Sunday, March 29, 2015

Encouraging Contrasts on Palm Sunday

Imagine "a very great multitude." Imagine the mixture. Imagine the variety. Imagine the riff raff. This is how the New King James Version describes the crowd that assembled for Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem: "a very great multitude" (Matthew 21:8). A mass of people.

I don't want to stretch things too far in how I imagine this crowd, but I'm inclined to believe that this wasn't an overly orderly scene, and that this wasn't a mob that had time to spruce themselves up for the occasion. I expect there were people in ragged, dirty robes, some with dirty faces from a hard day's work, and even some body odour amidst those congested conditions. I'm imagining a chaotic scene, but with Someone serene at the centre of it all: an unruffled and unwavering Jesus, riding on a donkey into the purposes of God.

But that's not all. This crush of people was a bunch of sinners. Surely with so many there, many not even knowing why as they asked others, "Who is this?" (Matthew 21:10), there must have been sinners in the crowd. Selfish people, mean people, dishonest people, proud people. I'm sure of it.

Imagining that, I can't help but be struck by that contrast. Here's the morally unblemished Jesus working his way through an adulating crowd that is filled with moral failure. Holiness surrounded by haughtiness. For despite the excited hosannas, this is a people who are destined for such a dreadful judgment that it caused Jesus to weep as He drew near to the city saying, "If you had known... the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For days will come upon you when your enemies will... close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground" (Luke 19:41-44). 

And yet, Jesus is undaunted. He presses through, accepting their praises and pursuing their salvation. As perfect as He is, He's not put off by their dirty robes or faces, nor deterred by their sinful hearts. He presses through that multitude because they are the harassed and the helpless He wants to save. That gentle Jesus on a donkey had no plans to stop until He reached the cross!

But that's not the only contrast that occurs to me as I imagine Jesus riding through this swarming crowd. This Jesus on a donkey is the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 who plans to suffer and give His life for us. But the next time we see Him riding, we're invited to imagine the heavens opening "and behold, a white horse! And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True" (Revelation 19:11)!

Praise God that the same Jesus who died for the masses to which we belong, rose victorious and now reigns as the "King of kings and Lord of lords" (Rev. 19:16)! And He invites us to join "a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, people and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, 'Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!'" (Rev. 7:9-10).

As we open the gates of our hearts to the Saviour who rode on that donkey, we have the privilege of following a great and mighty Lord who will one day gather us all to Himself as He comes to us riding a white horse with the armies of heaven!

© 2015 by Ken Peters

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Ultimate at Hide & Seek

Jesus has got to be the best there is at Hide & Seek. I'm not kidding. I've always been intrigued by the many instances in which He commanded people who had been healed by Him to "tell no one." I mean, what was He thinking? How could you expect a leper who had just been healed to keep quiet about it? Such a miracle would open the door for him to return to his family, to hold his children and to see his friends again! Yet Jesus said, "Tell no one" (Luke 5:14). Or how could you expect the parents of a child whom Jesus has raised from the dead to be silent? Their friends knew their daughter had died, and Jesus had just asked many of them to leave the house in which they were mourning the child's death. Doesn't Jesus realize that these people will see the child alive very soon? And yet He "charged them to tell no one what had happened" (Luke 8:56).

Whatever Jesus' reasons for giving such commands (which were frequently ignored, as is very clear in Mark 7:36), we can certainly learn one thing from these stories about Jesus: He doesn't seem to mind being hard to find. He liked to keep a low profile even as He went about doing exceptional things. And I think He's still doing the same thing today, though for different reasons. 

When was the last time you wondered, "God, where are you?" Have you ever asked that? The psalmists did. Such as in Psalm 10, which begins with, "Why do you stand afar off, O LORD? Why do you hide in times of trouble?" And yet, God is often doing exceptional works of grace in our lives in the very same seasons we find ourselves asking God that question. When He walked this earth, Jesus tended to avoid publicity so that people couldn't coerce Him to do what He wasn't prepared to do, such as to take up an earthly throne. And now that He lives in our hearts, Jesus sometimes prevents us from seeing what He's doing in our lives so that we can learn to trust Him no matter what, which is what is truly necessary for Him to be on the throne of our hearts!

We can see that He hides, but Jesus also likes to seek. In fact, the very reason He came to earth as a man was "to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). The very same Lord and Saviour who chooses to hide His face from us in times of adversity, testing our hearts and growing our faith, is continuously seeking us, interceding for us (Romans 8:34) and rescuing us when we get lost (Luke 15:4). That should assure our hearts that we won't get lost amidst the trials we face, or miss God's purposes despite our inability to see all that's He's up to. For though God may sometimes choose to hide Himself from us, His thoughts and ways being so much higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9), we can be sure that He will also continually seek after us to make sure we don't lose our way. 

Yes, Jesus is the ultimate at Hide & Seek. He hides from us to grow our faith, and He seeks after us to make sure our faith finds Him!

© 2015 by Ken Peters

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Look for the Cross

Lately I've been increasingly aware of old long-standing lies that are competing for space in my heart with precious Biblical truths that I've also long believed. When the lies get loud enough, I find myself having to ask, what is it I'm going to believe? What am I going to accept as the truth in my life?

When this battle gets fierce -- and I know it is when the lies get loud enough to feel extremely convincing -- there's only one way to be sure of what the truth is: Look for the cross. That's because the cross marks the spot where God showed us the truth about Himself and about His relationship with us. You want to know God who God is? Do you want to know what He thinks of you? Look for the cross. Look at Jesus on the cross: the Lamb of who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29)!

Jesus is the "exact representation" of God's nature (Hebrews 1:3), and that is why He could confidently say of Himself, "I am the truth" (John 14:6). Jesus is where we find the truth, and Jesus on the cross is the greatest expression of the truth Jesus came to reveal. The Apostle John described Jesus' coming by writing, "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). The glory John saw is the same glory Moses was given the privilege of seeing when He asked God, "Please, show me Your glory!" (Exodus 33:18). And when God's glory passed by Moses, the declaration Moses heard was, "The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abounding in goodness and truth" (Exodus 34:6)!

There it is again: Truth, mingled with mercy and grace -- which is the very same glory that Jesus expressed on the cross. The cross is the most profound picture of God's mercy and compassion that the world will ever see. In His perfect representation of God, Jesus took what was privately revealed on a mountaintop to make it a public proclamation on a humble hill outside Jerusalem. God's Truth, the incarnate Word of God, hung on the cross to express the truth of who He really is and of what He really thinks of us. 

We hear from that cross the forgiveness that each one of us needs to hear as Jesus even forgave those who put Him there (Luke 23:34). We sense the assurance of His love as He says to the thief who acknowledges Jesus' Lordship in his final hours of life, "Today you shall be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43). And we rejoice in the finality of what He accomplished for us, leaving nothing for us to do to earn the love His sacrifice expressed, as he shouted, "It is finished!" (John 19:30). That is the truth I choose to embrace. And the cross marks the spot where that truth was most emphatically declared.

© 2015 by Ken Peters