In the Know 5

Just as the earth begins to shed the dark and cold of winter and moves into the brightness of spring, so we too must have our faith come into the light of God’s grace.  As we prepare to enter into Holy Week we may see that much of the focus is on the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus.  This can be something that brings us down.  It is a sad time.

But we must have the attitude that Jesus had throughout those dark days.  He knew he was going to go through suffering and pain, but I believe he kept his focus on the ultimate glory that awaited him on the other side of the tomb.

On the cross Jesus spoke the first few words of Psalm 22, words of pain and sorrow.  But I believe he wanted everyone to remember the rest of the psalm.  What good news is there for the poor?  What will the attitude be from all the people?  Why will this come about?

As Christ went through the pain and torment of the arrest and crucifixion, we too sometimes go through the struggles of life.  We experience hurt and pain.  We have times of sorrow and grief and loneliness.  We often face times of hopelessness.

But we need to keep our focus on the other side of the tomb.  There is glory that awaits us all.  Jesus did indeed die, but that death was only temporary.  He was raised again and in that resurrection we are given incredible hope and joy.

As believers we need to be people who are in the know.  We must be people who are aware that the death of Christ is not the end.  There are rich blessings from God that will come our way.  We will be satisfied.  We will gladly give praise to God because we know that the crucifixion was for our salvation, a gift of God’s grace.

When we begin to feel sad or discouraged we must keep our focus on the glory of God.  Dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations.  Let us rejoice in that knowledge.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  How can you keep your faith focused on God’s glory?

In the Know 4

Our dishwasher has a delay setting.  We can load it with dirty dishes, add the soap, and then set it to run several hours later.  We don’t need to be there when it happens.  We know that once we have set the dishwasher it will go through all the cycles and clean the dishes.

While on the cross Jesus quoted the first line to Psalm 22.  Such a comment should have called to mind the entire psalm for those in the know.  What suffering is talked about in verses 16-17?  What is talked about in verse 18?  How do these words fit with the crucifixion?

Just as the dishwasher goes through the whole cycle whether we are there or not, Jesus was urging his followers to go through the whole of Psalm 22 to understand what was going on.  Jesus was not only reminding his followers that what he was doing was for the ultimate good of the world by quoting Psalm 22.  He was also showing them that what was happening was a fulfillment of prophecy.

Hundreds of years before Jesus entered Jerusalem and was crucified his ancestor King David wrote a psalm.  In that psalm David expressed the despair and sorrows that all of us feel from time to time.  He talked about the familiar feeling of hopelessness we all go through.

When life becomes difficult and we think that we have no friends we may feel as if we are surrounded by a pack of vicious dogs that snap and snarl at us.  We may feel under attack.  But these words from David were a prophecy of how God would work His salvation and grace.  It predicted the crucifixion that Jesus would go through.

As Jesus hung on the cross he was encircled by evil men.  They did indeed pierce his hands and feet when they nailed him to the cross.  And beneath him the execution squad of soldiers cast lots – rolled dice – to see who would get his clothes.

Jesus had a message in his words from the cross.  Ultimately he was reminding all of those who believed to have hope in the good that would come through his death, the salvation that he brought through the crucifixion.  But he was also reminding them that he was indeed the Son of God, the fulfillment of prophecy, the living out of God’s promise.

We must bear in mind that the death of Jesus was not the end of the story.  We must remember that Jesus was indeed the Christ, the Son of God, and that he gave himself completely that we might have hope and joy in the grace and love of God.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  What can remind you of the purpose of the crucifixion?

In the Know 3

“It’s always darkest before the dawn.”  This is a common expression, one that may be familiar to most people.  Personally, I don’t know how accurate the statement is.  Before the sun comes up it actually gets a little lighter, in my opinion.  But the point of the expression is that things seem to be at their worst right before good things break through and clear up all the problems.

After Jesus came into Jerusalem he was arrested and put on trial.  He was convicted and sentenced to death on a cross, a public execution.  While he hung on the cross Jesus quoted the first line of Psalm 22.  What are the questions asked in this psalm?  What is the attitude or feeling these questions evoke?

It is common to interpret the words of Jesus on the cross as an expression of sorrow and suffering.  In the moment that he cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” it is assumed that God had momentarily turned His back on Jesus because of the sin Jesus took on.

But there is another way to look at what Jesus has said.  In the time of Christ the psalms were not numbered and ordered as they are presented in our modern Bibles.  Instead each psalm was remembered and recognized through the first line.

