April 2, 2023
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE READING:
“Therefore, put on the full armor of God. In so doing you will be able to stand your ground when the day of evil comes. After you have done everything you are able to in that day, you will be able to stand [before the throne of God with humble confidence.]” (Ephesians 6.13)
TODAY’S REFLECTION ON GOD’S WORD:
The day will come when Easter falls again on what people call “April Fools’ Day.” That day is not today. And when it happened in the past, no one called it AFD. Yet, what a reminder to all mighty ones of God that the world thinks Christ followers are foolish. Jesus said, in what is now called The Sermon on the Mount (I prefer a hillside above a bay of the Sea of Galilee near Capernaum), “And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.” (Matthew 7.26) Our declaration of faith that Jesus is the Christ, our claim that He and He alone is our Lord and Savior and our determination to preach His gospel to all the world with the intent of making as many of them disciples who accept Him as “the Way, the Truth and the Life” is not to judge whether others are foolish or not. Our task is not to be seen as foolish ourselves before the throne of God.
What might such foolishness be? Let’s take, for example, those who lined the road leading from the Mount of Olives which was on the way as Jesus came to Jerusalem from Bethany, as well as He would have from Bethlehem, on His last Passover Sunday. The disciples had spread the word (and not just the 12) that Jesus was coming. The signal was given as two of the disciples at Jesus behest had entered into Bethany (they were coming from Jericho) to ask for a colt so Jesus could ride the rest of the way to Jerusalem on it. It was not because Jesus’ feet hurt or that He was tired that such a request was made. The time had come for the King of kings and Lord of lords to enter into “His courts with praise and pass through the gates with thanksgiving.” (Psalm 100.4) How we love to sing “Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised in the city of our God on the mountain of His holiness. Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion on the sides of the north, the city of the great King.” (Psalm 48.2ff) Was this the sign the people had been looking for? Even the leaders of the Temple begged the question as to when the time would come for the Messiah to make Himself known. Jesus had replied, “No sign will be given save that of the sign of Jonah. For as he was given to speak to an adulterous generation and found himself three days in the belly of a great fish, so too, must the Son of Man be found in the heart of the earth three days and nights.” (Matthew 12.40) But, no one was listening closely to what Jesus said. Instead, they foolishly desired an overt sign such as a lightning bolt, a shooting star, an earthquake, some kind of miracle or a “secret” signal. What better than the fulfillment of scripture of the conquering hero riding in on a donkey to serve as that signal? But, that was not the extent of the foolishness. No, it was in their weak faith that we can see such foolishness. They put all their hopes in a man-made Messiah and not in the God-ordained Messiah who was, is and will always be the Son of God. They did not listen closely to His words. They put them on as easily as the cloaks they took off to spread out on the road before Him so that His feet would not touch the ground. They lifted their hands high with palm branches to exalt the coming of the once and future king as easily as they would six days later as they raised those same hands to declare “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” They failed to understand and incorporate His gospel into their lives. They may have been near to Him but their heart was not near close enough. They believed in as much Jesus as was useful to them. They did not believe in Jesus as much as was necessary for them. And dare we inspect and evaluate our own desires for believing in the Jesus who took up His cross to follow His Father’s instructions just as Isaac took up the firewood to the altar at Mount Moriah for sacrifice?
Jesus came not to be served but to serve. He came only that He glorify God and in that God glorified Him. He did not come to glorify Himself or make of Himself an object of worship. Look at the simplicity of the entire scene. Jesus did not wear royal robes. He was not adorned with fine jewelry. There was no crown set on His head. He was not girded with a warrior’s mighty sword and sheath. He did not ride a mighty stallion. He did not lead a well-fitted army of soldiers marching in uniform step unflinchingly. His feet were sandeled and covered with the dust of a long journey. He was not Rome. He was not Israel. He was not Jew or Gentile, slave or free. But, what He was was the Son of God who had put on, in the words of the Apostle Paul, “the full armor of God.” He had the belt of truth around His waist, the breastplate of righteousness on His chest, the gospel of peace on His feet, with the shield of faith to extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one in one hand and the helmet of salvation in the other and speaking the Word of God as with a “double-edged” sword which was the Spirit of God Himself. What? You don’t see that in any of the pictures and productions of “Palm Sunday”? We see children and some adults perhaps waving Palm Branches from the aisles and seats in a safe and clean worship space. We hear praise bands or choirs singing hymns, songs and spiritual songs to the effect of “Here comes Jesus.” But, where is Jesus? Even in theatrical representation, does Jesus appear in our reflections on the day? Yes, it can be moving but how far does it move us? Does it move us any further than it did the crowds lining the road which led up to the East Gate and into the Temple square? Did the people see the vision of Ezekiel’s remembrance of how the Spirit of God which had departed the unholy temple and rest upon the Mount of Olives opposite it would one day return and take its rightful place? Do we see, feel, hear, experience the “glory of the Lord round about us” as the shepherds did when the angels appeared in the heavens to declare that first “acceptable day of the Lord” when Jesus was born of Mary in Bethlehem? Or is it just enough to stir us to shake the dust off our feet in a “wait and see” moment wondering if this will be the time when Jesus returns to our world today? And when He doesn’t, we join with our Jewish brethren as they conclude their Passover celebration with “Next year in Jerusalem” but never go there themselves (and I am not speaking of geography.)
Have we built our hopes and dreams like the foolish man who built his house on the sand susceptible to the winds, fury and rain of the storm? We take only as much from the Word as we “need” without accepting the offer to take all we want from the bounty of faith, hope and love God has offered to us in His Only Begotten Son. Is it because with such acceptance also comes great responsibility. With such great responsibility comes great opportunity. With such great opportunity comes great satisfaction. With such great satisfaction comes great peace. With such great peace comes great accountability. And there will be “that day” when every knee shall bow and tongue confess that Jesus is both Christ and Lord.” Then, and only then, shall we be able to walk by faith and not by sight to enter into our place in Heaven which He prepared just for us. May His people become wise in the simple power of the gospel of Jesus who is the Christ and put on, then, the full armor of God not as an outward manifestation but as the righteous transformation of ones’ heart, mind, body, soul and spirit.
A PRAYER FOR TODAY:
Father, we remember today when Jesus came to His own as well as when His own failed to know Him fully as their Lord and Savior. We declare that is not us! Come Lord Jesus into our hearts and minds. Fill our soul with Your Spirit and our bodies with Your strength. We clothe ourselves with the full armor of God so that we might go into all the world as Your disciples making disciples. Our hope is to build up the body of Christ as Your Holy Bride-in-waiting for Her Holy Groom to dwell forever in the House of the Lord. May it be so in us and through us today and always until You return in Spirit and in Truth. AMEN.