Imperfect praise

Imperfect praise

Luke 19: 37-38, 40.

“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 had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!…“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

They praised God for the miracles they had seen. The greatest of these miracles was the recent raising of Lazarus from the dead, but they had seen much more.

Using Psalm 118 initially in their praises according to the other gospel writers, Luke then writes of them using Messianic phrases in praise of Jesus. These 2 phrases are so interesting!

The first one, “Blessed is the king …” is taken from Psalm 118 v 26. But the people in Jerusalem change the words from ‘Blessed is him …’ Jesus is indeed king!

The second one, “Peace in heaven …” is significant in that when Jesus was born the angels declared ‘peace on earth’ (Luke 2:14). Here coming into Jerusalem the sound rising to heaven is that of the peace of heaven because by the end of the week, Jesus will have paid the price to end the separation between God and man.

Did the people know the significance of these phrases and their praises? NO. Did that matter to Jesus? NO “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

Imperfect praise.

The next time someone has a go at the musicians and singers in the worship team. They are not good enough. They are too loud. They are not singing the right songs. They are singing too long! Remind them that Jesus accepts imperfect praise. He will take it even from stones!

There’s one more thing about the imperfect praise of these people.

They were praising Jesus for his miracles.

However, the gospel writers all make it clear that there seems to be a heavenly agenda throughout. That was to hide the understanding of those miracles from those who saw them. In the sovereignty of God most of the teaching, parables and miracles were hidden from even his own disciples. In Luke 8:10 quoting from Isaiah 6, Luke writes, “though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.’

They see the miracle of the bleeding woman but they miss the point that Jesus was overturning the cultural stigma attached to woman and their ‘uncleanliness’.

They see the provision miracles of water into wine and the feeding of the crowds but they miss the significance of them pointing to the great heavenly banquet that awaits us.

They see the blind man seeing, the deaf man hearing, the mute man speaking but miss the fact that Jesus has come to open our self-centred eyes to others, our stubborn ears to obedience and our intimidated silence to speaking words of truth and love.

Imperfect praise.

That God would temporarily harden the hearts of His people to who He really is in Jesus for the sake of the expansion of the gospel to the Gentiles (which the apostle Paul understands fully) is amazingly gracious!

There was false honour in laying down the clothes on the road and imperfect praise of shouts of Messianic declarations but Jesus received it all.

The new convert with all their brokenness still to be healed may look like the last person to be singing praises to God in Church.

The gender confused person with their hands in the air in worship of God may be a hard picture to take for some in the Church.

You, today, with a mind confused, fearful of the future, a complex past and a present that is not what it seems at all. You, a sinner, directionless, rocking in a storm of life, wondering if it is worth it. You can raise a joyful song of praise to God in a loud voice. It may not sound good and it may be so very imperfect. But you can praise Him. He is waiting.

False honour

False honour

Luke 19: 35-36 “They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.”

So Jesus is riding the donkey on a pathway of garments and clothing. Mark and John say in their gospels that the people also used palm branches and laid them before the donkey trod over them.

A picture of both cultural and prophetic honour.

When the Israelites are aware that Jehu has been made king in 2 Kings 9: 13, this is what happened, “They quickly took their cloaks and spread them under him on the bare steps. Then they blew the trumpet and shouted, “Jehu is king!”

But of course this is false honour because it came from people who in not understanding his journey believed that the entrance into Jerusalem would be the commencement of a new season of victory for them all.

We can all honour someone if we think we are getting something from them.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves (Philippians 2:3)

You can be holy if you want something.

You can lay your life and garments down if you know you will be exalted.

Jesus was going to liberate them from the Romans.

The taxation system was going to end.

Their land would no longer be occupied.

So the crowd went wild in honour of Jesus.

However, they were honouring Jesus in line with their own preconceived ideas of who they thought he was and who they so desperately wanted him to be.

They got the right person. Jesus was indeed their Messiah. But they were wrong in what their Messiah was going to do.

So the question is this: Are you honouring someone because you want something from them? Is that someone your boss, leader, so called friend? Is it Jesus?

If so then is it false honour.

If he needed a donkey then he definitely needs you!

If he needed a donkey then he definitely needs you!

Luke 19: 29-34

“As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30 ‘Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?” say, “The Lord needs it.”’ 32 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’ 34 They replied, ‘The Lord needs it.’

 

The Lord needs you. I know that sounds the wrong way round. But if Jesus needed a donkey then he does need you!

Why did Jesus need transport? Why a donkey? Well, of course we know that now. We know that culturally a high ranking official in the Jewish culture could demand any livestock for their own purposes. More importantly we know that

the Old Testament tells prophetic stories of the use of donkeys. For example, in 1 Kings 1 as King David is handing his throne to his son Solomon, he has him riding in the city on his own donkey. Zechariah prophesies in 9:9 “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!  Shout Daughter Jerusalem!  See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
He needed a donkey and he needs you. “Go into all the world and make disciples …” He is relying on us doing that. He needs us to do that. It won’t happen otherwise. He restricts His power because He wants to use us and even animals.

He needs Churches to demonstrate the unity of God.

