On December 4, 1977 in Bangui, capital of the Central African Empire the world press witnessed the coronation of his Imperial Majesty, Bokossa I. The price tag for that single event, designed and choreographed by French designer Oliver Brice, was $25 million.
At 10:10 A.M. that morning the blare of the of trumpets and the roll of drums announced the approach of His Majesty. The procession began with eight of Bokassas twenty-nine official children parading down the royal carpet to their seats. They were followed by Jean Bedel Bokassa II, the heir to the throne, dressed in a white admirals uniform with gold braid. He was seated on a red pillow to the left of the throne. Catherine followed, the favorite of Bokassas nine wives. She was wearing a $ 73,000 gown strewn with pearls she had picked out herself.
The emperor arrived in an imperial coach bedecked with gold eagles and drawn by six-matched Anglo-Norman horses. When the Marine band blared, The Sacred March of His Majesty, Emperor Bokassa I, His Highness strode forth, cloaked in a thirty-two-pound robe decorated with 785,000 scattered pearls and gold embroidery. White gloves covered his hands, pearl slippers his feet. On his brow he wore a gold crown of laurel wreaths like those worn by Roman consuls of old, a symbol of the favor of the gods.
As the Sacred March came to a conclusion, Bokassa seated himself on his $2.5 million eagle throne, took his gold laurel wreath off, and as Napoleon 173 years before had done, took his 2.5 million crown, which was topped with an 80-carat diamond, and placed it upon his head. At 10:43 A.M., December 4, 1977 the twentieth century saw a new emperor.
Bokassas reign was not as imposing as his coronation. Just two years later, while he was out of the country, the French engineered a successful coup. Unfortunately it was too late for the 200 children he had ordered executed because they complained about the expense of their school uniforms. His coronation is a ridiculous story and would be comical if he hadnt caused so much pain. What it does picture for us is the portrayal of the longings and methodology of mankind left to itself as it pursues its own exaltation.
What a contrast it is to the story of Jesus the Son of God, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords entering Jerusalem for the last time a few days before His death.
It was Passover, which was always an exciting time. Only the day before, Lazarus had been raised from the dead. Swarms of people were coming to see Jesus because they had heard about His latest miracle. Raising someone from the dead was pretty spectacular.
A Trip in Time
1 As Jesus and the disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the town of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of them on ahead. 2 Go into the village over there, he said. As soon as you enter it, you will see a donkey tied there, with its colt beside it. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone asks what you are doing, just say, The Lord needs them, and he will immediately let you take them.
4 This took place to fulfill the prophecy that said,
5 Tell the people of Israel Look, your King is coming to you. He is humble, riding on a donkey riding on a donkeys colt.
6 The two disciples did as Jesus commanded. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt to him and threw their garments over the colt, and he sat on it.
8 Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting,
Praise God[ HYPERLINK "http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew 21&version=NLT" \l "fen-NLT-23809d" \o "See footnote d" d] for the Son of David! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the LORD!
Praise God in highest heaven!
10 The entire city of Jerusalem was in an uproar as he entered. Who is this? they asked. 11 And the crowds replied, Its Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.
This trip into town was a trip back in time because it was foretold by prophets hundreds of years before. For centuries this days has been known in the Christian church as Palm Sunday. We often refer to it as the Triumphal Entry. There are certain things about it that merit this title but in reality it was an incredibly sad entry into the city.
G. Campbell Morgan writes: It is a picture of great sadness, merging into gladness; of ineffable sorrow, preparing the way for unutterable and final joy. Historian Josephus sets the number of people gathered for Passover at 3 million!
People really wanted to see Jesus. They were hoping for a glimpse of Him. The fame of Jesus had spread throughout the whole countryside and in fact Johns account of this story says that Many in the crowd had seen Jesus call Lazarus from the tomb, raising him from the dead and they were telling others about it. (John 12:17 NLT)
Not only was this entry talked about hundreds of years before but you need to know that every move from here on out in the story of Jesus Christ was orchestrated by God Himself. Jesus was and is the King and the Son of God but He willingly made this trip into town to turn Himself in. He came to submit to what He knew would be His death.
To the Roman soldiers tasked with policing the city during Passover this entry didnt offer anything but a chance to laugh and ridicule these stupid Jews. There was nothing threatening about this entry. It was just a lot of peasant people tearing branches off of trees and waving them around, taking their outer garments off and laying them on the dusty road for man on a donkey riding down the road. To many of these Jewish people He represented the One that would come to overthrow the Roman rule that gripped their country.
Yet I challenge you to look again. Forget the old clothes and broken trees. Forget the mass of locals and travelers pressing in for chance to see this Jesus character and a story to tell when they got home.
Take a closer look and you will see that: to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this. Isaiah 9:6-7 (NIV)
Take a closer look and you will see:
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him-- the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD-- 3 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; 4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. 5 Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. Isaiah 11:1-5 (NIV)
Take a closer look and you will see:
Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. Isaiah 53:4 (NIV)
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. 6 Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. Isaiah 35:5-6 (NIV)
He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. Isaiah 40:11 (NIV)
These and a hundred other prophesies from the past tell us what is really going on in Jesus entry into the city.
Most of these folks missed the significance of the moment. While they shouted hosanna this day within a few short days their cries would go from hosanna to crucify Him.
2. A Tipping Point in the Temple
12 Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out all the people buying and selling animals for sacrifice. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves. 13 He said to them, The Scriptures declare, My Temple will be called a house of prayer, but you have turned it into a den of thieves!
Let me explain what was happening in these moments. People had come from all over the Jerusalem for Passover. There were very strict rules on how it should be celebrated and so vendors would set their wares in the temple foyers. These merchants sold sacrificial animal at high prices, taking advantage of those how had come long distances. The money changers exchanged all international currency for the special Temple coins -- the only money the merchants would accept. They were known for often deceiving foreigners that didnt know the exchange rates. These acts of commercialism and profiteering were a hindrance to worship in Gods house or the Temple.
