The Problem with Jesus

by Dave Miller on March 20, 2013 · 26 comments

For centuries, the Jews had awaited the day when Messiah would come. They talked about it, groaned for it and prayed diligently to see that day come. False messiahs rose up and led many astray to destruction. But finally, the Christ came. Just as the prophet Zechariah had foretold, he came riding in on a donkey, a humble beast of burden.

“Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’ ” Matthew 21:5 (citing Zechariah 9:9)

And Jerusalem exploded with excitement. They knew the stories of this one who performed such amazing miracles. He cast demons out, made the lame walk, the blind see, and he seemed to break up every funeral he attended by raising the honoree! The ancient city was abuzz with the exploits of this enigmatic teacher. And now, just as prophesied, he was riding into town as the Messiah, the true king of Israel – the desire of the ages.

The king had finally come.

And the joy could not be contained. His humble entry soon became a parade as crowds surrounded him and went ahead, laying their cloaks before him and covering the streets with branches. You can only imagine how the sleepy streets came alive! The crowds were shouting and chanting words of praise to the long-awaited Christ.

Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest! Matthew 21:9 (from Psalm 118:25-26)

Hosanna is a transliteration of the Hebrew (or Aramaic) and means “Save us!” or “Save indeed.” It was both a plea for help and an expression of praise. Psalm 118, from which these words of exultation were taken, is a psalm of festival pilgrimage. As Israelites drew near to the temple for their festivals, they would often speak these words. But it also is a psalm filled with messianic references. The crowds are exalting Jesus as the Promised One, the messiah! It was quite a moment.

But that moment did not last long. As the Triumphal Entry took place, Jesus was glorified as the hope of the ages, the king of Israel. But within a few days public opinion had been swayed and the hoi polloi of Jerusalem was shouting very different words.

Crucify him!

As Jesus was arrested, they turned on him. When Pilate tried, in his cowardice, to free Jesus, the crowds screamed for his head. All the joy, all the hope, all the sense of prophetic fulfillment that had warmed Jerusalem earlier in the week had turned to a cold hate and a lust for blood.

How could things have turned so wrong so fast? Seldom has a man lost public favor so quickly. What changed? What was the problem with Jesus?

The Problem with Jesus

The crowds turned on Jesus for a simple reason: they began to realize that he was not the Messiah they had been expecting.

During his ministry, Jesus spoke often of his kingdom, but the disciples never seemed to understand it. Do you think that when James and John were disputing over who would be at the right hand and who would be at the left when Jesus came into his kingdom, they were envisioning some kind of millennial glory? Of course not. They all thought they had signed on to become key cogs in the earthly victory of Jesus over Rome. He was going to gather an army, empowered by God like Gideon of old, and defeat the cursed oppressors, chasing them from Israel. He would restore the Davidic line, defeat all their enemies, and in the process, elevate the disciples to places of honor and glory.

Even after his death and resurrection, and after the forty days of post-resurrection instruction from Jesus, the disciples still didn’t get it. They were confused by his death, amazed by his resurrection and baffled by his teachings. Just before the ascension, one of them asked a question; one that gave the lie to the old saw that “there’s no such thing as a dumb question.” This one was.

“Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” Acts 1:6

Even after three years of public teaching, witnessing his sacrificial death and his glorious resurrection, and after hearing him teach for 40 days, they still didn’t get it.

And if the disciples didn’t get it, the people of Jerusalem really didn’t understand. This man came riding in as the messiah and they were full of expectation. When would the revolution begin? How bloody would the war be? How long until the Romans were gone and a song of David sat again on the throne? The problem was simple.

The messiah who came into Jerusalem was not the messiah Jerusalem expected!

He did not ride on a war horse to gather the armies of Israel to do battle, but on a humble beast of burden. He did not come to fight Rome, but to battle the power of sin and the work of Satan. He came to seek and to save, not to fight and to conquer. Jesus came to fulfill the eternal plan devised within the Godhead in eternity past and to bear the full weight of God’s wrath against sin. His kingdom, at that time, was not a worldly kingdom, but a kingdom within.

