Flashback Episode — Weeping While Others Cheer: Luke 19:28-44

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As we continue our journey focusing on the week leading up to the cross, we come to one of the most well known events in Jesus’ entire life, which was the point in time where He rode into Jerusalem on a young donkey.

While all the gospels describe Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a young donkey, only Luke’s gospel includes an interesting detail about this event and where Jesus had placed His focus. However, before we get to that, Jesus first needs to get the young donkey to ride on.

Let’s read about what happened from Luke’s gospel, chapter 19, using the New Living Translation. Starting in verse 28, Luke tells us that:

28 After telling this story, Jesus went on toward Jerusalem, walking ahead of his disciples. 29 As he came to the towns of Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives, he sent two disciples ahead. 30 “Go into that village over there,” he told them. “As you enter it, you will see a young donkey tied there that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks, ‘Why are you untying that colt?’ just say, ‘The Lord needs it.’”

32 So they went and found the colt, just as Jesus had said. 33 And sure enough, as they were untying it, the owners asked them, “Why are you untying that colt?”

34 And the disciples simply replied, “The Lord needs it.” 35 So they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their garments over it for him to ride on.

Pausing briefly, I always find it amazing that Jesus knew exactly what would happen, and that He tells the two disciples exactly what to say when faced with the donkey’s owners who probably thought they were catching two not-so-bright thieves. While we don’t know any of the back story regarding this donkey colt, from how the owners’ responded, we can tell that these owners are willing to trust God with their stuff.

This portion of our event also reassures us that when faced with difficult circumstances surrounding what God has asked us to do, we can trust that He will give us the words to say to bring about His purposes in the world.

Returning to our passage in verse 35,

 35 So they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their garments over it for him to ride on.

36 As he rode along, the crowds spread out their garments on the road ahead of him. 37 When he reached the place where the road started down the Mount of Olives, all of his followers began to shout and sing as they walked along, praising God for all the wonderful miracles they had seen.

38 “Blessings on the King who comes in the name of the Lord!
    Peace in heaven, and glory in highest heaven!”

39 But some of the Pharisees among the crowd said, “Teacher, rebuke your followers for saying things like that!”

40 He replied, “If they kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!”

41 But as he came closer to Jerusalem and saw the city ahead, he began to weep. 42 “How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes. 43 Before long your enemies will build ramparts against your walls and encircle you and close in on you from every side. 44 They will crush you into the ground, and your children with you. Your enemies will not leave a single stone in place, because you did not recognize it when God visited you.”

In Luke’s gospel, we discover that during the celebration of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem, the Pharisees in the crowd had something to disagree with. Actually, this shouldn’t surprise us at all, except to say that it might be a little surprising to discover that there were Pharisees present in this situation. The fact that Pharisees were present in this event makes me think that Jesus likely had his own dedicated team of critics that followed Him wherever He went. I also wonder if some of these Pharisees were commissioned with the task of seeing where Jesus would be staying, just in case the religious leaders decided on a time to arrest Him.

However, this is not all Luke describes. While the crowd cheers for Jesus’ entrance, and the Pharisees sneer at the crowd glorifying Jesus as a coming King, we see a different response from Jesus Himself. Luke tells us that when the city comes into view, Jesus weeps for it.

There are only two places in the gospels where Jesus is recorded as weeping, and this is one of them. The other is when Lazarus was in the tomb and everyone else was crying about His death. While Jesus weeping over Lazarus’ death is significant in its own way, Jesus does something that turns that crowd’s tears into joy.

However, in this instance, there isn’t anything Jesus can do for the city He loves. Jesus knows that His death is the only way for the city’s survival, but more important than Jesus’ death is that the religious leaders must recognize and acknowledge who Jesus is. Jesus’ hands are tied as He realizes that nothing He can do will save the city of Jerusalem from facing destruction.

