God-in-a-Box–Your Inbox… for appreciating God
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As Jesus’ procession enters Jerusalem, the priests and rulers react. They’re afraid the people will make Jesus king, so they stir up the Roman soldiers telling them it’s insurrection.

However, when the soldiers go to Jesus, he quiets the crowd, and calmly tells the soldiers that his kingdom isn’t one like theirs, and that soon he will return to his Father, and it will be too late for the Jews to accept their Messiah. He speaks with such power, sadness, and dignity that the Roman officers are moved like never before, and feel more inclined to reverence him than arrest him.

They turn on the priests and blame them for the disturbance. There is so much commotion, Jesus and his disciples pass unnoticed to the temple where it’s empty and quiet. Sadly Jesus looks around at the empty temple knowing its fate, and then they leave and return to Bethany–the disciples confused and disappointed.

When the people look for him to place him on the throne, they can’t find him.

Jesus spends the entire night in prayer.

In the morning he goes back to the temple, and on the way walks through a fig orchard. It isn’t fig season and all the trees are bare, raising no expectations; except for one fully leafed out: it promises to have fruit. Jesus is hungry and hopeful. But there’s not a fig to be found. Its pretense is offensive, especially with such need, and thinking of Israel, Jesus says, “Your chance to bear fruit is over.”

