“The Purifying Power of His Suffering”
March 25, 2018
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
We commemorated the triumphal entry of Jesus in Jerusalem, but did you know that there were actually two processions into Jerusalem? There was the procession of the true King, Jesus, and a false king. People walked up to the city of Jerusalem, and only rulers rode on horses to enter Jerusalem. They had an entourage accompanying them. The other one was Pontius Pilate who went to Jerusalem. He did not live in Jerusalem, but by the sea where there was a palace for the governors. He came into Jerusalem riding on a war horse because this is what warriors ride on as they go into battle. The entourage was horsemen with swords and spears as if they were going to battle.
It is a worldly picture of strength, power, glory, and might. The word horse, “kabayo” in Filipino, came from the word the Latin word caballus. In Spanish, it is caballo, and the one who rides the caballo is the caballero. This is where the word chivalry came from. In French, horse is cheval, and cavalry is a group of horsemen. Jesus did not come into Jerusalem to celebrate with the Jews. He went into Jerusalem for the week of Passover which was a commemoration of the Jewish independence day. This week spark ideas of rebellion. The military was on red alert.
Picture Pontius Pilate on a big war horse with a regimen of horsemen around him armed to the teeth with swords and spears. Then, another king rides into Jerusalem, not on a war horse, but on a donkey. It was an unstable and precarious ride because the donkey was too small. Jesus, this peasant preacher from an obscure town called Nazareth, in a notorious area called Galilee, rides on a donkey. Actually, He road on a colt, a foal. He purposely chose it as He was trying to make a statement.
In the Transfiguration, the glory of the Lord has never left Him. The disciples saw His glory in the Mount. From Jesus’ birth up to His death, and up to the time of His resurrection, the glory of the Lord never left Him. We just don’t see it. Sometimes, what we see only is a manger, and we don’t see the glory of God there. We don’t see the glory of God in a criminal hanging on the cross all bloodied. We don’t see the glory of God in those that are persecuted and to those that heal the lepers.
The glory of God in Christ always shines. He is the only begotten, full of grace and truth and the glory of God is in Him. Glory, as of the only begotten; grace and truth is not a façade or a lie like Caesar. In Luke 18, the disciples didn’t understand that Jesus was going to Jerusalem to suffer and to be killed. Jesus was talking about His suffering and death, but the disciples did not understand this. They did not see the glory of God in the Passion. They saw Him as a warrior; as a Messiah; as a King. If He was the Messiah, He could have killed more men than David who killed tens of thousands. The disciples thought that as the Messiah, blessed was He who will deliver them. They shouted, “Hosanna,” meaning, “Save us now!” They were asking to be saved from the Romans, not to be saved from sin. In Acts 1, when Jesus resurrected, the disciples thought that they were going to go into an uprising to restore the kingdom of Israel. The disciples did not get it. Gladly, they somehow finally got it on the Day of Pentecost.
In Luke 19, when Jesus was near Jerusalem, the people thought an uprising was going to happen soon. It was ironic that seeing Jesus, they thought that He was a lot less glorious than David because He was on a donkey and David was on a horse. He did not have spears or swords. They were desperate and it really looked ridiculous that their Messiah was riding on a donkey. They were desperate for somebody to save them now! They looked as ridiculous and desperate as when they went to the Garden of Gethsemane. They were armed with two swords against the Roman army. They did not know. They were praising Jesus, but it was an idolatrous praise. They were praising Him as to the god that they created in their minds. The people praised a Jesus that would accomplish what they want, that would lead them into a revolution against the Romans, but not to serve the Lord and to submit to Him. They wanted a personal Jesus. They praised Him as long as they fulfilled their selfish desires, but denounced Him five days after when He does not deliver as expected. Today, do we praise our God only because we want something from Him? Is what we want according to His will? If He does not give what we want, will we take it against Him?
Twenty years ago, there was a song by Michael W. Smith, entitled “Secret Ambition” and the chorus goes, “Nobody knew His secret ambition, nobody knew His claim to fame…Nobody knew His secret ambition was to give His life away.” The ambition of the Israelites was to overthrow the Roman government, but this was not God’s way, so they praised Jesus with a false praise.
We have this song that we say, “Lord, You are more precious than silver. Lord, You are more costly than gold. Lord, You are more beautiful than diamonds and nothing I desire compares with You.” Is this true as far as we are concerned? Is Jesus really more precious to us than silver? Is He still more costly than gold to us? Is He something that I desire more than anything? However, this does not change the fact that He is more precious than silver; He is more costly than gold. He is more beautiful than diamonds and nothing we desire really compares with Him. The question is: why do we desire other things when He is more precious and costly than these?
In the procession, the people were praising Him, but they did not see Him as more precious than silver and more costly than gold. They did not see Him as the Prince of Peace. They saw Him as a false Messiah who would lead a revolution against Rome. His secret ambition was to establish the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is not founded on violence and trampling on other and lording over them. The kingdom of God is founded on serving others and giving our lives away. These are two contrasting and competing kingdoms. Where do we belong?
Speaking of horses, in the Bible, it has a negative image. It is always linked to war. It was not for transport, cargo or for agriculture. The donkey was the beast of burden. The Israelites were told by God to keep their donkeys and incapacitate their horses. In the modern sense, God was telling them to make use of their tractors and destroy their guns and tanks. The God of Peace wants us to hammer our swords and spears and turned them into farming implements. He wants us to be productive with what is destructive. Transform destruction into fruitfulness. Transform the hate in our hearts into love. That hate, that anger, and that violence will grow into something that would probably manifest in the flesh outwardly. God wants us to build up and not tear down. Pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of each other. Don’t pursue the things that will make us hate our brother. Jesus said that He who gets angry with a brother is liable to the court. Jesus wants to turn destruction into building up, into edification.