He needs workers, evangelists, disciples and he is not afraid to send them out.

He has all power and He owns it all. However, the kingdom rules are that God needs you.

The question is whether we will say YES, HERE I AM!

You can only move on if you have learnt where the right spaces are.

You can only move on if you have learnt where the right spaces are.

Luke 19:29  “As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives …”

The reason why some never reach their potential is because they don’t build into their life the essential ‘spaces’ that enable them to continue the journey.

Here are the spaces that we need:

  1. The bigger perspective space.

From the Mount of Olives, Jesus would come down into Jerusalem. He could see everything from there, the temples and palaces, the places where he would be tried, the hustle and bustle of the crowds that were gathered as pilgrims in the city.

It was also the place he spoke of his Second Coming, Jewish tradition has it that the Messiah will return on this mountain and it was here that he ascended into heaven.

If you are going to accomplish the works of God then you will need to take steps back and steps up so that you can see the landscape in front of you. Sometimes you will need to respond by playing ‘a bigger game’ or to be ‘the bigger man/woman’ than those around you. Learn to get higher, to think higher, to see further than most.

 

  1. The switch off space.

How many people really know you? Who knows your favourite food or your favourite song or book? If you are struggling then you are not switching off enough. Bethany was the home of Jesus’ friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Their homes were his rest and refuge space and he used it a lot for sleeping, eating and just enjoying the company of his friends.

Take a look at your diary. Make sure ahead of you there are switching off times and spaces. Places where you can be yourself, you won’t be judged and you can be free to be yourself.

Maybe the problems you are facing don’t need divine intervention as much as you not intervening at all. Switch off. Come away from it and enjoy life.

 

  1. The starting space.

Bethphage was the starting point of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. It was believed to be the furthest part of the city and at the limit of a permitted walk on a Sabbath which was a distance of 900 metres. That isn’t a long walk to our standards. But the point is this is where Jesus started the journey in. The name means ‘House of unripe figs’ and we remember it was the place where Jesus cursed the fig tree which had no fruit symbolically pointing towards God’s people who were not bearing the hallmarks of God in their life.

Your starting point may not be a great one. But you need to start somewhere and here now, today, well, there’s no time like the presence. So why not step out towards your life today? Maybe you need to make some hard decisions? Maybe you need to surrender your agenda? Moving a step towards God and putting your trust in Him. It’s a start.

The road.

The road.

 

Luke 19 v 28 “After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem”.

.

Stick to the plan.

Jesus said what needed to be said and then he continued in the direction to Jerusalem to lay his life down. There are things you have to say to certain people:

To those who are misunderstanding where you are going and the reason for it, v11; To those who are lost and without purpose, v1,10; To the desperately loud, 18 v35; To those who are going with you, 18 v31. It may slow you down but their stories are important to the big story. There are things you have to say and then you must keep going forward. You must stick to the plan.

Make the effort.

The road to Jerusalem is not easy. The distance is 15 miles and Jesus would literally be walking up to Jerusalem with an increase of 3400 feet from Jericho which is below sea level to begin with. Many don’t reach their potential because the effort is just too much. If there’s no effort needed then maybe it just isn’t worth it.

You are safer in numbers, so take people with you.

The road was dangerous, as the parable of the Good Samaritan reveals. It was given the name Ascent of Blood or the Way of Blood, simply because it was well-known that bandits operated in the area and would ambush many travellers on the road. But Jesus is in little danger because he is bringing a crowd of people with him.

He was ahead.

The destiny of Jesus didn’t just accidentally happen. It wasn’t a case of ‘I never saw that coming’. There are many examples in our lives of God surprising us by opening doors of opportunity or answering prayers etc. This was not one of them. Jesus purposely led the crowd to Jerusalem. He was the captain going into battle.

Jesus is King, Kanye West, a Parable, Kingdom currency and other stuff.

Jesus is King, Kanye West, a Parable, Kingdom currency and other stuff.

On October 25th 2019 something amazing happened. Kanye West released an album called ‘Jesus is King’ and it is now sitting at Number 2 in the UK album charts. Every song is about Jesus and the gospel. Please double blink! Whatever you think about Kanye West. Pause. A gospel album is Number 2 in the charts!

Jesus is very near Jerusalem now. It is here in this city that he will be praised as the coming Messiah with cries of Hosanna to the Son of David! It would also be the place where as the King he would lay his life down and ultimately provide the salvation for the world.

No one knows what is going on.

So he tells them a parable of the Ten Minas (in Matthew’s gospel it is known as the parable of the Ten Talents).

The parable is this:

A man travels to a country to be appointed as a king.

He believes he will return and so tells his servants to carry on with business and life knowing he will come back.

The big question is this: will he definitely return as king?

The response to that question varies: His subjects don’t want him to be king, they actually hate him. Most of his servant’s trade in some way, some more than others. But one of them doesn’t trade at all. It takes great courage to trade at a time of uncertainty. Some may think it wiser to wait and see what happens first. Let’s see if He is going to return as king first.

The parable ends with a terrible judgment coming upon those who not only didn’t want him as king but also didn’t live their life in the light of his coming.

