Rejection of authority comes in many forms. I ought to know – I was a school-teacher! It can be CASUAL AND SECRETIVE, or it can be MORE OBVIOUS AND AGGRESSIVE. But it’s still rejection of authority – whatever form it takes.
A of weeks ago, the story broke in Russia, that British diplomats had been spying on the Russian government using “an advanced electronic spy gadget inside A FAKE ROCK”.
Apparently, the diplomats would communicate with their contacts by walking past the “rock” which would beam information to and from their palm pilots.
Of course, the British government denied everything.
That’s ONE sort of rejection of authority. Sneaky and underhanded. Then there’s rejection at the OTHER end of the scale. A little more obvious!
On March 20, 2003, around 5:30 am, an air strike began over Baghdad, and simultaneously, troops began crossing the border into Southern Iraq. There were approximately 100,000 United States soldiers and marines, and 26,000 British soldiers and marines. As well as units from many smaller countries including Australia.
No-one was under ANY misunderstanding about what “George W.” thought about Saddam Hussein. And he hasn’t changed his tune in the last three years – despite not finding any Weapons of Mass Destruction.
Two different situations. Two different strategies. But the same ATTITUDE OF REJECTION/ working itself out in different ways.
And we see the same situation here in today’s passage. But it’s people rejecting JESUS’ authority.
Jesus comes to Jerusalem. The city of the king. The expectation’s been building for weeks. And now the king arrives. But how will he BE RECEIVED?
We know the JEWISH LEADERS want to get rid of him. But what about the people? They seem to quite like the idea of A CONQUEROR. Someone with God’s backing – performing miracles, and bringing in a new golden age.
Let’s take a look at how he’s received. We’re starting at Ch 19 v28.
And even before Jesus gets to Jerusalem, he’s making a statement about what SORT of king he’s going to be. He gets to the Mount of Olives. A few km’s from Jerusalem. And he sends two of his disciples into a nearby village to FETCH A DONKEY.
And when they come back, they get it ready for Jesus, who jumps up. And starts to ride towards Jerusalem.
I say JESUS IS MAKING A STATEMENT because God had promised, through the prophet Zechariah, that one day he’d send a king. But a special KIND of king. Listen to the prophecy. It’s Zech 9 v9.
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. 10 I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the war-horses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth. NIV
And it’s JUST THIS IMAGE Jesus knows reflects HIS sort of kingdom. A kingdom of gentle donkeys. Not dangerous warhorses. A kingdom of PEACE. Of BREAKING bows, not FIRING them.
And so Jesus starts his journey into Jerusalem. Riding A DONKEY. And, at least to begin with, the crowd seems to be getting into the swing of the occasion. Have a look at v37.
37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began JOYFULLY TO PRAISE GOD in loud voices for all the miracles they’d seen: 38 “Blessed is THE KING who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” NIV
The whole crowd. Recognising his MIRACLES. Recognising his KINGSHIP. Recognising God’s HAND on Jesus. It’s got to be ALL GOOD NEWS. Or perhaps NOT!
Two Dark Shadows
Because there’s a of dark shadows hanging over the spectacle. Dark clouds ready to rain on the parade.
First up, the hatred and hostility of the Pharisees resurfaces. V39. How dare Jesus accept the title of KING! Of MESSIAH! They tell him to REBUKE his disciples!
But Jesus replies that the crowd have got it RIGHT! At least at the moment. He says, there in v40.
If they keep quiet, the STONES will cry out.”
If the CREATURES won’t recognize and worship King Jesus – the author, and goal, of the Universe – then THE CREATION will do it instead. That’s the right response to God’s king. To worship and praise him. It’s the right response FOR YOU!
That’s the first dark cloud. We’ll hear more from the leaders in the next chapter – there it’ll be the priests and scribes and elders rejecting Jesus.
Waving isn’t the same as commitment
But then we come to the second dark cloud. Look there from v41.
41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he WEPT over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, HAD ONLY KNOWN ON THIS DAY WHAT WOULD BRING YOU PEACE-but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, BECAUSE YOU DID NOT RECOGNIZE THE TIME OF GOD’S COMING TO YOU.” NIV
As much as Jesus is enjoying the moment, he knows what’s ahead. He knows how FLEETING AND SHALLOW the cheers of the crowd are.
He knows THAT WAVING ISN’T THE SAME AS COMMITMENT. Cheers and waves ONE DAY/ quickly become JEERS and INSULTS.
On the surface, the crowd’s accepted Jesus as King. But it’s only PASSING. It’s not commitment.
