July 29, 2012

Pastor Joe Wittwer

Follow the Leader!

Part 8—Jesus makes a statement

 

Opening:

    Have you ever met someone who ended up being more than you thought?   

ILL: Friday, Laina and I drove to Eugene, our old stomping grounds, for our niece’s wedding.  Isaac and Katie were married at my friend Wayne Cordeiro’s farm.  Laina and I spent about an hour with Wayne and Anna, getting a tour of the farm and catching up on their lives.

    On the way home, I told Laina that Wayne always surprises me.  He pastors the largest Foursquare church in the country in Honolulu.  From there he has planted dozens of churches.  He started a Bible college there (Pacific Rim Bible College), and then recently took over a struggling Bible college in Eugene (New Hope Bible College) as the chancellor.  He also just took over a large church building in Eugene that was about to close, remodeled it, and is going to plant a new church in it to use to train his Bible college students.  He speaks all over the world, and writes best selling books.   His output is enormous.  

    So how does he relax and avoid burnout?  He buys 30 acres outside of Eugene and builds a farm.  In 8 years, it’s gone from bare ground to 2 houses, 2 barns, a stable, outdoor and indoor riding arenas, a pond, a practice golf hole and immaculately groomed grounds.  All this in his spare time.  I knew about the other stuff—the farm was new to me.  Wayne always seems to be more than I thought.

Jesus is more than you think.  Whatever you think about Jesus—He’s more than that.  That’s what we’re going to talk about today.

Introduction and offering:

    Today’s story in Mark 11 is the beginning of the end for Jesus.  It starts on Palm Sunday, the beginning of His final week, with His triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  As we break down the story, we’ll see that Jesus is more than they thought.  And He’s more than you think too.

    Once again, we’ll use the SOAP method.  

 

  • Scripture: read the Bible.

  • Observation: what does it mean?  

  • Application: what does it mean to me?  

  • Prayer: pray it back to God.

I’m going to spend most of my time in the observation stage, and we’ll wrap up with a single short application.

 

Scripture: Mark 11:1-25

 

Observation:

    Mark 11:1-11    The triumphal entry

1 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’ ”

4 They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, 5 some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” 6 They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. 7 When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. 9 Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,

“Hosanna!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

10 “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”

“Hosanna in the highest!”

11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.

    Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem on this Sunday—we call it the Triumphal Entry—was a carefully orchestrated event.  Jesus was making a statement.  For three years, Jesus has avoided publicity, avoided a showdown with the religious power structure.  Now, he stages a parade that deliberately provokes the showdown.  

It is Passover—the annual Jewish celebration of their deliverance from Egypt (told in the book of Exodus).  The Israelites were slaves in Egypt.  God used Moses to confront Pharaoh and demand that he “let my people go”.  Pharaoh refused, despite repeated miracles, until finally God struck all the firstborn in Egypt dead, but passed over the homes of the Israelites—hence the name “Passover”.  Each year, thousands (perhaps hundreds of thousands) of pilgrims crowded Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.  It was ancient Israel’s Independence Day, their Fourth of July when they celebrated the birth of their nation and their freedom.

    But now their freedom was gone.  Languishing under Roman occupation and oppression, they longed for another deliverer—the messiah, a new Moses—who would drive out the Romans and make them a free and great nation again.  Many would-be messiahs had risen and gathered a following, only to be crushed by the might of Rome.  Now it was Jesus, the young rabbi from Nazareth, that many thought might be the long-awaited messiah.  

    It is into this highly charged atmosphere of expectation that Jesus rides on Palm Sunday.  The crowd jubilantly welcomes him as a king and their savior.  Imagine the delirium of folks in Europe when Allied troops liberated them at the end of World War 2.  Add in the patriotism of the Fourth of July and you have a sense of the mood.

    The first six verses describe the preparation for the event: Jesus sends two disciples to retrieve a colt.  It is possible that Jesus arranged all this ahead of time, or it could be an example of his omniscience.  Given the deliberate nature of the event, the first explanation seems most likely.  The donkey had never been ridden, making it suitable for sacred use.  More importantly, Jesus is deliberately fulfilling an Old Testament messianic prophecy.

Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

By riding this colt into Jerusalem on the start of Passover week, Jesus is making a statement.  It is an implicit claim to be the messiah. And the crowds respond accordingly, spreading their cloaks and palm branches, and shouting praises.  Spreading their cloaks in the road was like rolling out the red carpet, something that was done for a king.  And the branches—John tells us they were palm branches—represented their nationalistic desire to be delivered.  When Simon Maccabaeus delivered Jerusalem 150 years earlier, they had celebrated with palm branches and praise.  The palm frond became the symbol of the Maccabean fight for freedom.  Now they spread them before Jesus, hoping he was their deliverer.  

    They shouted:

“Hosanna!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

10 “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”

“Hosanna in the highest!”

Hosanna means “Save us!” and probably expressed their hope that Jesus would save them from the Romans.  “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” is from Psalm 118:26, and was a commonly used greeting for pilgrims arriving in the city.  “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David” is not found in the Old Testament, and probably expressed the messianic hopes of the crowd for a new king from the line of David to make Israel great again.

    Arriving in Jerusalem, Jesus went to the temple and looked around, before leaving for Bethany for the night.  It is significant that Jesus went to the temple and not the palace.  His primary concern was spiritual, not political. He was there to confront Israel’s need for God, not the Roman government or the Jewish political powers.

Jesus was in fact the messiah, but he was not what they were expecting; He was more!  They expected a military leader who would vanquish their enemies and lead them to freedom.  Jesus came as a spiritual leader to bring them to God.  David McKenna writes:

Roman Christians to whom Mark writes can visualize the contrast between the triumphal entry of Jesus and the pageantry that greeted Roman emperors on return from their wars. As a symbol of bloody conquest, Caesar chose a prancing horse at the head of a processional that included his warriors, a shackled contingent of the conquered people, and an extravagant display of the booty that the army had taken by force. Jesus makes His triumphal entry on a donkey—a symbol of peace, not war; of humility, not pride. Behind Him comes an entourage of twelve fishermen, called to be disciples, and a rabble of common people whom He has healed and set free. They serve as trophies of His conquest—not by bloody violence, but by unremitting love.#

The curious thing is what comes of this triumphal entry: nothing!  By the time Jesus reaches the temple, the crowd has vanished.  They were fans, not followers.  They liked Jesus as long as they thought he would do what they wanted.  But Jesus was more than they bargained for.

    Jesus makes a statement: “I am the messiah, but I’m not what you expected.  I’m much more.”

 

    Mark 11:12-25    The fig tree and the temple

12 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14 Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.

15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written:

“ ‘My house will be called

a house of prayer for all nations’?

But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”

18 The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.

19 When evening came, they went out of the city.

20 In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. 21 Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”

22 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. 23 “I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

    The story about the fig tree wigs out a lot of people.  At first glance, it looks like Jesus is throwing a fit.  He hoped for figs, and when there were none, he nukes the tree!  It’s a divine tantrum!  “Guys, don’t upset him today!”  

    But that’s not what’s going on.  This is not Jesus losing his cool; this is Jesus making a statement.  Just like riding the donkey on Sunday, cursing the fig tree on Monday is a prophetic act.  The OT prophets often did things to make a point.  That’s what’s happening here.  And the point is?  Jesus is judging Israel’s religion as all leaves, no fruit; all show, no substance.

    In the OT, the fig tree was often a metaphor for Israel.  Mark uses his sandwich technique with these stories, sandwiching the fig tree story around the cleansing of the temple.  He is showing us that the fig tree represents Israel and the temple worship, which was very leafy, but not much fruit. Leaves are a poor substitute for fruit.  Don’t be a fake.  Don’t look like you’re fruitful when you’re not.  

    Then at the temple, Jesus goes postal!  Well, not exactly.  Once again, he is deliberately making a statement.  Here’s what was going on.  

The Jewish temple was divided into courts (map). The largest outermost court was the Court of the Gentiles and covered almost 35 acres.  Here Gentiles (non-Jews) could come to seek God.  Then in the temple proper, there was the Court of Women—Jewish women could go here, but no further.  Then the Court of Israelites—circumcised Jewish males and priests could go here.  And finally the Holy of Holies where only the high priest could go once a year to make atonement for the sins of the nation.  

    The Court of Gentiles had become a marketplace.  Jewish law required an annual tax to support the temple.  Because the second commandment forbade making an image, the Jews wouldn’t pay that tax with a coin that had Caesar’s image on it.  So they had to exchange their coins for a Tyrian shekel.  Of course, the moneychangers and the religious establishment each made a nice profit on every exchange.  

