A journey to the cross is a journey to repentance. It’s a journey to deep personal change. Will you take this journey with me?
Date: Mid afternoon on Thursday, April 6th, 30 A.D.
In today’s reading, Governor Pontius Pilate gives a brief speech formally welcoming Herod the tetrarch to Jerusalem.
At last the two mounted commanders arrived before Pilate’s chariot. They were motioned to take their position on either side. After a brief confusion of feet, the royal litter managed to turn sideways so the royal couple could face the governor as he stood upon his imperial chariot. The trumpeters sounded the fanfare. When the last note had echoed off the marble wall, Pilate unrolled the parchment handed to him by an attendant. He cleared his throat and began his oration.
“It was under the rule of the great and wise Emperor Caesar Augustus that this magnificent temple behind us began to take shape. He recognized the desire of the Jewish people for a central place to worship. It was Herod the great Idumean king who oversaw the construction of this masterpiece of the empire, and today it stands as a symbol of Roman respect for the unity and diversity of all the peoples of the empire. It is only fitting today that I, as the emperor’s representative, welcome the son of this master builder, Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee and Perea.”
With a wave of his hand, Pilate signaled the sounding of a second trumpet fanfare. As the first note was sounded, he stepped off the chariot and then graciously lent a hand to his wife. Thus accompanied by his mate, he swaggered over to the royal litter to personally greet Herod and Herodias, who both stood to meet them.
Greetings were exchanged, none of which I could discern from a distance. After a brief discussion Claudia joined Herodias in the royal litter. Herod barked out some orders. The litter bearers stood to their feet and headed off in the direction of the governor’s residence. Apparently the ladies would have their own time together.
At a leisurely pace Pilate escorted Herod over to where the priestly delegation waited.
It was an unusual sight, these three hostile, inflated men exchanging greetings and meaningless pleasantries. Herod Antipas, Pontius Pilate, and Joseph Caiaphas; the Fox, the Badger, and the Weasel. All three were kings in their own right, within their own jurisdiction. All three craved more power, absolute power, while fiercely holding one another in check.
Pilate turned to me and gave a quick, tight nod. I signaled up to Claudius, and the great Golden Gate, the Messiah Gate, was hoisted, granting entrance to the three competing kings.
Only the fourth king, the people’s king—the donkey king—only he was absent.
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Reading: Psalm 138
I will praise you, LORD, with all my heart;
before the “gods” I will sing your praise.
I will bow down toward your holy temple
and will praise your name
for your unfailing love and your faithfulness,
for you have so exalted your solemn decree
that it surpasses your fame.
When I called, you answered me;
you greatly emboldened me.
May all the kings of the earth praise you, LORD,
when they hear what you have decreed.
May they sing of the ways of the LORD,
for the glory of the LORD is great (NIV)
David was wholehearted in all that he did, so it should not surprise us that he begins Psalm 138 with this assertion: I will praise you, LORD, with all my heart; before the “gods” I will sing your praise.
David, the shepherd king, wasn’t shy or reticent about offering praise to the LORD. He knew his God and was quick to give Him praise. He would even praise the LORD before foreign gods. Elsewhere in the psalms we see this declaration: For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the LORD made the heavens (Psalm 96:4-5).
During David’s time each nation had its own national god. These national gods were represented by carved idols of wood, metal or stone. But Israel had no idol. They were strictly forbidden to make any image or likeness of the LORD (Yahweh). See the First Commandment, Exodus 20:3-6. This prohibition set Israel apart. They were the people with no visible god.
But why settle for a visible god, when you can have the invisible God who fills the entire universe? Why settle for a national god, when you can have the LORD who created the heavens and the earth? Inevitably, if we fashion our own god, we will create a god who is far too small. The true God is far bigger, far wiser, and far more just, and compassionate than we can ever imagine. How can we as finite creatures begin to fathom the infinite power and glory of God?
By His great mercy the LORD reveals Himself to us. He does that best through His Son. The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation (Colossians 1:15). Jesus helps make the infinite God comprehensible to us, so we can join with David’s anthem of praise. May all the kings of the earth praise you, LORD, when they hear what you have decreed. May they sing of the ways of the LORD, for the glory of the LORD is great.
Response: LORD God, I praise you for your unfailing love and your faithfulness. Thank you for answering my prayers. You give me courage and greatly emboldened me to carry on. Amen.
Your Turn: How big is your God? Is He bigger than your problems?