Within a short period of time he’s been arrested. And the same crowd that CHEERED, now calls for his . Flip over to Ch 23 v13.
13 Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, 14 and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. 15 Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve . 16 Therefore, I will punish him and then release him.” 18 With one voice they cried out, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!” 19(Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for .) 20 Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. 21 But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” 22 For the third time he spoke to them: “Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him.” 23 But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. 24 So Pilate decided to grant their demand. 25 He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and , the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.
It’s a sorry tale. My guess is many of the cheering crowd would never have thought that things would turn out this way. As he came into Jerusalem, they HONESTLY BELIEVED they were on his side.
But Jesus looks at the CHEERING crowd. And he knows their hearts. He knows what’s coming. And he WEEPS. Weeps at their blindness. Their rebellious and stubborn hearts. Weeps at the judgment that’s coming on them for their rejection of Jesus.
Because WAVING isn’t the same as COMMITMENT.
At the end of last year, I was part of the FUSION Advent pageant. Local schools walked around Blacktown shopping centre, and through Westpoint. We sang Christmas carols, and at different points acted out the Christmas story, with kids dressed up as Mary and Joseph, and shepherds and soldiers.
And as we walked, people stopped and looked. And they WAVED. Shoppers waved. Shop assistants waved. Some started clapping, or singing along. Or even cheering.
Some of them were probably Christians. But I’m sure plenty WEREN’T. Among all the smiling faces, plenty were happy to see CHILDREN doing it. Keeping the spirit of Christmas alive – whatever THAT is! But plenty were happy to make the wave, or the cheer, the extent of their commitment.
But waving isn’t the same as commitment to Jesus.
There’s a line from Jesus Christ Superstar. The stage musical. The crowd sing it as Jesus enters Jerusalem “Christ you know I love you. Did you see I waved? I believe in you and God. So tell me that I’m saved.”
“Christ you know I love you. Did you see I WAVED? I believe in you and God. So tell me that I’m SAVED.”
But there’s a much bigger difference between WAVED and SAVED than just changing one letter.
And there’s plenty of people TODAY. In SYDNEY. Who say much the same thing. Perhaps you’re even one of them.
Christ, you know I love you. Did you see I … went to Christmas carols? Did you see I gave money to the Salvos. Did you see I waved as the Fusion Advent pageant marched past? Did you see I try to be good? Did you see I go to church?
“Christ you know I love you. Did you see I waved? I believe in you and God. So tell me that I’m saved.”
But it’s not enough. You need to RECOGNISE him. Don’t miss him – like Jerusalem did. Because you’re risking JUDGMENT – just like THEY did.
Jesus came to bring PEACE. FORGIVENESS. To be your KING. If you cheer him as KING. You need to LIVE it. If he’s KING, then he wants ALL of your life. Your head, and heart. Your hands and feet. Your family, your wallet, your emotions and desires and dreams. Your time, your job. Your friendships. Your future.
Perhaps it’s just ONE of these areas that you’re waving at Jesus in. Being HALF-HEARTED in. Have a look at some of these areas. Are your fair-dinkum about your commitment to Christ in ALL of them?
He doesn’t want a WAVE every now and then. It’s the ultimate disrespect to think you can palm him off that easily. As that insignificant.
Jesus WEEPS at that sort of treatment. How are YOU treating him?
And so, with tears in his eyes, Jesus makes it into Jerusalem. Where he heads straight for the temple. His father’s house. The centre of the problem. And drives out the merchants. To purify it. To reform it. To make it the sort of place where people might actually HEAR AND UNDERSTAND what it was God would have them do, and be.
And, so, he’d spend his days teaching. Calling the people to recognise God’s King, walking and talking among them. But the rejection of the leaders is OBVIOUS and EXTREME. V47
But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to KILL him. 48 Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words.
And you can see one of their attempts at the start of Ch 20. They begin with a FRONTAL attack. “Who gave you the authority to do the things you do?” But that one fails. Jesus turns it aside.
Then, in the second half of Ch 20 they take a DIFFERENT approach. The UNDERHANDED tactic. Trying to make Jesus slip up. Say the wrong thing.
But that doesn’t work either.
Meanwhile, Jesus keeps teaching in the temple. And ONE of the things he teaches is there from v9. A parable about the leaders. An illustration of their rebellion.
It’s a very AUSSIE sort of story. About a landowner who plants a vineyard. Perhaps a Pitt St farmer, who buys the hobby farm up in the Hunter Valley. 10 or 20 acres. And he appoints some tenants. Locals. And leaves it to them to grow the crop.
