Gospel: Matthew 21.1-11 tells of Jesus fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah9.9 “Your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey,” as He rides down the Mount of Olives to the temple. This story is highly significant. At the time the neo-Babyloinians defeated Judah and destroyed the Temple (586 BC), Ezekiel 10 and 11 tell us that the Lord has left the Temple because of the idolatry and sinfulness of the people and the priests. The exile in Babylon was the result of sin based on idolatry, and the Return from Exile could not take place till sins were forgiven. There were several prophecies the LORD would return to the Temple (Isa 52.7, Ezek 43.1-9; Mal 3.1-3) and Jesus riding in on a donkey fulfills it. Thus, the act implies that the time of forgiveness of sins is at hand. In this last Sunday in Lent as Jesus the Messiah fulfills His vocation for suffering, sacrificial love to lay down His life for His people, let us consider briefly the essence of that love: forgiveness. Forgiveness–including God’s forgiveness of our sins, our forgiveness of one another, and our forgiveness even of ourselves–is a central part of what Christ has make possible on the cross. We pray in the Lord’s prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Mt 6.12; Lk 11.2-4). In Mt 18.21 Peter asks Jesus how many time he should forgive and suggests seven times as a large number, but Jesus says, “Seventy times seven” (v. 22). This story is preceded by Jesus telling His disciples what to do if a brother sins against them (Mt 18.15-17). Immediately following Peter’s question, Jesus tells the parable of the unforgiving servant (Mt 18.23-35). These texts stress the crucial nature of forgiveness for Jesus’ followers. Forgiveness means releasing the offender from the burden of our anger and its consequences, but also releasing ourselves from the burden of whatever it is they had done to us. The return of the Lord sets the stage for the coming of the kingdom of God and the coronation of the King, the Messiah, which happens on the cross. This in turn means the defeat of satan, sin, and death (Rev 12). The kingdom, comprising those who acknowledge Jesus as King, will receive the Spirit and so become new people as members of God’s covenant family. They die to sin in baptism and rise to new life in Christ. All this represents a new Passover through the sacrificial death of the Passover Lamb, Jesus, and His blood. The crucifixion initiates a new exodus toward a new eternal destiny of resurrection life in the new Jerusalem, the new heaven and earth of a restored creation (Isa 65. 17; 66.22; Rm 8.18-25), Christ the King is ruling over His kingdom at the right hand of the Father and will bring in the new kingdom through the agency of His followers who comprise His body, the church. All power in heaven and earth has been given Him (Mt 28.18) and He empowers His people through His Spirit. His people are a royal priesthood (Ex 19.6; 1 Pet 2.5-9; Rev 1.6; 5.10; 20.6)–royal in that they are servants of the King, and priests in that they bear the image of God and reflect His glory into the world.They are fulfilling a new covenant ratified in His blood to extend His kingdom, the church, throughout the world. This is the mission of the church and it is fulfilled through worshipping and serving the King. When the Lord returns at the Parousia, the new heavens and earth will replace the old, and the Lord’s people will be raised with new bodies to everlasting life. The Lord Jesus has fulfilled the long discouraging history of Israel as its Representative and anointed Prophet, Priest, and King to fulfill YHWH’s promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and David (2 Sam 7.8-17) and the prophets. Our job is to worship and forgive in suffering love.
Memory Verse: And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev 21.2,5).