1 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: 5 “Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.'” 6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest!” 10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” 11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Who is this? Who is Jesus? For our purposes today, let me offer this definition: Jesus is the perfect love of God on display to the world and slain for the sins of the world.
You may describe someone as pure selfishness, pure greed or even pure sweetness or pure kindness. Jesus could be described as pure love. Nowhere more clearly in Jesus’ earthly ministry was this perfect love seen than during the last week of His life. He had just entered Jerusalem and was heralded a king by crowds of people. He was hailed king on Sunday and mocked as a king on Friday. Public opinion about Him changed, but the perfect love He came to reveal never waned.
I see several ways during that last week of Jesus’ earthly life which point to His love being perfect.
- He perfectly loved what God loved.
12 Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.'” 14 The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them.
Jesus had always demonstrated a love for the will of the Father. Human nature tells us we are the masters of our own destinies. We are in charge of what happens to us based on the decisions we make and the routes we take in life. We arrive early at the conclusion that if “we can dream it we can do it.” We make plans, set goals, and work to achieve them. We teach our children to shoot for the stars, to aspire to success and to “be all they can be” when as Christians we should be training out children to find out what God’s will is and to pursue it with their whole beings. The ultimate question isn’t “What would you like to be when you grow up” or “What are you good at doing,” but rather, “What is God’s design for your life?”
In John’s Gospel, he emphasizes just how much Jesus loved the will of God.
John 4:34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.
John 5:30 By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.
John 6:38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.
John 8:28-29 So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am [the one I claim to be] and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.”
John 12:49-50 For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”
John 14:30-31 I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me, but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.
It was never out of duty, but out of love that Jesus did what the Father commanded. His love was perfect for the will of God. It was never a burden, but a blessing and joy to do God’s will even when it was hard. And it got hard! As Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane later that week for God the Father to spare Him the cross and as drops of sweat fell from His forehead until eventually Jesus was bleeding drops of blood from His forehead, He said to the Father, “Not my will, but Yours be done.”
Jesus loved what God loved, not out of duty, but out of delight. He saw the money changers in the temple, and His love for God’s house and God’s purposes overtook Him as He saw the abuses, the corruption, and the exploitation going on in the temple. God loves justice and mercy and what was happening in the temple didn’t look or smell like either. Pilgrims coming to offer sacrifices at the temple were being cheated when they were purchasing sacrifices. They had no choice but to pay the ridiculous prices at the temple. Also whatever the exchange rate to gain access to “temple money” had been determined to be, that was what people had to accept.
God has never loved the exploitation of the poor or injustice of any kind. God may have spoken to Jesus in an instant and told Him to go berserk on the money changers and people selling the sacrifices, but Scripture doesn’t tell us so. I suspect that because Jesus simply loved everything God loved, He knew instinctively what His role was to be in that place in that moment.
I believe as we walk with God and learn to love what God loves, we begin to effectively do what God wants us to do without “extra” instructions from God Himself every time we are confronted with an issue. It’s not that God isn’t always guiding our efforts or that we don’t need to seek His will, but rather we begin to instinctively know what pleases God and what we are supposed to do in a given situation. Yes, we need to pray and ask for guidance. Yes, there are moments when more wisdom than impulse or instinct is needed, but as we learn to love the things God loves we will naturally begin to right wrongs and impact darkness with the Kingdom of Light.
- He perfectly loved imperfect people. John 13 describes an act of Jesus during
Jesus’ last week that reflects how sincere, how perfect His love was for imperfect people. Let’s face it. The disciples weren’t the “sharpest knives” in the drawer. They had to be taught the same lessons over and over again. They had to be challenged to step out of their comfort zones repeatedly. They had to have basic discipleship principles explained repeatedly. They saw the kinds of miracles you and I will likely never see and still had doubt. They were afraid and fickle. These were the 12 Jesus had dedicated three years of His life to, and on many fronts, they still didn’t “get it”. In the end, they deserted Him . . . and Jesus knew they would all along. Jesus knew how weak they were.
