I have a confession to make. I enjoy elements of the Christian calendar. For me the weeks leading up to Easter, Pentecost, and Christmas (Advent through Epiphany) should play a more critical role in the life of saints than days picked by Hallmark Cards or governmental bodies. While I value presidents, pilgrims, mothers, fathers, grandparents, laborers, and other people who have made significant contributions to our society, I like to examine the impact of Christian events on the calendar. I would probably trade Thanksgiving Day for All Saints Day (November 1)… rather than remembering early American settlers I would choose to remember brothers and sisters who have gone on before us. I truly stand on giants’ shoulders, and I am so thankful for their lives well lived.
On Palm Sunday this year North Point UPC (Sperry, Oklahoma) invited me to worship with them. I had the honor of preaching from Luke 19 in the morning service and John 12’s alabaster box story in the evening. We encountered Jesus on our road to Easter as did that first generation of saints.
The journey from Jericho to Jerusalem was a short one, but the encounters provide tremendous insight into Jesus’ desire to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). Each case reveals His desire to reach deeper than people’s felt needs. Zacchaeus may have been short in stature, but he had a reputation. As a rich tax collector, he evidently created many barriers between himself and his community. The walls protected him from their anger and suspicion. He climbed that tree by the road out of curiosity; he looked over his protective wall to see Jesus. He did not go unnoticed.
Jesus went beyond Zacchaeus’ felt need and exposed the deeper need. The tax man needed to let Jesus through his protective barriers. While a rich man in a previous chapter had to give up all if he wanted to follow Jesus, Zacchaeus only had to let Jesus into his house for dinner. Salvation crossed the threshold. The other rich man’s identity rested in his wealth. This rich man’s identity existed in his isolation from God and neighbor. Once Jesus came in the walls came down! He voluntarily gave away half his wealth and conducted an audit to see if anyone would get a 400% tax rebate. The tax man got more than what he bargained for.
The multitude looked for a messiah to cast out the Romans. Maybe this would be the Passover generations of Jews anticipated. Political and economic freedom would be theirs. They knew war would ensue, but the promised messiah could handle it. The could have “peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.” Jesus entered the City of Peace as the Prince of Peace … the Prince of Peace now. Luke’s Christmas story includes the angel’s proclamation that peace had come to earth where good will would be to all humanity. Sadly the crowd failed to grasp the peace right in front of them as they sought release from a lesser bondage. Jesus wept again! Jerusalem’s day had come. The whole city missed it because they looked for the wrong things.
The crowd’s momentary worship for anticipated freedom would require a future conflict. Misguided worship always does. The crowd turned from waving palm branches to waving fists and shouting insults within a week. Jesus just would not act right. Jesus would not meet their felt need.
Pharisees needed to control the mob — to be arbiters of orderly worship. They needed to realize worship cannot be contained by human systems.
The priests needed to control religious practices for their own benefit. Jesus showed them the deeper need when He tipped over their tables. They had turned spiritual authority into a source of personal gain. They needed to return to praying for all nations.
I got to preach the Word. I witnessed the Spirit and Word have an impact on the gathered saints one more time. I prayed with folks and encouraged them to encounter Jesus. Then it happened – I encountered Jesus. My need for several weeks has revolved around a way to make this next period of ministry sustainable. I have asked Jesus how Sherri and I could support ourselves now that our work will not be centered in a seminary or college setting. Jesus has given us peace now, but I still wonder how we will pay the bills.
I asked the audience to encounter Jesus; somehow I did not remember Jesus would hold me accountable to the Word as well. Jesus touched deep into my spirit. He knew my deeper need rested in seeing the value He places on my life and ministry now. He knew my deeper need revolved around knowing He has indeed called me to a valuable kingdom work. He wanted me to know recentering around this truth was more important than worrying about July’s house payment. Peace moved from heaven to earth. I worshipped.
I am so thankful You always push us to encounter You in a way that goes beyond our felt needs. I must confess and repent of those times I get frustrated and perplexed by Your focus on the deeper needs. I am sorry about my whining. I am sorry about putting my personal needs above kingdom prayers for all nations. I am sorry for my lapses. I certainly need more table tipping. My prayers have drifted off target … again. They center more on what I need than on what the world needs.
Thank you for offering another encounter on Palm Sunday. You lovingly persisted and stripped away my defenses until I heard Your purposes. You pressed all of us for a deeper encounter with You than what we had planned. You are the Gracious God! I thank you on behalf of a world that needs to see peace on earth, a world that needs to worship so the earthquakes might stop.
In Jesus’ Name,
Thank you for walking with me through Luke 19. I know Jesus will push all of us for deeper encounters with Him. Maybe we can release our need and let Him do what He does best – remakes us in His image. While you may be surprised by what Jesus changes deeply within you, you can trust Him to do all things well. Let’s look forward to Horrendous Friday and Resurrection Sunday. Surely more encounters await us.