By crying out the first line to Psalm 22 Jesus was reminding those in the know that they should recall this psalm.  While it begins with a lament and cry of desperation and despair, the psalm does not stop there.  Like most psalms the attitude begins with hopelessness and sadness and then moves on to joy and triumph.

Even as early as verses 3 and 4 in Psalm 22 we see expressions of victory through God.  “You are enthroned as the Holy One.”  “In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them.”

Jesus was declaring that it was always darkest before the dawn, but dawn was coming.  He was suffering on the cross and it may have appeared that evil had won, but there would be goodness that followed this execution.  Jesus would rise again.

As we draw nearer to the celebration of Easter we must remember that there is hope for each of us.  No matter what troubles we may experience, no matter how much we feel that there is no hope, we must remember that we are loved by God so much that Jesus was willing to die so that we might live.  Through his death Jesus put sin to death for us.  There is goodness that awaits us all.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  How can you hold on to hope through your darkest hours?

In the Know 2

We have a video of my wife and me holding our oldest son when he was just a few weeks old.  In that video, as we talk about the excitement of our newborn baby, we also make strange comments that don’t make sense to the casual observer.  They are cryptic references to a television show that we had watched not long before our son was born.

To almost everyone else our words sound silly, hard to understand, almost stupid.  But to my wife and me they make perfect sense because we know what we were talking about at the time.

As Jesus entered Jerusalem a crowd gathered.  What did the crowds shout?  What does the word “hosanna” mean?  Where does the sentence “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” come from?

This symbolic parade of which Jesus is a part continues with participation from the crowd that goes ahead of him and follows behind.  To the outsider, the rulers, the Roman soldiers and governor, the words probably did not mean a great deal.  The people were shouting “hosanna,” and reciting a line from a psalm.

Outsiders may have realized that this triumphal entry and the words being shouted had some religious significance, but only the people who were in the know realized what was being expressed in all this.

The word “hosanna” is a Hebrew expression that means “save.”  Those in the crowd who were calling out to Jesus were declaring that the Messiah had come.  A real and powerful threat to the existing government and the status quo had arrived.  They were declaring that a savior had come.

They also quoted from Psalm 118.  Warren Carter points out that this psalm was one traditionally recited at Passover (the holiday that would be celebrated soon after Jesus arrived) but a psalm that also had significance because it speaks of God’s victory over Israel’s oppressors.

Those in the know were aware that Jesus had come to Jerusalem to do something mighty and earth-changing.  They may not have completely understood all of Jesus’ plans but they knew good was about to come about.

As we approach Easter we must be aware that Jesus has changed the world forever.  We must be aware that God has saved us from the death of sin and blessed us with His grace.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  What changes will you have in your life knowing Jesus is your Savior?

In the Know 1

In his book The Roman Empire and the New Testament Warren Carter talks about how cultures that are being oppressed will establish ambiguous protests.  That is, they will protest the oppressing culture but do so in such a way that the other culture isn’t aware of the protest.  Only those who are “in the know” understand that a protest or secret message is being expressed.

Such is the case with the triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  This would explain why some of the things that happen take place, although they may appear confusing on the surface.

From what location will Jesus enter Jerusalem?  Why does he want to ride a donkey?

Jesus is playing to an audience that is in the know.  The Jewish people, especially those who were following Jesus and waiting for the Messiah, would understand the importance of everything Jesus was doing in his final arrival in Jerusalem.  He was entering from the Mount of Olives, a place of God’s judgment in Zechariah 14:3-5.  He was riding a donkey.  This was both a mockery of the Roman triumphal parade (the Romans rode large horses) and a fulfillment of Isaiah 62:11.

The Roman officials in Jerusalem saw only a silly little parade heralding the arrival of a local teacher and rabble-rouser.  But those who were in the know saw the importance and significance of all that was happening.  Jesus was coming to take his place as the Messiah.  He was bringing God’s grace and mercy to a people in need.

We need to be people in the know.  We must recognize the importance of what is happening in our religious year.  The arrival of Palm Sunday is not just the final week of Lent, but it is the beginning of Holy Week.  It is the start of that final approach to the celebration of Easter.

With that in mind we must take the opportunity to renew our faith commitment.  We have passed through Lent, a forty-day period of preparation and self-evaluation.  We are about to celebrate the resurrection of Christ.  Is this just another day in our life?  Is this just an opportunity to have a holiday and the big meal that comes with it?

Or will we be “in the know?”  Will we see that it is time for us to start living our faith with conviction and sincere devotion?  Will we accept the sacrifice of Jesus AND the responsibilities that go with it when we live as Christians?

DAILY CHALLENGE:  Will you accept Jesus as your “king?”