Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Pep Rally

photos by Holly Emig
Who doesn't like to see the underdog win?  (I guess if you are the team playing the underdog, it's never fun).  This weekend many celebrated the underdogs of the NCAA Basketball tournament, the Florida Gulf Coast University Eagles.  When they took down the #2 ranked Georgetown, people jumped on the bandwagon of rooting for the underdog (again).  (And how about those AMAZING dunks!)  It would have been so fun to cheer at the pep rally for the team, Monday March 25th.

Speaking of pep rallies:  Sunday morning we celebrated Palm Sunday.  It reminded me of a pep rally.  Our children reenacted "The Triumphal Entry" of Jesus into Jerusalem.  They waved palm branches while walking down the aisles to the front of the church.  They quoted scripture shouting, "Hosanna!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord."  Our "pep rally" brought smiles to the crowd and cameras out of pockets (hence, the pics above).

But imagine the Jews at the original "pep rally."  To the "fans," (I won't put it in quotes any more) this would just be another week of Passover (the yearly celebration remembering God's deliverance of their ancestors, the Israelites, out of Egypt).  Would it be a redundant celebration or a week that would change history forever? 

They heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem.  Some believed He was the Messiah, the Christ, the long awaited deliverer that God had promised from the time of Adam and Eve.  If Jesus really was the Christ, they could just taste victory over the Romans, the oppressive rulers.  And in their minds, Jerusalem would be the perfect battlefield, the capital of the Jewish religion.  The home of the temple.  Perfect timing:  the Passover.  All the Jews had to gather in Jerusalem for the Passover.  Surely the Jews had the home court advantage.  The perfect set up to change history forever.

So imagine the fans dismay when their hero, Jesus came riding into town on a donkey.  Really?  A donkey?  I'm sure they were asking each other, "Where is the mighty white horse to show power like other warrior kings?"  But the crowd went with it.  They began crying out "Hosanna," meaning "save us now."  I guess they didn't recall the prophet Zechariah saying, "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." (Zech. 9:9) 

Jesus, the promised King.  Would He defeat the Romans?  Only time would tell.

(I'm skipping some major events to shorten this post, but you should read the whole account.  In Mark's account, chapters 11-13 are events after Jesus' arrived in Jerusalem.  http://www.biblestudytools.com/nas/mark/11.html)

Jesus found Himself thick in a plot for the Jewish leaders to have him killed.

Mark 14: 1-2  Now the Passover and Unleavened Bread were two days away ; and the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to seize Him by stealth and kill Him; 2 for they were saying, "Not during the festival, otherwise there might be a riot of the people." 
(I'm skipping again.  Some major events starting in Mark 14  http://www.biblestudytools.com/nas/mark/14.html  The Last Passover, The Lord's Supper, Jesus in Gethsemane, Jesus betrayed by His follower, Judas Iscariot, and Jesus' Arrest)

But why would the Jews want Him killed?  Jesus claimed to be God.  For those who didn't believe, this was blasphemy!
Mark 14: 53  They led Jesus away to the high priest ; and all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes gathered together.

Mark 14:61- 64
Again the high priest was questioning Him, and saying to Him, "Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?" 62 And Jesus said, "I am ; and you shall see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING WITH THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN."63Tearing his clothes, the high priest said, "What further need do we have of witnesses ? 64 "You have heard the blasphemy ; how does it seem to you?" And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death.  

By now, many of the fans have jumped off the bandwagon.  Even Jesus' closest followers, including Peter (the end of Mark 14), ran away in fear. 

What is happening?  Where is the sword?  But Jesus didn't come to fight.  Next, they took Him to Pilate, the governor.   

Mark 15: 1-3  Early in the morning the chief priests with the elders and scribes and the whole Council, immediately held a consultation ; and binding Jesus, they led Him away and delivered Him to Pilate. 2Pilate questioned Him, "Are You the King of the Jews ?" And He answered him, "It is as you say."3 The chief priests began to accuse Him harshly.

In Luke's account, Pilate voices Jesus' innocense.
Luke 23:4 Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, "I find no guilt in this man."  

I can imagine if the fans that welcomed Him to Jerusalem were still cheering, they would be yelling, "Now would be the perfect time to show your power, Jesus.  The crowds are stirred up against you."  Compared to a basketball game: it's the 4th quarter, 2 min.on the clock, down 10 points.  It's now or never for the underdog.  Would He show His power? 

The next part of the story went from bad to worse.  Instead of an innocent man let free, Pilate released Jesus over to be crucified as the crowd chanted, "Crucify! Crucify!"  I cannot describe the horrow Jesus experienced next without tears running down my face as I write. 

How could they?  Beat Him.  Spit on Him.  Force Him to wear a crown out of thorns and a purple robe,only royalty would wear.  Mocked Him, bowing before him and shouting,  "Hail, King of the Jews!"  After their child-like game, they forced Him to carry a cross up a hill where they would nail His hands and feet to hang in shame.  

I imagine some of the fans yelling, (well, probably only thinking), "Come down!  I know you can!  Now, Jesus! Now!" 

But He hung.  Finally hanging His head.  Breathless.  Dead.

The sign that hung above His head read, his charge, "THE KING OF THE JEWS."

Did the fans realize giving Jesus the title of "King" would be his only charge?  They wanted a Savior.  Someone to save them from Roman rule.  But, their King hung on a cross.  Powerless to save them.  Or was He?

Three days later, some of Jesus biggest fans, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome showed their loyalty.  They brought spices to annoint Jesus, as was the custom.  To their surprise, the grave was empty.  The stone rolled away.  And Jesus appeared to them.  They ran to tell the disciples, Jesus' followers the news.  Jesus was alive! http://www.biblestudytools.com/nas/mark/16.html

His resurrection:  Victory!  Victory over death.  He never really was the "underdog."  His fans just didn't understand the Savior.  Jesus provided them more than a victory over an immediate enemy.  Jesus, the Savior: a savior for their spiritual lives.  His death on the cross paid the penalty needed for their sin.  God could accept them if they believed Jesus really was the Son of God, the Christ, the Deliverer, who died in their place.  If they turned from their sins and accepted Jesus as their personal Savior, God would change them from merely fans to followers. (Jesus offers you the same).

Followers that remain faithful, even with loss (Persecution. Read the accounts of His closest disciples, who died for their beliefs). 
Followers that trust the coach (God), even when they don't agree with the play calls (life). 

Jesus showed Himself to the disciples and over 500 people before He returned to heaven, proving He really was God.  His promise:  He will return.  Next time, on a white horse.  http://www.biblestudytools.com/nas/revelation/19.html

John describes the final pep rally in Revelation 7:9-10.  A pep rally for Jesus' followers.
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands ; 10 and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, " Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."  (emphasis mine)

And the final battle:
Revelation 19:11
And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war.  

Revelation 19:16
16 And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, "KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS."

The conquering KING!

Revelation 19:20 And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image ; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. 21 And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh.

I'm looking forward to the final pep rally!  Will you join me?
Will you celebrate Easter this year as a skeptic?  Merely a fan?  Or a Follower?

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