This morning while reading a first century Jewish text (Mark 11:8), to my great sadness, I discovered a significant ancient tradition that our forefathers have some how failed to pass on to us. I am of course talking about that meaningful advent associated with Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, Coat Sunday!
Shocked to see it right there, staring me in the face. All these years of reading the Bible and I took no notice of it. Three questions quickly flashed across my mind, “Why”, “Why”, and “What”.
Why did we allow the tradition of Coat Sunday to slip into obscurity?
Why did we allow those who lobbied so long ago for the palm branch to win the day?
What are we going to do to restore the rich meaning of Coat Sunday?
The answers to the first two questions came quickly to me. One only has to take a cursory look at our society to understand the reasons for the Why and the Why. It is simply a matter of practical, thrift and good stewardship. Who could blame those generations after that first celebration of Coat Sunday for dropping the Coat from the holiday? Continuing the tradition of laying down our coats on the road to show honor and value we placed on our triumphant king is not nearly as practical as using palm branches.
With the use of coats there is so much extra work involved in the clean up afterwards. What with the lack of good laundry facilities back then and the cost, even now, of a new coat it just doesn’t make good sense. What if the coats should actually get stepped on or stained in the dirt and grime of the street? The branches are so much easier to acquire and to dispose of. They are so cheep everyone can afford one. Really, it is just a matter of fairness and love for everyone of any economic status and in the end isn’t that what the holiday is really all about, loving everyone and giving everyone an equal opportunity to participate. I am sure that’s what Jesus would have wanted. Not to make a big fuss about Himself. It’s about the people celebrating together, isn’t?
Wait a minute, let me shake off that twenty first century western mindset and see things as they really were. It wasn’t about the people. It was about Jesus. It was about the value of Who He was. Misguided as they were about him being a coming political king coming to take them out from under Roman rule and restore the glory and nationhood of Israel, they were on to something. Laying down their coats, or cloaks, was a not only a reasonable response to the value of Jesus, if anything, It was an underestimation of His value. He was not coming to restore their political freedom or the nation of Israel’s security. He came to offer and win everyone in the world freedom and eternal security. If they only understood who He truly was it would not be unwise, or impractical, to lie down on the road themselves, to lay down their very lives for Him! And it is still the same today.
What we need to weigh out as we celebrate Coat or Palm Sunday this year is not the value of what we should lay down for Jesus, but the truth of the value of who He is and what He came to do for us and what He has given to us. Then, this year on March 29th when we put on our coats, maybe we will pause to remember our once and coming King, who He truly is and how much He has done for us.
And maybe then you will join me in bringing our lost tradition back by wishing everyone a “Happy Coat Sunday”.
As the Old Testament ends, prophet after prophet is telling Israel, “God is going to allow the destruction you have brought on yourselves to come. Repent (change your thinking) that that time might be lessened.” Then he tells them, over and over, “There will come a time when I will come and restore you to myself.” Four hundred years later, it was time. He came, and they still were not ready. It’s been over two thousand years, and are we any closer to receiving Him? It’s little wonder we were not ready for Jesus when He came. Man, since the beginning, has not been willing to accept God for who He is. We always want the relationship on our terms. One way to summarize the Old Testament is through man’s three demands for God to dance to man’s tune – “Give us that Apple, give us the Rules (law), give us a King, anything but ‘You teach us who You are and lead us, Your way.’ ”
Now as I am reading through Matthew I see God’s loving hand reaching out to His creation again, and again we are pushing Him away. We are blinded again by our arrogance, stubbornly holding on to our expectations. All but one of these first thirteen chapters have reminder after reminder of the prophesies from the Old Testament being fulfilled before the people’s very eyes, and still they will not see. Then a turning point for me comes when Jesus says in chapter 11, “Sorry, you can’t make Me dance.”
“He who has ears to hear, let him hear. But to what shall I compare this generation: It is like children sitting in the market places, who call out to other children, and say, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.'”
He was not going to dance to their expectations. Rather than humbly being open to God revealing Himself to us as He is, we want to challenge Him to prove Himself to us by our standards. Like children challenging other children, measured as equals. “Show us a sign,” rather than, “Teach us who You are and who we are.” Throughout the rest of Matthew the people’s reactions to Jesus fall into three groups. You have the Pharisees saying, “By whose authority do you say these things to us or do these things?”; the disciples who seem to say, “Tell us more, we don’t get it!”; and the tax collectors, the prostitutes and the sinners, the only group who seem to get it, who say, “What then can we do to be saved?”
