The Closing Ministry

Chapter 30

As the close of His ministry drew near, there was a change in Christ's manner of labor. Until this time, He had avoided any publicity. He had refused the praise of the people and had passed quickly from place to place when the popular enthusiasm in His favor seemed in danger of building beyond control. Again and again He had commanded that none should declare Him to be the Christ.

This was not the case, however, as he made His last journey to Jerusalem. He had left Jerusalem for a period of time because of the hatred of the priests and rabbis. Now he set out to return, traveling in the most public manner, by a roundabout route, and heralded by an announcement of His coming such as He had never permitted before. He was going forward to the scene of His great sacrifice, and the attention of the people must be directed to the sacrifice that brings salvation to the lost world.

Christ now followed the custom for a Jewish royal entry. The animal on which He rode was that ridden by the kings of Israel, and prophecy had foretold that in this way the Messiah should come to His kingdom. No sooner was He seated upon the colt than a loud shout of triumph went up. The multitude hailed Him as Messiah, their King.

It was on the first day of the week that Christ made His entry of triumph into Jerusalem. Multitudes who had flocked to see Him at Bethany now accompanied Him, eager to witness His reception. Many people were on their way to the city to keep the Passover, and these joined the multitude attending Jesus. It was springtime, and all nature seemed to rejoice. The trees, clothed with foliage and blossoms, shed a delicate fragrance on the air. The hope of the new kingdom was again springing up, and new life and joy animated the people.

This day seemed like the crowning day in the lives of the disciples. Jesus' repeated statements regarding His coming suffering and death were, under the happy influence of the glad moment, forgotten. As the accompanying group increased in size, a sense of expectancy gripped His disciples. Although Jesus clearly foresaw it would bring Him to the cross, it was His purpose to publicly present Himself as the Redeemer and He allowed the popular demonstration in His favor to go forward. He knew that after His crucifixion, many would recall these events in their connection with His trial and death and would be led to search the prophecies.

Although He had repeatedly told His disciples of His certain sacrifice, yet in the glad triumph of the present they forgot Christ's sorrowful words and looked forward to His prosperous reign on David's throne.

When the procession reached the brow of the hill and was about to descend into the city, Jesus halted, and all the multitude with Him. Before them lay Jerusalem, now bathed in the light of the setting sun. The temple attracted the admiring gaze of everyone. In stately splendor it towered above all else. Its strength, richness, and magnificence had made it one of the wonders of the world.

All eyes turn upon the Saviour, expecting to see an expression of the admiration they themselves feel. They are surprised and disappointed to see His eyes fill with tears. In the midst of a scene of rejoicing, where all are paying Him homage, Israel's King is in tears, with groans of insuppressible agony. Many weep in sympathy with a grief they cannot comprehend.

The tears of Jesus were not in anticipation of His own suffering. His was no selfish sorrow. It was the sight of Jerusalem that pierced the heart of Jesus. This city, long the object of His love, had rejected the Son of God, scorned His love, and refusing to be convinced by His mighty miracles, was now about to take His life. He had come to save her; how could He give her up?

Jesus raised His hand, that had so often blessed the sick and suffering, and waving it toward the doomed city, in broken utterances of grief exclaimed: "If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace!"

The bright picture of what Jerusalem might have been faded from the Saviour's sight and He took up the broken thread of His lamentation: "but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation."

The angel of mercy was then folding her wings to step down from the golden throne to give place to justice and swift-coming judgment. But Christ's great heart of love still pleaded for the people of Jerusalem, who had scorned His mercies, despised His warnings, and who were about to shed His blood with their own hands. If they would but repent, it was not yet too late. The beautiful and unholy city, that had stoned the prophets, that had rejected the Son of God, that was locking herself by her impenitence in chains of slavery—her day of mercy was nearly gone!

The triumphal ride of Christ into Jerusalem was the dim foreshadowing of His coming in the clouds of heaven with power and glory, amid the triumph of angels and the rejoicing of the saints. In e temporal ruin of Jerusalem, He saw the final destruction of that people who were guilty of the blood of the Son of God.

The Jewish nation was a symbol of the people of all ages who scorn the pleadings of Infinite Love. The tears of Christ when He pt over Jerusalem were for the sins of all time. In the judgments announced upon Israel, those who reject the reproofs and warnings of God's Holy Spirit may read their own condemnation.

"And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast: The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus. Philip cometh and telleth Andrew: and again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus."

