes as the King of Peace. And he is the one who brings peace that we so desperately need.
On that day one week before his death on a cross he rides into Jerusalem. He comes as THE king but he has no army; he has 12 followers and a motley collection of people; he has no weapons; he has not come to conquer an earthly kingdom; he has come to establish a kingdom which will last forever. And he comes as the Saviour, the only one who can save us from ourselves.
I wonder what the people who waved the branches and threw down their cloaks were thinking. Here was the miracle worker? The one who had just raised Lazarus from the dead; or did they think here is the king who will overthrow the Romans – but he had no army, no weapons, no message of hatred or of rebellion; or did they think…
They had no idea. It seems a bit like today. We are in the midst of a health crisis, a pandemic they call it. I have no idea what the future holds – we pray and hope that we get through it; but God knows. Jesus, as he came into Jerusalem knew exactly where he was heading in 7 days’ time – he was going to the cross. Jesus knows exactly what is going to happen in this pandemic. Jesus knew exactly why he needed to go to the cross – he knows exactly how this pandemic can bring even good in our lives. If it purely reminds us of our fragility and our need of God that will be worthwhile.
God is doing things that we cannot imagine. We seek to understand and explain what God is doing but we cannot. We want to know how things will be fixed, how we can get back to living “normal” lives. But God is interested, no that’s too mild a word, he is passionate about how we can get our eyes on him. How we can have a love only for him; how we can have a contentment in him alone so that we don’t have the same desires and longings for just earthly pleasures, or feel like I’m missing out. I’m praying this each morning because I know how much I still long for the comforts of this world; how much I just want everything to get back “to normal”. In our isolation in our homes the one person we cannot be separated from is Jesus/God/the Holy Spirit. What I am saying to you is so different from what the world will say to us. This time is an amazing opportunity to draw closer to God. I don’t find that easy. My natural inclinations are to worry, or to desire comfort, to be able to control what happens to me. Maybe this is a time when God is loosening the grip these other things have on me and giving me the opportunity to draw closer to him, to cry out to him. To cry out, “Lord, help me.”
I’ve been watching the Pilgrims Progress movie that I mentioned earlier this week in an email. I’m struck by the way that whenever Christian calls out for help God immediately has someone there. In fact, I think God is right next to him just waiting for him to ask for help. When things get back to normal, do I just want to be the old self-sufficient Dave Newmarch or do I want to be someone who has grown in my understanding of God’s love for me and grown in my dependence on him?
We want to pray that this Easter season will be more effectively celebrated than ever, maybe because nothing is normal and everything can be re-considered and minds deeply changed.
Meanwhile, may all of you know God’s hand of protection and maybe of disturbance and creation in your lives. Let’s stay connected with each other but most importantly let’s stay connected with God.
I want to encourage us this week as a church as we look forward to Easter that we read the story of Jesus’ last night with his disciples before his crucifixion, that we read this together. I’m suggesting that we read through John 14-20 this week. Starting with chapter 14 today, we will read one chapter a day. It will take about 5 mins to read or listen to a reading of the passage. Someone, myself or someone else, will send out some questions that will help you think about the chapter. We will send the questions by email and messages. Then on Friday we will read through Chapter 19 together in our service; and then chapter 20 on Easter day.
Meanwhile, let’s pray together that we bask in our needy-ness—whatever that looks like—because, whatever it takes (to show us our neediness), that’s where our Father loves us to be.