Slow

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The Dawn of the End of the World

So the sun rises on Judgement Day. Before sunset, it will all be over: the Messiah — God’s anointed king, the Son of David — will have arrived in Jerusalem, he will be seated on his throne, and the Judgement of the world will begin. This is how Daniel the prophet describes the scene: “A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened…” 

It’s the last dawn before the end of the world. 

At least that’s what the people here are thinking, and hoping. They believe that if Jesus really is the Messiah, when he arrives at Jerusalem Judgement Day is going to begin. But if he is not really the Messiah…he will be arrested and crucified by the Romans. 

Just like last week, the people are still wondering, “Is this guy really the Messiah, or is he fake?” 

That is the question Luke is still answering for us today. 

… 

So Jesus has just spent the night in Jericho, less than twenty kilometers from Jerusalem, less than twenty kilometers from Judgement Day. He wakes up, combs his hair, washes his face, whatever people do when they wake up — and he starts up the mountain highway to Jerusalem. 

And at this point Luke slows down the story in order to turn up the narrative tension. For ten chapters Luke didn’t tell us where Jesus was along his journey to Jerusalem. Then, suddenly: there he was in Jericho, just one day from Jerusalem! And now Luke tells us even the names of the kampungs that Jesus passes through (verse 29): As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples ahead. 

Now, these two little villages are less than an hour’s walk from Jerusalem. They are on one the side of a mountain called the Mount of Olives. On the other side of the Mount of Olives is Jerusalem. So when Luke mentions “Bethphage and Bethany” and the “Mount of Olives” we should know that the people travelling with Jesus are getting very, very excited. Why? Because in the Old Testament, the prophets say that something very interesting will happen when the Messiah reaches the top of the Mount of Olives. 

What is going to happen? 

We will come to that. Just like Luke, I want to keep the tension turned up so we can feel a bit of what the people then were feeling. They were all thinking, “Hurry up, Jesus! Climb the mountain. Do it!” 

Instead, Jesus pauses to arrange a ride for himself. 

So he says to two of his disciples, [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.” 

[35] They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 

Why? 

Why, Jesus, do you need a donkey now? You’ve been walking for almost twenty kilometers, in thirty more minutes you will enter Jerusalem…and now you’re tired? 

No. Jesus is making a point. He knows that in a few moments confusion will begin, a confusion that will get worse and worse over the days ahead until it leads to his death. And in these final moments before confusion sets in he wants to give his disciples one last sign to prove that he is who he says he is. 

See, the people are all thinking that if Jesus really is the Messiah, something amazing will happen when he crosses the Mount of Olives — and then Judgement Day will begin. But if nothing happens…then he must not be the Messiah. 

Jesus, by stopping here to find a donkey to ride, is deliberately fulfilling an Old Testament prophecy that says, “the Messiah will arrive in Jerusalem riding on a donkey.” We read that prophecy together today, during our Promise of Forgiveness, you can look at it again, right here on page four of our worship guide: 

“Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king come to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on donkey…” 

This ancient prophecy, written four hundred years earlier, talks about how the Messiah will a great war against all God’s enemies, and then, victorious, return to Jerusalem riding on a donkey, bringing peace and safety to God’s people. 

By pausing to find this donkey, Jesus is saying, “Pay attention, guys! No matter what happens next, remember this moment: I really am the victorious Messiah, and here I am entering Jerusalem on a donkey, just like Zechariah the prophet said I would!” 

… 

Now, I want to pause the story here for a moment — not just to increase the tension! but also to answer an objection. 

Some people, in reading this story, have said, “Okay, so Jesus rode on a donkey in order to fulfill that ancient prophecy and ‘prove’ that he was the Messiah. But anyone could have done that! If someone wanted to pretend to be the Messiah, all they had to do was read the old prophecy and then arrange a donkey. That’s not really ‘fulfilling’ prophecy; that’s manipulation and clever marketing!” 

I would agree with you…except for one thing: look at how it happens. Jesus sends his disciples ahead, he describes the donkey — where it is and how its tied — and he even predicts the conversation that will take place. And he does this without making prior arrangements. 

