Year A – Palm Sunday – Matthew 21:1-13

Matthew 21:1–13 – When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” 4 This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, 5 “Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” 6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; 7 they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” 10 When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” 11 The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”
12 Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 13 He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a den of robbers.”

Summary – This passage provides the climax of Christ’s journey toward Jerusalem. He has “set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51, Matt. 16:21, 20:17; cf Is. 50). When He arrives in Jerusalem He goes to the temple. Jesus’s “triumphal entry” culminates in the “cleansing” the temple. To understand this, we must see how Jesus reenacts Jeremiah’s prophecy (Jer. 7:12, 26:6; 1 Sam. 4:15-22; Ps. 78:60). Jesus replays Jeremiah’s experience with the destruction of Shiloh (tabernacle) and Solomon’s temple (586 BC) at the time of the exile. This all fulfills the pattern of cleansing a leprous/unclean House (Lev. 14:33-47; cf. John 2:13). Jesus symbolically tears down the house as a prophetic action foreshadowing the actual destruction of the temple (70 A.D. Matt. 24:1ff).

Insight – In the middle of the game how do you know who will be the winner? The one who “triumphs” may not be clear until the game is over. This is the case with Jesus entering into Jerusalem. At the climax of Matthew we find Jesus entering finally into Jerusalem to fulfill a prophecy by Zechariah. A closer look at this prophecy reveals a promise showing how God will accomplish His purposes:

Zechariah 9:8–11 – But I will camp around My house because of an army, Because of him who passes by and returns; And no oppressor will pass over them anymore, For now I have seen with My eyes. 9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 10 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim And the horse from Jerusalem; And the bow of war will be cut off. And He will speak peace to the nations; And His dominion will be from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth. 11 As for you also, because of the blood of My covenant with you, I have set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.

So is Jesus climactic entrance really a “triumphal entry”? It is not an immediate triumph. Rather, it was a defeat of the Son of Man. He was seized, interrogated, beaten, tortured and finally, mercilessly put to death in the cruelest way. But  . . . because of this “defeat,” planned before the foundation of the world, the greatest triumph was possible. As Matthew hints, the true son of David will have dominion from sea to sea because of the blood of his new covenant. Jesus, though He appeared to all the world as a defeated crucified failure — a loser — by this death, brought in the judicial and official basis of the very victory of God. Jesus does triumph, but through the cross.

Child’s Catechism – How did Jesus triumph? Through His death on the cross.

Discussion – How do believers ultimately “win” their triumph? Is it similar or different to Christ’s triumph?

Prayer – Almighty Lord, we give your praise for the triumph of Jesus through the crown of thorns and the cross of Calvary. Grant that we may follow Him by giving of ourselves in service, obedience, and love in order that we may be found in His righteousness through faith. In Christ’s name. Amen.

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Year A – Fifth Sunday of Easter – 1 Peter 2:2-10

Fifth Sunday of Easter
1 Peter 2:2-10: Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation- if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in scripture: ‘See, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’ To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe, ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the very head of the corner’, and ‘A stone that makes them stumble, and a rock that makes them fall.’ They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Summary – The theme of 1 Peter is enduring suffering on the basis of Christ’s finish work, through the hope of resurrection. In this passage Peter is proclaiming truths about Christians, based on the work of Christ. The metaphor Peter uses here is one of a house. Christ is the cornerstone (which we remember from a few weeks ago was the most important foundation stone Psalm 118), and Christians are smaller stones, whom God uses to put on the foundation of Christ, to build up his spiritual house, his kingdom.

Insight – Consider the theme of suffering in connection to our identity in the Church. Peter also calls Christians, a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.”  These were all things that the Jew’s of Jesus day believed they were. This is a citation of Exodus 19 for Israel at Mt. Sinai. Now Peter applies this to the Church. Only those who accept Jesus as the foundation are the true chosen race, and holy nation.”  We once were enemies of God, but now are his people, adopted as his children. This is so that we may “proclaim the excellencies of him,” or in other words to worship him, and give him glory in our lives. If theme of the overall book of 1 Peter is to have endurance in suffering, based on what Christ has done, being part of this Chosen, Royal, Holy Priesthood means that we do not suffer or endure trials in vain. Our suffering is never alone and never lacks a redemptive purpose. We are acting as God’s priests in the world, especially in suffering.

Child’s Catechism – What is the Church? The Church is God’s temple, a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people.

Discussion – How can the truths of who you are in Christ (part of a holy nation, chosen race) help you when troubles arise?

Prayer – Almighty God, we are thankful that through Christ’s work, he has been made the cornerstone. We are thankful that you have opened our eyes, and soften our hearts, that that we may embrace Christ by faith. We thank you that you have made us part of you’re holy nation. We ask that our lives may reflect who we are in you, and that we would always proclaim your excellencies. Amen.

