Passion Week V

As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, shouting: “BLESSED IS THE KING WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!” (Luke 19:37-40 NASB)

I noticed we have either two crowds (disciples and travelers), or one crowd with interlopers (disciples with Pharisee interlopers).  Along through Luke I have contended that the Pharisees with whom Jesus is in dialogue as He moves about are actually disciples of His; or at least followers.  If that was true, at this point these wish to distance themselves from Jesus’ followers.  Have these Pharisees “repented” from following Jesus?

First off, “crowd” in verse 37 and “crowd” in verse 39 are actually different words.  Before you get confused, they aren’t related to each other either.  One refers to a “bunch of somethings” in other words, a subset of a larger category, hence “crowd of disciples”.  The other is a noun, a complete category.  At least I thought that was the case. It’s nice theory, but it’s wrong.  I looked it up thinking I had found something possibly profound, and easily disproved it.  It happens to me a lot actually.

The two are different words, but essentially synonymous; at least as they refer to crowds of people.  I believe that Luke is using a literary device at this point which serves two purposes.  One, it avoids repetition, and two, it differentiates between two “crowds”.  One crowd is the disciples of Jesus, the other is the crowd heading into Jerusalem.  The Pharisees are from the second group.  So now I ask, were the Pharisees from the first crowd, and now have decided to distance themselves from the disciples?

I don’t think so.  I think, because of how their plea with Jesus is worded, that they simply are going along at the same time, and are alarmed at the clearly “messianic” (i.e. royal) quality of the disciples singing.  They’re concerned it may cause a riot or worse during the festival.  But I think there may have also been other Pharisees who have traveled with Jesus, who may have also been among those praising God as they entered Jerusalem.  Maybe.  It’s hard to say because I don’t know if they had “jackets” or something designating them as Pharisees.  Or whether they had the freedom to simply drop everything and follow Jesus all over.  I simply don’t know.  It didn’t slow Peter and others down, so maybe it didn’t slow them down either.  But Luke doesn’t say.

The point I’m making here is that incidental crowds versus those crowds of followers/disciples have different perspectives.  They’re both crowds, but not gathered for the same purpose.  This gets at “popularity”, being “politically correct”, and wanting to avoid offending people.  The good news of salvation through Jesus Christ is offensive.  But not to the crowd following Him.  It’s offensive to the incidental crowd who happens to coexisting with the crowd following Him.  I think sometimes we may be trying to please the wrong crowd.  Remember that the aroma of the gospel is life to us and death to them (2 Corinthians 2:14-17).

I get that we can be offensive within the body  of our Master.  This happens all the time.  And at times people are simply loveless, acting out of their hurt and anger instead of the love they have been shown.  I get that, and I confess, have done that.  But this isn’t the only time people are offended.  There are also some who are offended out of selfishness, self-centered sense of entitlement, and/or pride.  Love is said to “cover all things”.  It’s a strange quality in 1 Corinthians 13:7 usually translated as “endures” or “bears”.  However it’s translated I believe it relates to the quality of love mentioned earlier of not accounting wrongs.  I think true mature followers of Jesus don’t become offended, but they can be considered offensive to others.

There are two crowds juxtaposed with Jesus and His followers.  We choose the crowd with whom we flow. And either crowd can distract us from our Master, Jesus.  The challenge is to be followers of Jesus, not of either crowd.  Together, we will then form a crowd unified by One.  Let the other crowd ask us to pipe down, tell us to take it somewhere else, and quit being so offensive.  It’s fine to ask, but we are to obey our Master.  It would be really embarrassing to have the rocks cry out in the praise we fail to give because we fear the wrong master.

Anyway, that’s my view through this knothole this morning.  What do you see through the fence in your knothole?


Passion Week II

When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.  For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” (Luke 19:41-44 NASB)

Why would God hide “the things that would make for peace” from His own people, from the ones living in the city where His name dwells?  She did not recognize the day of her “visitation”.  Essentially, Jerusalem didn’t recognize Jesus.  But in what way?  They’re partying now, with Passover and tons of pilgrims everywhere, and now Jesus coming, it’s on.  And yet there was something that was missed; a massive “oversight”.

Only Luke has this prediction with specifics of the demise of Jerusalem.  “Scholars” are often quick to point out that this indicates that Luke was written late (after the destruction of Jerusalem). But this can’t be proof, as a record of Jesus’ words would have been in existence before the destruction.  The whole “let the reader understand” comment in Matthew and Mark doesn’t seem to indicate that, and yet stems from the same sort of prediction.  At least that’s how the church in Jerusalem took it, and disappeared once the Romans broke through into the Temple.

Yet Jesus is specific about both the way Jerusalem falls, and the reason.  She fails to recognize Jesus; specifically, who He is has been hidden from her.  In other contexts it’s clear that God Himself hides this sort of information.  But here it could be the culture or religious leaders, or political climate, or any number of things not mentioned.  In any case, Luke still points out she’s been “duped”, something was hidden from her, she’s a victim; of sorts.

Jesus refers to what was missed in two ways.  First He refers to “the things toward peace” in verse 42.  But then in verse 44 He says, “against which you did not know the opportune time of your oversight.”  That last word is the Greek word from which we get “episcopal”, yet it is nearly universally translated as “visitation” here.  So how does “overseer” or “bishop” get translated as “visitation”, and everyone’s okay with this?  The two aren’t even related…are they?