Luke’s point in including that dialogue was not just to increase the narrative tension, but also to show us that Jesus is not engaged in manipulation and marketing. His Father arranged that donkey for him. His Father even arranged those owners for him. When the disciples said, “The Lord needs your donkey,” what they were saying was, “the king needs your donkey.” 

In that culture, at that time, if the king wanted your donkey, you gave him your donkey! Now, these owners could have said, “What king? Get outta here!” 

Instead, they recognized Jesus’ kingship; they recognized the king’s servants — those two disciples — and they said, “Yes! Let the king use our donkey!” 

All that was arranged for Jesus by his Father; Jesus didn’t arrange it for himself. 

… 

So, un-pausing the story: Jesus is on the donkey to make a specific point. And the people figure it out. They get it. They understand that Jesus is saying, “I am the anointed king!” So, in response, they treat him like a king: 

[36] As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. 

This was a seditious act; and the people know it. 

See, in the Old Testament, in the Second book of Kings, Chapter 9, there is a story about a man named Jehu who was secretly anointed king by Elisha the prophet. And the whole reason God chose Jehu to be king was so Jehu could kill the existing king and take his place. Jehu was God’s hitman, his assassin, commissioned to bring God’s judgement against the wickedest king who ever lived in ancient Israel. 

And as the story goes, when Jehu’s friends discovered that he was the anointed king, they spread their cloaks on the ground before him, blew a trumpet and shouted, “Jehu is king!” That began the rebellion that ended by destroying the wicked King Ahab. 

So when the people lay their cloaks on the road before Jesus, they are trying to start a rebellion. They are saying, “Jesus is king!” They fully believe he has come as God’s anointed hitman to bring judgement against the wicked rulers of Jerusalem — and the whole world. 

Every action here is screaming, “The Messiah is here! The King is here! Judgement Day is here!” 

And then, as Jesus begins to approach the top of the Mount of Olives, where the road crests and Jerusalem comes into view, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen. 

And this is what they sing: [38] “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 

And these lines, again, are extremely significant. The disciples are singing a line Psalm 118. We began our worship today with Psalm 118, we can read the lines again right here on page one of our worship guide: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” And if we were to go back and read the whole Psalm, we would realized that it also tells the story of king who wins a great war against God’s enemies, and then returns to Jerusalem to celebrate his victory by going to the temple and making a sacrifice. And the Psalm describes how the priests of the temple, and the whole city, join together singing this song of welcome to their king! 

What the disciples are doing here is acting out Psalm 118: Here is our king, he has won a great victory for us, and now we are welcoming him to the city and to the temple! 

And they are hoping that the priests and the people of Jerusalem will hear the song and join in! If the city joins in welcoming their Messiah, then when judgement begins in a few minutes the city will be saved. And wouldn’t that be amazing! What if the corrupt leadership of Jerusalem recognizes their king, repents, and joins him! Then the city won’t have to be destroyed! 

It could happen. It could happen. In the Old Testament Jonah preached, and the whole city of Nineveh repented, and that generation was saved from judgement. It could happen for Jerusalem also! 

But…not very likely. Luke tells us, very specifically: [39] Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” 

“Tell them to shut up with this seditious singing. The Romans are gonna hear, and then we will all be in deep trouble!” 

This is the last time the Pharisees are mentioned in Luke’s gospel, and they still do not believe. Even worse, because they are leaders of the people, they foreshadow how the leaders of Jerusalem are going to respond: not with repentance, but with rejection. 

But Jesus says, “Sorry, no. If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” 

This moment in history is so important that if no human being recognized what was going on, creation itself would scream. 

… 

And now, in verse 41, Jesus comes over the top of the mountain and sees Jerusalem spread out below. And this is the moment everyone has been waiting for. 

What are they waiting for? 

