Humble New Beginnings

“…because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

Luke 19:41

Jesus very famously wept quietly at the tomb of Lazarus–“Jesus wept”–but He absolutely howled as He entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

Jesus weeps twice in the Bible–tenderly (Greek edakrysen, John 11:35) for Lazarus’s sisters’ sadness, and a second time loudly (Greek eklausen, Luke 19:41): “As He approached Jerusalem and saw the city, He wept over it.”

While we could spend this entire column discussing how deeply Jesus was moved–and somewhat miffed–at the reactions of Lazarus’ family and friends before Jesus brought Lazarus out of the tomb, that’s a common story we’ve all studied before. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life,” (John 11:25). And He meant it.

Bible scholars mostly agree that “Palm Sunday” was a few days later on the first day of the following week when Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem to the palm-waving Hosannas of all the believers who knew of Lazarus and had heard of Jesus’s many miracles. They welcomed Him to Jerusalem as their holy and promised Messiah. 

The Pharisees were not so thrilled. As Jesus approached (Luke 37-44) the crowd joyously praised but the Pharisees viciously harangued: “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” (v. 39). Jesus noted that if His disciples were quiet, then the “stones would cry out.” (v. 40). Seeing the unbelief of the Pharisees and their blindness toward God, Jesus knew it meant Jerusalem’s eventual destruction. He wept bitterly because of it.

Clearly nobody except Jesus had any idea what the rest of that week held, or how history after that would be forever changed. The reality was, Jesus on that donkey was God returning to Jerusalem–as God told Abraham, Moses, and the prophets He would–to initiate His Kingdom on Earth. It’s what Jesus had been saying all along.

What the Pharisees saw–in their blindness and anger–was a troublemaking blasphemer who would pull down their temple, negate their authority, threaten their social positions, and not least of all threaten Jerusalem’s tenuous peace with the Romans. The Pharisees “did not recognize the time of God’s coming.” (v. 41)

Something else they didn’t perceive, and I’d never thought of either, was looking at what we call Holy Week as a perfect, poetic replay of the Creation story in Genesis. 

It was just a brief note in N.T. Wright’s The New Testament in Its World I’m reading, but, Lord of lords, how poignant. In Genesis 1, God labored for six days, rested a day, and His perfect Creation was in motion. Jesus here spent six days in Jerusalem (Sunday to Friday), finishing His work of salvation, service, obedience, and love on the cross on Friday–the sixth day–and in His death rested on the seventh day–Saturday. 

Right here, let’s not worry too much whether on that “Holy Saturday” Jesus descended into Hades, battled Satan, freed the saints, or whatever else He might have done; there is only thin and much debated scriptural evidence for that. What we know is that on the cross Jesus said, “It is finished.”  On the seventh day, why not let Him rest?

Jesus’s resurrection on the first day of a new week was breathtaking and glorious for those who believed. It signaled the new beginning of humanity’s eternal life in God’s Kingdom through the humility of the cross of Christ. Creation, humbly, was renewed.

Walters (rlwcom@aol.com) looked up the Greek for “wept” at Biblehub.com. For more of Walters’ columns, see commonchristianity.blogspot.com. For his books, see www.lulu.com/spotlight/CommonChristianity.

Something New

In an interview some 50 years after the fact, Paul McCartney related a story about the first time the Beatles recorded an album using “stereo” sound.

“What’s stereo?” McCartney had inquired, having encountered the technology for the first time.  The studio sound engineer explained that in “stereo” recording, music is divided into two channels. “Some of the music comes out of the left side speaker,” Paul was told, “and some comes out of the right side speaker.” 

McCartney’s early-1960s response was a playful, puzzled, “Yeah? Great! Why?”

Although today we can’t imagine sound or video recording that doesn’t offer the depth and texture of multiple tracks, multi-channel sound, and multi-dimension video, one of the last century’s and arguably one of history’s best known musical talents had to start, at some point, hearing about “stereo” for the first time.  It was totally new.

This Beatles vignette was in a chunk of text I actually removed from something else totally new – something I did for the first time over the weekend – which was to preach a message – a sermon – in a small church service.  It was at Allisonville Meadows assisted living center here in Fishers, Ind., and while I loved the “stereo” analogy, I forced myself not to veer so far away from the point I wanted to make.

And my point was… that the most shocking, totally new thing in all human history was Jesus Christ.  He revealed to humanity eternal life, relationship with God, the fatherhood of God, forgiveness of sin, peace in this life, comfort of the Holy Spirit, and the assured knowledge of saving grace, sacrificial love, God’s glory, and ultimate victory over sin giving human life a depth and texture it never previously offered.

That is the truth of the Gospel; that was totally new and totally unexpected.

It’s surprising, really, that despite all the prophecy and Hebrew scriptures about a coming Messiah… everybody missed it.  The greatest experts–the Pharisees and Jewish leaders–utterly and violently denied Jesus when they should have known his voice.  Instead, they wanted to kill him. And did.  They did not know Him.

The opening of John 17 was the text for the message.  Verses 2-6 begin Jesus’s well-known “Priestly Prayer” given on His way to Gethsemane.  After leaving the Last Supper, Jesus prayed for himself, his disciples, and for all believers.  And he prayed aloud–as badly as Jesus needed to pray to God, the disciples needed to hear it. 

Jesus opens by praying for God’s glory, His own glory (meaning His death, resurrection, and return to God), His authority, His work … and the eternal life that will be given to all who believe in Him. That was my core idea: knowing Jesus is “The Right Stuff” (that was the sermon title; I took out the Beatles, left in Chuck Yeager and Neil Armstrong and referenced Tom Wolfe’s 1979 book about aviation adventure) to know God, for God to know us, and for us to have eternal life. 

The disciples–fearing Jesus’s death and likely their own–had no idea about eternal life or what was about to happen just three days later and on into human history.

I can imagine music without the Beatles, but none of us would have a clue–or could possibly have a clue–about eternal life or even new life without Jesus Christ.

That was really and truly something new.

Walters (rlwcom@aol.com) thanks retired ministers Bob Tinsky and John Samples for the opportunity to preach, which to be honest was kind of a bucket list thing for Bob anyway.  How did it go?  Evidently OK … they invited him back next month. For more of Walters’ columns, see commonchristianity.blogspot.com. For his books, see www.lulu.com/spotlight/CommonChristianity.