Back in the day, when the church I was pastoring was clamoring about me not “visiting” enough, I did a word study on church leadership.  I was fine until I included the Hebrew Scriptures in my study.  At that point, my argument that “visiting” was their job not mine fell to pieces.  In the Hebrew Scriptures, the word for the office and practice of those in religious leadership was a very familiar word to me.  It sounded like pa-KAD, but it meant “to visit”.  It was used in Hebrew class to teach both the declension of nouns and the parsing of verbs because it had both forms.

It was disturbing for me because it has such an enormous range of meaning.  It refers to the “visitation of God” which should terrify His people.  And it also refers to the exercising of leadership (specifically in a religious or prophetic office) over His people.  It wasn’t always a positive thing, it more often tied to “judgement” than consolation.  On the other hand it was also often tied to consolation.  So, both things were a part of why it was used to refer to the activity and title of the leadership office.

When the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Greek, in cases where “to visit” was related to the leadership office, it was translated as “episcopal” in Greek, even when it was a verb.  So, we have this very consistent extension of meaning for the word from Hebrew usage and tradition.  It is an extension because typical Greek usage saw it as a leadership office and wouldn’t tie it to a “visit” necessarily.

Okay, as my wife will say so often, “so what?”  Well, here it is: Jesus’ visitation wasn’t just to die on the cross.  There existed the possibility that the nation of Israel could have rallied around Him, recognizing Him as the Messiah they had been looking for.  I believe that, in that case, Jesus would have still died on the cross, just not out of the betrayal of His people.  There existed the possibility of the redemption of Israel right there at that Passover feast.

This is not a “slam” on the Jews, then or now.  It’s a lesson I must learn.  What am I in danger of missing for some of the same reasons they did?  What distracts me today that perhaps distracted them then?  What am I in danger of missing from God?  Is He “visiting” me and I’m missing His presence?  This is the question that brings me to my knees, and leads me deeper into my Master’s presence.  This is where He has more of me and I have less of me.  If I focus on them and refuse to learn from them, then I have let pride and arrogance cloud my vision, and the things toward peace are hidden from me.

That is my view through the fence.  What does your knothole reveal to you?

Passion Week I

As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, shouting: “BLESSED IS THE KING WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”  (Luke 19:37-38 NASB)

I needed to start this series somewhere, and opted to skip the colt and focus on the ride.  Jesus rides into Jerusalem.  And along the way, Luke records cloaks (not palms) in the path.  In Luke this a royal procession more than triumphal.  Immediately following the parable about the king receiving a kingdom is this event.  For Luke (and therefore his audience) there is a direct link between the two.

And yet there’s another link.  See what the disciples (the crowd of them) say?  It sounds a bit like angels singing above shepherds so many chapters ago.  So, Luke connects the beginning with the beginning of the end.  Just in case we had forgotten how we got here, he uses a brief reminder.  The King is coming into His own.

In Luke, the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem is much more than a pilgrimage.  The palms and hosannas of the other pilgrims are here replaced by royal references and cloaks in the path.  If you consider the setting, this had to ignite excitement and confusion among the visitors to Jerusalem.  It was already becoming an unusual Passover.

The King comes to Jerusalem, the Davidic King, the Messianic King, the King of Righteousness (Malchizadek), and the Eternal King.  The Davidic King has been absent for over 400 years, but the King of Righteousness since the days of Abraham.  Jerusalem is unexpectedly hosting the Priest-King she knew in her youth, when her name was just Salem.  The peace she was named for was about to ride through her gates.

The history of God-Most-High leading and guiding His people was coming around to the cross-over; where a circle becomes the symbol of infinity.  So much meaning, symbolism, and change was coming together in this one city.

“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!”  The King comes.  Actually, the King returns.  He remembers Salem before Abraham ever arrived in Canaan.  He’s coming home in ways no one around Him imagines.  And home has changed.  It’s no longer a single hill, but three.  The shrine has become a massive temple complex.  And the throngs of pilgrims far out number the original inhabitants.  So much has changed since those days.  And yet, in those days when the sin of the Amorite had not yet reached its fill, so much seemed very similar to what He saw.

By the time Joshua reaches the Promised Land, Salem’s king is no longer the priest.  By the time David takes the city, there seems to be no king at all, just a priest named Zadok, “righteousness”.  The king of righteousness is just the priest named righteousness, and David enters the messianic role of king.  The two roles become separated.  Righteousness has become divorced from politics and war.  And as Jesus rides into town, the two streams merge once again.  The King of Righteousness has returned.

Will I bow before the King and worship before the Priest?  Will you?  Will we offer our heads to the King?  Will we offer our goods and lives to the Priest?  He comes to us, but will we receive Him?  He came to Bethlehem and no one knew.  He comes to Jerusalem, and no one understands.  He comes to us today, but what will we do?

I am Matthew Scott Brumage, son of Lloyd, Knight of the Realm, Servant of the King.  He has revealed that He loves me, He has my back, and I am at His service.  He has called me to wait, worship, and walk before Him.  That is who I am because that is who He declared me to be.  Who are you?