Jesus is riding on a donkey, which was prophesied in Zechariah Chapter 9. In Chapter 14 of Zechariah, that same prophet promises that one day, when Jerusalem is in terrible trouble, the Messiah will arrive on the Mount of Olives. In that moment the mountain itself will be broken in two, making a steep valley between the halves, and God’s people will escape from Jerusalem through that valley, just as they once escaped from Egypt through a valley in the Red Sea. 

Can you imagine what that moment must have been like for his disciples? There is Jesus, on a donkey, literally fulfilling Zechariah Chapter 9. Is he about to fulfill Zechariah Chapter 14? 

Those men and women are waiting for Jesus to part the mountain under their feet, just like Moses parted the Red Sea. This is supposed to be the first movement of Judgement Day. The Messiah parts the mountain, God’s judgement falls upon the wicked of Jerusalem, while the faithful of Jerusalem escape through the valley to join their victorious king. 

Jesus is the Messiah, the victorious king. He has proven it by beating Satan’s army. And he did it easily. The war against Satan only lasted six chapters. Six chapters out of twenty-four. Only 25% of Luke’s gospel is about the war against Satan; the other 75% is about Jesus’ inevitable victory march to claim his kingdom. 

Jesus has proven that he has the power to judge and destroy. Everyone expects him to use it…now

What does he do instead? [41] As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it [42] and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace---but now it is hidden from your eyes.” 

Jesus does not part the mountain. He does not bring judgement. He weeps. Why? Because Jerusalem refused to see their anointed king. Jesus could have brought salvation to the city by parting the mountain and creating a valley of escape for them — but the city doesn’t want salvation. The corrupt rulers of Jerusalem are not going to repent and recognize Jesus as their king. 

And because they refuse to even want to see, Jesus says, “Now it is hidden from your eyes.” 

Jesus gives sight to everyone who asks for it. He gave sight to the blind man who screamed for Jesus’ help. He gave sight to Zacchaeus who climbed a tree. He can give sight to you, if you have not yet asked him to. 

But the healthy, wealthy, powerful people of Jerusalem will never ask Jesus to give them sight, because they are too proud to acknowledge that they are blind in the first place. 

And so, because Jerusalem prefers blindness with pride instead of humility with sight — Jesus gives them just what they want: he curses the city with blindness and its consequences: [43] The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. [44] They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you.” 

Jesus is describing what happened to the city six hundred years before, when God sent the king of Babylon to judge Jerusalem for its blindness. Jesus is saying that this is going to happen again, God is going to judge the city — 

… 

— but not yet. 

In what has to be the greatest anti-climax in history, Jesus does not divide the mountain. He does not initiate Judgement Day. Instead, he follows the road down into the Kidron Valley, up the other side and enters Jerusalem from the east. 

And sure enough: the city does not even notice their king has arrived. Outside the walls the common people have been wondering for weeks if Judgement Day is almost here! Inside the walls it is business as usual. 

So Jesus goes to the temple, just as Psalm 118 says he should. The priests ought to throw open the gates and welcome him with singing, but…no. Jesus finds the usual things going on: sacrificial animals for sale, money being exchanged. As Luke tells us in verse 45, he began to drive out those who were selling. [46] “It is written,” he said to them, “ 'My house will be a house of prayer' ; but you have made it 'a den of robbers.' ” 

Jesus quotes two Old Testament prophets here: Isaiah and Jeremiah. First, Isaiah said, “one day, God’s temple will be a house of prayer for all people.” About one hundred and fifty years later, Jeremiah said, “that would be nice, Isaiah, but the priests of my time are using the temple to cover up their corrupt business practices. It has become a ‘den of robbers’!” And that is why God’s judgement fell on Jerusalem during Jeremiah’s generation! 

Well, here, Jesus sees that nothing has changed. Just like Kuala Lumpur, Jerusalem is ruled by gangsters. In Kuala Lumpur we have unlicensed gangsters that we call “Triads” or “ah long”, things like that — and we have licensed gangsters that we call “government ministers”, “politicians”, names like that. Jerusalem was the same way. They had unlicensed gangsters, “ah long” and such — and they had licensed gangsters called “priests”. 

