Revue: Shadows Beneath the Palms

© Lynn Abbott Studios. Used with Permission.

©2018 Lynn Abbott

Without a doubt, crowds can be fickle…

The workplace?  Fragile.

Friendships? Variable.

Relationships?  Tenuous.

Popularity?  Fleeting.

We learn early.  Yet, betrayal nevertheless blindsides us again and again throughout our lives.

There is always that one: the gossip, the slanderer, the jealous, the back-stabber, and yes, the bully…one who wishes to tear down rather than build up…

Sometimes, the pain comes from places we least expect.  We bleed emotionally from unanticipated blows.

Maybe, you’ve been there.  Perhaps, you walk this road today.  You began with high hopes; your dreams dashed in the face of injustice.

There is One who understands.  Scripture tells us that our Great High Priest sympathizes with our pain.  Yes, God-incarnate walked such a road.

For the uninformed eye-witness, such events likely seemed outside the realm of possibility.

After all, Christ’s popularity was undeniable.

If there were any doubt of it, His entry into Jerusalem prior to Passover demonstrated the enormity of His influence.

More than that, on that memorable Sunday, Christ unquestionably identified himself as Israel’s Messiah.  He sent his disciples to find a donkey colt, and He rode the colt into Jerusalem.

In this way, He fulfilled the Zechariah’s prophecy, “Fear no, daughter of Zion’ Behold you King comes sitting on a Donkey’s colt,” (Zechariah 9:9).

His manner of entry, thus,  declared His kingship.  Messiah had entered the capital city.

The crowds recognized His claim and met Him with palm branches.  Expectations soared.  The people worshiped and cried, “Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9).

Their words echoed the prophecy of Zechariah; their actions reflected the Messianic passage in Psalm 118:22-26.

Christ’s entry into Jerusalem prior to Passover demonstrated the enormity of His popularity and influence.

But on that Sunday road lined with palm branches, Christ did more than claim His identity as Messiah.

He boldly repeated His claim to be God.

Of course, Christ had previously claimed His deity in no uncertain terms.

When He said that Abraham had rejoiced to see His day, the Jews questioned His claim:  “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” (John 8:57).

His response had rocked the Jewish community.

“Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I AM'” (John 8:58).

The people understood what many today do not.  You see, “I AM” was the name that God told Moses to use for God when Moses presented himself to the children of Israel as their leader.

“And God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you,'” (Exodus 3:14).

The name “I AM” was rendered YHWH or Yahweh.  In other words, Christ called Himself “Yahweh.”

And the people tried to stone Him for blasphemy.

“Once burned, twice as careful,” most of us say. The disciples had failed in their attempts to dissuade Jesus from going to Jerusalem.

I’m sure the twelve would have preferred it if Jesus had not ruffled the feathers of the jealous leadership.

But prior to His mock trial on Thursday, Jesus would not remain silent.

He boldly proclaimed the Truth: “He who believes in Me does not believe in Me, but in Him who sent Me.  And he who behold Me beholds the One who sent Me. I have come as light into the world, that everyone who believes in Me may not remain in darkness,” (John 12:44-46).

What a difference a week makes!  On Sunday, rejoicing crowds welcomed Jesus as He entered Jerusalem.

Yet, during Passover, a week that symbolically pointed to Christ, the Passover Lamb whose blood marked the doorposts of homes saved  from  God’s judgment, Jesus spoke of His sacrificial and substitutionary death, (John 13: 27-33).

His words did not match the people’s expectations.  And their grumbling began.  Those who opposed Christ seized every opportunity to undermine His claims.

The continual criticism took its toll. Judas, one of the twelve Jesus entrusted with His teaching and heart, turned against the Savior.

What a difference a week makes!

Yeah, that’s right. Judas embodied the fickle nature of the people.  Disappointed that Christ had not overthrown Rome, a disillusioned Judas led the Roman guard and Jewish officers to Christ in Gethsemane.

There, in that quiet sanctuary after hours of prayer, Christ was betrayed.

And shadows began to grow as history’s darkest hour approached.

Jesus had predicted the shift that loomed on the horizon: “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends,” (John 15:13).

And on Friday just 5 days after His triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem, our Savior carried the instrument of torture and death–the cross–down the city streets to that hill of infamy outside the city gates.

All seemed dark that Friday afternoon before the Passover Seder.

Christ, the lamb of God, sacrificed His life on the cross.   It seemed a hopeless business.

Does Christ understand the pain of rejection?  Does He know how you or I feel when someone back-stabs or betrays us?

Yes.  A thousand times over.

As the writer of the book of Hebrews says, ‘For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin…’ (Hebrews 4:15).

And that Passover Friday was dark. Oh so dark.

But Sunday was coming…

“But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed,” ~Isaiah 53:5