It wasn’t spontaneous or a matter of circumstances. It was intentional and purposeful. Yes, Jesus chose to ride into Jerusalem on a donkey. Some 500 years earlier through the prophet Zechariah, God painted this picture of the promised Savior and His work: "Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey." (Zechariah 9:9) Think of what this says about God’s faithfulness. With incredible planning, patience, precision, and power, He keeps His promises. But how often are we suspect of His attentiveness and care, especially when things go wrong or don’t seem to go our way? Let us repent and put our trust in Jesus, who rode that donkey on purpose to fulfill what was promised and to say personally to you, 'Zechariah was writing about me; here I am, your king, righteous and having salvation.' Deliberately and precisely, our King did what He needed to do to save us from sin and its eternal consequences, and to save us for life with Him in His eternal kingdom. What greater care and attentiveness could He show us?
Did those who spread palm branches as Jesus entered Jerusalem fully understand the purpose of Jesus’ ride on a donkey? The cries for His crucifixion just a few days later suggest that many did not. But I pray you do. The Righteous King who brings you salvation is worthy of your praise! For wherever His Gospel is shared, wherever the waters of Baptism are poured out, wherever His Holy Supper is received, SEE, YOUR KING OF SALVATION COMES TO YOU!
It is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What was it that Jesus declared as "beautiful" and others called a "waste"? Out of love for her Lord, Mary, the sister of Lazarus, poured an expensive perfume over Jesus’ head and onto His feet. As the fragrance filled the house, Judas and others were quick to criticize Mary, pointing out that the perfume was worth more than a years' wages. (Mark 14:1-11) When you see that Judas' next act was to arrange to betray Jesus, you realize that his criticism was actually aimed at Jesus. Jesus wasn’t living up to Judas' ideal of the Messiah. More bluntly, Judas wasn’t getting what he expected from Jesus. …Is there a Judas within you? Think of the times you’ve been frustrated with Jesus, times He has not met your expectations. Think of the times you’ve criticized and questioned life but you were really criticizing and questioning Jesus. Just like Judas and the other disciples showed at times, we tend to forget why Jesus really came.
Then there is Mary, of whom Jesus said, "She has done a beautiful thing." Focus not on what she did but on WHY she did it. For all the times Jesus said He had to suffer, die, and rise again on the third day, for all the times the disciples refused to accept this and so failed to understand it, Mary heard and believed. It is just as Jesus said: "She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial." By grace, Mary knew why Jesus came and what He came to do, and it’s a beautiful thing to see the effect it had on her. Her extravagant outpouring was an expression of love to the One who would pour out His life on the cross as the sacrifice for our sins. Jesus said that Mary’s story would be told along with the Gospel throughout the world. What He said is being fulfilled right now that you also may know why Jesus came. Come and see why FAITH IN JESUS IS A BEAUTIFUL THING.
In nearly every sport, close doesn’t count. It does no good to say, 'I almost made that goal,' or 'We almost won,' when you didn’t. A miss is a miss. A loss is a loss. Close doesn’t count. This is also true when it comes to entering the kingdom of God. 'I’m almost in,' or 'I think I’m in' are no consolation. You’re either in or you’re not. In is in. Out is out. Close doesn’t count. Think of what that means when Jesus tells an expert religious teacher, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." Wait...this expert wasn’t in? This had to have startled him as well as others on the scene. Some would think, 'If this religious leader isn’t in, who is?' Others likely thought, 'Who is Jesus to determine who’s in and who isn’t?' Still others would wonder why he wasn’t in since the man just agreed with Jesus when He stated that the most important commandment is "Love the Lord your God with all your heart" and "Love your neighbor as yourself." (Mark 12:28-34)
Does God have all of your heart? You are not in the kingdom of God merely by agreeing with Jesus about the commandments; God demands obedience. You are not in if you think the obedience God expects and deserves is attainable, especially when we are so often guilty of loving ourselves above God and our fellowman. You are not in if you fail to see your helplessness to enter by anything you can do, offer, or give. It was essential for the expert to see he needed more than a clarification of the commandments; He needed a Savior, a divine rescue. So do you and I. Please take this to heart: If you think you are in the kingdom of God because you are a good person or because you haven’t done anything too bad, you are not in. Close doesn’t count. Good isn’t good enough. God only accepts wholehearted, perfect love from you. But take heart, for the One who clarified the Law perfectly is the One who lived the Law perfectly, and He did so for you, to offer up His life as the perfect sacrifice that cleanses you from all sin. Close doesn’t count, but WHAT JESUS DID COUNTS FOR YOU. Through faith in Him, His perfect life counts as your perfect life. Through faith in Jesus, you are IN - you are in the kingdom of God!