The Heart of the Matter

Boiled to the bones, here was the problem with Jesus – the reason the crowds turned on him so quickly. They were expecting a Jesus who would give them their hearts’ desires. They wanted a messiah who would bring them victory, help them fulfill their ambitions, and lead them to prominence.

Jesus did not come to give them their hearts’ desires, but to give them new hearts and to replace their desires. He did not come to help them fulfill their ambitions, but to call them to die to self, take up their cross and follow Jesus. He was not there to elevate them to prominence but to call them to be servants, just as he was.

And they hated him for it!

Little has changed today. Modern America has created a false religion of self-fulfillment and called it Christianity. God will help you reach your dreams and find happiness, the deceivers promise. They skip over the ugly parts of the New Testament, the parts that form the heart and soul of the faith. We do not come to God like a genie to have our wishes fulfilled, but to abandon our hopes, dreams and ambitions to serve his agenda in this world. We come to die, to deny self, and to seek Jesus. One of the reasons the church struggles so much in America today is that we have cut the heart out of the faith and expected it to continue growing and thriving!

It’s a Matter of Timing

One day, Jesus will come again and be everything the disciples hoped for. He will descend from heaven with armies trailing. He will strike down those who oppose him and set up his earthly kingdom and will rule this world and we, the redeemed, will reign with him. That awaits the days of the end and I say with John, “Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly.”

But today we must live as Jesus did. We must die to self and live to God. We must deny self and serve him. And we must proclaim the whole counsel of God’s gospel.

Jesus will never be the messiah the world expects. He will never be the Great Therapist who comes to make us feel good about ourselves and to empower us to reach our life’s goals. No, that is an idol created in the image of modern America. People will still reject the real Jesus, the confusing Jesus, today as they did then. But we cannot alter the Jesus of scripture to meet the expectations of culture.

The Way of the Cross may be a “stumblingblock to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles”, but it remains today “the power of God and the wisdom of God.”  It remains the “power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

Let us not alter that gospel to meet the false expectations of the people, but proclaim it in all its offensive glory!

1 Dave Miller March 20, 2013 at 2:18 pm

We wonder why the American church struggles. Maybe it is because we have created our own “Jesus of Self-Fulfillment” instead of bowing to the Lord of lords and dying to ourselves.

2 Joshua T March 20, 2013 at 2:32 pm

Dave,

This is good stuff. And is helpful to simplify the explanation about the failure of the Jews to see how Christ was fulfilling the role of Messiah. I don’t want my disagreements with your eschatology to deny us agreement on the principal application to the American church.

I certainly don’t accept “He will strike down those who oppose him and set up his earthly kingdom and will rule this world and we, the redeemed, will reign with him.” but I can agree on “We must die to self and live to God. We must deny self and serve him. And we must proclaim the whole counsel of God’s gospel. Jesus will never be the messiah the world expects.”

Once we get the church to accept that “Modern America has created a false religion of self-fulfillment and called it Christianity”, we can start up the fun eschatology discussion again! :-)

3 Dave Miller March 20, 2013 at 3:18 pm

Heretic!!
Gathering the wood for the fire. Looking for ropes to bind you!

4 Joshua T March 20, 2013 at 3:29 pm

*INSERT JOKE*
So typical of a Calvinist. Can’t you think of some new way to kill a heretic?
*END JOKE*

5 Dave Miller March 20, 2013 at 3:55 pm

“I’m gonna go all Servetus on you.”

How was that?

6 Dave Miller March 20, 2013 at 3:55 pm

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

7 Mike Leake March 20, 2013 at 4:02 pm

(Enter Calvinist)

***Inserts 50 links shining light on the situation***

(Gives theological punch then exits)

8 Dave Miller March 20, 2013 at 4:22 pm

We can always count on you, Mike.

9 Bob Cleveland March 20, 2013 at 2:43 pm

They were Holy Spirit-less people, acting like it. Not understanding Spiritual truth.

Could there be a relationship between them and the unsaved masses we’re witnessing to, today? They’re expecting a different kind of Messiah? Hold that thought for a second…

Just before Jesus left earth the second time, He told the guys it would be good for Him to go, as He would send the Holy Spirit. And He would convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. If that doesn’t happen, then most folks wouldn’t be expecting the kind of Lord that Jesus really is.

