- 2018Apr 01
If there is an encouragement to be drawn from the events of the Holy Week, it stems from the fact that the entire thing is so horrendously unfair and unjust. Jesus spoke only truth, yet he was murdered by those who should have already known the truth.
There are times in life when truth seems lost. Seems buried, hidden, and forever trapped behind an unmovable stone. Times when even those who should readily support the truth prefer to shut it down, and we don't know why.
Even for Jesus Himself, this was true.
Yet, Hell has no victory and Death has lost its sting. Mercy, Love, Truth and Justice will not and can not remain trapped in a tomb. These will always have the greater victory in the end. What appeared to be a stunning defeat at the cross was a necessary path to glorious, eternity changing Resurrection.
#Easter reminds us of this, and that in this world we will have troubles.
But take heart.
Jesus is alive.
And He has overcome the world.
- 2018Mar 25
(Originally published by Erik Yates at Vinyl Theology Reprinted with permission)
Today is the day people celebrate "Palm Sunday". This is when Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey as the Jews welcomed him with waving Palm Branches shouting "Hosanna, Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord, even the King of Israel" (John 12:13 NASB). But what is the significance for us?
To answer that, you have to go back a bit to what was happening politically when this event took place. The Roman Empire was the occupying force of this region of the world. For centuries the Jewish population who had been in captivity under the Assyrian Empire, the Babylonian Empire, the Persian Empire, and Greek Empire, had waited eagerly for a Messiah. This would be a deliverer from the lineage of one of the ancient kings, David. It's like Gondor waiting for Aragon to take his rightful place on the throne (if this reference is lost on you, please immediately read "The Lord of the Rings" or watch the films).
There is a group of people who are so committed to following the ways of God and resisting Roman occupation, that they will commit any act of violence to fight Rome and usher in the kingdom of God led by a warrior messiah who will vanquish the evil-empire and bring in a reign of peace. They were called the zealots. Today they would be seen as religious terrorists. They were known to use a curved dagger called a sica to assassinate Romans and Jewish collaborators with Rome. They were brutal. Interestingly enough Jesus had possibly two of them as a part of his 12 disciples, or followers (Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot).
The symbol of the zealot movement was the Palm Branch. Waving Palm Branches in the view of Rome was a capital offense as it was seen as a symbol of insurrection against the Empire. So as Jesus enters, what is taking place is rebellion against the empire at the highest order.
But something else was taking place as well. It was the Jewish holy week for Passover. Four days before Passover, Jews would select a lamb. The lamb was a symbol of God's deliverance from Egypt. The family would bring the lamb into their house and raise it before sacrificing it four days later and finding salvation through its shed blood, as was depicted in their deliverance from Egypt thousands of years before.
So simultaneously you have two events clashing together. An ancient holiday about deliverance, and a political insurrection ready to welcome the coming deliverer who will free the Jews from the oppression of Roman occupation. All on Lamb Selection Day!
Rome was very aware of Messianic prophesies. They knew that the coming Messiah was to enter Jerusalem riding on a donkey, or colt. (Zechariah 9:9). Other pretend Messiah's had ridden on a donkey through a gate in Jerusalem called the "Sheep's Gate". Rome had killed them all.
Now, the occupied population is waving Palm Branches as a symbol of a coming insurrection. A man is being welcomed by them riding on a donkey according to ancient prophesy and is entering the city through the "Sheep's Gate" while these zealot masses chant "Hosanna" which literally means "Save us Now".
Rome is nervous. The people are hungry for a war. They can taste freedom from Rome. This is against the backdrop of their oldest feast which was a symbol of deliverance, and now they chose their symbol of this victory, their lamb. On Lamb Selection Day.
The religious leaders of the Jews call for this to stop. Jesus responds that if they do stop, that even the stones will cry out (Luke 19:38-40). This is alluding to either real stones or the graveyard (i.e. tombstones) that sits just to the East of Jerusalem where Jesus is entering the city at. But while everyone is shouting "Hosanna" and celebrating insurrection, joining the zealots in their desire for a conquering Messiah, Jesus weeps.
His tears are for the whole city (Luke 19:41-44) because He understands that the peace they desire won't come from conquering the occupying empire. It will come from the sacrifice of a lamb that brought deliverance thousands of years before. It will come through the shed blood of one who will lay down his life so that the whole household will be delivered.
This was the teaching of the Exodus. It is what was celebrated at Passover. The crowd was cheering for their conquering Messiah. But on Lamb Selection Day, they had really just chosen their sacrificial lamb. They welcomed this lamb into their home and 4 days later they would participate in its slaughter.
- 2018Feb 13
(originally published at The Christian Post)
If you are a sports junkie like I am, this is one of the greatest times of the year.
For the next month my family will all be fully immersed in the quadrennial ritual known as the Winter Olympics. I absolutely love it, and it is a firm rule in my house that if the TV is on, we are watching Olympic events of some kind. It is one of the few times of the year that the kids are actually expected to watch too much TV, and are not allowed to go to bed before 11:00. I have anxiously looked forward to every Olympic year since I was a kid, and I know many of us have that same story. But what is it about the Olympics that draws us in?
First off, I just love the stories behind the games. Watching athletes do things that I personally could never dream of doing is fantastic enough. But there is so much more to it than just that. We know that as we watch athletes from countries we don't usually think about, we will get a little bit of their back story.
We will learn about the odds that they overcame to excel in their sport, make the trip to South Korea, and represent their nation as Olympians. At some point in this year's Winter Olympics there is certain to be a Cool Runnings moment or a USA hockey Miracle moment, and it is those moments that make it worth paying attention to. When we watch the Olympic games we are not just watching a bunch of people do cool things, we are observing the human spirit on full display.
More importantly, the Olympics are a history that unites us. The whole world is watching, and what happens today won't happen again. The athletes that are at the games now may or may not be back in four years.
For these few short weeks, the world is watching athletes from homelands great and small who have earned the right to proudly represent their nation.
For these few short weeks, bitter rivals are gracious in victory and in defeat; they share a mutual respect because they know what it takes to be there. They know what it takes to be Olympians. For these few short weeks we will hear words like Effort, Integrity, Determination, Sportsmanship, Character, and Perseverance more often than usual, and that is a good thing.
The way I see it, we can all learn something from that.
The motto of the Olympics is, "Faster, Higher, Stronger". In some ways, this is a motto we can apply not just to sports, but to all that we do. I personally strive to be faster to forgive. I seek to trust in the God who is Higher than I, and I seek to be Stronger in so many different ways.
So I am excited for what the 2018 Olympics will hold for us, and I am excited that it is something, one of the very few things these days, that we can all share in and enjoy together. For a few days we can set aside politics and Twitter rage, and just take in the excitement and beauty of the Olympic Games.