Israel’s kings were told not to accumulate horses, which they ignored. David said that a horse is a false hope for salvation, so don’t put our trust in it but in God. The picture of a warhorse is a picture of might. People had names accompanied with “the Great” like Alexander the Great, Cyrus the Great, Charles the Great. We would see monuments of men riding on a horse because it was a picture of might. Alexander the Great conquered and established a province named Alexandria by the age of 42 and his horse was also known. He was a picture of might. During the same time, his contemporary named Zechariah said, “Rejoice O Zion. Rejoice Jerusalem. Your victorious King is coming to you - gentle, mounted on a donkey.” Alexander conquest was on a horse, and in Zechariah 4:6, Zechariah says to conquer the world is not by might but by His Spirit. The worldly king lord it over, but the King of kings humbly and gently serves.
The worldly king washes his hand to declare that he is not guilty. The true King uses the water not to wash His hands off the responsibility, but to wash the disciples’ feet in an illustration of what the kingdom of God is – serving not lording over. This is what the Passion is all about – the establishment of the kingdom of God, the kingdom of Peace, but the Prince of Peace.
The disciples thought Jesus would be leading them, but He weeps. He wept over Jerusalem because He knew their praise was false and they did not understand His kingdom. They did not understand His coming. Their praise was not, “We entrust our lives to God,” but, “Now is the time, let us restore the kingdom to Israel and kick Roman butt.” Jesus was tempted in the wilderness. He was shown the kingdoms of the world, but this meant that He would have to bow down to the worldly ways. Satan was telling Him, “You can own this kingdom; just get on that horse, and use violence just like the worldly ways.” If Jesus gave in to the battle cry of the people, there would be no Good Friday and Easter Sunday because God will not bless violence. He will bless peace, and this is where we are headed for.
Jesus wept and said, “If you only knew the things which make for peace, but now they are hidden from your eyes.” He foresaw what would happen forty years ahead. In the year 70 AD, when Israel suffered an unimaginable violence, 600 thousand Jews were killed by the Roman government. Thousands of them were taken captive, and as Jesus prophesied, the temple was razed to the ground and not one stone was found on top of the others. It was a 143-day siege.
Jesus is saying to us: the violent, the angry, and the hateful (maybe not outward but in their heart), pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. Do we have animosity in our heart against our brethren? Is there envy, hatred, anger? This is what Jesus wants us to tear down from our lives as this does not build up; and it has a potential for full blown violence and hatred. Whatever we are stressing about, whatever we are fighting over, it is not worth it! Instead, be a real man and build up someone.
Do something extraordinary. Do works of charity. Go to the orphans. Visit a widow. Visit anybody who is needy, who needs building up, and make it a habit. This is what the kingdom of God is all about. This is what Jesus established. It is not worldly might. The old world has horsemen, swords, and military heraldry. We live in the new world now which Jesus established. When He resurrected, the new world started and the first word that He spoke was: PEACE. Peace is what His kingdom is all about. Do not be afraid for fear has no place in the kingdom of God. Peace is central in the kingdom of God.
Do not exalt Caesar. He claimed titles such as son of god; lord; savior; bringer of peace on earth. Jesus redefined, restored and reclaimed all of these titles. We could ask the likes of Caesar who killed people, “Did you finish killing everybody who was against peace?” Jesus is Lord; the Lord of Peace. During the time of Caesar, the statement Jesus is Lord was subversive because the Romans would greet another person with,“ Caesar is Lord,” and if one would say, “Jesus is Lord,” it was subversive.
If we believe Jesus is Lord, then, let Him guide our feet into the way of peace. He is the meek Lamb who was silent before His shearers, silent before His slaughterers, who takes away the sins of the world. He takes away the violence of the world, the anger in our hearts and anything that destroys each other. He did this by absorbing, enduring and suffering the injustice, and by going as far as our worst sin and dying our death. He did not fight back. This is how Jesus establishes peace. He builds us up.
In Revelation, Jesus rode on a white horse and He had a sword, and He strikes the nations with His sword. Yes, He was on a white horse and He was called Faithful and True. His name was Word of God. His robe was dipped in His own blood. From His mouth comes a sharp two-edged sword, which is the Word of God, and He slays the violence, the hatred, the anger in people. He slays the old self and gets us born again. He continues to purify us with the power of His suffering so that we can have peace and love in our lives, and we can follow Him on white horses also striking the nations and slaying the old self so that the new self can born.
The Prayer of Mission says: O God, You have made of one blood all the peoples of the earth and You have sent Your blessed Son to preach peace to those who are far off and to those who are near. Grant that people everywhere may seek after You and find You. Bring all the nations into Your fold and pour out Your Spirit upon all flesh and hasten the coming of Your kingdom.
Participate in this mission: the preaching of peace; the reaching out to those who are far off and to those who are nearby by being channels of peace, by being instruments of love, and by having a genuine concern for those who are need. We are surrounded by these people. Sometimes, we are just too insensitive because we want a Jesus that would serve our purposes and our desires, not a Jesus who would make us sensitive to the needs of the people who around us. When we do participate, we become more and more sensitive. This is what Jesus established and we follow Him. If Jesus is Lord to us, let Him guide our feet into the way of peace because this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.