Mark 11:11-13  Matthew 21:17-19

As the joyful procession from Bethany reaches the crest of Mount Olivet, about to descend into Jerusalem, Jesus stops.
Breathtaking is the temple in the golden afternoon sun, white marble glistening like snow, gold-topped pillars glittering–a sight inspiring pride in the people, elevating their spirits more, and yet Jesus is bent over on the colt, sobbing!
Those closest wonder, Whatever can be wrong? We are ready to crown him king and he is weeping as if brokenhearted!
Sorrow overwhelms Jesus as he looks at the beautiful symbol of what Israel might have been. How blessed their future could be if they accepted their Messiah. He knows that today is their last chance to accept him. Entering Jerusalem as king, will start a rapid progression to his death in six days.
And now, overcome with grief, he thinks of the contrast between what might have been and what will happen to Israel because of their pride. Spirit shows him the suffering of the city under siege, the temple destroyed, the city plowed, thousands of crosses covering Calvary. He briefly describes it for those closest, and sobs, “How can I give you up? If only you knew Me! If you would just recognize your Messiah, I could protect you from your enemies…”*
He collects himself, and they move on down the slope to Jerusalem, people shouting and singing the prophecies, seemingly unmindful of his pain.
Priests come and object, “Don’t you hear this disturbance?”
“It is God’s time to be heard,” Jesus replies. “If they are silent, the very stones will cry out.”
Matthew 21:9-11,  Luke 19:37-44,  John 12:17-19,  Zechariah 9:9, *Hosea 11:8
It’s Sunday, the day after Simon’s feast, and many of the people from Jerusalem who had come to Bethany to see Jesus, accompany him now. He had sent two disciples to borrow a donkey and its colt, and now with excitement they put their cloaks on the young donkey’s back for Jesus to ride. Finally he is going to enter the capital and proclaim himself king! is in everyone’s minds.
 Five hundred years before Jesus, Zechariah prophesied that Messiah would enter Jerusalem riding the never-ridden foal of a donkey.*
As soon as he’s seated on the colt, in the tradition of the kings of Israel, a shout of triumph rings out. Lazarus leads the donkey, while the people honor Jesus by putting garments in his path or cutting palm and olive branches to wave in the air or lay as a carpet before him.
Even nature seems in a rejoicing mood. New leaves are on the trees. Spring’s blossoms waft delicate perfume everywhere. New life and joy fill the air. Crowds, on their way to Jerusalem for Passover, join the procession through the green countryside.
“Hosanna to the Son of David” bursts out and echoes from surrounding hills as people hear and come shouting and singing from everywhere, even Jerusalem. His entourage swells continually as they progress. Those healed by Jesus are eager to join this celebration.
As they approach Jerusalem, the priests blow the trumpet for the evening service but few respond, and in terror the rabbis say, “The whole world has gone after him!”
Matthew 21:1-11,  Mark 11:1-10,  Luke 19:29-38   *Zechariah 9:9
Simon thinks Mary’s passionate display of affection is disgusting–that Jesus shouldn’t allow it. He doesn’t know God’s kindness, tenderness and mercy with sinners, even though Jesus had saved him from a living death.
Jesus knows what Simon is thinking and reveals to him, alone, that he knows his past with its responsibility toward Mary.
“Simon, I have a story for you,” says Jesus. “A  certain creditor had two debtors: one owed him five thousand dollars and the other fifty. Since neither had ability to pay, he forgave them both. Tell me, which one will love him most?”
“I suppose the one forgiven the most.” Simon pretends composure, holding his breath, he realizes that Jesus knows…
“You’re right. You didn’t wash my feet, but she has and dried them with her hair. You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but she has kissed my feet many times. Her sins, though great, are forgiven because she loves much.”
Simon breathes, grateful that Jesus hasn’t exposed him. He sees clearly now. He had thought himself more righteous than Mary, but Jesus has given new perspective. Convicted by kindness, Simon’s hard heart melts, and he becomes a true follower.
Jesus has freed Mary from demons seven times, but he knows the circumstances of her life, and sees her pure desire. The worse you have been, the more you need Jesus. He joyfully accepts all who come to him for restoration.
It was Mary who sat at Jesus’ feet, anointed Jesus, stood by Jesus’ cross. Mary was first at his tomb, and was honored as first to see Jesus resurrected.
Luke 7:39-50
Jesus knows Judas. He knows his need for approval, and that any confrontation would slam shut the door to his heart. This is the strongest he has spoken to him and it is directed to them all.
But Judas chooses to take offense and to ferment wounded pride into wanting revenge. After dinner, he goes straight to the palace of the high priest, and surprised at finding the council convened, offers to betray Jesus. The priests are overjoyed at the ease this gives them.
Judas had let greed grow inside until it had taken over every good trait. He envies and begrudges Jesus a gift appropriate for kings. For far less than it cost, he sells him out.
The eleven aren’t like Judas. They truly love Jesus; they just don’t fully appreciate who he is, distracted as they are by their own desires. Mary’s gift of love is a lesson they need. After his death, they blamed themselves instead of her.
Simon is embarrassed, perhaps his father-pride wounded. His ignorance of God leads him to worry, What are my guests thinking? If Jesus were a prophet he wouldn’t let Mary touch him, he would know she is a prostitute and not allow her such freedom with him.
But Jesus knows even more–that Mary had been deeply wronged by Simon, who had started her down the path he now condemns her for.  And yet not wanting to expose him, Jesus tells Simon a story.
(continued tomorrow)
Matthew 26:14-16,  Mark 14:10-11,  Luke 7:39-40
(Continued from Friday)
Judas begins audibly whispering to the others, “What a waste!  All that money could have been given to the poor!”
He’s the money-keeper of the disciples and often dips into their funds for his own use. But he is crafty, and to cover himself, he often remarks on what he terms “wasteful spending.” Seeing a year’s wages poured onto Jesus out of gratitude and love is a huge contrast with his own hard heart, and causes a seismic reaction.
The disciples, ever impressed with Judas, pick it up and continue it; not realizing they are criticizing Jesus, as well as Mary who suddenly becomes conscious of the murmur around the table.
She becomes embarrassed, flustered, and begins to shrink, just wanting to get away. Does Jesus think she’s wasteful? Surely Martha will have something to say! What if she says it in front of everyone! If only she’d thought this through!
Jesus sees her distress and embarrassment, and raising his voice above the murmuring says, “Leave her alone. She has done a beautiful thing for me. You’ll always have the poor, you can do for them anytime you want, but you won’t always have me. Mary has anointed me for burial ahead of time. And wherever my story is shared, her story will be told also–because of her love.”
Jesus could have justly unmasked and revealed Judas’ true character as a thief, but he wouldn’t give the slightest reason for Judas’ betrayal by calling him out or confronting him.
Matthew 26:8-13,  Mark 14:4-9,  Luke 7:36-38,  John 12:3-8

Jesus is coming from Jericho to spend Sabbath with Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Simon, their uncle and a Pharisee, also lives in Bethany and learns this. Jesus had healed him of the living death of leprosy, and he wants to show his gratitude.

His healing allowed him to support Jesus and keep his position; no doubt, agreeing that his son, Judas Iscariot, should become a disciple making him look grateful. But while Simon hopes Jesus is the Messiah, he’s not convinced; and now physically well, he feels no spiritual need.

