Saturday, July 1, 2017

HT Sectional 2017 - A Dissappointing Holy Week

A Disappointing Holy Week

Part 1 – Celebrities and Messiahs
Here's the question. How do we get from Palm Sunday with all the crowds wildly cheering to Good Friday with crowds shouting for Jesus to be crucified and others weeping with bitterness? This has been one of the often debated questions in Church History. Some folks like to say that there were radically different crowds, or Jesus' condemnation happened too early to notice. Whatever the case, by Good Friday Jesus is abandoned – even the disciples have left Him. How did this happen?

The best answer: Jesus disappoints everyone. If you look at the events of Holy Week, Jesus disappoints and upsets everyone, not because Jesus does anything “wrong” but because He isn't the sort of Messiah they wanted. We're going to look at 5 groups – the “Sign Seekers”, the Temple Community, the Pharisees and Saducees, the Disciples, and the Government. Every one of these groups end up being wildly disappointed in Jesus and turn on Him.

But before we look at the groups, and just so we don't get too self-righteous or think that we surely wouldn't fit in, think for a moment about Celebrity. Think about the people who have massive Instragram Followers, are the “hottest” musical groups. How quickly does their fame sour? Or maybe think of it this way – who were the people you thought were the coolest around 3 years ago? I'll see music I've bought and think, “why in the world did I ever buy this?” We can turn on celebrities – and the bigger they are, the more quickly they can fall.

You can think of Jesus in terms of celebrity. If people thought you were the Messiah (and there were plenty of false Messiahs that came before and after), you had all the trappings of celebrity. Fame, respect, people praising you – think of all the times folks try to butter up Jesus. But if you didn't deliver on what the people wanted then your fame would come crashing down. Same with celebrities today, but so many people had so many different hopes placed upon the Messiah – and most of them were lousy.

Part 2 – The Disappointed

Disappointed Group 1 – The Crowds

One of the things that we often assume as good little Christians is that there would have been a ton of people who wanted to be good little Christians too. We hear of all the crowds in the Scriptures and think that this is the great and awesome ideal – that they are all crowds of faithful folk. That's actually not quite the case. John actually points this out in his Gospel quite often: Consider the two following verses:

John 12:9 – When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of Him, but also to see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead.
John 12:36b-37 –
When Jesus had said these things, He departed and hid Himself from them. Though He had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in Him.

The way John describes the crowd isn't as of a group of people who say, “ah, here is Jesus, my Savior from sin” - they are a group of people who just want to see cool miracles. They are like folks hanging around and saying, “Go on, show us another one!” This comes out in how John tells the feeding of the 5000.

John 6:14-15 –
When the people saw the sign that He had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” Perceiving then that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him King, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by Himself.

John points out that Jesus basically crosses the sea of Galilee to get away from the crowd, but then the crowd follows Him, and He chews them out.

John 6:26 –
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.”

They weren't looking for a Messiah, a Savior from sin. They wanted cool stuff. And so they miss the point – and when Jesus teaches them in the rest of John Six about faith and forgiveness and being the Bread of Life – the crowd gets upset and leaves.

John 6:66-68 –
After this many of His disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

So think about the crowd of Palm Sunday. They are whipped into a frenzy because they've seen Lazarus raised from the dead. This is awesome and cool – and so they follow Jesus wanting to see what He will do. There's a slight problem, though. After Palm Sunday – no more healing. He heals in the temple that day – and then stops. And instead He just teaches about life and salvation and judgment and destruction... and at best many of them start to lose interest. At worst, they join in the calls to crucify Him.

Disappointed Group 2 – The Temple Bigwigs

Running the temple was a good gig. If you were a pious Jew, you had to come there, you had to do sacrifices. It had its own currency, so there were money exchanges. They had folks selling animals so you could do the sacrifices – and they bilked people. Prices were way high – sort of like food at an amusement park. But you HAD to pay, at least according to the Temple folks, otherwise you were a bad Jew and not fulfilling the Law. The Temple was their cash cow, and they bilked the faithful. So after Palm Sunday Jesus comes to His temple, and that's where He does most of His stuff... and He royally ticks off the Temple crowd.

Mark 11:15-18 –
And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. (16) And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. (17) And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” (18) And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching.

Now, the Temple folk were use to making a profit off of religion. A cool prophet ought to mean more people coming in and spending money – Prophets should lead to profit. But then Jesus comes and blows that all up. And then He calls them on it. And keep in mind, this is Passover Week – they should be making huge bank this week, and Jesus is dropping a wet blanket on it. So they try to chase Him out.

Mark 11:27-33 - And [Jesus and the disciples] came again to Jerusalem. And as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him, 28 and they said to him, “By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?” 29 Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 30 Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man? Answer me.” 31 And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 32 But shall we say, ‘From man’?”—they were afraid of the people, for they all held that John really was a prophet. 33 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

Do you hear their fear of Jesus, how He's bad for business? And they can't answer Him, because the crowds (i.e. customers) had liked John, and if they knock John too much, it's bad for business. And to top it off, Jesus then gives the Parable of the Tenants, about the wicked and unfaithful people who were running the Master's affairs in His absence, which has the climax:

Parable of the Tenants – Mark 12:9 - “What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others.”

Jesus is utterly bad for “Temple” business – and they want Him dead.