God offered salvation to His people through Jesus, but they chose to reject Him and this ultimately led to Jerusalem’s destruction when they rallied against Rome and ultimately failed.

In this event, we can learn that when we depend on God and lean on Him for guidance, He will teach us what to say, and He will bring us His peace. While Jesus wept when realizing that the city He loved would ultimately be destroyed, He still loved the city and the people living within its walls. Even if our own lives cause Jesus pain, He still loves each of us and He wants to help heal our hurts.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Be sure to always seek God first, and intentionally depend on Him for help facing the challenges that life brings our way. Know that the only place we can find true, lasting peace is through Jesus.

Also, always pray and study the Bible for yourself to grow closer to Jesus personally. While someone else can give you ideas to think about, never let your relationship with Jesus depend on anyone else. Praying personally and studying the Bible personally help grow your personal relationship with Him.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, or deviate away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year of the Cross – Episode 2: During Jesus’ ride to Jerusalem on a young donkey, Luke describes in his gospel how Jesus stops and weeps while everyone else is cheering. Discover some things we can learn from this whole donkey-ride event that we can apply in our lives over 2000 years later.

Join the discussion on the original episode's page: Click Here.

Knowing Where Jesus Went: John 8:12-20

Focus Passage: John 8:12-20 (NCV)

12 Later, Jesus talked to the people again, saying, “I am the light of the world. The person who follows me will never live in darkness but will have the light that gives life.”

13 The Pharisees said to Jesus, “When you talk about yourself, you are the only one to say these things are true. We cannot accept what you say.”

14 Jesus answered, “Yes, I am saying these things about myself, but they are true. I know where I came from and where I am going. But you don’t know where I came from or where I am going. 15 You judge by human standards. I am not judging anyone. 16 But when I do judge, I judge truthfully, because I am not alone. The Father who sent me is with me. 17 Your own law says that when two witnesses say the same thing, you must accept what they say. 18 I am one of the witnesses who speaks about myself, and the Father who sent me is the other witness.”

19 They asked, “Where is your father?”

   Jesus answered, “You don’t know me or my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father, too.” 20 Jesus said these things while he was teaching in the Temple, near where the money is kept. But no one arrested him, because the right time for him had not yet come.

Read John 8:12-20 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Part way through Jesus ministry, some Pharisees got together and challenged Him about making claims about Himself that appeared to be invalid, because no one else had validated them. When responding to this challenge, Jesus opens by making a startling statement. To begin His response, Jesus tells the Pharisees, “Yes, I am saying these things about myself, but they are true. I know where I came from and where I am going. But you don’t know where I came from or where I am going.” (v. 14)

Before answering their challenge, Jesus first acknowledges He does make some startling claims, but this is because they don’t know who Jesus’ Source of knowledge is. The point Jesus is making is that just because they don’t agree with His claim doesn’t make the claim any less true.

Jesus counterchallenges these leaders by making the point that they really don’t know what they are talking about because they don’t know where Jesus is really from or where He is going. However, Jesus does know where He came from and where He is heading – and this detail is crucial for us to have faith in Him.

The reason this is important is because Jesus is the only one who can take us to heaven. While there are plenty of worldviews that claim to have the knowledge about how to get to heaven, none of them can compare with the offer Jesus has given to us. With all the other claims about religions leading to heaven, Christianity is the only one where everything has already been done for us. With other worldviews, the focus is on what we have to do; Christianity’s focus is on what Jesus has done for us.

In this passage, Jesus tells us that the religious leaders are clueless regarding Him, which shouldn’t surprise us if we read the gospels with the goal of learning about Jesus. But just because the most religious people in the first century didn’t understand Jesus, we can trust Jesus knew what He was talking about. Jesus knew He came from heaven and He knows how to take us back with Him.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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Named by the Father: Matthew 1:18-25

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While it might seem strange starting out the new year looking at a passage from the Christmas story, this happens to be where Matthew begins. Well actually, before looking at Jesus’ birth story, Matthew takes a look at Jesus’ genealogy and traces it back to Abraham. While planning for this year, I quickly realized that Matthew has too many events in it than we are able to cover in our year. Because of this, I thought we could move through this gospel looking at some of the highlight events, and focusing in on some of the events that only Matthew includes.

