Our reading of the gospels now turns to the events of the last week before Jesus is crucified. John 12, Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19 all tell the story of the triumphant entry when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a young donkey, praised and cheered by the crowds. From a human perspective, this moment of glory will be the highlight of His career, for by the end of the week those same crowds will be crying out, “Crucify Him!”
We know better. The dark days ahead that will end at the cross will be the real pinnacle of Jesus’ life on earth, as His death will be “judgment on this world” and the time when “the prince (ruler/Satan) of this world will be driven out” (John 12:31, Ephesians 2:2) and salvation purchased for all who believe (Romans 5:10).
As I read this morning, I noticed all the ways that Jesus was perceived by those around Him, and what was missing in their perception that caused them not to truly believe in Him. The owners of the borrowed donkey recognized Him as “Lord.” The cheering crowds called Him “king” and a “prophet” and followed Him because He was “healer” and a “great teacher.” The children praised Him as “Son of David,” innocently proclaiming Him as the fulfillment of prophecy.
What was missing? The Pharisees balked when Jesus referred to Himself as the “Son of Man,” reminding Him that the Messiah would remain forever (live eternally). If Jesus was a “man” how could He also be God? And this is exactly what Jesus says, as He weeps over Jerusalem and the future that will destroy them because they “did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”
That’s the issue. We can believe Jesus was a good teacher, a moral prophet, a possible candidate for king. We can even accept that He had supernatural powers to heal, and seemingly “fit” some of the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah. But unless we believe that He truly is the Son of God come to earth in human form, we are not believing in the real Jesus. We do not have a belief that leads to salvation.
How did Jesus advise those who were guessing and wondering and pondering about who He was? “While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light.” (John 12:36) In other words, if God gives you even a tiny glimpse of who He is and why Jesus came, don’t close your eyes and continue in the darkness. Open your eyes and believe. Open your heart to the possibility that Jesus is who He says He is, and God will give you understanding that leads to salvation.