THOUGHTS BEFORE EASTER
Let’s read from Matthew 21 and as we prepare our minds and hearts for Easter. There are important truths for us sprinkled in Matthew 21 that I don’t want us to miss… especially as we direct our hearts towards the events of Jesus’ last week and what we focus on at Easter.
- The Plan of God
- Disciples Obey
- Honor Jesus
- It is Jesus Who Saves
- Identify Jesus
THE PLAN OF GOD
Matthew 21:1-5 (ESV): “Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with 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 at once.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying: 5 “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”
I cannot help but see in these verses the working out of the Plan of God. Jesus was fulfilling the plan of God that had been in the works before God even created the world. How do we know that Jesus was the plan before Creation? Other passages in the Bible help us see this truth.
1 Peter 1:20-21 (ESV): “He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.”
Ephesians 1:4-5 (ESV): “Even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love, He predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will.”
Before God laid the foundations of the world, Jesus Christ was planned to be the Way of Salvation. God had each stage planned out in His power and knowledge and sovereign will. We see that in a very small way as Jesus was beginning to approach Jerusalem.
Jesus sends 2 of His disciples into the village of Bethphage which is about a mile outside of Jerusalem. He predicts that a donkey and colt will be tied there and that the owners will let the disciples take them. That is exactly what happens! The disciples go and they find the donkey and the colt exactly where Jesus said they would be.
The animals are there in preparation for Jesus’ arrival. How do we know that? Zechariah 9:9 predicted hundreds of years before that the Messiah Who was King would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey. Say whatever you want about Jesus’ chosen mode of transportation… He picked a Prius not a Corvette… but riding on a donkey was predicted for the Messiah riding into Jerusalem and Jesus fulfilled it as predicted. The animals were where they needed to be when Jesus needed them.
The truth is… Jesus is the plan. What we see from these verses is that the plan of God is in motion and was by no means an afterthought or a reaction or even ‘Plan B.’ The Plan of God was for His Son to die on the cross in order to offer us life and salvation and the way to have a restored relationship with God. That plan has you and I in mind. The prophecies about Jesus from the Old Testament fulfilled in His life are markers for us that show God has worked His redemptive plan throughout history because He loves us. Jesus is the plan.
Matthew 21:6 (ESV): “The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them.”
That verse is so very simple. Jesus tells two of His followers to go and they went. He gives them instructions and they follow the instructions. It is not a complicated verse at all. Go. Went. Do. Did.
Why did they obey?
Our first instinct might be to answer that Jesus is the Teacher and they are the student and therefore they had to obey. We might also have a connected thought that the disciples of Jesus believed He was God and therefore they were simply obeying because He is God. That is completely true! It is completely true and we see that borne out in verses like Matthew 7:21, Luke 6:46 and John 14:15, 14:21, and 14:23.
I would agree, but there is one more element to this that is very important even for us. I would say especially for us. I think that additionally the disciples of Jesus obeyed because He was trustworthy and worth obeying. The disciples saw day-in-and-day-out that Jesus was exactly Who and What He claimed to be. The miracles they saw done by Jesus backed His identity. His private life matched His teachings to the crowds. Jesus is Who He says He is and He Who promises is faithful (Hebrews 10:23) and is worth following and worth obeying. The teachings of Jesus lay out for us the trustworthy way of living from God.
Truth is Jesus is worth obeying. Jesus is worth obeying because He has proven that He is the way, the truth, and the life and that God’s path laid out by Him is the best life you can possibly live. Only Jesus is offering life worth trusting.
When it comes to…
… managing our money and what to make a priority… Jesus is worth obeying.
… choosing our husband or wife… Jesus is worth obeying.
… forgiving others or seeking forgiveness from others… Jesus is trustworthy in what He says.
… our self-identify and how we let ourselves be defined and labeled… Jesus is worthy.
… how we vote… Jesus is worthy of our obedience.
… watching TV, what music we listen to, what influences us… Jesus has an opinion.
… the words that come out of our mouths… Jesus is worthy.
… the attitudes and prejudices of our hearts… Jesus has a divine opinion.
If we count ourselves as followers of Jesus, we should go and do and be as He directs. Jesus is worth obeying.
Matthew 21:7-8 (ESV): “They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and He sat on them. 8 Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.”
I want to share one other verse with you as we think about verses 7-8.