This then leads us to focus a couple episodes here at the beginning of our year in this gospel on Jesus’ birth, because while Luke also focuses on this event, both gospels share different details.

Matthew sets the stage by including the tension that was present when it was discovered that Mary was pregnant. Our passage is found in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 1, and we will read it from the New American Standard Bible. Starting in verse 18, Matthew tells us that:

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. 19 And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. 20 But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” 24 And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, 25 but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.

While reading this, I am amazed at Joseph. This passage gives us a glimpse of Joseph’s character, and it is one of only a few passages that focus on Jesus’ earthly dad. In this passage, Matthew describes Joseph as a “righteous man”, but the subtle implication is also that he did not believe Mary when she insisted that her pregnancy was of divine origin. Joseph decides to send Mary away secretly because he does not want to disgrace her in a public way. This choice shows us a piece of Joseph’s character. While Joseph had every right and opportunity to publicly shame Mary for her pregnancy before his dream, he resolved to keep the issue as a private matter in order to help Mary keep her reputation more intact.

However, after resolving on a plan of action, Joseph has a dream that changes his plans. The timing of this dream is interesting in my mind. I wonder if Joseph had been deliberating on a plan of action for several days or weeks before making up his mind, or if this was something Joseph had decided on the same day he learned about the pregnancy.

Regardless of the timing details that are not included in this passage, it is fascinating that the angel appeared in the dream only after Joseph had made a decision. I wonder if this shows us a little piece of how God acts. Sometimes, God will wait for us to make a decision before He steps in to help us shift our decision onto His path for us.

If this is the case, then it does us no good to wait and stall making a decision because we want God’s input, because God is waiting for us to make the decision for ourselves before stepping in if needed to help us shift our choices onto His paths.

After Joseph had the dream, he changed the course of His life to match the message he was given. Instead of sending Mary away quietly, Joseph moves through the marriage proceeding, and it’s possible he accelerated the plan simply to help this situation be less awkward for his new wife. It is possible that Joseph wanted this pregnancy to be less obvious that it was not his, even though he kept her a virgin as Matthew described.

This dream completely changed the course of Joseph’s life. Joseph took this dream to heart and he followed through with what the angel told him. In this dream, we have an angel validating Mary’s unbelievable story, and the angel also, interestingly enough, calls Joseph a “son of David”. I’m curious if Joseph knew his genealogy enough to know that he was a descendant of David. I wonder if this is one reason why Matthew opens his gospel by not only connecting Joseph to David, but also to Abraham as well. Either way, this greeting is a powerful one to pay attention to because the Messiah that God promised was to be one of David’s descendants, and if I’m not mistaken, one of Abraham’s descendants as well.

The angel validates Mary’s testimony about the pregnancy, and the angel also gives Joseph the name that they should give the Baby. When we look at the story of Zechariah and the birth of John the Baptist in Luke’s gospel, we discover that the father was the one to officially name the child. It is only after Zechariah officially writes down John’s name that he is able to speak again.

Bringing this information over to Joseph and Mary’s story in Matthew, it is as though through this angel, God the Father is telling Joseph, the earthly dad, what to name His Son. This is a powerful exchange between these two father roles and we can easily miss this detail if we are not paying attention.

Joseph’s role is a significant role in Jesus’ story. Joseph’s role is similar to an adoptive step-father, since Jesus is not directly his, but Joseph is also responsible for raising Jesus. While we don’t know much about Joseph’s character, we do know that Joseph succeeded at his role of being Jesus’ dad because of the man Jesus grew up to be.