The priests of Jerusalem are using their political and religious power to make money from selling sacrifices at the temple. They have a monopoly on sacrifices and currency, and they are squeezing the people for every sen, every time the people come to worship. 

The temple is still a den of robbers. And Jesus is saying, “Your monopoly on sacrifice, your power over salvation, is coming to an end.” 

And Luke goes on to tell us that [47] Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him. [48] Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words. 

The last time we saw Jesus at the temple he was twelve years old, and the priests were really impressed with his wisdom. Now, they hate him. But all the common people of Jerusalem are hanging on his words. 

Why? Because they are the ones who are being squeezed by the leaders of Jerusalem, and now suddenly here is this guy saying that their power is illegitimate, and God is going to remove them. That is seditious talk, man! And the people love it. 

There is an irony here. The common people of Jerusalem love Jesus’ seditious talk. They love the idea of judgement coming upon their rulers. They have no idea that they were just moments away from destruction themselves! 

When Jesus crested the Mount of Olives, and saw the complacent city spread out below him, that was his decision point. He could have struck the earth, parted the mountain, and started Judgement Day. 

But he did not. Why not? Because he knew that if he did, very few Jews would escape, and no non-Jews. The whole world would have passed into judgement, and only a handful — a few hundred at most — would have entered his kingdom. 

Jesus wanted more than just a few hundred. His Father’s plan was a plan to save people from every nation, every tribe, every language. 

Jesus could have brought complete destruction on that day, two thousand years ago. But he did not. Instead, he chose mercy. He chose patience. He chose to complete his Father’s plan. 

He could have shouted, and called down the angels of heaven to join his army. Instead, he wept. Instead of bringing instant death to the world, he decided to accept death for himself. 

And the people of Jerusalem have no idea. 

Yet. 

… 

Last week, we were wondering, “Is Jesus really the Messiah, God’s anointed king?” Luke challenged us to look at the evidence and decide. 

Today, Luke has given us more evidence to consider. See, three prophets in the Old Testament predicted the events of this day: 

First, seven hundred years before this moment, Isaiah spoke and said that God’s Messiah would come from the east to save his people. 

Then, one hundred fifty years after Isaiah, the prophet Ezekiel gave more detail: he said that God’s Messiah would cross over the mountain to the east of Jerusalem, and would enter the city through the east gate. 

Then, one hundred years after Ezekiel, Zechariah gave even more detail: he named that eastern mountain — the Mount of Olives — and he said that God’s Messiah would arrive riding on a donkey. 

Jesus has just fulfilled all of that! 

So, is Jesus God’s Messiah? 

Yes! The evidence says yes! 

Except…he did not fulfill all of it. He did not part the mountain. 

Or did he? 

… 

Okay. Get ready to have your minds blown. 

If you have a bible with you, on your phone, whatever, turn to Zechariah Chapter 14 and see the prophecy for yourself. The first two verses of this prophecy is not for children, because it is so horrible. It describes how Jerusalem is surrounded and conquered by enemies. 

But in verse 3, hope enters the story: the Messiah stands on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, the mountain is divided, and the people of God escape through the mountain, just like they once escaped through the Red Sea. 

And then, in verse 8, Zechariah says this: “One that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half of it east to the Dead Sea and half of it west to the Mediterranean Sea.” And he makes the point that this river of living water is eternal; it’s water never fails, summer or winter. 

Now — and this is where our minds are gonna get stretched — during Moses’ time there was a point where God’s people were dying of thirst in the desert, and God saved his people by breaking a rock in two, so that water flowed out of it. The people were saved through the rock, just like they were saved through the Red Sea. After that point, Moses called God “the Rock of our Salvation.” 

Later on, the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel all said that the “Rock of our Salvation” would become the “Mountain of our Salvation”. And the prophet Daniel promised that one day that rock which became a mountain would one day grow to fill the whole world. 

So when we come to Zechariah 14, one of the last prophecies of the Old Testament, we have to realize that the Mount of Olives is not just a physical mountain. It is also a symbol for God himself, the Mountain of our Salvation. And Zechariah tells us that after that mountain breaks open, living water will flow out of the city, through that mountain, to give life to the whole world. 

