A centuries-old prophecy had predicted “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
Today in the streets of Jerusalem, the daughers of Zion rejoiced greatly indeed. John the Baptist had indeed declared this one to be Messiah. The Roman age was ending. Had not Daniel prophesied hundreds of years before that in the midst of those kingdoms, the Lord God would set up a kingdom that would never be destroyed or conquered, that would crumble all others into nothingness? And here came their king, humble, and riding on a donkey.
The crowd was screaming, shouting, so much that the religious leaders, who knew that this Jesus fellow certainly could not be the Messiah, told him to shush his followers. He replied that if they kept silent, the stones would be shouting instead. Further proof.
The crowd had written the script. The story was practically finished. Jesus would ride into town on the donkey, then call down some kind of supernatural fire on the Roman forces. It could be a long fight or a short one, but one thing was certain. Their Teacher, with Godly fire in his eyes, would make quick work of the Roman army.
…but the next day came, and no fire consumed the armies of Rome. The next day, the temple didn’t rise up, and the day after, there were no flames falling from heaven to destroy Ceaserea. What went wrong? Had they not prayed hard enough, or fasted? Was there some unconfessed sin in their lives? Why had God not done what He was supposed to?! Why were the Roman armies still marching around?
Then they saw their king. The King of the Jews before the praetorium and the Roman governor. Silent. He didn’t break the bonds that held him, like Samson would have, or call down fire on him like Elijah or Elishah. This was insufferable. Their hearts hardened. God had betrayed them. Jesus had betrayed them. This was not how it was supposed to happen. Where were the legions of angels to wipe out the opposing forces?
Somewhere in the crowd, I suppose that the words began circulating. He’s a fraud. He’s no Messiah, just a charlatan. Did their rage fill them to the point that they agreed finally with the pharisees? Their leaders had been wise all along. This man was no Messiah. He was a fraud. The Son of God? Certainly not. The Son of God would never be tied up, whipped, and standing before Pontius Pilate. Surely it took very little effort on the part of the preists and pharisees to stir them up. Crucify the fraud! Execute the liar! CRUCIFY HIM!
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We humans are so fickle. How quickly our hearts switch allegiences in the light of some new revelation. I identify with being misunderstood…. but this morning, I identified with something else. I identified with the misunderstanding rabble.
I had fasted. I had prayed. I had gone to a prayer advance where I learned that just a little faith, and ASKING, was the secret to recieving a miracle. I asked. I asked specifically. I asked in faith, without any doubting. Surely the formula was perfect. I had done everything on my end; now all that was left was the waiting on God to do His.
The appointed day came. On that day, the very precise opposite of what I had asked for occured. The polar opposite.
Oh, I identify with that crowd screaming crucify him. I didn’t want God dead though, just me. But I now viewed God with suspicion, like a puppy who had been spanked and didn’t understand why. Why would this happen? God must have been a fraud. Everything I believed must be wrong. But it couldn’t be!
I held on to God. Loosely, and with suspicion, but I couldn’t let Him go. I begged, cajoled, and pleaded, but the heavens were silent.
Romans 8:28 says that God works everything together for good for those who love Him and are the called according to His purpose. Paul never suggested that all was good; only that God works it all TOGETHER for good. Jesus stated that the theif comes to steal, kill, and destroy – and that HE came so we could have LIFE, and life more abundantly.
So this is our great God. He takes the yucky, the messy, the AWFUL terribleness, and stirs it around, and even when Satan steals, kills, and destroys, God turns it around into something good. This is incredible! Truly, if God is for us, who can be against us? What can you do to Someone who takes EVERYTHING, including the terrible, the death, and the awfulness, and turns it into something good??? And with that kind of a God, who could actually harm any of His children? Satan steals, kills, and destroys… and God takes what Satan does and inverts it into life – and life abundant. God makes death work backwards.
Jesus once showed up at a funeral. He showed up at several, actually. None of them went the way of your average funeral, though. Usually the casket never quite made it into the ground.
The sister of the deceased hinted that Jesus could ask God for anything and God would give it to Him. Jesus came back by saying that Lazarus would live again. Martha countered by saying she knew he’d be alive again at the resurrection on the last day. Jesus must have smiled when he replied,
“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” Then he popped the question: “Do you believe this?” She said yes. When He commanded Lazarus to come forth, He proved it beyond doubt.
Speaking of funerals and things that don’t turn out the way we want them to…
Three days after Jesus died of His own free will, there was an empty tomb, some unconscious guards, and some angels. And a man walking around with nailprints in his feet and hands. The only man who’d ever been crucified to death and lived to tell about it. Jesus could’ve led an earthly kingdom and taken over the world by force. But He didn’t. The way, the truth, the resurrection, and the life, took the world by love. Earthy kingdoms, no matter how great, or how well-established, are destined to fall. This unshakeable kingdom of God continued to grow, and became that mountain that filled the whole earth. In a sad, sick way, the average people who screamed “Crucify Him! We have no king but Caesar!” participated in God’s plan. God worked it together for good. And God triumphed.
And listening to Pastor Tom talk about that this morning, I repented in my seat. I bowed my head and apologized to my God for being fickle, and distrusting Him when things didn’t seem to be going the way I wanted them. For almost walking away when God didn’t turn out to be exactly the way I had grown to expect He would be. I want to be on God’s side. I want to love Him. I want to love Him more. This was not His doing… what HE does is to stir it all together in my life and make something good out of it. I haven’t seen the good that is to made of this hardship. But I believe in the God who will do the conversion.
Kinda like taking an execution and making it the heartbeat and soul of a great kingdom that covers the whole earth, that will never be destroyed or conquered.
The Kingdom of God.