The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Weeping for the Unready

Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, - Luke 19:41

The last week of Jesus ministry began with a triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Jesus was met with shouts of rejoicing, “Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ Hosanna in the highest!” (Mat. 21:9). But the scriptural account goes on to state, “Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, . . .” Jesus wept because He knew the fickleness of humanity and their dullness to the ways of God. He wept because He knew the sad truth that humanity misses out on God’s blessings because they are unready for them. Humanity misses out on God’s best because of disregard, spiritual dullness, and a degenerate set of priorities.

The nation of Israel missed her Messiah because she was unready for Him. To this day they are sadly still looking for the first coming of their Messiah when He has come and is due to come again. Despite hundreds of prophetic identifiers Israel was unready for her Messiah. This was the source of sorrow for Jesus.

We need to learn from history. Otherwise as George Santayana said, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Just as Israel missed the first coming of Messiah, Christians can miss the Second Coming of Messiah due to not being ready for it. This too would be a source of sorrow for Jesus. When we examine Luke 19 we find instructions on how to be ready for the coming of Jesus. If we heed the scripture, we’ll be ready when Jesus returns. Then we’ll be the cause of rejoicing not weeping in our Savior. What do we learn in Luke 19 about being ready for His coming?

First, don’t let anything keep you from the salvation Jesus offers (19:1-10). On His way to Jerusalem Jesus passed through Jericho (19:1). Jericho was known for its palm trees. It was a rich and flourishing town. It was at this point we are introduced to Zacchaeus, a rich chief tax collector (19:2). Tax collectors were despised and because his wealth came from collecting taxes he was likely resented by those around him. He was wealthy and had position in society and yet when he heard of Jesus nearby he sought Him out (19:3).

Zacchaeus had some obstacles to overcome in order to see Jesus. He was short. Even though he didn’t measure up physically, he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree so that he could see Jesus (19:3-4). For a wealthy man of status to climb a tree was an act of humiliation. Zacchaeus made seeking Jesus a priority by humbling himself to a position where he could see Him. When we come to the Lord we do so humbly, on His terms, not our own. Zacchaeus didn’t proudly push through the crowd for an audience with Jesus. He humbly and in a childlike way scampered up a tree to see Jesus. Jesus said to enter his kingdom you had to enter it as a child, humbly and open to learn (Luke 18:16-17).

As Jesus passed by He looked up and saw Zacchaeus and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house” (19:5). Zacchaeus immediately scampered down the tree and, "received Him joyfully” (19:6). Zacchaeus accepted the invitation of Jesus. He did so joyfully too. Something in the rich tax collector responded to the invitation of Jesus. He may have had all he needed materially, but he was missing something more important. He knew that too. Otherwise he wouldn’t have climbed that tree. When Jesus said He would stay at his house, Zacchaeus heart leaped for joy. He sensed his emptiness was about to be ended.

The bystanders complained about this. They resented Jesus going to stay with a “sinner” (19:7). But public opinion didn’t prevent Zacchaeus from receiving Jesus. Even though these were the people he had to work with and live amongst, Zacchaeus didn’t let their opinion and peer pressure deter him. Nothing could keep him from opening his home and heart to the Savior.

We don’t know what the entire conversation was between Jesus and Zacchaeus but what we do know is that it had an impact on the rich tax collector. He stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold” (19:8). These words indicate a life change based on an inward heart transformation. Zacchaeus was convicted of his sin. He wanted to make things right. What Jesus brought Him, he received. We know this because Jesus responded, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham” (19:9). A “son of Abraham” is another way of saying Zacchaeus had put his faith in God (see Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4). Zacchaeus was not saved by his works, his works were a product of being saved by the faith he put in Jesus.

The account of Zacchaeus salvation is an example of Jesus’ priority. Jesus said, “for the Son of Man has come to seek and save that which was lost” (19:10). That was Jesus’ priority and that should be our priority. If we are going to be ready for His coming we have to be saved ourselves. We have to receive Jesus into our hearts. Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Rev. 3:20). That’s the first order of business, be saved yourself. Then once your salvation is secure, make evangelism a priority like Jesus did. This is the first step in getting ready for Jesus.