Did Jesus break the physical mountain? No. 

But he made a decision on that mountain to let himself — the Mountain of our Salvation — be broken. It is through Jesus that people of God will be saved, just as they were once saved through the Red Sea. It is through Jesus that the river of living water flows to give life to the whole world. 

That river is flowing even now. 

We, as a church — CDPCKL — we believe that our mission here in Kuala Lumpur is to dig a well of living water. We see ourselves as a source of life for this city. And the cool thing is: we didn’t make up that concept! That is what Jesus says we are. 

Two thousand years ago — as we will see in the next few chapters of Luke — the Mountain of our Salvation really was broken, at great cost to Jesus himself, and a river began to flow that began from Jerusalem, flowed into Judea, flowed from there into Samaria, and then, from Samaria, to the ends of the earth. And here we are, at the ends of the earth, in Malaysia, and the living water is still flowing. It is still available. 

And the reason it is still available is because Jesus is merciful. He could have brought destruction that day; instead, he brought mercy. He chose patience. Every day that he waits is another chance for someone else to be saved. 

… 

So, how does this apply to us? 

First: keep on asking if Jesus really is who he says he is. Keep on looking at the evidence. Luke believed, and I believe, that the evidence is very strong: Jesus is the Messiah. He fulfilled every Old Testament prophecy about himself. 

Now, I know that some people doubt. Just like the people of that time, you want to say, “Well, I don’t know. He did not bring Judgement Day, did he? Instead he got captured and crucified. He failed. He must have been a fake.” 

If you are thinking this way, I want to suggest that you are still thinking as the world thinks. See, the truth is: Jesus did bring Judgement Day two thousand years ago. But instead of bringing God’s judgement on the world, he brought it upon himself. He is the mountain that was broken so that we could escape. The fact that he was captured and crucified is not proof of his failure! — that is the proof that he really is the Messiah, the Mountain of our Salvation. 

If you are here today and you can’t see it, you can’t accept it, but you have this deep gut feeling that life has to be more than just eating and drinking and working and dying…then ask God to give you eyes that see. The river of living water is flowing past you right now. All you have to do is drink. So tell God you want to drink, and I promise you he will answer your prayer. 

So the first application is: keep on looking at the evidence. Keep on asking if Jesus really is the Messiah. Keep on drinking the water. 

Our second application is this: remember that Jesus’ mercy means salvation. Later on in the New Testament, Jesus’ disciple Peter put it this way: “Dear friends…bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation.” 

We look around at our broken world, and we weep, just like Jesus did. We look at that terrible war in Yemen, and we weep. We look at the massacre of Muslims in Myanmar, and we weep. We look at the corruption of our governments, run by licensed gangsters, and we weep. We say, “Jesus! Lord, come back soon. Make it stop.” We are longing for the new heavens, and the new earth — and rightfully so. Jesus commands us to pray for his return. 

He also commands us to trust his timing. We are called to patience, and faithfulness. Remember that every day we suffer is another day of salvation for the world, another moment for another person in Yemen or Myanmar or Malaysia to cry out to Jesus for mercy. So let us continue to endure for their sake. 

So, in a way, our application this week is the same as last week: how can we remain faithful? We fix our eyes upon Jesus. We see him for who he really is. 

Last week Luke showed us the king who will return riding on a war-horse to claim his kingdom, reward his servants, and destroy his enemies. We were given a vision of the victorious king. 

This week, Luke has showed us the victorious king who comes in peace, riding on a donkey, the king who brought Judgement Day upon himself in order to save his enemies! — and make them his friends. Jesus is the Rock of Ages, broken for us. He is the Mountain of Salvation for the suffering people of Yemen, of Myanmar, of Malaysia, of the whole world. From him flows the water that will keep us faithful until he returns. 

Amen. Come Lord Jesus. 

Zechariah’s Song

How Can We Be Sure He Really Is Who He Says He Is?