The Greeks had heard of Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem. They longed to know the truth in regard to His mission. ,"We would see Jesus," they said. Their desire was granted. When their request was brought to Jesus, He was in that part of the temple from which all except Jews were excluded; but He went out to the Greeks in the outer court and held a personal interview with them.

Christ was standing in the shadow of the cross, and the inquiry of the Greeks showed Him that the sacrifice He was about to make would bring many sons and daughters to God. He knew that the Greeks would soon see Him in a position they did not then dream of. The anticipation of this, the culmination of His hopes, is expressed in the words, "The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified." But the way in which this glorification must take place was never absent from Christ's mind. The gathering in of the Gentiles was to follow His approaching death. Only by His death could the world be saved. Like a grain of wheat, the Son of man must be cast into the ground and die and be buried out of sight; but He was to live again.

The message of the Greeks, an indication of the future gathering in of the Gentiles, brought to the mind of Jesus His entire mission. The work of redemption passed before Him, from the time when in heaven the plan was laid, to the death that was now so near at hand. A mysterious cloud seemed to surround the Son of God. Its gloom was felt by those near Him. He sat deep in thought. At last the silence was broken by His mournful voice, "Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour." In anticipation, Christ was already drinking the cup of bitterness. His humanity shrank from the hour of abandonment, when to all appearances He would be abandoned even by God, when all would see Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. He shrank from public exposure, from being treated as the worst of criminals, from a shameful and dishonored death. A foreboding of His conflict with the powers of darkness, a sense of the awful burden of human transgression and the Father's wrath because of sin, caused the spirit of Jesus to faint and the appearance of His face to grow deathlike.

Then came divine submission to His Father's will. "But for this cause came I unto this hour." Only through the death of Christ could Satan's kingdom be overthrown. Only thus could man be redeemed and God be glorified. Jesus consented to the agony; He accepted the sacrifice. The Majesty of heaven consented to suffer as the Sin-bearer. "Father, glorify Thy name," He said. As Christ spoke these words, a response came from the cloud that hovered above His head: "I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again." Christ's whole life, from the manger to the time when these words were spoken, had glorified God; and in the coming trial, His divine-human sufferings would indeed glorify His Father's name.

As the voice was heard, a light darted from the cloud and encircled Christ, as if the arms of Infinite Power were thrown about Him like a wall of fire. The people beheld this scene with terror and amazement. No one dared to speak. With silent lips and bated breath, all stood with eyes fixed upon Jesus. The testimony of the Father having been given, the cloud lifted and scattered in the heavens. For the time, the visible communion between the Father and the Son was ended.

"The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to Him." But the inquiring Greeks saw the cloud, heard the voice, comprehended its meaning, and discerned Christ indeed; to them He was revealed as the Sent of God.

At the beginning of Jesus' ministry, the voice of God had been heard at His baptism, and again at His transfiguration on the mount. Now, at the close of His ministry, it was heard for the third time, by a larger number of persons and under peculiar circumstances. Jesus had just spoken the most solemn truth regarding the condition of the Jews. He had made His last appeal and pronounced their doom. Now God again set His seal to the mission of His Son. He recognized the One whom Israel had rejected. "This voice came not because of Me," said Jesus, "but for your sakes." It was the crowning evidence of His Messiahship, the signal from the Father that Jesus had spoken the truth and was the Son of God.

"Now is the judgment of this world," Christ continued; "now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me. This he said, signifying what death He should die." This is the crisis of the world. If I become the propitiation for the sins of men, the world will be lighted up. Satan's hold upon the souls of men will be broken. The defaced image of God will be restored in humanity, and a family of believing saints will finally inherit the heavenly home. This is the result of Christ's death. The Saviour is lost in contemplation of the scene of triumph called up before Him. He sees the cross, the cruel, shameful cross, with all its attending horrors, blazing with glory.

The redemption of man is not all that is accomplished by the cross. In the cross of Christ, the whole universe sees the love of God revealed. The accusations which Satan had brought against God are shown to be groundless and false. The criticism and blame that he had cast upon heaven is forever removed. Angels as well as men are drawn to the Redeemer. "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth," He said, "will draw all men unto Me."

Many people were round about Christ as He spoke these words. One of them said, "We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest Thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man? Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light."

Countless signs had been given, but Israel's leaders had closed their eyes and hardened their hearts. Now that the Father Himself had spoken, they could ask for no further sign; but still they refused to believe. Slowly and in great sorrow, Christ left the temple for the last time, never to return.

This chapter is based on John 12; Luke 19