Wednesday, February 22, 2012

God's Glory

So this week we are finishing up the gospel of Luke in our Bereans’ Sunday school class. I was reading along and soon found that I needed help putting all the bits of information about the Passion Week into chronological order. I turned to John MacArthur’s Whole Bible Commentary – he is a master at sorting out such details. If you have access to this excellent resource, you’ll find several charts for the events of the Passion Week beginning on page 1321 with cross references to all four of the gospels.

On Sunday, we have the Triumphal entry into Jerusalem. This is the scene where people praised Jesus because they thought He would overthrow the Roman government for them. The Pharisees tell Jesus to silence them. This is when Jesus says, “If these become silent, the stones will cry out!” and then foretells the coming destruction of the temple
(Luke 19:37-44).

Then, Monday through Thursday, Jesus is in the temple preaching and teaching. Each day the religious elite rejected Him and most all of the religious masses misunderstood Him. Each evening He departed the temple, traveled eastward out of the city and went up on the Mount of Olives to pray and to rest before doing it all again the next day. Interesting side note: on the night of His betrayal, Judas was able to pre-arrange for the Roman guards to arrest Him because this “was His custom” during the week He was in Jerusalem.

Fast forward about 35 years, and the prophecy by Jesus was fulfilled. In AD 70, on April 9th, Titus laid siege to Jerusalem, cutting off all supplies and trapping thousands of people who had been in Jerusalem for the Passover. Over the course of the summer, the Romans systematically and brutally slaughtered tens of thousands. The barricades held until early September when the few remaining captives were then led off to become victims of the Roman gladiator games. The city was set ablaze and the ruins of the temple sifted like flour in an effort to find the gold that had once decorated its furnishings and buildings.

Why did God allow such a thing to happen? Jesus says in Luke 19:44, that it was the people’s failure to “recognize the time of your visitation”. Messiah had come to the Jews, and they had, for the most part, utterly failed to acknowledge Him. God’s judgment fell on the people of that generation for not recognizing Jesus as the Messiah. In essence, they denied the glory of Jesus Christ and robbed Him of the praise that was properly due Him.

Compare this with what was said in Luke 7:16, in this part of the gospel Jesus has just raised a widow’s son from the dead. The people who witnessed this miracle exclaim, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” This is the same sort of teaching in many false religions; they fail to recognize Jesus, the Christ, as Lord and God - part of the Holy Trinity; instead they call Him merely a prophet or a great teacher. Others, of course, claim He did not even exist. However, judgment will one day fall on all the people of the world that have failed to give praise and deny the true glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I don’t think it was a coincidence that the Jerusalem siege began during the Passover celebration. The Jewish people should have been commemorating the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for their sins, yet they were still eating lamb and thinking about their nation’s escape from Egypt. I find myself shuddering at the thought when I read about the magnitude of the brutality, yet I know in the final days, it will be much worse for those caught in their unbelief.

Now let’s leave the New Testament and head back to the Old Testament prophet, Ezekiel. The book of Ezekiel is very interesting, it tells of the coming destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 BC. Notice that this is not the same destruction as Jesus foretold would happen by the Romans in AD 70.

The prophet Ezekiel repeatedly warns Israel that the Lord will bring judgment if they do not stop their idolatrous ways. Because the people do not repent, Ezekiel has visions which show the glory of God leaving the temple, heading eastward, and going up to the mountain outside the city (Ezekiel 11:23). Sound familiar? This is the same path Jesus would have taken each day during the Passion Week as He left the temple and went to the Mount of Olives for prayer and rest. By the way, Paul wrote in II Corinthians 4:6, that the glory of God was in the face of Jesus Christ.

Judgment and wrath are harsh words; however, God is just. He not only wants our praise, but deserves it. “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.” (Revelation 4:11).

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