Nevertheless, he decides to honor Jesus with a dinner and asks Martha to cater it.
Curiosity brings many to see Lazarus, recently raised from the dead. However, not all who come want to honor Jesus.
Mary has often heard Jesus speak of his approaching death, and has saved to buy an alabaster jar of spikenard to anoint his body for burial. But lately she has heard talk that he will soon be crowned king.
Ruach uses her excitement to awaken a desire to be the first to honor him by pouring it on him now in gratitude. She thinks she can pull it off unnoticed. Forgetting that the fragrance will fill the room, she enters, puts some on his head and then kneels and pours it on his feet.
She forgets the others are there, her tears of gratitude fall on his feet, their bond secluding them. Having forgotten a towel, she unfastens her long hair, another suggestive intimacy, and uses it to dry his feet.
Judas is embarrassed. Cousin! How inappropriate at his father’s dinner!
(continued tomorrow)
Matthew 26:6-7,  Mark 14:3,  Luke 7:36-38,  John 12:1-3
From his seat on a tree limb, Zacchaeus scans the crowd for the face of Jesus as he passes below. Suddenly, amid shouts and clamor, the crowd stops, and one truly peaceful face looks up into the leafy branches where Zacchaeus sits.
Is he dreaming? He can hardly believe his ears! This peaceful man who has to be Jesus is calling his name!
“Zacchaeus, come down quickly! Today I must stay at your house.”
The people are shocked. Scribes and Pharisees murmur their disapproval.
Zacchaeus jumps down, overwhelmed at the honor.  Full of emotion, love, and loyalty to his new friend, he stands beside Jesus and says “Lord, I will give half of everything I own to the poor, and anything I have taken unjustly I will repay four times.”
Jesus joyfully affirms him, “Today, acceptance has come to this house, for he also is a son of Abraham.” (All who have faith in God’s goodness are sons and daughters of Abraham.)*
The work Ruach started, that seemed so difficult when Zacchaeus first began to respond, now becomes easy, motivated by love. Repentance, the desire to change, becomes real as love produces it. Love brings integrity into every aspect of  business, and change comes into every relationship of his whole life. Holiness = wholeness.
Zaachaeus’ family had been excluded from the synagogue by the priests, but now they are blessed beyond belief to have the Messiah himself as a guest in their house. In a few minutes they have gone from outcasts to the most favored home in Jericho!
God loves to give sweet surprises.
Luke 19:5-10
Jericho sat like an emerald in its surrounding limestone cliffs and ravines on the way to Jerusalem. With its palm trees and gardens watered by natural springs, it was an oasis of life, a beautiful center for business. Many caravans passed through it; and many Roman officials, priests, and government workers lived there.
Zacchaeus is the chief tax collector living there. He’s a Jew and hated by his own because he works for Rome. He’s wealthy and known for extortion, but he hears John preach at the Jordan, not far from Jericho, and his heart opens.
When he hears that one of Jesus’ followers is a tax collector, hope that he can change takes hold, and he begins to make restitution following Spirit’s promptings. However, he is discouraged by the suspicion that meets his efforts at restoration.
Caravans enroute to Passover are going through Jericho. The word on the street is that Jesus and company will be passing through Jericho as he returns to Jerusalem.
Hearing this, Zacchaeus determines to see him, at least to look at Jesus whose reported words have given hope.
But the streets are packed with people; and being short he can’t see over them! And no one will let him through! What can he do?
An idea comes–and running ahead of the crowd, he climbs up a fig tree with low wide branches, then called a sycamore,* and scans the crowd looking for Jesus. He feels sure he will know him.
Luke 19:1-4  *An Egyptian fig was called a sycamore tree–Cambridge Bible note
Competition is at its peak among his disciples when Jesus says, “You know that those who rule the world, do it by control and authority, but it won’t be that way with you.”
Most kings believed that the lower classes existed for benefit of the ruling class. Money, education and influence were means to control the masses who served them. Religious leaders were no different. The right of man to think and act for himself was completely unrecognized. This was the norm.
Jesus is introducing a new paradigm with the principle of love at its foundation. Love respects the rights and freedom of all.  Every person must be free to think and follow his own convictions. In matters of conscience, all minds must decide for themselves.*
No one has the right to control another. Strength, gifts, education, or money put you under a greater responsibility to serve well those under you.  The leaders who serve out of love are greatest in God’s kingdom.
Conversely, no one has the right to merge his individuality into another. Weakness, timidity or confusion is not an excuse to have others make your choices. God gives every man and woman the freedom and the responsibility to choose. Spirit is available to everyone who wants help. Tell Him your dilemma, and expect Him to supply wisdom.
We are judged by Love alone. Our motives spread life or death to others. In God’s kingdom, the highest recognition is for serving in love, or suffering injustice for defending His character.
Matthew 20:25-28,  Mark 10:42-45   *Romans 14:5,12