(Contributed by Jared McNabb)

Year A – Easter Day – Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

Easter Day
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24: Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; *  his mercy endures for ever. Let Israel now proclaim, *  “His mercy endures for ever. “The LORD is my strength and my song, *  and he has become my salvation. There is a sound of exultation and victory *  in the tents of the righteous: “The right hand of the LORD has triumphed! *  the right hand of the LORD is exalted!  the right hand of the LORD has triumphed!” I shall not die, but live, *  and declare the works of the LORD. The LORD has punished me sorely, *  but he did not hand me over to death. Open for me the gates of righteousness; *  I will enter them;  I will offer thanks to the LORD. “This is the gate of the LORD; *  he who is righteous may enter.” I will give thanks to you, for you answered me *  and have become my salvation. The same stone which the builders rejected *  has become the chief cornerstone. This is the LORD’S doing, *  and it is marvelous in our eyes. On this day the LORD has acted; *  we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Summary – This Psalm was sung by travelers coming to Jerusalem to worship (after the exile). It focuses upon the goodness of the Lord for those entering into His presence in His House. It is used by worshipers on the original Palm Sunday and since then in the Church to mark this time. Psalms 118:25–26 – “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD; We have blessed you from the house of the LORD.” This Psalm includes some marvelous prophetic words that Jesus cited in the temple area during Holy Week. Jesus was the chief cornerstone, but the builders rejected Him. Yet through this rejection, God has acted.

Insight – The latter verses in the Psalm make it clear that God was doing something marvelous by the rejection of Jesus. The rejection of the chief cornerstone, means the building will be rebuilt. The religious leaders of Jerusalem in the first century rejected Jesus as the cornerstone of the holy temple of God. They were trying to build a different building. Their foundation was their works done in self-righteousness, their dead rites, and their political collusion. They white-washed tombs filled with dead men’s bones. Their unrighteousness becomes clearer and clearer as they successfully plot the murder of Jesus. When Jesus went to the temple in fulfillment of Psalm 118, He announced in the words of Jeremiah 7, this temple would be no place of refuge for them. Not one stone would be left standing on the other. Jesus was intent on building another house, another temple, the Church from all nations. 1Corinthians 3:16 “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and the Spirit of God dwells in you?”

Child’s Catechism – Who is Jesus? Jesus is the cornerstone of God’s holy temple, his Church.

Discussion – From your knowledge of history, why do you think God let Jerusalem’s temple be destroyed in 70 A.D.?

Prayer – Almighty God our heavenly Father, we give you praise because you sent Jesus as the chief cornerstone of your new holy temple, your Church. Grant that we may be aligned with Him purposes and His will so that we may ever please you in service in your house. In Christ’s name. Amen.

Year A – Palm Sunday – Psalms 118:1–2, 19–29

Psalms 118:1–2, 19–29  -1 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!   2 Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” 19 Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD.   20 This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it. 21 I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. 22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. 23 This is the LORD’S doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. 24 This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. 25 Save us, we beseech you, O LORD! O LORD, we beseech you, give us success!
26 Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD. We bless you from the house of the LORD. 27 The LORD is God, and he has given us light. Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar.  28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you.  29 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Summary – Psalm 118 was used by pilgrims making their way to Jerusalem for Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles after the exile. It calls worshipers to acknowledge the goodness of their Covenant Lord. The worshiper desires to enter into the gates of God’s house (temple). Then in the verses 22ff there is a turn toward Messianic prophecy. The builders rejected the chief cornerstone and yet it is the Lord’s doing. This must have been puzzling for worshipers anticipating Christ, but now it is crystal clear. This is the day the Lord made – the day of Christ’s rejection. The Psalm foreshadows Palm Sunday – Bind the procession with branches to the altar. Christ Himself entered into Jerusalem like a pilgrim with a festal procession with branches and then was rejected as the chief cornerstone. Through this God will save his people. O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good.

Insight (from Jared McNabb) – This coming Sunday is Palm Sunday. This event calls to mind that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the donkey the crowds were praising Jesus with the words from this Psalm, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matt 21:9). Later on in Matthew 21, Jesus quotes from verse 22 of this Psalm and applied it to himself. Christ was the stone that was rejected by the people, and he went to the cross. But his work on the cross was not defeat, but actually the work of the very foundation of the House of God, laying the cornerstone. The cornerstone of the building was the most important stone in constructing a building; it was foundational. Christ’s work on the cross has laid the foundation for our salvation.  What looked like rejection and defeat was really the cornerstone for history and our lives.  And THIS, “it is marvelous in our eyes! Let us rejoice and be glad!”

Child’s Catechism – How is Jesus described in this Psalm? Jesus is described as the chief cornerstone.

Discussion – In what ways is Christ the cornerstone of history? In what ways is Christ the cornerstone of your life?

Prayer – O Lord, You are our Rock, our Cornerstone, and we are thanking You for building the foundation of the Church and our salvation with Your own sacrifice of rejection, torture and death. Forgive our forgetfulness of this foundation and make us ever mindful: “On Christ the Solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” Amen.