Disappointed Group 3 – The Religious Types

Just as there are different religious groups today, there were religious groups and parties in Jesus' day, and they didn't like each other one bit. The two biggest groups were the Sadducees and the Pharisees. The Sadducees were sort of like the liberals of the day – they were big city folks who prided themselves on being sophisiticated. The Pharisees were the conservative, moral folks, often living in the rural areas. And basically both of these groups wanted to use Jesus and His popularity against the other. Now, the Saducees knew that Jesus would give the Pharisees fits, so they wanted to see if He'd be on their side.

Matthew 22:23-28
The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, 24 saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.’ 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother. 26 So too the second and third, down to the seventh. 27 After them all, the woman died. 28 In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.”

Now, this question is an opportunity for Jesus to give an answer that would make their little liberal hearts all go aflutter – if He wanted to, He could just unload on the Pharisees. And yet, that's not what Jesus does.

Matthew 22:29-33 But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31 And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” 33 And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.
They are expecting Jesus just to mock those bumpkin Pharisees, and instead He turns the tables on them and lays the lumber on them. This is a full fledged smack down – which highly annoys the Sadducees. But then the Pharisees think, “Well, maybe Jesus is actually on our side against those evil Sadducees!

Matthew 22:34-46 -  But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, 42 saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” 43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying,
44 “‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
    until I put your enemies under your feet”’?

45 If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” 46 And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

So do you see what happens? Jesus doesn't play their game. He doesn't take the opportunity to give an answer that would blast the Sadducees. Instead, Jesus points out to the Pharisees their own problem – that they are more focused on how great they are instead of looking at the Messiah. Both of the “parties” get embarassed because Jesus isn't there to play their game, and so they too want Him dead.

Disappointed Group 4 – The Disciples

Even the disciples get disappointed in Jesus during Holy Week. We forget that the disciples were a mixed bag, and they had a lot of different motivations and expectations for Jesus, and He often upset them. This comes out in Holy Week as well.

Matthew 26:6-9 -  Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, 7 a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. 8 And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? 9 For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.”

The disciples often thought that following the Messiah would mean that they would get earthly power and glory – or influence and power and celebrity. So sometimes greed comes into play – in fact John points out that this event is what convinces Judas to betray Jesus. But not all the disciples were into peace and charity – many of them were Zealots, folks who wanted to violently overthrow the Romans and get power that way. So we hear in the Garden of Gethsemane:

Luke 22:49-51 - And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” 50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51 But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him.

Some of the disciples were itching for a fight, they were expecting the glorious revolution. And Jesus stops it. He doesn't fight. Instead, He lets Himself get arrested, and all those thoughts of glory go down the drain, to where even all the disciples run away.

Disappointed Group 5 – The Government

The final folks that Jesus disappoints during Holy Week are the rulers, Herod and Pilate. Ruling the Holy Land was a pain. There were factions and fights and all that – and somehow Herod in Galilee and Pilate in Rome had to try to manage all this without riots and revolution. And when Jesus is arrested, they hoped that they could use Him to calm things down, but they too get disappointed.

Luke 23:8-10 - When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him. 9 So he questioned him at some length, but he made no answer.

This Herod (not the fellow who killed the babies, but his son) was interested in religious things. He had long talks with John the Baptist – granted, he ended up cutting his head off after his daughter-in-law danced for him, but Herod was “open” to discussion. Jesus could have buttered Herod up, put on a show, and Herod would have protected Him. Jesus could have been Herod's court prophet, could have done a lot to put people in their place – but Jesus isn't interested, so Herod lets him go.

Then there's Pilate, who has the roughest job. He knows Jesus is innocent, and he wants to rule justly, but then there's a riot ready to form. He's stuck in the middle – and Jesus doesn't help him get out of it.

John 19:5-11 - So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” 6 When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” 7 The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” 8 When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. 9 He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”

Pilate wants to release Jesus – beats Him so that maybe the mob will have pity on Him, that their blood lust would be sated. But nothing. And Pilate starts to think that there is something divine going on, that he ought to get Jesus off the hook lest he tick off God/the gods – but Jesus isn't interested in that. Pilate is disappointed too.

Part 3 - The Real Messiah Thing

Lots of people had wanted lots of different things from Jesus. Some wanted signs, miracles, entertainment. Others wanted positions of wealth and power, earthly success. Some wanted Jesus to be on their side in political fights, or to have Jesus go smash their enemies. Yet, throughout Holy Week, even as folks who have all these varied wants get disappointed, and angry and more and more upset, Jesus stays focused on what His job as the Messiah actually is. And that is shown when He dies upon the Cross:

Matthew 27:50-53 - And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.
51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.

Jesus did not come for any of the various things that folks wanted. He came do destroy sin and death with His innocent suffering and death. He came to remove the sin that separated us from God, to undo the distance that had been required since the Garden and through the whole Old Testament. He came to bring life where there had been death. He came to be a real and everlasting Savior.

Now, what do we take from all this? When you hear people even today talking about Jesus – pay attention to their expectations. Are they talking about Jesus like He's merely a wonderworker, or a guy who will give you stuff, or a tool in fights to make other people do what they want? Because people still do that today – and in reality they are disappointed by the real Jesus.

The real Jesus is the one that we need – the Son of God who comes to be the spotless Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The Jesus who comes to us today in preaching, who forgives us with His absolution, who gives Himself to us in His supper to give us forgiveness and life and salvation. That's the REAL Jesus – that's what His focus was on. He is the Jesus who comes to save you – and that's never a disappointment.

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