Second, be faithful to use what the Lord gives you (19:11-27). As Jesus spoke of His priority to seek and save the lost He shared the parable of the ten minas. He spoke of a nobleman who went away on a journey to receive a kingdom. As he left he entrusted ten of his servant’s with a mina each with the command, “Do business till I come” (19:11-13). Despite some resistance the nobleman received his kingdom (19:14). Upon his return he called the servants to give an account of what they had done with the ten minas (19:15). The first two servants that gave account had differing achievements but the nobleman complimented both and gave each even greater responsibility (19:16-19). But the third servant came and returned the mina with no profit reasoning that he was fearful and implied the nobleman was harsh, unjust, and unreasonable (19:20-21). The nobleman assessed this one as a “wicked servant,” and took his mina from him and gave it to the servant who had invested the mina wisely (19:22-26). Then the nobleman called for his enemies to be brought before him to be slain before him (19:27). The message here is faithfulness means wisely using and investing what the Lord entrusts to you. If we are going to be ready for Jesus coming we need to invest what He has entrusted to us in a way that will yield a profit. Our talents, material resources, spiritual gifting, everything He has entrusted to us should be invested in the priority of seeking and saving the lost.

Third, understand Jesus will be praised (19:28-40).As Jesus drew near Jerusalem He instructed His disciples to go ahead of Him to secure His mode of transportation, a colt (19:28-31). In Matthew’s account it mentions a donkey and a colt (Mat. 21:1-7). This is not a contradiction only a typological insight added by Matthew. Typologically the donkey and colt refer to the Old Testament and New Testament. In Matthew it states Jesus “sat on them” (Mat. 19:7). But in Luke it shows that while Jesus may have begun sitting on both, He made the transition to sitting only on the colt. Typologically this refers to the transition from Old to New Testaments.

As Jesus rides the colt His “disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen saying: ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the LORD!’ Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (19:32-38). When some Pharisees heard this, they immediately knew Jesus was being hailed as Messiah. They called for Jesus to rebuke His disciples (19:39). To this Jesus said, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out” (19:40). Jesus is going to be praised. A day is coming when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil. 2:9-11). This is going to happen. Nothing people say or do can prevent it. Will you be one of the disciples praising Jesus or will you be a religious Pharisee trying to prevent it? Will you be ready when Jesus comes?

Fourth, don’t neglect prophecy (19:41-44). Jesus coming as Messiah should not have met with resistance or rejection. The Messiah was clearly identified in prophetic scriptures. Jesus laments, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes” (19:41-42). Because they neglected God’s prophetic word and rejected Jesus as Messiah, blindness came upon them that prevented them from seeing Messiah Jesus for who He was. Rejecting God’s word always leads to a hardening, a dulling, and desensitization to the truth of God. The apostle Paul spoke of a blindness that has come upon many Jews that will last until the end times (Rom. 11). Then through a series of events that blindness will be lifted. It will be lifted when they see Jesus return (Zech. 12:10). And Paul says, “And so all Israel will be saved” (Rom. 11:26). That will be a great day!

But before that day comes Jesus prophesied there would be great trial and hardship for Israel. He predicted the enemies of Israel would surround Jerusalem and literally bring it down stone by stone (19:43-44). This was literally fulfilled in 70AD when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple. You can trust the word of Jesus.

That God’s word predicted clearly what the coming of Messiah would be like is seen in such passages as Zechariah 9:9 that states:

Zechariah 9:9 - “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.

This is how Jesus entered Jerusalem. But if that isn’t enough, the book of Daniel contains a more incredible prophetic word identifying to the day when Messiah would make His triumphal entry into Jerusalem:

Daniel 9:25 - “Know therefore and understand, That from the going forth of the command To restore and build Jerusalem Until Messiah the Prince, There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall, Even in troublesome times.”

This is an incredible prophecy! What it means is that from the time that the people are permitted to return to the Holy Land to rebuild Jerusalem, there will be “seven weeks and sixty-two weeks” or 69 weeks of seven years each, 483 years (69x7 = 483). We need to keep in mind too that the Hebrew year consisted of 360 days, not 365 like our calendar.

In the book of Nehemiah we are told of the “command” made by King Artaxerxes to allow the Jews to return to their land from captivity and to rebuild Jerusalem, (not just the Temple but the city of Jerusalem):

Nehemiah 2:1,5,8 – “And it came to pass in the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, that I took the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had never been sad in his presence before.5 . . .And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, I ask that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ tombs, that I may rebuild it.” . . . 8 “and a letter to Asaph the keeper of the king’s forest, that he must give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel which pertains to the temple, for the city wall, and for the house that I will occupy.” And the king granted them to me according to the good hand of my God upon me.”

