Category Archives: The Word

Wasted Palm Branches

palmsIn many traditional Christian churches, Palm Sunday is celebrated with the waving of palm leaves and some even re-enact the laying of palms on the ground.  It reminds people of the day Jesus rode in on a donkey (fulfilling a prophecy, of course) and the masses waved palm branches and placed them, along with their coats (ever wonder why they don’t call it “Coat Sunday”?  I guess it just doesn’t have a good ring to it.), on the ground before Jesus, as the shouted, “Hosanna!”  Well, perhaps that scene was not what we have made it out to be.

Let’s see if you see what I see.  Your input is welcome.

Many teach that these people were worshiping Jesus, even though they were the same ones that wanted Barrabas when given the choice.  I even once heard that they “forgot” Who it was they worshiped with the laying of palms and decided they wanted the political prisoner released.

I don’t believe they were worshiping the Messiah, though.

Well, at least not the Messiah they thought they were worshiping.

There was a preconceived idea about the Messiah.  The Pharisees had their version. Many of the people had theirs, much of which was taught by the leadership.  Honestly, it was more of a political version than the one Jesus said He is.  The general idea was that the Messiah would come as a leader or a ruler and use His power to dispel the unwanted government(s).

The Pharisees were seemingly disappointed when they got to see Jesus and hear His words.  They had no problem with the miracles, really.  Even His popularity was not a problem at first, had He fit their ideal Messiah.  As time went on, His popularity did become an issue, as people were more drawn to Jesus and His teachings than what the Pharisees were doling out.

The people thought they had that Messiah that would put the Roman government out. They probably even wanted the oppressive Pharisees out, too.  They were ready for someone to rescue them from the system.  For that, they could shout, “Hosanna!”  The all powerful Jesus was their man.

Then, they changed their minds.  Jesus was captured and arrested.  Now, the Jewish leaders could swoop in and start manipulating the crowd.

It was the chief priests and elders who got the crowd riled up against Jesus.  Rather than reasoning or thinking for themselves, they allowed the false rationale and spread it around.  They started to believe Barabbas would save them from the Roman Empire.

Interesting thing about Barabbas…bar means, son of and abba means father.  Son of the father.  His name was fully, Jesus Barabbas.  Or, Jesus, son of the Father.  He had an identification that bore a resemblance of a savior.

In Matthew 27, verse 17, we see a distinction when Pilate asked the people who they wanted…“Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?”  Basically, do you want this Jesus, or Jesus you have been calling Christ/Messiah/Savior?  This same crowd was just yelling “Hosanna!” about Christ, now suddenly wanted the one they thought would save them from what they thought they needed saving from.

Shall I get current eventful here, for a moment?  I hope you don’t mind.

This past election revealed much about a good portion of the Church.  Whether these people would admit it or not, Jesus is not enough for them.  Not only do they have Pharisee-esque rules, but want to impose them on others   They want legislation to force others to conform to rules they think should be adhered to.  Then, they voted for  – and told others to vote for – someone they thought would bring that legislation they so desire.

However, Jesus changes people from the inside, out.  He gives grace.  He shows love.  He is love.  When He came here, He came to serve.  He did not come to kick out Rome and establish a Theocracy.  This is what the Jewish leaders and many of the people wanted. Soon, they realized that Jesus was not about to be what they wanted.

They wanted Barabbas.

Barabbas was an insurrectionist who wound up in prison for murder during an uprising. He wanted Rome out.  The Pharisees wanted Rome out, because they wanted to rule with a self-righteous iron fist.  They did not like Jesus teaching and acting in a manner unlike the Messiah they had decided should be.

It seems that Barabbas was one who wanted to “make Israel great, again”.

In reality, Barabbas was not able to give them what they wanted, anyway. Rome continued to rule for years, afterward.

To me, the whole palm waving celebration is useless.  It was not intended to praise the real Jesus, but to praise their idea of Jesus.  His “triumphal entry” was not all that it has been cooked up to be.  While the King really was riding in right in front of them, they did not really see Him as the Messiah or the King of kings.  In Matthew 21, we see that they thought of Jesus as just a prophet from a nearby town…

10 When Jesus came to Jerusalem, everyone in the city was excited and asked, “Who can this be?”
11 The crowd answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

They respected Him as a great prophet.  It seems they did not recognize Him as the promised Messiah.  They were laying down palm leaves and their coats for a revered prophet.  Yes, they did acknowledge Him as the Son of David.  But, did they see Who it really was, riding right there in front of them?

Peter knew Who He was.

The Samaritan woman knew Who He was.

Zaccheus knew Who He was.

Mary Magdalene knew Who He was.

The crowd, however, saw a great prophet.  They thought this prophet might be the guy to deliver them from Rome.  They wanted the Messiah that would heal and do miracles. They also wanted the Messiah that would rule and reign and they thought that would or, at least, should happen on Earth in that present time.

Nowadays, people still have a limited view of the Savior.  Not just personally, as what Jesus does for us as individuals.  But, also our perception of His dealings with the rest of the planet.  We want Him to lay down the law and remove the lawbreakers.  We expect Him to establish a Christian Theocracy, here on Earth.