Many view this parable in light of the second coming of Jesus, his return to earth physically. It makes sense to do that. But his coming will bring judgment as well as rewards.

However, at the time Jesus and the people would have been fully aware of how Herod the Great travelled from Judea to Rome in AD40 to successfully be appointed and returned as King. In AD4 his son Archelaus tried the same thing. At that time a party of leaders from Judea also followed Archelaus opposing his desire. Ten years later he went again and again a group went behind him disapproving of his rule. This time he failed miserably. The listener to this parable understood what it was like to live in an unstable world.

It is also important to see the parable as for then, as Jesus is about to ride into Jerusalem, to a city which will reject his coming. So we can view the parable also of Jesus coming into the city as the true King, rejected by a people who wanted the kingdom glory for themselves and no one else.

So how will you view it?

Past, present or future, it can work in all three tenses. That’s the beauty of a parable.

The important thing is this: will you keep on trading, doing life, in the belief of His coming? In doing so will you be ready and willing to openly display that through the way you live your life? In the UK it is a lot easier to do that than in a nation where much persecution takes place if you live as a Christian. There you may suffer through being pushed down, held back, maybe people may not even trade with you. The currency you use is not their currency. They reject your belief, they hate who you believe and they hate you. What will you do then? Will you hide or try and trade?

Jesus came and when He did people hated him, didn’t want him as king and people were not expecting him.

Jesus will come again to a world that hates him, don’t want him as king and to a people who are not expecting him.

Except for you!

As you spend your life trying to trade in the currency of Jesus, keep going, don’t let go and don’t hide what you have, the King is almost here.

 

 

Luke 19: 11-27 “11 While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. 12 He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. 13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas.[a] ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’ 14 “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’ 15 “He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it. 16 “The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’ 17 “‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’ 18 “The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’ 19 “His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’ 20 “Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. 21 I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’ 22 “His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’ 24 “Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’ 25 “‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’ 26 “He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 27 But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.’”

 

Delay

Delay

Luke 19 v 11 While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.

The mission trip is coming to the main scene. Jerusalem is not far away. But no one has understood the depth of the mission. Not even his disciples and he has told them three times. Importantly no one thought there was going to be a delay to the arrival of the Kingdom in its fullest form. No one had any inkling what that delay would entail. They anticipated the golden age for themselves, the kingdom would be all about them, this was the moment for them to become victorious and glorious. They were wrong.

There would be a delay.

How are you going through a delay?

How do you react?

When you expected it now but it’s likely to be tomorrow do you want to give up?

Can God trust you in the delay?

There’s a Zacchaeus living inside all of us.

There’s a Zacchaeus living inside all of us.

Luke 19: 3-10 “He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, ‘He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.’ But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.’Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

 

Zacchaeus was a short man and the crowds were big. But his curiosity meant he wasn’t deterred.

 

Zacchaeus climbed a tree which had dense foliage, perfect for hiding from people and from Jesus. But Jesus knows all the hiding places.

 

Zacchaeus had a perfect view to see who Jesus was. They had never met. But Jesus already knew his name.

 

The sycamore tree has low lying branches perfect for children to climb. The wealthy chief tax collector became a child. But Jesus particularly transforms adults with a child-like curiosity.

 

Zacchaeus made a decision to bring Jesus home. But the life-changing decision was the one inside the home.

 

Are you still curious? After all these years are you still in pursuit of Jesus?
Has your vantage point become a hiding place?
Can you still see Jesus?
What examples of child-like faith still exist in your life?

What personal decision do you need to make today that will benefit others and prove your encounter?

 

 

 

 

The Righteous One in the same place of a righteous one.

The Righteous One in the same place of a righteous one.

 

Luke 19: 1-2 “Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy.”

Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem. Luke makes that clear. Jericho was not meant to be a stopping place. But the most unlikely of people made Jesus stop.

This is similar to the Kanye West story of recent weeks. Yesterday I heard a number of people give their opinions on whether or not West has found Jesus or not. One person was just tired and cynical of the story already. Another doubtful because of how horrible he has been as a man, believing this to be a publicity stunt. Another was saying how we should celebrate that a sinner has found Christ. Opinions divide on these kind of things. We want sinners to come to Jesus. But it seems we are sceptical when they do.

Here comes Jesus, passing through and a man was there by the name of the ‘righteous one’ (Zacchaeus comes from the name Zechariah); he was hated by the Jews, a chief tax collector was the worst of lifestyles. He was wealthy because of the way he abused and defrauded people.

Here comes Jesus, the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Righteous One, on his way to lay his life down in Jerusalem, to save sinners, to bring salvation.

Here comes the Righteous One into the city of a righteous one who was nowhere near being righteous.

This story concludes a long detailed account of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem and who he meets along the way. Who can become a disciple of Jesus? It seems anyone can.

 

That one thing.

That one thing.

Luke 18: 39-43 “Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40 Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord, I want to see,” he replied. 42 Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” 43 Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.”

 

And He asks you also, “What do you want me to do for you?”

It may be obvious. You’d think He would know the answer. He does.

But He wants you to know what that one thing is?

Do you know it?

Tell him.