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Instead of looking at castle walls today, think of these stones as being part of the walls of the Temple in Jerusalem because that is what Jesus would have experienced when he entered the city the final week of his life. The Temple in Jerusalem was magnificent. Here is a replica of the Temple from the time of Jesus and as you can see, it was massive.
Today there is not much left of the Temple. There are sections of the Temple wall like the Wailing Wall and there are these Temple gates which Jesus would have entered with his disciples. Most of the Temple has been torn down and outside one section of the wall are the actual stones that would have been part of the walls and buildings and as you can see, these stones were huge, which gives us a sense of the sheer size and splendor of the Jerusalem Temple.
So it would have been an impressive sight that met Jesus and his disciples as they entered the city of Jerusalem and in fact in Mark 13:1 the disciples said to Jesus, Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings! They were impressed. These simple fisherman were in awe, and yet Jesus knew that the Temple in all its strength and power would not stand, look at Mark 13:2. And that is exactly what happened about 40 years later. After an uprising among the Jewish people in 70 AD, the Roman Empire came in and destroyed the city of Jerusalem and tore down the Temple casting these stones to the ground where they have sat for almost 2000 years.
Today we are finishing our series on the way of Jesus where Jesus finished his ministry – the city of Jerusalem. Jesus started his ministry at the Jordan River, spent time in the wilderness and mountains, made his home in Capernaum, sailed and walked on the Sea of Galilee, and then traveled through Samaria reaching out to sinners and outcasts and then he ended his life’s journey in Jerusalem.
Jesus entered the city by riding a donkey down from the Mt. of Olives at the beginning of the Passover week and it was a triumphant entry. The crowds cheered Jesus as their king and they waved palm branches in the air to celebrate his coming. Choosing a donkey for this parade was a very practical choice. The road from the Mt. of Olives in Jerusalem would have been difficult and rocky and a donkey was surefooted which meant it could easily make the journey, but that is not why Jesus chose the animal. Jesus chose a donkey because the prophet Zechariah said that the king of Israel would come into Jerusalem in humility riding on a donkey.
By choosing a donkey, Jesus was making a statement that he was coming as a king, but not a king who trusted in the power and strength of this world; he wasn’t coming in on a war horse and trusting in swords and spears, he was coming in humility and with the love and grace of God. Jesus was going to be a very different kind of king who would bring in a very different kind of kingdom and the contrast for the people of Jerusalem that day could not have been any greater because at the same time Jesus is entering the city of Jerusalem there were two other rulers also entering the city.
Remember, Jesus came to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover and the Passover was like Independence Day for the people of Israel. The Passover reminded the Jewish people of their deliverance from slavery in Egypt and each year the celebration brought out those people who wanted to try and bring about the freedom of Israel from the oppressive Roman Empire. So every year there were rebels who would stir up the crowds and incite violence in hopes of overthrowing Roman rule. So the week of Passover was a tense time in Jerusalem and to help keep the city calm both Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, and King Herod, the Roman ruler over all Galilee made their own way into the city.
Pontius Pilate would have marched into the city from the North with over 1,000 soldiers in a show of force that would make it clear that he wanted no trouble during the Passover celebration. At the same time King Herod, a violent man who thought nothing of killing people in order to keep his power, was also entering the city with his own troops and his own show of force. Both of these men would have had their own crowds cheering them on, which means that you had three rulers all entering Jerusalem with a type of parade, but they were very different kinds of kings representing very different kinds of kingdoms and they offered the people two very different ways of life
One way trusted in the power and strength of this world by coming with horses and weapons and thousands of soldiers. The other way trusted the love of God and came with a single donkey and ordinary people waving palms. One way looked to things of this world for safety, security and strength and the other way looked to God for all those things. Two very clear messages were being presented to the people, they could trust in the world or they could trust in God. They could find strength in the power of the stones that made up the walls of the city and the walls of the Temple or they could trust in the one who came to be their savior.
Stones or a Savior – two very different ways, and in Luke 19 it says that Jesus wept over the city because the people chose the stones over the savior. The people chose the way of the world over the way of God. In Luke 19:41-42a it says, As Jesus approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “if you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace.” Jesus knew that what would bring people peace and life wasn’t the way of Pontius Pilate or King Herod, it wasn’t a way that looked to the strength of stones or the power of the world, it was the way of God, but Jesus wept because the people chose the other way.
I wonder sometimes how often Jesus weeps because we choose the ways of this world over the way of God’s kingdom? When we trust in our money instead of God’s provision, when we trust in status and position over humility and service, when we trust in our own strength and wisdom over the grace of God – I think Jesus still weeps. We need to stop trusting in the way of this world and start trusting in the way of Jesus, but what does this way look like? We have been looking at this way these past few weeks and we can learn more about the way of Jesus by looking at the events from his final week in Jerusalem.
On Monday, Jesus entered the Temple and was outraged by what he saw. The Temple courtyard, which was supposed to be reserved for gentiles and foreigners as a place to pray, had been turned into a marketplace where people could exchange foreign currency in order to have the right coins to pay the Temple tax. The courtyard was also filled with merchants selling doves so that people had the right animals for their sacrifices. The problem was that everything that was being done in this courtyard was being done for a fee, usually a high fee, and it was all taking advantage of the poor.