This last group seems to be the ones who see that trying to make it to God on their terms, by their performance, was not even going to come close. They seemed to see themselves as not even coming close to being equal to who Jesus was showing Himself to be. They seemed to have humble eyes to see they were lost and He was something completely different – not child to child. May we be as open today as those sinners, open to accept God as He reveals Himself to be and not allow our expectations to blind us to the point where we try to Make Jesus Dance….
Matthew 1 – 13
This week I came to a point of decision. I had a choice to make. Back on the third of this month I had finally finished reading through the Bible for 2014 (better late than never!). Now it had been eight days of waiting on the Lord about what to do this year for my daily Bible reading time. I was thinking that the time I was spending researching Scriptures for an upcoming book could be that time. But each morning as I went into my normal routine of reading while exercising on the elliptical machine, it just did not seem to fit. Well, this morning I sensed the leading of the Lord to just go ahead and start reading through the old Word again. So into Matthew I dove, and boy am I glad I did.
I am now thirteen chapters in, reading 15 minutes a day in the Bible and 15 minutes in The Spiritual Man by Watchman Nee, using this as wake-up time – physically and spiritually. So far, in reading straight from the end of the Old Testament right on into the New, one thing has been impressed upon me most: the continuity of man’s tendency to “miss it!” We have a tendency to miss God big time because of our blindness from expectations and the reality that we “Can’t Make Jesus Dance”! (Matt 11:17)…..
More on these thoughts tomorrow or sooner….
Zechariah 13 – Malachi 4
Today I finished by 2014 read through the bible, better late then never! It’s been another wonderful journey through the word. Looking into 2015 am still listening to the Lord for to what my daily devotional time will be. How about you, what has He invited you to do in that special time alone with Him every day?
The passages that stood out to me today were Zech. 13: 7, 9 and Malachi 4:2.
In Zechariah 13:
7 – “Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, And against the man, My Associate,” Declares the LORD of hosts.
“Strike the Shepherd that the sheep may be scattered;……
9 – …..They will call on My name, And I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people,’ And they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’”
In Malachi 4:
2 – “But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings: and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall.”
I love that progression. We are coming into that time of year that heads us to the cross, to the time when we are reminded that the Shepherd, our Shepherd, the Shepherd of all mankind was struck down. Let us not forget it was “the LORD of hosts”, the Father, that called the sword to awake, the sword that struck His son for us. That was the means to our salvation but it was also a picture, a witness to the world of their true state and the state of our world today. When you strike the Shepherd the sheep scatter. When the world rejects it’s Shepherd, as we have done since the garden, then the people are scattered. We like sheep do run every direction looking frantically for what we need. We look everywhere but the one place, the one person who can lead us to and give us everything we need.
But, praise the Lord He did not stay struck, in the grave. He rose and called us back from the scattering. In our scattered-ness if we will call on his name (Zech 13:9) He will answer and will call us back to Himself to be his people and we will say “The LORD is my God” for then that is truly what He is. We then find the “sun of righteousness” rising in our lives. The light of a right relationship with our creator shining on us and it brings the healing we so desperately sought in our scattering. Every day we can, if we allow ourselves, run and skip like a young calf springing from the stall in the golden light of that sun rise.
Lord draw my awareness to yourself today. Let me see you Shepherding me in everything I do today. Let the joy rise from my appreciation of the suffering you endured to call me home. May I not take for granted your calling me yours and may that joy overflow in outbursts of happiness and perhaps a skip or two….
Amos 3 – 5
4:8,9,10 and 11 “Yet you have not returned to Me…..” 5:4 “Seek Me that you may live…”
In chapter four for four consecutive verses in a sad, poetic rhythm our Father through Amos repeats a tragic refrain. He laments to them that in their times of discipline, of reaping what they have sown, they have still not returned to him. He goes on in chapter five to say, “Seek me now…”. As if shouting to a deaf people, “I am the true one you are seeking in your false gods, the one you rejected long ago and you can still find me, even now you can live, but don’t wait too long.”
Thank you Lord that you came to us, in Christ, so that we can find you and that when we find you and truly see who you are we find life. Once we have you Lord help us not to neglect looking to you in us as the source of all life. When we drift, let us return and how wonderful it is that that seeking to return need not be long at all for when we are in you, you are always here.
Today when I find my attention has drifted I will return…
What problems come when we make one thing the whole and worse when we do the opposite with the one thing that is.
– Stay tuned the full Overshare will be posting soon….