That thought has bugged me in conventional “outreach programs” put on by churches, for quite a while.

Back to the thought: maybe the same syndrome (no pun intended) exists today, differing only to the extent that it produces ineffective believers who fall by the wayside because they didn’t get the Savior, or the life, they were led to expect.

10 Dee March 20, 2013 at 2:50 pm

However, this time the world desires a donkey rider and will get a war horse rider.

11 Joshua T March 20, 2013 at 2:57 pm

Yes Dee they will. We recently had a deacon get chewed out for teaching this in Sunday School. Needless to say, the elders were very proud of him for being emphatic about it when the text required him to discuss it. It was refreshing to be an encouragement to him.

12 Dave Miller March 20, 2013 at 3:19 pm

I thought about including that whole eschatological piece about Jesus’ second coming, but thought that might work for another post. I’m trying to avoid 2500 to 3000 word posts like I used to make.

13 Christiane March 20, 2013 at 7:48 pm

oh go for it, DAVID

14 theoldadam March 20, 2013 at 3:03 pm

One of two things will happen when we meet up with the Living Lord, Jesus.

Either we will die…or He will.

15 Dee March 20, 2013 at 3:05 pm

It will also be interesting to see what Mr O. does as he too enters Jerusalem on the day of the triumphal entry/day they choose the lamb for Pesach…which is tonight.

16 Dave Miller March 20, 2013 at 3:22 pm

I doubt there will be a donkey.

17 Greg Harvey March 20, 2013 at 3:34 pm

The underlying allusion to the political symbol should be studiously ignored as well.

18 Dave Miller March 20, 2013 at 4:20 pm

Actually, that never occurred to me. Well played.

19 Kay Copas March 20, 2013 at 3:49 pm

What an excellent message! Thank you!

20 Dave Miller March 20, 2013 at 4:21 pm

Well, thank you!

21 Jess Alford March 20, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Dave,

The problem with this post is that it’s not long enough. This is good stuff,
very thought provoking. These scriptures have always stood the test of time.

22 Dave Miller March 20, 2013 at 4:21 pm

I seldom get told that anything I say is “not long enough.”

23 Bruce H. March 20, 2013 at 4:04 pm

Dave,

You said: “We do not come to God like a genie to have our wishes fulfilled, but to abandon our hopes, dreams and ambitions to serve his agenda in this world. We come to die, to deny self, and to seek Jesus.” It reminded me of the following song by Carman named “Just Believe”.

Growing in Jesus
Ain’t always easy
Because there’s a price to be paid
We’re constantly dying
To our old nature
While new foundations are laid

While we are building our faith
Sufficiently he gives his grace

I’m learning dependency
Only so I can be healed
As I see his face

And over and over I’m learning
To put my trust in you
Over and over I’m learning
What child like faith can do
Over and over it’s easy to see
Just how you’re Spirit is working in me
As I grow older I’m learning over
To just believe

Because I am bearing the name of Christian
I’m conscious of what people see
The only bible they may ever read
Is what they will read through me
So Lord do you work
Here I am

Oh use me oh God all you can
I’ll go where you lead me
And grow as you feed me
While holding so tightly your hand

And over and over I’m learning
To put my trust in you
Over and over I’m learning
What child like faith can do
Over and over it’s easy to see
Just how you’re Spirit is working in me
As I grow older I’m learning over
To just believe

As I grow older I’m still learning over
To just believe
To just believe

Lyrics from eLyrics.net

The part in the song that jumped out to me is that the place of our dying is the place a foundation is established. God does not build on sand and there is no void left were we die. Amen.

24 volfan007 March 21, 2013 at 11:32 am

Dave,

Excellent! I think you just helped me with my sermon for Easter Sunday!

:)

David

25 Dave Miller March 21, 2013 at 11:38 am

Don’t tell anyone, but its the core if my sermon this Sunday.

26 Christiane March 21, 2013 at 8:48 pm

DAVID,
this might be an interesting resource for you,
even if you don’t agree with all of it;
and it does tell the ironic way in which, of all people, Pontius Pilate becomes the first evangelist by announcing in three languages that the King had returned:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PpVbF1k0h-o

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