Just as Mary of Bethany had poured out the expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair, lavishing her love on Jesus “before it was too late,” Jesus, knowing He was going to be crucified and then would be leaving them as He would ascend to heaven, He wanted to show the disciples how much He loved them. And so, Jesus stood up from a meal they were having and wrapped a towel around His waist. Verse one of John 13 said when Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, He was showing them the “full of extent of His love.” Perfect love stooped to wash imperfect people. Perfect love stooped to serve. If they hadn’t gotten it through words He had spoken, perhaps they would receive it in action as He demonstrated the depths of His love.
Just after He kicked the money changes and sacrifice sellers out of the Temple, He started healing people. Though He had just been angry over injustice He was able to turn off that passionate emotion and continue to express His love for people by healing those who came to Him. He went from turning over tables to tenderly touching the blind and the lame. When I am angry, the last thing on my mind is good works and miracles, yet because Jesus always lived in the center of love, He was able to be Superhero/Gladiator one minute and Doctor/Healer the next.
That whole week, even though Jesus could have been about preserving His energy or pampering Himself, He continued His ministry of loving people. Check out how many red letters are in your Bible between the Palm Sunday Triumphal Entry and the Crucifixion. Those are the words of Jesus, the ones in red. Jesus loved people until the end. He didn’t take a break from teaching them, but kept on with parable after parable and instruction after instruction for life. Even when He was being arrested and one of His disciples got overly zealous and cut off the ear of one of the guards who came to arrest Jesus, Jesus picked up the man’s ear and put it back on the side of His head. Talk about loving your enemies!
I love that while in the worst possible state a person could be in and yet still have breath, Jesus used His precious breath to tell John to take care of Mary, Jesus’ mom. Mary had given up everything to be the mother of Jesus. Whatever she had aspired to become, it all changed the day the angel visited her with the news that she would conceive of the Holy Spirit and give birth to a Son. No mother is perfect, but Mary was pretty special. Regardless of the times she didn’t “get it right as a mom” she was still Jesus’ mom. And as He hung there in pain and shame and agony, He mustered the strength to express His love for her.
You see, perfect love always finds a way to express itself, even to imperfect people and even under imperfect circumstances.
Jesus perfectly loved what God loved. He perfectly loved imperfect people. And, finally He perfectly displayed perfection.
You’ll recall that Scripture tells us that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Sunday late in the day. That would have been four days before the Passover. Let me explain a bit about the Passover observance. Celebrating the Passover Lamb required the shedding of a lamb’s blood; not just any lamb, but a perfect one . . . one without spot or blemish. We are told in I Peter 2:22 that Jesus qualified to be the sacrifice for the sins of the world as He was spotless. He was perfect. He never sinned.
In Jewish homes, the blood of the lamb was put on the doorpost of their homes during the Passover.
They continued this tradition to commemorate the night God spared Israel as the death angel passed over Jewish homes where the blood had been applied to Jewish doorposts and only the firstborn of the Egyptians were killed.
Crucifixion makes a similar blood pattern as Jesus bled from His head, his hands, and of course, His feet.
Jesus’ primary reason for coming to earth as a human was to take away the sins of the world on the cross so that “death” would forever “pass over” you and me.
Now, you couldn’t run to Kroger the night before the Passover and get the lamb. The Lamb had to be selected four days before the Passover and be taken in to the home of the family that would offer the sacrifice. The family was to have bonded with the lamb, almost like a family pet, so that when it was sacrificed it would feel like a sacrifice; it would feel like losing a part of the family. People were personally supposed to “feel” the impact of the lamb’s death. John the Baptist pointed to Jesus in John 1:29 and made this exclamation, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!”
