Friday, February 7, 2014

Matthew 21: The Lion & the Lamb

Matt 21:6-17 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!" And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, "Who is this?" And the crowds said, "This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee." And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 13 He said to them, "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer,' but you make it a den of robbers." And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" they were indignant, and they said to him, "Do you hear what these are saying?" And Jesus said to them, "Yes; have you never read, 'Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise'?" And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there.

In this chapter, we see two contrasting images of Jesus Christ. The first one is Jesus as the meek and mild Saviour riding on a foal of a donkey coming down to Jerusalem to be the Sacrificial Lamb. The other is the fiery and forceful Lion of Judah overturning the tables of the money-changers and driving out of the temple those traders who were turning religious worship into money-spinning businesses.

Some find these two images of Christ contradictory. How could Jesus be both the Lion and the Lamb? This seeming self-contradictory character of Christ is not only present on earth but also in heaven. In Revelation 5:5-6, these two images are found in one place: "And one of the elders said to me, 'Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.' And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain."

We may find meekness and wrath impossible to reconcile in one Person. We prefer the "soft" and "feminine" traits of Christ like grace, mercy, love, etc., but we find it hard to accept the more "masculine" aspect of Christ in terms of "judgment", "wrath" and "discipline". But Scripture is quite consistent in portraying Christ as both meek and forceful: in Revelation 6:16-17, the nations tried to flee from the "wrath of the Lamb": "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?"

When the disciples saw Jesus' forceful action against corruption of religion and the holy places, they were awed, but they remembered what God's Word said about Him: "His disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for your house will consume me" (John 2:17). Passion for God must produce a zeal for keeping God's dwelling place holy and getting rid of evil that may be encroaching into God's Church.

The meek is strong because it is a character shaped and sharpened by zeal for God. Like Moses, though described in Numbers 12:3 as "very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth", who was nevertheless uncompromising in dealing with sin in the Israelite camp. Meekness and zeal to preserve God's holiness come together. We should not "separate" what God has joined together--just to please ourselves. 

There are always well-meaning Christians who are always advising against taking "strong stand" against moral corruption--all in the name of love and grace. Such brothers and sisters do not understand the saying that "a little leaven leavens the whole lump" (1 Cor 5:6; Gal. 5:9). Compromising with "little" corruption now can lead to major corruption later on. We have to take immediate action to prevent the root of corruption from ever taking root in our society and in the church. For that is what we have been called-- to be salt and light in our society.

So, there is no contradiction in these two images of Christ as the Lion and the Lamb. If we have a problem with that, the problem isn't with the Lord Jesus Christ but with us. He never changes: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8-9).

Father, thank You that Jesus is always the same, always the Lion and the Lamb. Amen.

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