It is well documented in history that the first day of Nisan “in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes” is equivalent to March 14, 445 B.C. That is the starting point for this prophecy. You might think, “Wait a minute teacher, how do you know what day of the month in Nisan it was?” In his great book entitled, The Search for Messiah, Mark Eastman explains the following:

“By Hebrew tradition, when the day of the month is not specifically stated, it is given to be the first day of that month. So, the day of the decree by Artaxerxes was the first day of the Hebrew month Nisan 445 B.C.E. The first day of Nisan 445 B.C.E. corresponds to the 14th day of March. This was verified by the astronomical calculations at the British Royal Observatory and reported by Sir Robert Anderson.”

Now if we multiply 69 x 7 year units (360 day years) the result is 173,880 days. When we mark off 173,880 days from March 14, 445 B.C. it brings us to April 6th, 32 A.D. In Luke 3:1 it states that Jesus’ ministry began “in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar.” The date at which Tiberius’ reign began is calculated with certainty to be 14 A.D. If we add 15 years starting from 14 A.D. it brings us to 29 A.D. We then need to add an additional 3 years due to the three years of ministry depicted chronologically in the gospels. That therefore brings us to 32 A.D. In his pamphlet Jesus Historical Facts, Ralph O Muncaster notes that:

“The Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England confirms the Sunday [Palm Sunday – Triumphal Entry] before Passover [in 32 A.D.] to be APRIL 6TH, 32 A.D.’

Therefore, what we have in Daniel 9 is an exact calculation to the day when Messiah Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem! This not only attests to the supernatural Divine authorship of this prophecy, but it also identifies and bears testimony that Jesus is the Messiah!

The prophecy of Daniel goes on to predict what would happen to Messiah at the end of that week that began with the triumphal entry:

Daniel 9:26a - “And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself;. . .

Here we have a direct reference to the crucifixion of Jesus one week after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. “Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself;” is referring to the substitutionary atonement of Jesus as the Scripture attests:

Isaiah 53:4-6 – “Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted.5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”

In the New Testament it speaks of the substitutionary work of Jesus in the following way:

2 Corinthians 5:21 – “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

1 Peter 2:24 – “who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.”

1 Peter 3:18 – “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,”

The Jews had been looking for a political Messiah who would free them from the oppression of the Romans. But had they checked the word of God more closely and not relied so heavily on the tradition of men, they would have understood that Messiah would first give His life as a substitutionary sacrifice for the sins of all humankind.

We need to pay attention to prophecy in scripture. Otherwise when Jesus returns, we may not be ready. Learn from those who missed His first coming so that you won’t miss His second coming!

Fifth, clean house (19:45-48). Upon entering Jerusalem Jesus went straight to the Temple. As soon as He got there He cleaned house. He drove out those who had reduced the holy Temple grounds to a place of manipulative monetary profit. The money changers preyed on pilgrims who came to the Temple to bring offerings to the Lord. The pilgrims would bring their own sacrifices but they would be rejected and told they needed to buy the acceptable sacrificial animals from the priests. To do this they had to convert their secular money to Temple money. When people would go to the money changers to convert their money, they would be charged exorbitant conversion charges. Since the pilgrims had travelled far from home, they had no recourse but to pay the extortionist expense. Jesus threw those involved in such unjust practices out of the Temple. He then reemphasized that God’s house was to be a house of prayer not a den of thieves (19:45-46). And He taught daily in the Temple. The religious Pharisees resisted and objected to this. They began plotting how to kill Jesus. But the people were hungry for God’s word and there was nothing that could prevent them from receiving the word Jesus taught.

The final thing we need to do to be ready for Jesus’ coming is to clean our house. Christians are likened to being temples of the Holy Spirit who are not their own but are now owned by God (1 Cor. 6:19-20). We need to invite Jesus into our house and ask Him what needs to go. We need to reestablish prayer and the teaching of God’s word in our house, in our hearts.

Jesus is coming again. Many missed Him the first time He came despite hundreds of prophetic indicators. When He comes back next time He will return in two phases. He will come secretly to rapture true believers (1 Thess. 4:13-5:9) before the Tribulation. Then He will come in power and great glory for all to see at His Second Coming at the end of the Tribulation (Luke 21:25-28; Mat. 24:27-31; Mark 13:24-27). Will you be ready? Are you ready? Will Jesus weep over you?

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