A Friend Behind Enemy Lines
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 21:6 Holman The disciples went and did just as Jesus directed them.
Hurray for their precise prompt obedience. Jesus expects and deserves nothing less from us. The disciples’ obedience set in motion the Triumphal Entry.
On Palm Sunday the final act began. It was the last sunshine before the storm, and the last ordinary Sunday in history. Beginning the next Sunday, Christians would henceforth gather to worship on the first day of the week.
Palm Sunday began the final week of Jesus’ public ministry, the most significant week in history. Jesus, approaching history’s most important coronation, came not as a coward, but boldly, as if in control. He deliberately provoked a riot, knowing the frenzy of the rabble would force the religious leaders’ hands.
The importance of the Triumphal Entry is shown by the fact it is recorded in all four Gospels. No procession through Rome or anywhere else ever had as long a lasting effect as did this one in Jerusalem. The triumphal entries of others are long forgotten, but details of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry are recorded and remembered.
Pastor James Boice gives helpful analysis on the disproportionate amount of chapters the four Gospels give to this week in Jesus’ life. We call it Holy Week. It lasts from Palm Sunday to Resurrection Sunday.
To Holy Week, Matthew gives a fourth of his Gospel (chapters 21-28), Mark a third (11-16), Luke a fifth (19:28 to 24), John a half (13-21). Overall, a third of the Gospels (29.5 of 89.5) is given to this one week. It deserves our close scrutiny.
Matt. 21:7a They brought the donkey and the colt;
The owner, who evidently knew Jesus, obeyed. The master of the donkey felt, whatever Jesus wanted, He could have. Learn a lesson from a donkey owner.
Jesus’ claims on us are paramount. He may want the young, like Jeremiah, to give the rest of their lives to fulltime ministry. They have much to offer. If I live threescore and ten years, I have a piddling ten years left to yield to Jesus. It seems but a morsel to give Him. A teen, though, could have six decades to give Him.
Jesus might want from an older adult a surrender, like Moses’, to fulltime ministry. He may want our children on the mission field. The #1 problem faced by appointees of the International Mission Board of our denomination is the families of the called. We at Second try to deal very specifically with the seriousness of this possibility when parents dedicate their babies. It is a serious oath.
Despite the cheering crowd, on Palm Sunday our Master rode into a hostile environment. He had friends behind enemy lines, undercover believers even in Jerusalem. An upper room and a prayer garden were provided Him, women wept for Him, Simon of Cyrene carried His cross, Joseph and Nicodemus buried Him.
This assistance Jesus received from unexpected places reinforces His directive to us to seek a person of peace when we engage the lost. “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household.’ If a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on him” (Luke 10:5-6a). This principle has for decades been a guiding beacon for missionaries who bring the Gospel to unengaged unreached cultures.
This directive can help us in our daily lives. In any situation where we encounter unbelievers, try to find an individual of peace, a point person, someone who is agreeable to our personality, though they disagree with us theologically.
Seek someone who openly receives you though they know you are a Christ-follower, someone open to spiritual talks, who will be curious rather than critical, when you discuss the Bible. They’re out there. I don’t have time here to delve into the doctrine of election and foreordination, but it convinces us we can find them.
Matt. 21:7b . . .then they laid their robes on them, and He sat on them.
The Twelve started the party. Thank you, Disciples, for your exuberance. Jesus always deserves a celebration. I fear one reason the world is apathetic about Jesus is because we believers too often appear to be apathetic about Him. Does even one unbeliever know you and I are excited about being a Christ-follower?
Matt. 21:8 A very large crowd spread their robes on the road; others were
cutting branches from the trees and spreading them on the road.
We call this rolling out the red carpet. They carpeted the road to show Jesus respect, feeling He was too important to touch defiled dirty ground. A famous modern illustration of this was when Sir Walter Raleigh laid his velvet cloak over a mud puddle for Queen Elizabeth to walk on, to keep her from getting her feet wet.
No one seemed able to do enough for Jesus. Everyone, rich or poor, was able to give something: donkeys, robes, palm branches (JN 12:13). Someday, before the Lamb in Heaven, we’ll stand robed in white and waving palm branches (RV 7:9).
It is somewhat surprising that Jesus let this animated demonstration happen. This very public person on a donkey, surrounded by a doting crowd, is unlike the man who disappeared into the hills when another crowd wanted to make Him king.
Jesus, on prior occasions, told people not to say He was the Messiah, for fear of His role being misunderstood, and causing rebellion among the people. But in His Triumphal Entry, Jesus did not try to squelch talk about His being the Messiah.
He no longer felt a need to forbid public acclaim. The whole truth will soon be revealed. The ultimate crisis is looming. Publicity will make no difference now.
Unchecked by Jesus, the mob’s hysteria was electric. People were euphoric. No Roman conqueror had ever received this kind of welcome into Jerusalem.
The crowd was making a statement, “Jesus is our rightful King”, but sadly, they did not understand what they knew. They wanted war; He wanted peace.
I am not a pacifist. I believe the world would be worse off without war. I once asked Dad what he thought of Patton’s hardnosed tactics. He replied, “Son, it required a Patton to stop a Hitler.” I agree.
By the way, Dad never regretted, or minced words about, his military training. Once, when I was about 15, I sassed him. He said, “Son, the Marines taught me how to kill a man with my bare hands. Whenever you want to, we’ll go out in the back yard and settle this.” I never sassed him again.
Christians must always first and foremost advocate peace. Our Master is the Prince of Peace. We should sanction war only under very limited circumstances.
Augustine’s just war theory has guided the Western World for over fifteen centuries. He said a war should 1) have a just cause (eg. self-defense); 2) have proper authority (eg. in USA the Congress, not individuals); 3) have right intentions (eg. no ulterior motives); 4) be a last resort (all peaceful alternatives exhausted); 5) have proportionality (the good achieved must outweigh the harm inflicted); 6) have probability of success (life is not to be expended in a lost cause).
Again, I want to be very clear on this issue. I believe war is necessary, but I also fear we sometimes think too highly of it. General Robert E. Lee said, “It is well that war is so terrible–otherwise we would grow too fond of it.”
We expect too much from war. It can at best stop a current malady. It does not end depravity or secure a forever peace. The Civil War freed the slaves, but another 100 years was needed to make significant progress for African Americans.
My Grandpa Hill fought in WW I, called the Great War, the war that would end all wars, and make the world safe for democracy. He fought a worse war 25 years later. He won it also, but then came Stalin, Mao, and September 11.
War for sure has not helped the Church advance her cause. The Crusades are a terrible case in point. No weapon of war is ever to be taken up for the spread of Christianity. Our sole armament is plain truth, loving words, and kind deeds.
The rabble wanted war. Jesus did not give it to them. As a result, the palm branches would barely have begun to wilt before the crowd would yell “Crucify!”. Emotional excitement is good, but not the ultimate expression of sound religion. The Christianity of some is exhausted in their fervor, but faithfulness is needed. Hebrews clearly teaches the ultimate proof of salvation is endurance to the end.