Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
In Roald Dahl’s story Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, six fortunate children find a golden ticket giving them privileged access to a chocolate factory where they can see and taste as much as they like, and experience the wonders of this new-found world.
I wonder how many people have a ‘chocolate factory’ view of God. Do you sometimes think or feel that only a few lucky people actually get to know God properly, and be in the wonder of a relationship with him? If your answer is yes, look at the events of Palm Sunday and see what Jesus said and did about this.
Rather than beginning at the point where Jesus is riding into Jerusalem, I first want to draw your attention to the later incident of Jesus clearing the Temple (Matthew 21:12-17). A quick glance at the part of the story telling how Jesus “overturned the tables of the money-changers and the benches of those selling doves” (verse 12), might make you think Jesus has flipped and is displaying a random angry outburst. But I suggest he is making a crucially important and clear statement. He is, in effect, saying that in the coming days the practice of animal sacrifice would be redundant. ‘Privileged-only’ access to God would be wiped out for ever.
A Different Kind of Messiah
At that time, in the Temple, only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies where the presence of God was. Only the High Priest could offer a sacrifice for the people’s sins, and only Jews could enter the Temple and offer sacrifices to God. The death of Jesus on the cross a few days later obliterated this system, and thereafter allowed all people, of all races, direct access to God. I suggest that the actions of Jesus on Palm Sunday symbolise the new order that was to come, and has now come.
So it is important for us to hear what Jesus is saying: everyone has access to God; everyone has the chance to get to know him, and know the wonder of a relationship with him. As Paul says: “Righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace” (Romans 3:22-24).
It’s also important for us to look at who Jesus was and is. On that amazing day (recorded in all four Gospels) when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, the crowds were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matthew 21:9). But who did they think Jesus was when they were shouting these things?
The Jews were expecting the Messiah, and by their shouts recognised him as this. In the political climate of that time, the Messiah they were expecting and hoping for was someone who would defeat the Roman Empire and restore glory to their nation. But Jesus did not fulfil those expectations. He was so much more than a political leader, yet they did not realise this.
As Jesus symbolised the end of animal sacrifice in the Temple by his actions that day, so we have to recognise that the Son of God did not come as a warrior-king to save a nation. He came to be the final and ultimate sacrifice, so God could save the entire world from sin.
What Is Our Picture of Jesus?
Does he fulfil our expectations? Let’s really think about this and study the Bible to explore fully what we believe.
These two incidents on Palm Sunday show us that the entire world—everybody in it, with no exceptions—has access to God. Jesus died on the cross so that you and I, as unique individuals, can be saved and have free access to a relationship with God.
The children in Charlie And The Chocolate Factory didn’t have quite the experience they were expecting. It wasn’t all happiness, delight and perfection. One child nearly drowned in a chocolate river and numerous other unpleasant events occurred.
A life in relationship with Jesus is not an easy ride. But I testify to a life in Jesus as being beyond compare and the need for a relationship with him as being the single most important decision we could ever take.
I challenge you to think about who Jesus is and what he means to you, what you expect of him and from him. However long you’ve been a Christian, it’s important and helpful to go back and re-evaluate what you believe and why, to meditate on our amazing God and what he did for us through Jesus. Then we have the responsibility to go into the world and share that head-and-heart knowledge with other people:
Go, then, to all people everywhere and make them my disciples; baptise them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always, to the end of the age (Matthew 28:16-20).
By: Andrea Stock