Especially in the United States…the so-called, “Christian Nation”.

Well, no.  I already have an article with my thoughts on that.

Jesus did not come to alter the system or take it over with the Ten Commandments as the standard.  “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10), is one main reason He came.

Yet, here, many among our ranks want to establish a Christian Nation, filled with Mosaic level rules and law.  Is the Jesus we read about enough?  Is the Jesus we claim to know enough?

Or, do we want or own version of Barabbas?  Do we have our own idea of Who the Messiah is?  Maybe we have some inflated idea of who we are in Him and still want to plaster His name on what we do in order to justify our plans and ideas.

It is time to get back with the Savior Jesus.

We don’t need another great prophet.  We need “Jesus, called the Christ”.

We don’t need another Barabbas.  We need the one and only Savior.

 

 

 

 

 

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Did You Hear That?

“Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.”

There are those who will hold up there Bibles and claim that we need to “spread the word” so that others might believe.

In other words, shove scripture in their faces.

If we are “lacking faith”, we must paste our faces in our Bibles, thus “hearing”, until our faith returns.  It is as if “hearing” scripture increases our faith.

Sorry, but I have a hard time with these ideas.

oldmanear.jpgThe Bible is not the “word of God”.  The Bible does not give us faith. Jesus is the living Word of God (John 1).  Even though scripture is “God-breathed”, it is not the word of God.  One good explanation – one better than I can articulate – can be found here… http://www.patheos.com/blogs/emergentvillage/2013/04/the-bible-is-not-the-word-of-god-a-polemic-against-christendom/

Let’s see if we can simply define the main points of this passage.

Faith.  Faith is believing but, as I see it, with follow-through.  When we do what God says, we are acting in faith.  It is based on what God says, first.  Faith is not proven by our works but, basically comes to life in and with our works.

Hearing.  Listening, heeding, giving consideration.  It goes into the idea of obeying, which is action.  So, where are we going with this?

The word of God.  That which God speaks to us.  His commands.  Again…the Bible is not the word of God.

God speaks.  We heed/obey.  Faith is active.ear

Believing in something means nothing, by itself.  That’s just mental assent.  Doing something based on what God tells us is faith.

(Note:  Doing what we think should be done, assuming it is His will and adding His Name to it is not faith.  It is presumptive and can be arrogant. Interestingly, Romans 14 shows us that stuff that does not come from faith…is sin.  Another topic to be tackled at another time.)

Without works (the effort, motion, obedience), faith (belief) is dead. (James 2)

Dead.headstone

It was never given life.  Like, useless.

You can’t kill faith, per se, but it has no life – no substance – if we don’t act upon what we are commanded to do or walk in what the Lord is speaking to us.

It is sort of like, believing your car runs and can get you places.  But, that belief is useless if you don’t turn the key, put the car in gear and drive.

This does not mean that we become useless in the Kingdom because we missed or refused a command by the Lord.  God will not become disappointed in us, become angry with us or disown us.  Grace doesn’t work that way.

Faith is not something we muster up.  It is not something we can measure.  It is not something someone has more of than another.  Faith comes from the Lord.  He reveals Himself and His love to us.  He proves Himself to us and we choose to trust and believe. With that, we have incentive to do and go as He says.  When we do what He tells us, we are acting in faith.

Did Abraham do what he felt he should do and ask God to bless it?  No…he did what God was speaking to him.  But, God spent years encouraging Abraham and proving Himself. Abraham did not move in blind faith, either.  He did what he did based on what he knew about God.  Then, when God spoke, Abraham “believed God”…or, he agreed with God.

Faith = belief = agreement.  From what we see about Abraham, belief = agreement.  He could agree (believe) because he had enough evidence in order to trust God.  Therefore, God’s word was heard and faith came to Abraham.  Abraham could then obey out of that faith.

Quotes about faith, from my old pal Mike…

“Obedience is born from faith, not to get to it.”

“Obedience has to have faith and hope, or it is just religious peity.”

“We don’t work toward faith, but work from it.”

(from a conversation with Michael Willingham, author of Charlie’s Spacesuit and long time friend)

Forget about faith seminars, how to grow or increase our faith, mustering up our faith or considering who has more or less faith. From what we read, faith comes from the Lord.  He speaks, we hear, then we go from there.

As for obedience, it is not like a dog obeying its master.  While there may be consequences, we will not be punished or outcast because we missed or disobeyed a directive from the Lord.  From what I see,  we do that more to one another than the Lord does to us.  Adam and Eve were not cursed for their actions, but their actions did have consequences.  Consequences are not punishment, even though they can serve as a good lesson.

Our ears toward the voice of the Lord.  He will speak, in His time.  We will know when He speaks.  He has spoken through scripture.  But, His word comes from Him, not just from some pages.  He can speak to us directly, too.  Maybe even through another person.  No matter how He speaks to us, we will know it is Him.  From that point, we have the opportunity to walk in what He says.

So, we believe in Him, He speaks and we heed and do as He says.  Seems simple enough. Now, you may read this and see where I am amiss, or maybe you have a better way of describing something I have attempted to describe, here.  I would be only too glad to see and learn from whatever anyone has to say…as we walk together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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