Eventually harvest time comes, and the owner sends a servant to collect his share of the crop – his rent.
But look at what the farmers do to him. Very Aussie – the workers are united. Against the tall poppy. V10 – halfway through.
10 … the tenants beat (the servant) and sent him away empty-handed. 11 He sent ANOTHER servant, but THAT ONE ALSO they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. 12 He sent still A THIRD, and they wounded HIM and threw him out.
By rejecting the owner’s SERVANTS, their rejecting HIM. Rebelling against the one who gave them the vineyard to farm.
The vineyard is God’s people. Israel. And the farmers are God’s leaders. Appointed by God to look after his people, and grow them into a healthy crop. And the servants are God’s prophets, who deliver his message.
But the leaders have always refused to listen. To the prophets, and to God as well.
Jesus continues the story. V13.
13 “Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send MY SON, whom I love; perhaps they will respect HIM.’ 14 “But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. ‘This is the heir,’ they said. ‘Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 15 So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
They’re not content to just be TENANTS any more. They want INDEPENDENCE. To be LANDOWNERS. Their own bosses. To run the farm THEIR way, without anyone telling them what to do. If they kill the son, who’s set to inherit the land, then the land will be theirs. Unclaimed land went to the occupants!
And that’s what they do. They kill the son. It’s the bold quest for autonomy.
It sounds extreme – but it’s the same sort of autonomy WE show. When we live life OUR WAY. With OURSELVES on the throne, instead of Jesus. It’s , and it’s HUMAN. But it’s SIN. It’s REBELLION. And Jesus promises JUDGMENT for those who keep living like that.
Because, in the story. Quite understandably, the owner comes down heavily. With justice and judgment. He kills THEM, and gives the vineyard to OTHERS.
The identity of the son is obvious. It’s Jesus. Israel wouldn’t listen to the prophets. So God sent his SON.
And the end of the story is Jesus’ warning to those who are listening. Be careful you don’t reject ME/ like the farmers killed the son. Because judgment comes for that sort of rebellion.
But, at least for the leaders, it falls on deaf ears. V19.
19 The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people.
And we see more of their plans in the sections that follow.
But what about YOU? Where are YOU in the story?
1. We’ve already talked about you as A FACE IN THE CROWD. The crowd who turned on him when things didn’t go their way. Who mistook waving for commitment.
Are you a face in the crowd? Who perhaps follows Jesus when the going’s easy. Who’s happy to WAVE – as long as there’s not too much expected.
But Jesus valued YOU so much, he DIED in your place. What does YOUR LIFE say/ about how much you value HIM?
2. Or perhaps your rejection is more like the leaders. More obvious and open. Then you need to heed the warning of Jesus in the parable. You may not like the prospect, but judgment is coming for people who continue to make their claim of independence from God. And seek to ignore Jesus’ claims on their life.
So, be warned!
3. But most of us here ARE living with Jesus as our King. So let’s follow Jesus’ example. And WEEP FOR OUR CITY. A LOST city. A BLIND city. A city that’s headed for hell.
That all seems quite big and impersonal. But let me put it this way. Let’s weep for our next-door neighbours, and our walking buddies, and our relatives. Let’s weep for our school friends, or our team mates, or our work mates.
Because they’re blind, and lost. And rebelling against Jesus. And they’re headed for JUDGMENT. Unless someone tells them. Unless YOU tell them.
Begin by PRAYING for them. Pray with TEARS. Pray for OPPORTUNITIES. Pray for COURAGE. Pray that they’d be OPEN. Then ASK them to something. Ask them to DINNER. Ask them to CHURCH. Or the church picnic. OR the movie night.
If you’re anything like me you’re nervous just THINKING about that. Because you might make a mistake – say something wrong. Or not be able to say anything.
But there’s one last place I think we can see ourselves in these verses. Perhaps you haven’t thought of it. The donkey.
Jesus didn’t NEED the donkey to take him to the city. He was quite capable of doing it on his own. But HE CHOSE to USE it.
And it’s the same with US. Us DONKEYS are Jesus’ preferred means of transport. WE are the way he’s decided to be introduced to this city.
Even if we HAVE got long ears, or bandy legs, or bowed backs. Or we seem to make a funny noise whenever we open our mouths.
But King Jesus has chosen US to carry him to our city. To bring his message of peace to those around us.
And, even if I AM a donkey, I’m going to give it my best shot. Because Jesus is MY King. Who brings me peace and eternity with God. What about you?