This parade of rip off artists was extremely frustrating to Jesus. It was an abomination and offensive and He had nothing to lose so He walked down the courtyard and overturned the tables. It really was something out of a John Wayne movie. I know that there are young people in here that dont know who John Wayne was. Given the confusion of young men today on what it means to be a man I would recommend a little John Wayne in your life. Might help man you up just a little.
Any practice that hinders our worship of God should be eliminated. Jesus was just sick of the Pharisees that controlled the worship of that day. They had added all kinds of restrictions and rules that were not biblical to peoples lives.
Think with me for a moment of what must have been going on in the disciples minds. They were so hoping for this moment. This whole entry into Jerusalem represented to them Jesus Christ really setting up His kingdom in opposition to the Roman rule they were all living under. This was the beginning of the rebellion not unlike what we have seen happening in Egypt and Libya.
These guys had longed to be part of an overthrow the government kind of movement. Maybe now Jesus was giving up all that talk about going to Jerusalem and dying and being broken and tortured. Remember these are the guys that jockeyed for positions in the future that kingdom that they thought was coming under Jesus leadership.
There is beauty in this sad story from Jesus life.
14 The blind and the lame came to him in the Temple, and he healed them. 15 The leading priests and the teachers of religious law saw these wonderful miracles and heard even the children in the Temple shouting, Praise God for the Son of David.
But the leaders were indignant. 16 They asked Jesus, Do you hear what these children are saying? Yes, Jesus replied. Havent you ever read the Scriptures? For they say, You have taught children and infants to give you praise. 17 Then he returned to Bethany, where he stayed overnight.
He reached a tipping point in the Temple. It must have been an incredible moment that stunned the crowd but soon after they began to bring the blind and lame to Jesus and He healed them. A worship service broke out with children leading the music.
There is one other event in this story. It happened the next day.
3. A Truth in a Tree
18 In the morning, as Jesus was returning to Jerusalem, he was hungry, 19 and he noticed a fig tree beside the road. He went over to see if there were any figs, but there were only leaves. Then he said to it, May you never bear fruit again! And immediately the fig tree withered up.
20 The disciples were amazed when they saw this and asked, How did the fig tree wither so quickly?
This was not some thoughtless or random act of anger but an acted out parable. Jesus was showing His anger at religion without substance. The fact that this tree looked good from a distance but was fruitless upon closer examination was not lost on Jesus. He used this moment for teaching once again. Even the Temple in Jerusalem looked impressive from a distance but upon close examination it was fruitless. This was heartbreaking to Jesus and caused Him to stand outside of the city weeping on one occasion.
If you and I only appear to have faith in our lives but no fruit to back it up we are as useless as this fig tree was to Jesus on this day. Genuine faith means we bear fruit with our lives.
21 Then Jesus told them, I tell you the truth, if you have faith and dont doubt, you can do things like this and much more. You can even say to this mountain, May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea, and it will happen. 22 You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it. Matthew 21:1-11 NLT
Why does this matter to me?
A Prophecy Fulfilled: Means we have a Messiah
You may not understand or even care but the fact is that everyone in the world needs a Savior. You many choose to live your life without Him. You may choose to do your own thing and make it up as you go or you can submit your life to the One who came to die for your sins and prepare you to live in eternity.
A Passion Felt: Means we need to stay on Mission
Whats the big deal with Jesus turning over tables in the Temple? This same passion He felt should be in our hearts this Easter season and in fact this passion for the mission of the church should be felt every day of our lives.
It is critical that we stay on the mission that Christ gave his church to do. The thing we will fight for more than anything else in this church is to not let someone damage the mission of who we are. Satan has had his way all over this Country by distracting churches with petty little issues that dont matter. God has called us to be who we are and will do our best to follow Him.
A Purposeful Faith: Means we have been left a great Message
The fact is that Jesus left us a message to share. It is a message of hope. It is a message of life change and transformation but it doesnt come with one little prayer. It comes with a life time of following Him. I mean following Him as though He were our King.
So this is the week we have been focusing on during this Lenten season. It all comes down to how we process this week in our Lords life. Where is He headed?
He is headed to the cross but not before he washes his disciples feet teaching them about serving others.
He is headed to the cross but not before He prays for those that God the Father has given Him. (John 17)
He is headed to the cross but not before he spends an evening of Passover reminding His disciples that He is about to die by breaking bread and sharing a cup.
He is headed to the cross but not before He spends a night praying to God that if possible Jesus (the human) would like to not suffer and go to the cross.
He is headed to the cross but not before a mockery of a trial and all of His disciples except John forsaking Him and running away.
How different is Jesus from those that crown themselves Kings, rulers and Presidents in our day.
Fanny Crosby saw Jesus and said it this way:
A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord,
A wonderful Savior to me;
He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock,
Where rivers of pleasure I see.
He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock
That shadows a dry, thirsty land;
He hideth my life in the depths of His love,
And covers me there with His hand,
And covers me there with His hand.
A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord,
He taketh my burden away;
He holdeth me up and I shall not be moved,
He giveth me strength as my day.
With numberless blessings each moment He crowns,
And, filled with His fulness divine,
I sing in my rapture, oh, glory to God,
For such a Redeemer as mine!
When clothed in His brightness, transported I rise
To meet Him in clouds of the sky,
His perfect salvation, His wonderful love,
I'll shout with the millions on high.
George Fredrick Handel saw Jesus and wrote the Messiah. In the passion section of that great musical gift he picked out the words from Psalm 24:
7Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. 8Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.
9Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. 10Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory. Psalm 24 KJV