2 Kings 9:13 (ESV): “Then in haste every man of them took his garment and put it under him on the bare steps, and they blew the trumpet and proclaimed, “Jehu is king.”
The cultures of the Bible are a little different from ours, but placing garments or other material underneath someone was meant to show honor and respect. I suppose it is the same as a young man and a young lady taking a stroll and coming to a puddle… because he wishes to appear chivalrous and honor the lady… he takes his coat and places it over the puddle so the lady does not get her shoes wet or muddy. Same thought. I have always wondered, though, what does the fellow do with his coat after?
Anyway, the disciples spread their cloaks on the donkey to honor Jesus and some in the crowds put their cloaks on the ground as a way to honor Jesus. Other people cut palm branches and spread them out on the ground. It was a sign of respect. It was a sign of their affection for Jesus as their king. When the crowds were looking at Jesus, they saw Someone worthy of honor and respect and royal authority.
The truth is you and I should honor Christ in everything we do and everything we say.
Our actions, our attitudes, and even to how we speak shows the world if we are a believer in Jesus. Our words matter. Honoring Jesus matters. The crowds honored Jesus with a demonstrative action covering the ground to show honor. In our day and age, language is quite coarse. We can definitely honor Jesus with our words.
IT IS JESUS WHO SAVES
READ Matthew 21:9 (ESV): “And the crowds that went before Him and that followed Him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”
John 12:12 tells us that a “great crowd” (NIV) or a “great multitude” (NAS) came out to meet Jesus on the donkey. This is not just a few people. We are talking hundreds and hundreds of people and perhaps even into the thousands. This group is a whole lot of people who have heard about Jesus’ teachings and maybe seen some of His miracles. They heard about this possible Messiah and wanted to see Him. As Jesus entered into the city, crowds of people shouted 3 different things according to Matthew 21:
“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest!”
The words that are said as Jesus enters Jerusalem are astounding!
“Hosanna!” is a Hebrew expression that means “Save now” or “Save I pray.” These folks were praising Jesus for the saving work He had already done. He had saved many from sickness, disease, and demon possession. They wanted to see more. Little did they know that Jesus Christ would soon save them from much more than that!
* Jesus would soon be betrayed and abandoned, but remain strong.
* Jesus would soon die and also conquer death.
* Jesus would soon take on sins and conquer sin.
* Jesus would soon make final payment for souls.
The people in the parade and those standing around the entrance to Jerusalem were talking kingship in regards to Jesus because they were calling out “Hosanna” to the “Son of David.” They were talking about the kingship granted to David and his descendants… that king had God’s authority, taught the law, and was a righteous judge. Jesus had done all of that and more and the people wanted to see more.
“Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” These folks were praising Jesus because they believed He was a prophet. A prophet is someone who comes in the name of the Lord. A prophet is God’s representative. The people walking with Jesus into Jerusalem wanted to see even more prophetic teaching from Jesus and signs and wonders done by the hand of God.
“Hosanna in the highest!” is similar to the statement before. Over and over again people were praising Jesus for the saving work He had done and they wanted to see Him help even more.
The truth is, only Jesus saves. I know there are so many other paths of living and options in this world, but only Jesus saves.
Matthew 21:10-11 (ESV): “And when He entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
These verses share with us that once Jesus entered Jerusalem, others who weren’t sure Who He was… were wondering. They asked a great question: Who is this? It is important that we correctly identify Jesus because there is a lot of garbage out in the world that simply is not true.
The crowds identify Jesus rightly as a prophet. Jesus was definitely a messenger from God. The crowds also get His Name correct… the Name given to Him by God. They also rightly identify that He is the One from Nazareth in Galilee Who has been preaching and teaching for three years. The crowds point out Who Jesus is correctly.
The truth is, Jesus’ life and death and resurrection show Him to be so much more than a prophet from Galilee.
Jesus is God.
Jesus is the Promised One Who would crush the head of Satan.
Jesus is the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world.
Jesus is our Great High Priest who intercedes for us with God.
Jesus is our Redeemer.
Jesus is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.
Jesus is the Good Shepherd and the Light of the World.
Jesus is the Suffering Servant Who heals us.
Jesus is the Messiah promised to bring Salvation.
Jesus is the One Who sets us free.
Jesus is our Hope.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN? Jesus is the Christ the Son of the Living God and by believing in Him you may have life in His Name.
May these thoughts bless you as we turn our hearts towards Easter.