'Unwritten rules' are basic standards of behavior that are widely assumed and generally accepted. One of them is that there are many settings in which you simply don’t talk politics or religion. But Jesus didn’t hesitate to speak on these matters, and to speak boldly at that. His enemies asked Him, "Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" They were trying to force Jesus to choose between Rome and Israel, and to do so would make Him an enemy of the people or an enemy of the state. But Jesus amazed and silenced them by answering, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s." (Mark 12:13-17)
To the shock of all who thought Jesus would free God’s people from godless Roman rule, He actually said (and obediently lived!), "Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s." More than just paying taxes, this means giving honor and obedience to the authority God has established. We have great freedoms in our democracy, but we are not free to slander or disrespect the government. But as much as "Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s" may offend our pride, "Give to God what is God’s" ought to crush our hearts, for who of us has given God what is due Him? Everything we have comes from Him; our very lives belong to Him. Does He get our faithfulness, our selflessness, our sacrifice, our unwavering love? Does He get our best in every area and aspect of our lives? We must admit that we have cheated God, withholding what is rightfully His. Yet the One who has been cheated is the One who gave His entire life for us, in our place, shedding His own blood to forgive our sins and to give us eternal salvation. May this move us to GIVE TO CAESAR WHAT IS CAESAR’S and GIVE TO GOD WHAT IS GOD’S with newfound gratitude.
"By what authority are you doing these things?" Unless you’re the boss, you will face that question if you start firing people or changing long-standing practices at your workplace. Jesus faces that question after He forcefully drives buyers and sellers out of the temple for turning God’s house of prayer into a place of profit. "Who gave you authority to do this?" seems like a legit question from the religious leaders in charge of the temple. But Jesus knew their evil intent to try to trap Him in what He said in order to put Him to death. So He asks them a question: "John’s baptism – was it from heaven, or from men?" John’s ministry was all about pointing to Jesus as the Messiah, the promised Savior. So to say that John’s baptism was from God was to say that Jesus was who John said He was, the Son of God, who indeed has all authority in heaven and on earth. Do you see how Jesus mercifully tries to lead them to repentance? But they valued their own authority more than the plain truth in front of them, so they sheepishly and dishonestly answer, "We don’t know." (Mark 11:27-33)
Facing Jesus’ authority means facing our sins. It does us no good to try to claim ignorance like those religious leaders; the Lord knows the evil intents of our hearts too. He knows when we have questioned and resisted and rebelled against His authority to live life on our own terms. He knows our self-centeredness and defensiveness. But listen to His authority as He cries from the cross, "It is finished," cancelling the entire debt of our sin. Listen to His authority as our risen Lord says, "Peace be with you," dispelling all our fears. For all the suspicions of authority we have in the world today, we do not need to be suspicious of Jesus’ authority. His authority is liberating, forgiving us all of our sins. Come and see that JESUS’ AUTHORITY LEAVES A LASTING IMPRESSION.
Come visit us at CHRIST OUR REDEEMER for more of this message of God's grace!
What do you think of when you hear the word 'glory'? What about the phrase 'the cross'? Those concepts don't seem to fit together, but as we look at the event called 'The Transfiguration of Jesus,' we see that they do. Jesus took Peter, James, and John with Him up a high mountain. "There He was transfigured before them." The concealed majesty of the Son of God and His divine nature were revealed. This indescribable sight is described this way: "His face shone like the sun" and "His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them." (Matthew 17, Mark 9) Elijah and Moses appeared, talking with Jesus "about His departure, which He was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem." (Luke 9) Think of that – in all His glory, Jesus is discussing His death on the cross! But Peter only saw the glory of the moment; he didn’t want to face Jesus’ death. What he didn’t yet understand was that if he didn’t see Jesus’ death, he would never truly see Jesus’ glory. This is why Jesus told Peter, James, and John not to say anything about this event until after He had risen from the dead.
Do we, like Peter, sometimes get confused about Jesus’ glory? Does our idea of glory look for Him to do things that seem greater to us than suffering and dying on a cross? How often do we look past the message of the cross because we want to see a different kind of 'glory,' one that only makes our lives better here and now? Don’t miss this glory: The Son of God who revealed His majesty on that mountain is the same one who suffered and died, bearing our sin, absorbing God’s wrath against our sin. This is ASTONISHING GLORY! And it is the glory of God to come to us with this good news and the promise of eternal life in Jesus – an everlasting glory which will never pass away like that moment on the mountain.
Come visit us at CHRIST OUR REDEEMER for more of this message of God's grace!