Four days for examination and interaction. Hmm. Four days before the crucifixion Jesus entered into Jerusalem where He would be examined prior to His crucifixion. And examined He was. When you synthesize the Gospels there were six trials in all. We’ll just look at 3 of them. We pick up the story in Luke 23. In a kangaroo court before Pilate, people trumped up false accusations against Jesus. Pilate asked Him one simple question, “Are you the King of the Jews?” to which Jesus answered, “Yes, it is as you say.” Just one question and answer was all it took for Pilate. Pilate told the mob, “I find no basis for any charges against Jesus.” But they wouldn’t listen.
Pilate asked another question because he wanted to pass the buck. He asked if Jesus was a Galilean. When Jesus said He was Pilate was thrilled. That meant Jesus was really under Herod’s jurisdiction, and so Pilate sent Him to Herod. Herod starting asking questions, but Jesus never answered any of them. Jesus wasn’t going to play Herod’s games. An honest question would have gotten an honest answer, but Herod wasn’t interested in the truth. He was hoping to see a miracle or two (verse 8). When that didn’t happen he sent Jesus back to Pilate in a game of “musical courts” after he had joined with the Chief Priests and Teachers of the Law to mock and ridicule Jesus.
Verse 13 of Luke 23 reads: Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. Therefore, I will punish him and then release him.”
The crowd wasn’t backing down. They started calling for Jesus to be crucified and again in verse 23 for the third time Pilate said, “Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him.” Pilate, in fact, claimed Jesus was innocent 7 times if you read the all of the Gospel accounts. Eventually, Pilate caved. The crowd won. Jesus would be executed. The innocent would be crucified.
People are still trying to find fault with Jesus where none exists. They are still trying to minimize His love, twist His motives, and get people to follow anything but Him. But we know the truth! You were redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 1 Peter 1:18-19 For those of us in Christ, we know Jesus is our Passover Lamb! Romans 3:23-The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God through Jesus, our Passover Lamb, is eternal life!
Passover wasn’t the only time a lamb’s blood was spilled in the life of the Jewish people. The sin offering of Leviticus 4 and 5 spoke to the sin nature of the people. The lamb of the sin offering was to be offered outside of the camp. While the body of the lamb remained outside the camp, the blood was taken to the holy place in the temple. Did you know Jesus was crucified outside the city gates of Jerusalem? Outside of the camp? And the shedding of His blood impacted the holy place in the temple where the veil separating the holy place from the holy of holies was torn in two as Jesus breathed His last. Jesus is not only our Passover Lamb, but He is also our sin offering! II Corinthians 5:21 says “He became sin” so we could go free! When we come to God through Him, we are no longer sinners, but we are made righteous. Who we are is wiped away, and we become the righteousness of God in Christ! Romans 5:6 “But God demonstrated His love for us in this that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
The trespass offering of Leviticus 5 and 6 dealt with sins committed that required restitution or repayment; much like a person who is incarcerated is said to have paid a “debt to society” the trespass offering took care of the restitution or debt that was owed as a result of sin. There is a debt that sin has created that we are unable to pay. Jesus has made restitution for us! Our debt is canceled! Hallelujah! Ephesians 2:4-5 “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved.” Jesus therefore, has become our Passover, our Sin Offering and our Trespass offering!!
I’ve heard people say about the day of their passing that if they can die doing what they love to do it would be the “perfect way to go.” Jesus did just that.
Jesus perfectly loved what God loves. How do you rate? Do you love what God loves and hate what God hates to the place where you instinctively move with His authority and power to right wrongs and bring light to the darkness? Is your “food” to do the will of God?
Jesus perfectly loved imperfect people. For many in this room, there is someone you need to apologize to, someone you need to meet with to clear the air, someone you need to give the benefit of the doubt to, someone you need to let off the hook, or someone you need to bless and you have been resisting doing it.
Jesus perfectly displayed perfection. No one will look at our lives and see perfection, but as people examine you, what do they see? A valiant attempt at holy living or lots of inconsistencies and shallow promises.
Let us thank God for the example of the perfect love of God on display during Holy Week, and let us pray for His life to be repeated in ours.