MONDAY— “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.” Mark 10:33-34
The countdown had begun but only Jesus and the Father knew it. Despite how many times Jesus had explained it to them, the disciples remained clueless. They had come to Jerusalem, ostensibly to celebrate Passover. But there was another, greater, reason. A reason too horrifying for His friends to grasp. Jesus had come to offer Himself as the final Passover Lamb.
The disciples did not understand what Jesus meant when He prophesied His death and resurrection because it did not fit with their idea of a Messiah. His words were clear, but because their own ideas were clearer, they did not hear Him. Sometimes we don’t hear Him either. Our ideas of what God ought to do in our situation are clearer than His word. He says, “Die to self,” but we think, “That can’t be right!” so we don’t hear Him. He says, “You will suffer for my sake.” We think, “Didn’t He die so I wouldn’t have to suffer?” and we continue compromising with the world. Palm Sunday reminds us that when we wonder why God won’t go along with our plans, He actually has a bigger plan. We miss it when we insist that He be our kind of a Messiah.
Final Thought: What might God be doing in your life that looks to you like disaster? Maybe His plan is bigger than yours.
Prayer: Father, I’m often like the disciples. I think I know what you should do in certain situations and when you don’t, I get angry at you. Help me listen more carefully and submit my ideas to your bigger plan. In Jesus’ name, amen.
TUESDAY— …all his followers began to shout and sing…praising God for the wonderful miracles they had seen. Luke 19:37
“Did you hear about the blind guy?” Moshe asked. Thad interrupted. “Well, I was there when he fed, like…thousands with one kid’s lunch!” Rachel laughed and spun around, lifting hands to the sky. “I LOVE being a disciple! This is so cool! Just think, guys, from now on no one will be sick, poor, or hungry! As long as we stay friends with Him, we can have everything we want!”
Jesus was the rock star of Judea. People flocked from miles around as word spread of the incredible things He was doing and saying. They had the wrist bands, the ringtones, and the trading cards to prove it. Thousands were fans of this new Rabbi and would have stated with conviction that they were his disciples. Who wouldn’t want to follow the Candy Man? But in the end, in the upper room after His crucifixion, only 120 actually remained (Acts 1:15). Today, the same Candy Man theology streams into our lives from the airways and the internet: “Just pray this prayer, visualize your dream, and expect God to fulfill it!” they cry. Thousands flock to such a message, but where will they be at the crucifixion? At His requirement to crucify self? At His command to take up a cross? When persecution, temptation, or public opinion demands submission, where are they?
Final Thought: Have you accepted the Candy Man Jesus, or would you have been one of the 120 who remained with Him?
Prayer: Lord, search my heart. Do I follow you because of what I hope you’ll do for me? Am I mostly interested in your material blessings? I need to know who I am and where I stand with you. I want to be among those who remain. In Jesus’ name, amen.
WEDNESDAY— Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey— riding on a donkey’s colt. Zechariah 9:9
Thousands of years before Jesus was born, Zechariah prophesied the exact details of the way the Messiah would enter Jerusalem. At the time, people could not understand why their coming King would ride a donkey. Donkeys were the lowliest form of transportation. They were ridden by servants and the poor. Kings rode horses. Why wouldn’t their king charge into town on a white stallion? Why wouldn’t he be waving a sword, ready to kick those awful Romans out of Israel? Because the king Zechariah foretold would be a different kind of King. He would not focus on an external kingdom; His rule would be personal.
Sometimes we’d also prefer an external kingdom. Our prayers are little more than “Give me this, give me that, bless this, bless that…. Amen.” We pray to an external King, but His rule is personal. It’s internal. He does care about the externals, but His interest doesn’t stop there. He wants to reveal to us the oppressors we are not aware of. Invaders have taken us captive and they rule us like tyrants. Their names are listed in Satan’s Hall of Fame (Galatians 5:19-20; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10). Those internal captors are often the cause of our external problems. The kingdom Jesus came to establish could not be done with a spear or an army. He takes no prisoners. The victory is only won through the voluntary surrender of those He came to rescue.
Final Thought: Are your prayers focused on externals or on the things that matter most to God?
Prayer: Jesus, you are Israel’s Messiah and you are the Savior of the world. You did not come to us as a Dictator, but as a humble Servant, riding a donkey. One day you will rule the world from a white horse, and I will be at your side. Thank you.
THURSDAY— When Jesus saw that they were ready to force him to be their king, he slipped away into the hills. John 6:15
Wouldn’t that have been a better way to accomplish God’s purposes? After all, if Jesus was crowned king of Israel, He could make bread out of rocks, heal everyone’s sickness, and constantly prove He was the Son of God anytime anyone had doubts. Surely everyone would have believed in Him then and He wouldn’t have had to suffer that horrible crucifixion. He had the chance. After he’d fed thousands with a Happy Meal, the people wanted to make Him their king. Instead of humbly accepting the position, He slipped out the back and took off. He didn’t argue, explain, or let them talk Him into it. He just took off.
Stop right there. Back up. Sometimes we zoom past seemingly insignificant details in scripture, but nothing in the Bible is insignificant. Every move Jesus made is a lesson to us, so let’s look at His response a little closer. Everything He’d come to do was being offered to Him, crown included. But He refused it. Why? The same reason we must refuse the apparently great things we’re being offered—if they contradict God’s call on our lives. Things like Mr./Ms. Almost-Right. A career that requires ethical gymnastics. Thirty seconds of adrenaline after we’ve cussed out our frustrations. Satan delights in handing us short-cuts to glory as long as we bypass God’s more difficult road. Jesus saw this chance to become king for what it was: an offer from Satan. We must develop enough wisdom to see through Satan’s offers as well, embracing the cross that leads us to God.
Final Thought: What shortcuts has Satan offered you? If it bypasses God’s plan, it will only lead you to destruction.
Prayer: Father, looking back over my past I see so many places I took Satan’s shortcuts. I thought they would lead me where I wanted to go, but they only led me further from your plan. Forgive me and help me get back on track. In Jesus’ name, amen.
FRIDAY— When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.” Luke 19:41-42
Barney had a problem. He couldn’t seem to get his act together and was always late for everything. He woke up in plenty of time to get where he needed to go, but something always came up. Distractions were everywhere and after a while, he grew accustomed to being late. He assumed people would wait on him. They always did. He used his charm and good looks to override people’s frustration and came to believe that being late didn’t really matter. People would forgive him. He was special.
Then came the queen’s invitation to have dinner in the palace. He and 200 other guests were to arrive promptly at 5:00, dinner at 6:00. He told everyone he saw about his good fortune and dreamed about impressing the queen. When the day came, he spent the morning plastering social media with his countdown-to-the-queen, then took extra time getting dressed. After forgetting his keys, dropping his phone in the toilet, and talking too long to his neighbor, he left his house at 4:45 for the forty-minute drive. When he arrived at the palace, the parking lots were full. He parked a mile away and raced to the palace doors, waving his invitation, but the guards told him the offer had expired at 5:00. The doors would remain closed. Neither begging nor flattery persuaded the guards. Despite the invitation, Barney missed his opportunity because the queen was not impressed with Barney time. God is not impressed with our time either. If we receive His invitation, we must respond or the offer expires.
Final Thought: What has God called you to do? Don’t let His offer expire.
Prayer: Lord, am I procrastinating obedience to your word? Am I missing your offer? I put it off because I still want to be in charge of some areas of my life. I am wrong. Please forgive me and let me hear it once more. I’ll obey. Amen.