Doves were the offerings given by those who were poor so the merchants there were marketing strictly to the poor and because their prices were high – they were taking advantage of them. And the people who needed their money changed were those who didn’t have access to the right currency in other places, which were the poor and outcast, so again those being taken advantage of in the Temple courtyard were the poor and outcast, those people Jesus loved so much. So every day the people being driven out of the Temple and the people not being given a place to pray and worship were the people who were already feeling far from God and this injustice bothered Jesus deeply – so he did something about it.
Jesus drove out the merchants and money changers with a whip and said that the house of God needed to be a house of prayer and what this scene teaches us is that the way of Jesus is a way that works for justice. For us to follow in the footsteps of Jesus we also need to work for justice. Every year at the Global Leadership Summit we hear from someone who works for justice in our world and this year we will hear from Bob Goff who is the founder of Restore International which fights human rights violations including forced prostitution and child slavery in Africa.
Bob does this because of his relationship with Jesus and because he knows that the way of Jesus is a way that fights passionately for justice. Jesus’ time in Jerusalem shows us that if we want to follow in the way of Jesus we need to allow our hearts to burn with a righteous anger when we see injustice and we need to allow our hands and feet and voices to work to restore justice for all.
Jesus final week in Jerusalem was also spent teaching that those who really know and love God are those who use what God has given them to help care for others. It is in Jerusalem that Jesus tells the parable of the sheep and the goats which says that if we really love and know God we will feed the hungry, clothe the naked and care for those sick and in prison. The way of Jesus is clear, it sets aside what we want and what is good for us in order to help bring healing and hope and life to others. Now Jesus didn’t just teach this – he did this. It was in an upper room of a home in the city of Jerusalem where Jesus set aside what he deserved and what was good for him and knelt down to wash the feet of his friends.
Jesus and his disciples had all gathered for the Passover meal and yet no one wanted to take on the job of a servant and wash the feet of their friends. This would have been a pretty nasty job. Think of washing the feet of your friends after rustic camping for the weekend, you know, the kind of camping where you don’t have running water which means your feet have been to latrines and outhouses. For those who have been to Impact, think about washing the feet of your friends after a few days of walking the dirt roads and muddy trails and using the port-a-potties. I know, it’s not a pleasant thought, but that is what it was like and Jesus not only did this but he said to his disciples – I have given you an example. Go do the same thing. The way of Jesus was a way of service, service that sets aside what we want and what is good for us in order to serve those around us. This is not the way of the world which says we are the ones who should be served, but the way of Jesus is the way that brings more peace and fulfillment.
The service and sacrifice of Jesus didn’t end in the upper room washing feet, in continue through the streets of Jerusalem as Jesus carried a cross. On Calvary, Jesus was crucified and today you can visit a site where they think the cross stood, but more important is that the cross still stands as the symbol of the way of Jesus. The way of Jesus is sacrificial love. The way of Jesus gives up what is good for us in order to do something good for someone else. It gives away our lives in order to bring life. It loves others without thinking about getting anything in return. It offers forgiveness before people ask for it and grace when they don’t deserve it.
When we look at the cross – we need to see it as God’s way of love and grace and peace offered freely to us and we need to grab hold of it. We need accept the love of God and hear Jesus words spoken to personally to us, Father, forgive Andy. We need to accept the love of God for ourselves and trust this way of God as the way of salvation and life for us, and then we need to make this sacrificial love the way of our lives.
Entering into the city of Jerusalem, Jesus showed the world a very different way than the way of Pontius Pilate and King Herod. Their way of power and might and trusting in the strength of stones fundamentally doesn’t work – remember the stones didn’t stand. The way of this world doesn’t bring lasting peace or joy or life. Those things are only found in the radically different way of Jesus. Jesus’ final week in Jerusalem shows us that it is the way of humility, service and sacrificial love that leads to life. Remember, after the cross there was an empty tomb. Only after the cross was there a resurrection and eternal life which shows us that it is the way of sacrificial love that brings peace and life.
So as we end this series on the way of Jesus, let’s end with the words of Jesus, if you want to walk in my way and follow in my footsteps, then deny yourself, take up a cross and follow mebecause those who lose their life for my sake – will find life.
The Way ~ Jerusalem
1. Read about Jesus’ final week in Jerusalem in
Matthew 21-28, Mark 11-16, Luke 19-24, and John 12-20.
2. Jesus’ time and teaching in Jerusalem focused on humility and service.
· How can you serve those in your family this week?
· How can you serve those in the church or community this week?
3. Jesus was filled with righteous anger at injustice and oppression (see Mark 11:15-19).
· What injustice fills you with righteous anger?
· How can you use your time, gifts and passions to bring about justice and righteousness?
4. Consider all the ways the cross is a symbol of the way of Jesus.
· How can you make these ways your ways?
Some final thoughts on The Way:
The way of Jesus has taken us from the Jordan River to the wilderness and mountains, from Capernaum to the Sea of Galilee, and from Samaria (the land of outcasts) to Jerusalem (the land of God’s people).
· Which location would you most want to visit and why?
· What one practical change can you make in your life to more faithfully walk in the footsteps of Jesus?
· Share these thoughts with others so that we can follow in the way of Jesus together.
Thank you for joining us on this journey of faith.