(Continued from last issue)

Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, came into this world and became a Man to die for our sins. The Jewish rulers, which included the scribes and Pharisees, as well as the priests and Sadducees, rejected Jesus early in His ministry. They even “plotted against Him how they might destroy Him” (Matt. 12:14), but every time they tried to lay hold of Him, Jesus escaped out of their hands, for “His hour had not yet come” (John 7:30). In seeking to put Jesus to death, the Jewish leaders were unknowingly carrying out God’s determined will; and God’s will would happen in God’s own time (Acts 4:27-28).

After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, the resolve of the Jewish rulers to put Jesus to death intensified. As a result, Jesus could no longer walk openly among the Jews (John 11:54). As the Passover drew near, the Jews wondered among themselves if Jesus would come to Jerusalem for the feast. The stage was now set for what many refer to as “the Passion Week,” the week of Jesus’ greatest sufferings, the week that would culminate with His death on the cross.

The Triumphal Entry

Six days before the Passover, Jesus and His disciples had dinner at Bethany with their good friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. The next day, when the Jews heard Jesus was coming to Jerusalem for the Passover, great multitudes gathered on the road between Bethany and Jerusalem (John 12:1-12). As Jesus neared Bethphage, He sent two of His disciples to a nearby village to retrieve a donkey He could ride, fulfilling Zechariah’s prophecy: “Behold, your King is coming to you, lowly and sitting on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zech. 9:9).

As Jesus rode toward Jerusalem, many spread their clothes on the road before Him; others cut down palm branches and laid them in His path (Matt. 21:8). They began to cry out, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord—The King of Israel!” (John 12:13).

What was happening that day? This was Jesus’ public presentation to Israel as their Messiah, the One anointed by God as Israel’s rightful King. Earlier in Jesus’ public ministry, He commanded His disciples to “tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ” (Matt. 16:20). Why did Jesus keep His identity secret? “His hour had not yet come.”

With Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, the time had come for “Messiah the Prince” to be publicly presented to His people, Israel, the very day prophesied in Daniel 9:24-27. However, verse 26 of this passage also declared that “after” the Messiah was presented to Israel, He would be “cut off, but not (or ‘with nothing’) for Himself.” The One anointed to be Israel’s King would be crucified without receiving what was rightfully His—the throne of David’s kingdom.

How did these cries of praise from the people of Israel change so soon to cries of scorn? It appears the people were caught up in the excitement of the moment. For the last three years, the multitudes had witnessed Jesus casting out demons and healing all manner of disease. His power led them to wonder, “Could this be the Son of David?” (Matt. 12:22-23). The Jews welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem because of “all the mighty works they had seen” (Luke 19:37), expecting that “the kingdom of God would appear immediately” (Luke 19:11). They especially wanted to get a glimpse of the Man who had raised Lazarus from the dead (John 12:17-18).

The Jews’ cries of “Hosanna” literally meant “Save now!” They were not looking for Jesus to save them from their sins. The Jewish multitudes were hoping this powerful Man who worked miracles would be the one to deliver them from their enemies, the Romans.

When the Jewish rulers heard the crowds of people proclaiming Jesus as their King, they feared this could cost them their positions of leadership in the nation. They reasoned among themselves saying, “The world has gone after Him!” (John 12:19).

These Jewish leaders need not have worried. The Jewish people typically followed the lead of their religious rulers, particularly the Pharisees. The problem was, the Pharisees were spiritually blind, leaving the lost sheep of the house of Israel “without a shepherd” (Mark 6:34). As Jesus said, “If the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch” (Matt. 15:14).

Jesus foretold what would soon happen using a parable to reveal the true hearts of the nation.

“A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return … but his citizens hated him, and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We will not have this man to reign over us'” (Luke 19:12-14).

Though the people initially praised Jesus and welcomed Him as King, Jesus knew they would eventually follow the dictates of their rulers and cry out for His death.

