Matt. 20:17 Now Jesus, going up to Jerusalem, took the twelve disciples aside on the road and said to them, 18 “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, 19 and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again.”
Study Matthew closely and you will discover this was the third and final time He specifically told them what was about to happen. The first time they argued with Him. The second time an incredible sadness settled over them. This time we aren't told what the general reaction was but we are told something else. The mother of James and John took them and approached Jesus asking if they could sit, one on His right and one on His left in His kingdom. Clearly she felt a sense of urgency.
It is imperative to understand the beliefs they held. The Christ or the Messiah had been expected for millennia. He was pictured as both a national deliverer and a king in one. He was to be a hero, freeing them from Roman rule and restoring the nation to the glory it had under Solomon and more. The reason why the twelve were always arguing who was the greatest was because they knew they would all have prominent positions in this new kingdom and each wanted the highest position. Who does that sound like? It was for this reason that mom came advocating for her two precious boys. With all the strange things Jesus was saying it seemed they were on the verge of big changes and she wanted her boys to be ready.
It was in this atmosphere of sadness, confusion, and inner competition that they entered Jerusalem on Sunday. Let's be frank and admit that the entrance did nothing to ease their confusion. Instead it amplified it. Jesus asked for a colt, a young donkey. By choosing and riding into the city on that particular animal He was fulfilling a well known Jewish expectation foretold by the prophet Zechariah "
"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.
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."
This passage was a favourite of the people. Told and retold from generation to generation it was more precious to them than visions of a sleigh and reindeer on Christmas eve in our culture. Solomon began his reign as king by riding in on a donkey as did others.
What is my point? I'm glad you asked. :)
Put yourself in the shoes of those twelve men. Men who left their lives, families, and businesses behind to follow this carpenter from Nazareth. They did it for two reasons. One was that He was genuinely different. There was something about Him that Drew them in. However the biggest reason was because they believed He was the One. He was the fulfillment of the dreams and hopes of generations of their people. He was the embodiment of the stories they had been told since childhood. Sure He was taking His sweet time about getting down to business and taking over the nation but it would happen...
Then He dropped the bomb. He was going to die. That was never part of the story. Grandpa never talked about Messiah dying. The Rabbi never did either. Mom and Dad always painted him as an almost immortal hero.
So now, under the cloud of the nonsensical idea that Jesus was about to die they suddenly find themselves in the midst of a coronation march. The last two times they had been in or near Jerusalem people were trying to kill Jesus and now this?!! Had they entered an alternate universe? Were they dreaming? Or was this reality and all that death and doom stuff was just a bad dream?
Here is my point.
Religion often creates the impression that we will be safe by being right. That the path to heaven is paved by knowledge and right theology. So prevalent and insidious is this way of thinking that when I told a congregation once that the disciples were anything but perfect and had little idea what was actually happening, I got chastised after for trashing them. I wasn't trying to trash them. I was simply telling the truth. At various points in His ministry His own twelve laughed at Him, called Him out publicly for basically talking crazy, and at other times flat out rebuked Him. All because they were sure about things they actually knew little to nothing about.
Yet they will all be in heaven with Jesus when this war between good and evil is over. Why? Because they were theological geniuses? Hardly. Because they belonged to the right religion? Hardly. Because they were right about so many things? I think not. No there is one reason and one reason only why all their sins will be wiped away and God will welcome them Home with rejoicing. Here's the reason:
Find Jesus and you find them. Through the ups, the downs, the arguing, the competing, the confusion, and the clouds of sadness and bitter disappointment they are still there.
I have lots of questions. I've been wrong plenty. I have been through great victories and bitter disappointments. I'm not still here because I have all the answers or understand all His ways. I am here because He picked me up and turned me around. He set my feet on solid ground. I have decided to follow Him and I'm not turning back.