As we come to the end of this first passage in our year in Matthew’s gospel, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I always challenge you to do, intentionally seek God first in your life and choose to let Him lead and guide you along the path He wants you to take. While sometimes God will show us a decision we should make before we have made it, don’t wait to make decisions, because God might be waiting for us to make the decision before stepping in if necessary. We should intentionally move through life and be open, willing, and expecting God to step in and correct our course when necessary.

Also, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself to grow personally closer to God each and every day. While other people can give you things to think about, only through personal study, personal prayer, and time can someone grow a personal relationship with Jesus. Continue growing your personal relationship with Jesus, starting today!

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or wander away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year in Matthew – Episode 1: Near the beginning of Matthew’s gospel, we discover several powerful insights into the character of Joseph, who was Jesus’ earthly father, and a dream that changed his life forever.

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Thanking the Source: Luke 5:17-26

Focus Passage: Luke 5:17-26 (CEV)

17 One day some Pharisees and experts in the Law of Moses sat listening to Jesus teach. They had come from every village in Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem.

God had given Jesus the power to heal the sick, 18 and some people came carrying a crippled man on a mat. They tried to take him inside the house and put him in front of Jesus. 19 But because of the crowd, they could not get him to Jesus. So they went up on the roof, where they removed some tiles and let the mat down in the middle of the room.

20 When Jesus saw how much faith they had, he said to the crippled man, “My friend, your sins are forgiven.”

21 The Pharisees and the experts began arguing, “Jesus must think he is God! Only God can forgive sins.”

22 Jesus knew what they were thinking, and he said, “Why are you thinking that? 23 Is it easier for me to tell this crippled man that his sins are forgiven or to tell him to get up and walk? 24 But now you will see that the Son of Man has the right to forgive sins here on earth.” Jesus then said to the man, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk home.”

25 At once the man stood up in front of everyone. He picked up his mat and went home, giving thanks to God. 26 Everyone was amazed and praised God. What they saw surprised them, and they said, “We have seen a great miracle today!”

Read Luke 5:17-26 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Perhaps it is just a matter of semantics, or simply looking too closely at the details of this passage, but in this passage is a subtle shift of wording that I find very interesting. As our passage opens, Jesus is teaching in a crowded home, and it is much too crowded to bring someone in to be healed by Him on a stretcher or mat. But this does not discourage this crippled man’s friends because they realize that the roof is not as crowded, and that there is ample “airspace” to lower their friend right in front of the One they know can heal him.

And this is what they do. What I find interesting is not found in the persistence of this man’s friends, but in Jesus’ words surrounding this healing and in the crowd’s response.

We are unsure what Jesus was teaching on immediately before being interrupted by the man and his friends, but Jesus’ first words don’t relate to healing but to forgiveness of sins. This causes a significant stir amongst the leaders present, because forgiveness of sins is an ability reserved only for God, and Jesus seems to be claiming He is capable of it as well.

The phrase Jesus says that stands in contrast to what the crowd reacted to is this: “Is it easier for me to tell this crippled man that his sins are forgiven or to tell him to get up and walk? But now you will see that the Son of Man has the right to forgive sins here on earth.” (v. 23-24a)

This stands in contrast to what happens after the man is healed: “He picked up his mat and went home, giving thanks to God. Everyone was amazed and praised God.” (v. 25b-26a)

It seems as though Jesus was pushing the religious leaders about who He was, and subtly drawing the focus to His role and mission on earth. However, the crowd, and even the man who was healed, seemed to be more focused on praising the God behind the miracle instead of getting caught up in the tension present over Jesus’ forgiveness comments.

While the Pharisees and experts debated over Jesus, the crowd was praising God – and this is exactly what Jesus planned to happen. Jesus stumps the Pharisees while inspiring praise to God.

In my own life, when I see blessings come my way, it is less about thanking the specific source of the blessing and more about praising the God who is the ultimate source of this blessing. That is one lesson I see Jesus teaching us here.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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