The Hour Has Come

After arriving at Jerusalem, certain Greeks (Gentiles) who had come to worship at the Passover feast asked to see Jesus. When His disciples brought this request to Jesus, He did not see them or speak to them directly. The Gentiles could have no access to God until Jesus completed the work the Father sent Him to accomplish, so Jesus responded:

“The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. … Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour” (John 12:23-24,27).

The hour had come for Jesus to do His Father’s will: to give His life as a sacrifice for the sins of the world (Heb. 10:7-10). While His death would bring salvation to all who trust in Him as Savior, it troubled Jesus’ soul for He was well aware of what He would have to endure. He knew that His sufferings would not only cause Him severe physical pain; it would also separate Him from His Father, an agony beyond our comprehension. Nevertheless, Jesus said, “What shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour?’ For this purpose I came to this hour” (John 12:27).

Jesus’ death was the most critical moment in history. As Jesus spoke to the people in Jerusalem that day, He declared:

“Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself. This He said, signifying by what death He would die.” (John 12:31-33)

The Greek word translated “judgment” is “krisis” from which we get our English word “crisis.” It is translated “judgment” in most cases in the New Testament, but the basic meaning of the word has to do with separation or division, often the result of making a judgment. Jesus declared that “Now,” the coming of this hour, would bring about the judgment of the world and the casting out of Satan, the prince of this world.

Certainly this was the time when God would judge our sins as Christ bore them in His own body on the cross (Rom. 8:3; 1 Pet. 2:24). In paying the penalty of death for the sins of the world (Rom. 6:23; 1 John 2:2), Jesus would make it possible for everyone to be saved and receive the gift of eternal life. Through His death, Jesus provided eternal redemption, freeing us from the one who held the power of death, that is, the devil (Heb. 2:14; Gen. 3:15). This is how Jesus would “draw all peoples” to Himself (John 3:16).

We might think this would bring all people together in Christ, but Jesus’ death did not bring peace; it brought division instead (Luke 12:51). The world became divided over the issue of Jesus Christ Himself: those who believe in Him and those who do not.

“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18)

Sadly, the majority in Israel “did not believe in Him,” though “He had done so many signs before them” (John 12:37). This was no surprise to Jesus; He knew all men; He knew what was in man (John 2:24-25).

As Jesus drew near Jerusalem, amidst the cries of adulation from the people, He looked down on the city and “He wept over it” (Luke 19:41), saying:

“If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” (Luke 19:42-44)

The word “wept” speaks of crying or sobbing aloud. Jesus loved and cared for His people, and He grieved, knowing their hearts were unpersuaded. Being despised by His own nation must have hurt Jesus deeply, on a personal level, but He sorrowed more, knowing that by rejecting Him, they would bring condemnation upon themselves (Luke 19:43-44).
Jesus lamented over two things Israel did not understand: the things that made for their peace (Luke 19:42) and the time of their visitation (Luke 19:44). This was their day! The God of glory had come into their midst, their promised Messiah, but they refused to acknowledge Him (John 1:11).

The Things that Make for Your Peace

Israel’s problem in Jesus’ day is the same one that exists today. Most people do not know (and believe) “the things that make for their peace.” They do not understand that the only way to have “peace with God” (Rom. 5:1) and have the “peace of God” in their hearts is through believing that Christ’s death on Calvary is God’s means of providing salvation for sinful men. They also do not comprehend “the time of their visitation.” Jesus stressed to Israel that the time is “now.” Paul emphasized the same thing to the Corinthians, imploring them to see that, “Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2).

If you have never trusted in Jesus Christ as your Savior, believing that He died on the cross for your sins and after three days rose again (1 Cor. 15:3-4), I encourage you to carefully consider this good news of Jesus Christ and believe in Him as your Savior today! You can be saved and receive the wonderful gift of eternal life through simple faith in Christ and His finished work of redemption (Eph. 2:8-9).

The hour came for Jesus to suffer and die for your sins. Has the hour come for you to trust in Him as your Savior?

To be continued …

Next Issue: “Confrontations” — We continue this study of the Passion Week by looking at the Jesus’ confrontations with the Jewish rulers.