Zachary Bright

The Wonder of it All


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My Hapless, Fickle Heart

Cross palms

Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” – Matthew 16:16, ESV

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” – Matthew 16:21-23, ESV

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,

“Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.'”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the Highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowd said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.” – Matthew 21:1-11, ESV

And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” And Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” – Mark 15:13-14, ESV

And they spit on him [Jesus] and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him. = Matthew 27:30-31,ESV

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I could write about how Jack Lewis, the Bible Study Dog (BSD), is sometimes fickle, shifting his attention to whoever has food. But, that would not be fair to the BSD; dogs are “opportunistic predators” (especially Jack!), and they are doing what is natural for them, seizing opportunities. What is worth noting, though, is how often Jack Lewis displays remarkable loyalty and affection.

Fickle – changeable, unreliable, going after anything that sparkles.

I am writing this the night before Palm Sunday, when Christians celebrate Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, as King and Messiah of Israel, in the week before he was crucified. The details are memorable: the miraculous provision of the donkey; the crowd of people acclaiming Yeshua as the One who was to come in the name of the Lord, and as their Messiah (“Son of David”), their King; the people throwing their cloaks and palm branches on the ground before Yeshua and crying, “Hosanna!” (meaning “O save!”). Preachers often note that probably most of the people proclaiming Jesus as King on Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, a few days later are screaming “Crucify him!” Fickle, treacherously so.

The two stories above tell us much of what we need to know about who we are. Peter moves from recognizing that Yeshua is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” to rebuking Jesus and refusing to accept that Jesus’ saving path went through death on a cross. Jesus calls Peter’s rebuke the work of Satan (Adversary) and declares Peter’s mind is not “on the things of God, but the things of man.” Wow! From divine revelation to tool of Satan; from remarkable insight to the usual human, self-protective, suffering-avoiding human point of view.

Here are a few observations that struck me while thinking about the Palm Sunday story:

1. We are made to worship. This is one reason that a crowd could be gathered to proclaim Jesus as Messiah and King. This is also why if we don’t worship the living God we will worship an idol – our life-style, our families, our nation, some religion or philosophy, etc. And this is why it is so pleasurable to praise an excellent performance or to admire the good qualities of others (whatever is of good repute, worthy of praise, lovely – think on these things). Or would be pleasurable, if we were not twisted by sin into competitive critics. So, there is worship of the living God, worship of idols, and admiration and appreciation appropriate to reality.

2. We are social creatures. This is another reason a crowd could be gathered around Jesus as he entered Jerusalem, drawn partly by curiosity and the excitement of a crowd. The support of others makes it much easier to be honorable and courageous. But the support of others also makes it much easier to do something shabby, cowardly or brutal, to scream, “crucify him!”; to do something that we would never do on our own. We may need extraordinary courage in the gathering storm of persecution. We must gather with faithful sisters and brothers to support each other in our various callings.

3. We are fickle, changeable. One day we are filled love and passion for God, committed to being radically obedient to our Lord. A few days later the passion has leaked out and we want a break from Jesus. One moment we want peace and safety. Another moment we want excitement and adventure. This is human nature and is built into us by God. But this means we will need to make plans to be faithful, regardless of how we feel. My mother said to me, “Never doubt in the dark what you have seen in the light.” We must continue to live according to what we have seen when we were thinking well, even when boredom, mental fog, confusion and doubt become our experience.

4. Among some Christians today there is an obsession with denial and suffering, almost as a good in itself. And of course, there have always been Christians who are down for the blessing but not faithfulness when it is hard; they want the crown without the cross. Not our preferences, but communion with Christ, in both his death and resurrection, should be our aim: “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith – that I may know HIM and THE POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION, and may SHARE HIS SUFFERINGS, becoming like him in his DEATH, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:7-11, ESV, emphasis added)

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This post was powered by the EP, “Dear St. Isaac” (2014) by Dear St. Isaac, the CD, “The Good King” (2013) by Ghost Ship, the CD, “Flying” (1997) by Grammatrain, and the CD, “Pete Stewart” (1999) by Grammatrain.

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