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From the Depths of Despair to the Heights of Exaltation
The Middle East: A History of Searching for Peace
Part 1 of 5 Articles

From the Writings of Marvin J. Rosenthal
Published in Zion's Fire Magazine in September/October, 1993

With the death of Jesus, the hopes, dreams, longings, and aspirations of the disciples came to a screeching halt. They had forsaken everything and followed Him for three years. They walked with Him, talked with Him, ate with Him, slept with Him, and were taught by Him. They were convinced that He was going to lead them in revolt against the despised Romans. The Romans were oppressive. They ridiculed the religion of the Jews. They taxed them excessively. They ruled ruthlessly. Every red-blooded Israelite hated the Romans with a passion.

And Jesus, as the Son of David, was born King of the Jews – He had a legal right to rule over Israel. The Jewish Scriptures told of a Deliverer who would appear to break the yoke of Gentile oppression (Ezek. 34:27). It was not without reason, therefore, that the disciples viewed Jesus as their coming King. Peter inquired: “Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; What shall we have, therefore [when You enter into Your kingdom]?” (Mt. 19:27). And the mother of James and John, zealous for her sons, requested, “Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom” (Mt. 20:21).

And two blind beggars, hearing of Jesus’ presence as He was leaving Jericho, cried out, “Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David – [King]” (Mt. 20:30).

As “kingdom fever” was mounting on the part of the disciples, they made their way to the top of the Mount of Olives. It was springtime and approaching the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan and the Passover. Historians suggest that as many as a million Jewish people had returned to Jerusalem that year from all over the known world to observe the sacred holiday. Here, then, was the needed manpower to lead in a rebellion against the despised Romans.

From the top of the Mount of Olives, Jesus and His disciples looked across the Kidron Valley to the glistening city of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. They could see the massive wall stretching around the city, designed to keep out intruders. The sun was reflecting off of the beautiful stones and precious metals which adorned the Temple. The latter rains had ended, and the pleasant April weather had carpeted the rolling hills with green grass and multicolored wild flowers. The priests could be seen preparing for the onslaught of great crowds with their Passover lambs. The sights, the sounds, the smells all served to electrify that moment. And, in the midst of that atmosphere, Jesus turned to His disciples and said, “Go and get the donkey.” These were Jewish disciples. They knew their Scriptures. They were familiar with the prophecy of Zechariah, “Behold, thy King cometh unto thee...lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass” (Zech. 9:9). Had you been there, you doubtless would have seen disciples who were excited and confused – excited at the prospect that “thy King cometh unto thee;” confused because He came on a donkey rather than on a great white horse.

They placed Jesus upon that animal. He started down the Mount of Olives, crossed through the narrow Kidron Valley, climbed the slope of Mount Moriah on the other side, and entered the city through the Golden Gate. Before Him stood the Temple in all of its splendor.

And during the processional, the multitude cut down palm branches, placed them before Him, and cried out, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” (Mt. 21:9). Hosanna literally means “deliver now” or “save now.” They were quoting directly from Psalm 118:25. They were not asking Him to save them from the curse of their sins. At that moment, they had no concept of His death, burial, and resurrection; that would come later. They were asking Him to deliver them from the oppressive heel of the hated Romans. After all, His credentials were impeccable. His genealogy could be checked. He was a direct descendant of King David and had a legal right to the throne.

But everything appeared to be going awry, and some from within the fickle multitude who cried out “Hosanna” to the Son of David on one day would cry out “Crucify Him” the next day. Within hours, His life was torturously ebbing away by suffocation as He hung between Heaven and Earth on a Roman cross, increasingly unable to pull Himself up to fill His lungs with air. The irony of that scene can never be fully comprehended or exhausted. Jesus was not dead because He fell off a Judean hill. They weren’t mourning because He was run over by a runaway chariot. He hadn’t been set upon by thugs. No, He had been crucified on a Roman cross – by the very same people against whom the disciples thought He was going to lead them in rebellion. This One, whom they thought was to be their King, died like a common criminal at the hands of their enemies. From human reckoning, how inglorious! And, with the death of Jesus, the disciples sank to the depths of defeat, despondency, and despair. They were sure it was He who would lead them against Rome. But let them speak for themselves: “But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed [delivered] Israel” (Lk. 24:21) – and now He’s dead!

Low in the grave He lay – and the disciples thought that was the end, their hopes thrust through at the place called Calvary, their dreams unfulfilled, their aspirations unsatisfied. But, on the third day – on the third day – He rose from the grave and began to appear to His followers. He was alive – vitally, dynamically alive! Twentieth-century man, so far removed from that scene, can never fully comprehend the depths of despair to which the disciples had fallen at His death, nor the heights of exaltation to which they were catapulted at His resurrection.

And now the resurrected, never-to-die-again Lord ministered to them for forty days. Before leaving, He gave to those who belong to Him a final command: “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). That command has never been annulled – it has never been rescinded – it has never been negated – it has never been abrogated. It comes down the corridor of time as authoritative today as it was the moment it was first given. His last command should be the Church’s first concern. God had promised Abraham, two thousand years earlier, that in his seed all of the nations (Gentiles) would be blessed. Who, among the wisest sages of mankind, could ever have thought that through the chosen nation’s rejection of her Messiah and His resultant death at Calvary and the institution of the New Covenant, the blessing of the glorious gospel would flow freely to all peoples? But as a direct consequence of Israel’s rejection of her Messiah, within less than forty years, the Temple on Mount Moriah would be destroyed and the Jewish people would begin their long, lonely, torturous walk across the centuries.

The next article (2 of 5) is entitled “How Dark the Night.”


From the Depths of Despair to the Heights of Exaltation
The Middle East: A History of Searching for Peace
Part 1 of 5 Articles

From the Writings of Marvin J. Rosenthal
Published in Zion's Fire Magazine in September/October, 1993