    Then there were the sellers of sacrificial animals.  Animals were sacrificed every day, but thousands of animals were sacrificed at Passover.  To give you an idea of the enormity of the temple industry, the first century Jewish historian, Josephus, writes that 255,600 lambs were sacrificed for Passover in AD 66!  Jewish law required these sacrificial animals to be perfect.  If the priest found any defect in your animal, you were required to buy an animal from the temple vendors.  Since the priest got a cut of the action, he could find a defect in your animal pretty easily, sending you to the vendors. And thousands of pilgrims arrived without animals and they too bought from these vendors, who sold at inflated prices.  (Think of the vendors at any national park or amusement site—it was the same then as now!)  Of course, the vendors and the religious establishment each made a handsome profit on every sale.  

    The noise of vendors shouting, pilgrims arguing, livestock bawling and the aroma of the barnyard made it seem like the county fair meets Wall Street! This was the place where Gentiles were to come to seek God.  

    So Jesus rolled up his sleeves and went to work.  He turned over the tables of the moneychangers, sending coins flying everywhere!  He tipped over the benches of those selling animals.  There is no mention of a whip as in John’s gospel, but there is no doubt He was violent.  Have you ever seen someone turn a table over?  (Have a table on stage with stuff on it—turn it over and send stuff flying!)  So much for gentle Jesus, meek and mild!  The one who had come riding on a donkey, gentle and humble, is now turning over tables and raising a ruckus!  Jesus is more than you think.  About the time you peg Him as one thing, He is something more.  He shouted,

Mark 11:17 “Is it not written: “ ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’?  But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”

Jesus is quoting Isaiah 56:7.  Isaiah 56 speaks of God’s salvation being extended to those who had been excluded: foreigners, exiles, and Gentiles.  (We read it yesterday in our Bible reading plan.)  The Jews expected the messiah to purge Jerusalem from foreigners and Gentiles.  Jesus does the exact opposite.  He clears the temple not from them, but for them. And the passage he quotes includes the very people that they thought would be excluded.  

    There is a lesson for the church here.  The church exists not just for those inside it, but those outside as well.  We need to be a place where those outside can come to seek God.  When it becomes all about us and only us—we four, no more—we have missed the heart of God who is “for all nations”.  This is why we do church the way we do—we try to make Life Center a safe place to hear the life-changing message of Jesus, a place where anyone would feel welcome.  This is why we beat the drum for find-tell-bring!  This is “for all”.

    Of course, clearing the temple precipitated Jesus’ arrest and death.  It was one thing to teach there; it’s another to act like you own the place! Jesus had been a problem for months, but now he’s messed with their business and cut into their profits.  That was the last straw and sealed his death.  Follow the money.  So ends Monday.

    The next day on the way back into Jerusalem they passed the fig tree, now withered from the roots up.  Remember, this is a prophetic act.  The fig tree represents Israel, or the temple system.  Like the fig tree, the temple system is withered from the roots up.  Jesus is more than you think.  Jesus did more than clear the temple; He replaced it.  He is now the place to find God.  His own body is the temple that will be torn down and raised in three days (Mark 14:58, John 2:19-21).  It’s not the blood of animals, but His own blood that will make atonement for sin and make us right with God.  When He died, the great curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from the Court of Israelites was split in two from the top to bottom.  God Himself reached down and tore the curtain open, signifying the end of the temple as the way to God.  Now Jesus is the way to God.  He didn’t just clear the temple; He replaced it.  

John 14:6 I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

He is more than you think; He is the way to God.

Finally, Jesus uses the withered fig tree to teach about faith, prayer and forgiveness.  “Have faith in God.”  God can do anything, and those who trust Him can move mountains—a popular metaphor for overcoming impossible obstacles.  Faith is trusting God to do what He says, believing that He can do anything.  This faith in God leads to bold prayer.  Before you ask someone if they can give $25,000 for a good cause, there is something you have to do: believe they can do it.  You don’t ask if you don’t think they can do it.  Faith in God—believing He can do anything—leads to bold prayer.

Mark 11:24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

God can do anything; because I believe that, I can speak of future events as though they are present realities.  

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

When we pray, God answers.  Does this mean that we get everything we ask for?  There are some conditions: we must pray in faith, in conformity with God’s will, and we must forgive.

Mark 11:25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

If your prayers aren’t being answered, you might want to ask yourself if there is anyone you haven’t forgiven.  Are you holding a grudge, hanging on to bitterness?  If so, you are only hurting yourself, and short-circuiting your prayers.  Jesus taught us to pray, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”  Matthew 6:12.  Then He added:

Matthew 6:14–15 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Have faith in God!  Trust God!  That is reflected in our prayers, and in our forgiveness.  You trust God to forgive you; so forgive others and trust Him to give you the grace to do it!

