Thursday, June 30, 2011

They miss the Messiah

[21:1] Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Beth-phage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, [2] saying to them, "Go into the village in front 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, you shall say, 'The Lord needs them,' and he will send them at once." [4] This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,
[5] "Say to the daughter of Zion,
'Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.' "
Matthew 21:1-5 (ESV)

The eschatology of the Old Testament is phenomenal, and yet was and is so often misunderstood. It is odd that today Christians tend to make the same mistakes the Jews of the New Testament made concerning the Messiah who is Jesus Christ. In fact this is the only aspect of eschatology the Jews of the New Testament era, and dispensational pre-millenialists don’t seem to have in common, is the Christians today correctly identify Jesus of Nazareth as being The Messiah.
But it’s curious, because the reason Jesus’s contemporary compatriots missed the fact that he is the messiah is because Jesus understood the Old Testament eschatology better than they, and fulfilled it in a manner they weren’t expecting, whilst refusing to be king in the manner they wanted of him, the same manner for which pre-millenialists of the democratic United States desire of him. They can’t seem to get their minds off of things below, off of earthly things. In effect this preoccupation with the politics of the Middle East, and the fear of America losing its “Christian Character” and thus losing its earthly glory and success etc, betrays their ultimate love, which isn’t Christ but this world they wish him to save. It is a desire to have your cake and eat it too, I suppose.
Jesus remained unconcerned with the politics of his day. His kingdom was not of this world. He shows this here as he enters Jerusalem on a donkey. The crowds are waiting for Jesus. They are expecting him. At this point they know he is the messiah, or they want him to be in any case. He fulfills so many of their expectations. Even now they are lining the streets. Jesus knows this. He also knows their conception is all wrong.
They want an earthly king. They want an earthly savior. They want the only thing their earthly sinful minds can conceive of. They want what Christ has rejected from the very beginning of his ministry, the very thing Satan tempted him with, earthly rule over all the nations of the earth.
So Jesus will both affirm and deny their expectations. He rides in on a donkey. The crowd seems to be lost on the metaphor, the allusion to obscure texts of the minor prophets. He rides in on a donkey. Here too, is a messianic text describing the messiah, and what he will do, what his rule will be like. To be sure there is talk of war and battle, but all of it can in the end, taken in the greater context of what is said, and in accordance with the genre with which it is written, be taken only as metaphor for the spiritual battle that occurs between sin and righteousness. Jesus kingdom will not be one of war, but one of peace. And this peace unlike earthly peace will not be attained by war, and subduing ones enemies, but by dying on a cross to make satisfaction for the sins of the world. Here the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, to be handed over to the gentiles and crucified. He is letting his people know, that he is a different king, indeed a king who brings a peace that surpasses all understanding, a peace born of forgiveness.

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