I sipped from my first steaming cup of coffee this morning and remembered today is Palm Sunday. I thought it might’ve been one of the best days Jesus had while He was on earth, but I read the account in Luke 19 again, and realized a stunning fact.
While the people cheered, Jesus wept. For Him, it was one more hard day in his long sojourn this side of Heaven.
The countdown to the cross began when Jesus arrived as a tiny baby. Thirty-three years probably seemed like a long time at the start. By the beginning of the week we call Holy Week, the countdown was measured in days and hours. Time was short and the hardest part loomed ahead.
The Holy Solid-Rock-Star Parade
Jesus rode a borrowed donkey colt into the city as the crowds shouted Hosannas and waved palm branches. The people surrounded him before and after. It was a holy solid-rock-star kind of parade as He passed through the massive Golden Gate and entered Jerusalem.
The Pharisees rebuked Jesus for the outrageous display of love and support from His followers, but, that day, they couldn’t be stopped. There was no need for the religious leaders to fear. Jesus knew their praise would change before the week was out.
As He approached the city, Luke tells us (Luke 19:41-44), the crowds shouted Hosannas and Jesus wept. “If you had only known…” He cried.
The one for whom they’d waited so long was at the gate, but He didn’t bring the political change they wanted. The Kingdom Jesus offered required a change within, and most people would have none of it. In less than a week, He would lay down His life for people who didn’t care.
His first stop set the tone for the week.
Jesus went straightaway to the temple, where he turned over the tables of the money changers and the seats of the dove sellers. (Matthew 21:1-13) He quoted Isaiah as he spoke words that are too easily overlooked.
“My house shall be called a house of prayer…” (Matthew 21:13)
The religious leaders were irate. They made money from the temple vendors. How did Jesus dare to disrupt the status quo? Their “system” was badly in need of cleansing and redemption, but they couldn’t see it. They chose not to see it.
The beautiful temple was supposed to be a place dedicated to prayer to our Heavenly Father. It was anything but.
We’re the temple now.
The Apostle Paul taught that we, the body of Christ, are His temple because the Spirit of God now abides in us. If we are the dwelling place of God, then we are also supposed to be a dwelling of prayer.
Selah. Pause and consider that for a moment.
Jesus’ first act after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, His kingly procession, moved the focus from material things and established the preeminent importance of prayer. Instead of the right coins or the perfect animal sacrifice, we must approach God with the right heart, the right relationship.
Relationship over ritual
Jesus did more than flip tables that day. He flipped everything about religion and changed it from a series of rituals to a lifetime of relationship. Becoming a house of prayer presumes a life of intimacy with our Heavenly Father.
Ritual’s easier, isn’t it?
There are times when a litany and a ritual seem much easier than stillness and obedience. Some days, I’d rather DO something than BE something. What about you?
As we begin Holy Week, let’s recognize one important truth:
Being isn’t optional for the disciple of Christ.
James’ words ring in my heart. “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” James 1:22. Today, why not begin with the words of Jesus on that holy day so long ago? Choose to be a house of prayer.
What does it mean to be a house of prayer?
In the model prayer, Jesus taught his disciples a simple formula. It’s a good model for living a life of prayer, as well.
1. Begin each day with praise and honor for God.
Read the Psalms and use them as a starting point for prayer.Make thanksgiving a regular part of our prayer time and our day. Meditate on Scripture and allow it to infuse and change our lives.
2. Surrender to God’s will and God’s glory instead of our own.
The Bible gives clear direction on God’s general will. Love Him first. Love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Love other believers. If we love as He commands, we’ll have made a good start on obeying His will and not our own. It’s important to seek His will in the specifics, too, but always begin with love.
3. Live simply and be content.
Present our requests for daily needs to God, not the extravagant desires of our materialistic society. We don’t need every piece of new technology available. It’s not necessary to have the newest phone or the most stylish clothes. We can be satisfied with less, but we must choose contentment.
4. Practice forgiveness.
Confess sin and request forgiveness, but be quick to offer it to others. Bitterness destroys joy and robs us of happiness. Stop rehashing our hurts and let them go. Forgiveness helps us far more than the one we forgive.
5. Pursue holiness. Ask for protection from evil as a declaration of our intent to avoid it. Study Scripture to understand holiness from God’s perspective, then put what we learn into action. Allow Him to change us, understandingthat His ways are not the ways of our world.
Jesus’ first act after His triumphant entry was to declare the importance of a life of prayer. We’d do well to take note and pursue His priority.
What will we choose?
The fans in the crowd during Jesus' triumphal entry cheered in celebration but failed to change in surrender. Their choice cost them dearly.
We too must choose. We can cheer with the crowd or change for our King. Which will it be?
Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 1 Corinthians 3:16-17
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