'You’ll get out of it what you put into it.' You’ve probably heard this adage from your parents, teachers, and others. It’s not what you'd call a profound observation, but it’s true, isn’t it? It applies to school, work, exercise, relationships, and all of life. It’s just as true – and even more important – in your relationship with God. Jesus says, "Consider carefully what you hear. With the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (Mark 4:24) What measure are you using to grow your relationship with God? Are you spending personal time with God in His Word, gathering with others to hear His Word in a worship service, receiving your Savior’s pledge of forgiveness in the Lord’s Supper, and studying His Word with others? Or are you distracted by misguided priorities, laziness, and excuses? ...If you ever feel like you aren’t getting much out of your faith, could it be that you aren’t putting much into it?
Jesus adds an incredible promise as you CAREFULLY CONSIDER WHAT YOU HEAR: "Whoever has will be given more." (Mark 4:25) Through faith in Jesus Christ, the forgiveness of sins, rescue from damnation, peace with God, and eternal life in heaven are yours. Yet God gives you even MORE as you heed His Word – more understanding and appreciation and joy in these blessings. But Jesus also adds a sobering warning: "Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him." (Mark 4:25) If you think you can hold on to your faith without putting much into it, you are fooling yourself. Indifference to growing in God’s grace only leads to deafness. This is as serious as it sounds. But it’s also an expression of God’s mercy, warning you to turn you back to Him with a listening ear. And when you do, what do you find? More and more of God’s undeserved love and unfailing forgiveness! ...Please, listen carefully.
A standard or banner was used by kings and diplomats and armies to signify a place of gathering. A banner lifted high would draw a crowd. The Bible calls Jesus a banner for all nations. Jesus spoke of His death in this way, saying, "When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself." (John 12:32) Hundreds of years earlier, Isaiah had prophesied: "In that day, the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples." (Isaiah 11:10) That "Root of Jesse" is Jesus; He came from the house and line of David, whose father was Jesse. "That day" has come; Jesus died for the sins of the world and rose again from the dead. That "banner" still stands today; let the people come!
What is it about Jesus that people from around the world would be drawn to Him? "The nations will rally to Him, and His place of rest will be glorious." (Isaiah 11:10) Everyone wants this rest, this peace. Only in Jesus do we find it. Through His death and resurrection, He established peace between us and God, forgiving us all of our sins, releasing us from our guilt, changing our status from enemies of God to children of God. So let the people come, for JESUS IS A BANNER OF PEACE FOR ALL PEOPLE. You who are reading this, come, gather around this banner, and find your place of rest with Jesus.
When Christ came into the world, He said:
"Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You prepared for me…
Then I said, 'Here I am – it is written about me in the scroll –
I have come to do Your will, O God.' "
Have you ever tried to get a feel for a book by reading only the first chapter and the last chapter? Maybe you’ve tried to get away with that for an assignment or a test, but odds are it didn’t turn out that well. Such an approach leaves you with a big gap in your understanding of the story. Everything in the middle adds significance and meaning to both the beginning and the end of the story. Without that context, the beginning and the end can seem like two disconnected events which have little to do with each other.
When you think of Jesus in the manger, do you look ahead to Jesus on the cross? And when you think of Jesus on the cross, do you look back to Jesus in the manger? If you know nothing more about Jesus than His birth and His death, those may seem like two disconnected events which have little to do with each other. But the life He lived and why He lived it reveals the significance of both His birth and His death.
God instituted the Sabbath for our good, calling us to set aside time each week for spiritual rest and renewal with Him through His Word. But the religious leaders of Jesus’ day defined the Sabbath with man-made regulations that clouded the purpose of the Sabbath. Jesus came to give us the ultimate rest to which the Sabbath points – forgiveness and eternal life – but they took issue with Him because He and His disciples broke their man-made laws. He corrects them, saying, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath." (Mark 2:23-28)
This is a matter of who is the authority. The religious leaders set themselves up as the authorities with their man-made laws, and in doing so they rejected the authority of Jesus. Who is the authority in your life? Who rules over what you say and do, how you think and form opinions? Do you accept Jesus’ authority…except for when it doesn’t fit your view of life? Do you set yourself up as the authority and redefine God’s commands with your own notions of right and wrong? We will never win when we go against Jesus and His Word. But here is what is truly overwhelming: Jesus used His authority to lay down His life for us to save us from our sins! This is the reason God made the Sabbath for us, that we might hear and believe this truth and find our rest in Him. Don’t neglect God’s Sabbath command, given for our good, and don’t despise the Lord of the Sabbath. Listen to Jesus’ authority in His Word: "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching." (Hebrews 10:25) LISTEN TO THE LORD OF THE SABBATH.
Christ Our Redeemer Lutheran Church
Daniel is the Staff Minister at Christ Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, El Paso TX.