Tag Archives: Sadducees

Palm Sunday Thoughts

Palm Sunday is the beginning of Holy Week. It is the day on which the people of Jerusalem welcomed Jesus into the city riding on a donkey. They waved palm branches and laid their coats on the ground beneath His feet. “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord,” they cried out. They believed He was the promised Messiah.

But not everyone believed or was happy about Jesus’ arrival.

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
Luke 19:39-40 (NIV).

Palm Sunday is celebratory, but it doesn’t take long for the sentiment of the Pharisees to take hold among a larger group of people. In a mere five days the crowd will call for Jesus’ crucifixion following his joke of a trial before the Sanhedrin, Herod, and Pontius Pilate. The majority of the people will turn against Him, one of His closest twelve disciples will betray Him, and the other eleven disciples will desert and disown Him.

But coming back to our Palm Sunday celebration, one has to wonder why the people were so excited about Jesus’ arrival to the city. I believe it was in large part because they had heard many things about Him that fulfilled the prophecies of the promised Messiah, only a few of which included that:

  • He was born in Bethlehem:
    “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” Micah 5:2 (NIV).
  • He was born of a virgin:
    “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14 (NIV).
  • He had healed many, giving hearing to the deaf and sight to the blind:
    “In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll, and out of gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see.” Isaiah 29:18 (NIV).
  • He entered the city riding on a donkey:
    “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Zechariah 9:9 (NIV).

There was no Facebook, Twitter, or even Internet blogs during Biblical times, but news still spread about this man who could calm the storm, feed the hungry, and heal the sick and lame. The crowds that He drew all throughout His earthly ministry clearly indicate that news spread quite well if it was news worth hearing.

News had spread of this amazing prophet who was able to best even the Pharisees and Sadducees in a religious debate, who spent time with riff-raff and sinners, and who claimed to be able even to forgive sins without an animal sacrifice. He offered the common people freedom from servitude and burden of living under the thumb of the religious rulers of the day.

We celebrate Palm Sunday today because He makes the same offer even today. He offers freedom from the burden of legalism and forgiveness of our sins. And the truly amazing thing is that even if, in the midst of the confusion and agony of Holy Week to come, we desert or deny Him, He will redeem us.

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The Life-Giving Light

I’ve been reading (albeit slowly) through Isaiah and Romans on my Bible-in-a-year schedule. Although I am at chapter 40 of Isaiah, I keep being drawn back to a passage in chapter 26, verses 18-19.

18 We, too, writhe in agony,
      but nothing comes of our suffering.
   We have not given salvation to the earth,
      nor brought life into the world.
 19 But those who die in the Lord will live;
      their bodies will rise again!
   Those who sleep in the earth
      will rise up and sing for joy!
   For your life-giving light will fall like dew
      on your people in the place of the dead!

On the same day that I read Isaiah 26, I also read Romans 1. The person who put this Bible reading schedule together knew what they were doing by having Isaiah and Romans coincide. Paul begins his letter to the Romans like this:

This letter is from Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, chosen by God to be an apostle and sent out to preach his Good News. God promised this Good News long ago through his prophets in the holy Scriptures. Romans 1:1-2.

The promised Good News is that God’s “life-giving light will fall like dew” and that “those who die in the Lord will live.” Jesus fulfilled this promise. Though nothing comes of our suffering, salvation and new life have come from His great suffering and sacrifice. The promise was fulfilled in the New Testament, but it was first given in the Old Testament. They are two parts of a continuing story of God’s love and redemption of His beloved people.

There are many who refuse to accept this promised gift of salvation from our Creator. But that’s not new, either. During the time that Jesus walked this earth as a man there were various groups of Jews with differing beliefs about God. Most people are familiar with the Pharisees, as they figure prominently in the Gospels. The Pharisees are generally known as a legalistic sect of Jews who believed in following the letter of the law, and spent a great deal of time interpreting the law. There are numerous passages in the Gospels in which the Pharisees attempt to trick Jesus into breaking the law so that they might criticize Him, such as the accusation of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:3-11) or when Jesus healed on the Sabbath (technically against the law because it was considered work) (Mark 3:1-6).

But I digress. I really want to talk about the another sect, the Sadducees. Generally, the Sadducees were the wealthy class, the aristocrats, and were also in charge of the temple. Although they believed in God, the Sadducees did not believe in the afterlife. They believed that when a person died that was the end, there were no rewards or punishments after death. They held this belief in spite of the passage from Isaiah quoted above.

Okay, I must digress again to tell a little joke. —— Did you hear about the Jewish ruler who didn’t believe in heaven? That’s why he was “sad, you see.” —— I know, it’s stupid joke, but for some reason it always makes me chuckle and helps me remember how to pronounce Sadducees.

I read an article today about C.S. Lewis and there was one part in particular that I really liked:

Lewis didn’t write about the doctrinal squabbles dividing Christian groups of his time, Maudlin says. “He made a strategic decision early in his career to talk about ‘Mere Christianity,’ ’’ Maudlin says. “He never writes about different modes of baptism, different views of communion or anything that separates one church from another.”

That is one of the things that I have always liked about Lewis and that is what makes his classic “Mere Christianity” so wonderful. He sticks to the core of the Christian faith. All have sinned and are separated from God, but God so loved His creation that He sent His only Son to be the life-giving light for a lost world. Lewis focuses on the idea that those who die in the Lord will live!

In Jesus day there were many sects and divisions among the Jewish people. They tended to run along family lines, the twelve tribes of Judah not seeing eye to eye on many things. It is the same today among Christians. We disagree over doctrine and theology, and unfortunately let those differences of interpretation divide us.

This Christmas, I pray we would instead come together on the Gospel that is the core of our faith. Let us look to the life-giving light of the world, the Word made flesh, Emmanuel. Let us always remember that we who die in the Lord will live!

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