 

The Big Idea: Jesus is more than you think (not less)!  He is the way to God.  In every part of this story, Jesus proved to be more than they thought.

 

Application: There’s more!  There’s more to Jesus than what you think!

    Jesus is more than you think.  He is more than you imagine.  Think your biggest and best thoughts about Him—there’s more.  

    Is it possible for us, like the people of Jesus’ day, to have our own ideas about Jesus that are less than what He really is?  You bet.  We do it all the time.  Each of us has a tendency to make Jesus what we want Him to be.  We reduce Him to a manageable size.  We try to fit Him into our boxes, but He is always bigger than our boxes, whatever they are.  We pick the verses about Jesus we like, and we ignore the ones we don’t.  We imagine him as being on our side and for whatever we’re for.  We make Him over in our own image.  When we do this, we end up worshiping ourselves, not Him.  

ILL: Kevin DeYoung posted this on his blog three years ago. He said that Jesus is very popular in America, but not every Jesus is the real Jesus.  He listed some of the popular reductions of Jesus; see if these sound familiar.

 

  • There’s the Republican Jesus—who is against tax increases and activist judges, for family values and owning firearms.

 

  • There’s Democrat Jesus—who is against Wall Street and Wal-Mart, for reducing our carbon footprint and printing money.

  • There’s Therapist Jesus—who helps us cope with life’s problems, heals our past, tells us how valuable we are and not to be so hard on ourselves.

  • There’s Starbucks Jesus—who drinks fair trade coffee, loves spiritual conversations, drives a hybrid, and goes to film festivals.

  • There’s Open-minded Jesus—who loves everyone all the time no matter what (except for people who are not as open-minded as you).

  • There’s Touchdown Jesus—who helps athletes fun faster and jump higher than non-Christians and determines the outcomes of Super Bowls.

  • There’s Gentle Jesus—who was meek and mild, with high cheekbones, flowing hair, and walks around barefoot, wearing a sash.

  • There’s Ninja Jesus—who turns over tables, and calls people snakes and hypocrites.  (my addition)

  • There’s Hippie Jesus—who teaches everyone to give peace a chance, imagines a world without religion, and helps us remember that “all you need is love.”

  • There’s Yuppie Jesus—who encourages us to reach our full potential, reach for the stars, and buy a boat.

  • There’s Spirituality Jesus—who hates religion, churches, pastors, priests, and doctrine, and would rather have people out in nature, finding “the god within” while listening to ambiguously spiritual music.

  • There’s Platitude Jesus—good for Christmas specials, greeting cards, and bad sermons, inspiring people to believe in themselves.

  • There’s Revolutionary Jesus—who teaches us to rebel against the status quo, stick it to the man, and blame things on “the system.”

  • There’s Guru Jesus—a wise, inspirational teacher who believes in you and helps you find your center.

  • There’s Boyfriend Jesus—who wraps his arms around us as we sing about his intoxicating love in our secret place.

  • There’s Good Example Jesus—who shows you how to help people, change the planet, and become a better you.

Do any of these sound familiar?  We make Jesus what we want Him to be, but He is always more.  There’s more!  There’s more to Jesus than what you know. (my addition)

Jesus is the Son of the living God. Not just another prophet. Not just another Rabbi. Not just another wonder-worker. He was the one they had been waiting for: the Son of David and Abraham’s chosen seed; the one to deliver us from captivity; the goal of the Mosaic law; Almighty God in the flesh; the one to establish God’s Kingdom; the one to heal the sick, give sight to the blind, freedom to the prisoners and proclaim Good News to the poor; the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world.  He’s all that and more.  

Jesus is not a reflection of the current mood or the projection of our own desires. He is our Lord and God. He is the Father’s Son, Savior of the world, and substitute for our sins—more loving, more holy, and more wonderfully terrifying than we ever thought possible.  

Kevin DeYoung, “Who Do You Say That I Am?” from his DeYoung, Restless, and Reformed blog (posted 6-10-09)

There’s more!  There’s more to Jesus than what you thought.  When you read your Bible this week, let it speak to you—all of it, not just the parts you like.  Ask God to show you Himself as He really is—all of Him.  There’s more!

 

Prayer: