THE BEGINNING OF THE END
While things have been pointing to this time in what we have read the last three weeks now, we are truly seeing things moving quickly now. While I shared quite a bit from scripture this morning, we did not even remotely address all the things that are happening in Jesus’ and the disciple’s lives.
Jesus has been teaching his disciples as well as many others that had been following the way God wants his people to live, as well as trying to let them know that things are about to change. Jesus was especially concerned about his disciples. He knew there would be the calm before the storm, and he wanted to make sure the disciples did not get confused by the different things that were about to happen.
Let us look at what we first read this morning which is entitled “The Triumphal Entry” in my Bible. Jesus sends two disciples ahead to a small town they are approaching, telling them that they will find two donkeys. Jesus tells them if anyone asks what they are doing, tell them that the Lord needs them to bring the donkeys to him. Jesus did this for two reasons: 1) To fulfill prophesy from what was spoken in Zachariah 9:9; 2) Also to build the faith of his disciples.
As Jesus got closer to Jerusalem the crowds grew and they placed palm branches, as well as their coats, on the road as Jesus drew nearer. Kind of a “red carpet” welcome for Jesus. The crowd started to shout, “Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” We read when Jesus entered Jerusalem the whole city was stirred and was asking, “Who is this?” to which some in the crowd answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Once Jesus was in Jerusalem he went to the temple. We do not know if it was the same day he arrived or a little later. We do know Jesus was not happy with what he found when he got to the temple. Jesus turned over the tables of those buying and selling at the temple. Jesus made it clear why he did this. Jesus once again referred to scripture from both Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11. When he said, “It is written my house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.” While Jesus gave an example of God’s holy anger, Jesus also showed compassion on those in need, healing the blind and the lame while he was still at the temple. While Jesus did all this, children that were also at the temple started shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” This made the chief priests and teachers at the temple mad. Jesus once again quoted scripture to those who questioned what was going on. In Psalm 8:2 it talks of from the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise. Jesus’ ability to quote scripture whenever he needed to not only encouraged his disciples but also caused anyone who dare question him to think twice about it.
We then skip ahead in Chapter 21 to what is entitled “The Parable of the Two Sons.” In verses 28-32, we see Jesus continuing to teach. In this parable Jesus gives an interesting story of two sons. We see a dad who tells his first son to go work in the vineyard. He immediately tells his dad no but then goes to work in the vineyard after all. The dad then goes to the second son, probably disappointed by what the first son had said. The second son immediately says, “Yes I will go,” but as it turns out, he never does. Jesus then asked the disciples as well as others there, “Who did what their father wanted?” They all agreed it was the first son. To which Jesus pointed out how things will work in God’s kingdom. Jesus is apparently talking to some of the chief priests and teachers that continued to follow him when he said tax collectors and prostitutes will enter God’s kingdom ahead of you. Jesus said John the Baptist came to show you the way to righteousness but you did not believe. That is why he said those who are looked down on by society when they believe will be in God’s kingdom ahead of those who one would think should make it in easy.
We read one passage of scripture from Matthew 22 and the heading is entitled, “Paying Taxes to Caesar.” At this time the Pharisees as well as others associated with the Jewish temple are following Jesus everywhere he goes. They are not doing this because they believe his message. They have been deceived by Satan and do not believe Jesus is anything at all. However, they know many people believe Jesus is a special man of God, so their goal was to trap Jesus in a lie or trick him into saying something most Jews would never believe. In these verses we see the Pharisees are trying to trick Jesus into saying the Jews should either have loyalty to the Roman Empire, which most all the Jews hate, or they are trying to get him in trouble with the Roman government by saying Jewish people should not pay taxes or give any concern about Roman laws. By encouraging the second idea, Jesus would probably have been arrested by the Roman government. The wisdom of God gave Jesus a way of answering the question that was truly appropriate and honest. Showing a degree of respect for the Roman Empire and also giving the proper honor to God we are called to have. The question for Jesus was should the Jews pays taxes to Caesar. Jesus knew they were trying to trap him, in fact he called them out on it. He then asked for a coin that is commonly used. He asked the Pharisees a very simple question. “Whose picture and whose signature is on the coin?” They answered, “Caesar.” To which Jesus responded, “Give unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and to God that which is God’s.” Even the Pharisees were amazed by Jesus’ answer and for the time being left Jesus alone.
In a period of five days, lots is going on. We should have begun looking at the last few weeks of Jesus’ ministry several weeks earlier than we did, because we simply do not have the time to cover everything Jesus is teaching and everything he is having to deal with.
Let’s do a quick review of what we read today. Jesus enters Jerusalem to what seems like a hero’s welcome. All the while Jesus is teaching his disciples and trying to build their faith. Next, we see Jesus entering God’s house and not liking what he sees going on. Jesus was teaching the disciples, as well as us today, that there is a time and place for everything. God’s house deserves honor and respect. If you do not show proper honor and respect for God and his house of worship, there WILL be a price to pay. Next, we read about two sons and how they did or did not show respect for their father. Jesus reminds us all that, for one thing, it is not what you say that is as important as what you do. There are those who seem to say all the right things, even give the appearance of doing what God would want, but are really only putting on a show. In a way, Jesus is saying something similar to what we read the last two weeks--in God’s kingdom in some cases the first will be last and the last will be first. The last thing we read was about paying taxes to Caesar. While that is what the question was, that is not what Jesus was really concerned about. Jesus was basically saying we all need to have our priorities in the right place, in the right order. Jesus was saying as a citizen you have an obligation to contribute to the nation you live in. God has no problem with that. However, God’s concern is about what we really believe is important in life. While even in Jesus’ day God’s people were expected to financially support the church, God is less concerned about financial support for the church than he is about where the allegiance of our heart and soul is. Jesus knows it is truly the Beginning of the End of his ministry here on earth. Jesus is most concerned about where the heart of his disciples and those who have been following him is at. That is what Jesus is still concerned about today. Have we allowed the distractions of this world to weaken our faith? There are more things competing for our allegiance than ever before. Jesus is reaching out to you and me reminding us he is the only way to peace and salvation.
Next Sunday is Easter. Will we allow Jesus Christ to renew our faith, to reenergize our passion to serve the living God? As Jesus was trying to help his disciples to stand strong, that same message Jesus is using to encourage his church today. God, please help us to stand strong for you and help us to draw those who do not know you to the cross.