To Fulfill

“To Fulfill”

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29          Matthew 21:1-11


Next Sunday is what we call Palm Sunday…the day that marks the beginning of Holy Week.  Some call it Passion Week.  It’s the time we recognize the last week that Jesus spent on earth as God in the flesh.

In January I was blessed to be among a group of Greenville area Christians who heard the lead preacher…lay persons…and our tour guide tell the story we have just heard in Matthew…in Jerusalem…walking the path that Jesus took on that very first Palm Sunday.

We’d walk a short distance…stop as the guide pointed out a site…and heard someone read verses from Matthew…Mark…Luke…John and the Old Testament…that were appropriate to the place we had stopped.  It was a heartwarming and inspiring experience…to hear the story of our Savior and to walk the path He had walked.  I encourage everyone to find a way to do the same.

However…we don’t have to go to Jerusalem to be inspired…to believe…and to share the great Good News of Jesus Christ.  Matthew’s story should inspire and show us how to share the Good news with others.

Matthew wrote his Gospel to convince the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah.  One of the tools he used was the words of the prophets.  More than once he clearly pointed out that something occurred in order to fulfill the prophecies.  Yet today there are still some who are not convinced.

Today…let’s look at some of the events of Holy Week as Matthew described them…and walk away inspired and prepared to share the story with others…so that we may fulfill Jesus’ command to go and teach…and to fulfill our prayer…that we may be for the world the body of Christ

On the Saturday before the start of Holy Week Jesus and the disciples arrived in Bethany…the home of Lazarus.  Lazarus was the man that Jesus raised from his tomb after Lazarus had been dead for four days.  Lazarus joined them for dinner that night…a dinner at which Mary used the expensive perfume to anoint Jesus’ feet.  Though nothing occurred to show that his death was imminent, Jesus told Judas that she was anointing his feet in preparation for Jesus’ burial…a prophecy soon to be fulfilled.

The next day…Sunday…Jesus and the disciples entered Jerusalem.  It wasn’t a quiet walk into the city.  It was a triumphant procession…with Jesus riding on the back of a donkey colt.  Jesus was the first person to ever ride that colt.  It was just as Zechariah had spoken about five hundred years earlier…a prophecy fulfilled.

That afternoon Jesus went to the Temple.  He looked around.  He did not like what He saw.  Traders were in the Temple…buying and selling at high prices animals to be used for sacrifices.  Jesus cleared them from the Temple…telling them as Isaiah had more than six hundred years earlier…”My Temple will be called a house of prayer.”…a prophecy fulfilled.    Instead the traders had turned it into what Jesus called a “den of thieves.”  After clearing the Temple Jesus healed the blind and lame who went to him.

On Monday morning Jesus started out for the Temple again.  He was hungry.  There was a fig tree at the side of the road.  But…as Jesus approached it he discovered that it only had leaves…no fruit.  He cursed the tree…saying…”May you never bear fruit again.”  The tree withered immediately and died.  Jesus told the still questioning disciples that if they had faith with no doubts that they…too…could perform miracles as Jesus did.

It was on Tuesday…while Jesus was teaching in His Temple…that the leading priests and elders went to him.  They challenged his authority to teach…preach…and perform miraculous healing.  He stumped their brightest with a simple question that put them in a political tizzy.  He also shared a pair of parables.   Then he warned them with the words of the Psalm that David had written nearly a thousand years earlier…a prophecy fulfilled.

That night Jesus and the disciples gathered on the Mount of Olives.  He preached to them of the end times to come…when the Temple…standing tall in front of them…would be demolished…when they would be persecuted…the coming of false messiahs.  He told them of other things to come…some things that you and I have learned happened at a later time.  He warned them with the words of Isaiah…from several hundred years earlier…prophecies fulfilled.

Wednesday was a quiet day.  Jesus and the disciples remained in Bethany for a last time of fellowship.  However…that night…Judas…made arrangements with the religious leaders to betray Jesus to them.

On Thursday they prepared for…then participated in…the traditional Passover meal.  This is the meal that has become known as the Last Supper…that we will celebrate this morning.  It was at this meal that Jesus told them it would be their last together.  He told them to eat the bread…as it was his body…and to drink the wine… as it was his blood.   He also told them that one of them would betray him…a prophecy later fulfilled.

Late that night…perhaps after midnight…into Friday morning…Judas betrayed Jesus.  Jesus was first tried by the Jews…then by the Romans.  When the Roman governor…Pontius Pilate…said he found no reason to punish Jesus…but that he would give the Jews the opportunity to choose freedom for Jesus or Barabbas…the crowd chose Barabbas…and told Pilate to crucify Jesus.

As the Psalmist wrote…a thousand years earlier…while Jesus was dying on the cross the soldiers gambled for his clothing.  Jesus…with nearly his last breath…cried as the Psalmist had done…”My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”…a prophecy fulfilled.

When Jesus’ last breath had been breathed the sky was dark…an earthquake occurred…tombs opened…and the curtain in the Temple was torn in half.  The Roman officer and other soldiers at the crucifixion agreed…”This man truly was the Son of God.”

As we have taken this brief walk through Holy Week with Jesus…my prayer is that we are a bit more firm in knowing that there is clear historical evidence of the life of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I pray also that we might understand the fear of the disciples more clearly.

          We…in our own lifetimes…have seen what happens when people harden their hearts and pursue their own agenda rather than opening their hearts to the leading of Jesus and the Spirit.

Matthew told us how Jesus fulfilled the prophecies…so that…like the early disciples…we would believe that Jesus was the Messiah.  I pray that our brief walk through Holy Week has reinforced that proof…so that we can be among those who are convinced…who fulfill Jesus’ last command…to go and make disciples…to be for the world…the body of Christ…to fulfill our promise to Him as He has fulfilled his promise to each of us.