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Unto His Own
Part 5 of 8 Articles

From the Writings of Marvin J. Rosenthal
Published in Zion’s Fire Magazine in March/April, 1995

The Lord Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Matthew 3:16, 17). He is also the son of David (Matthew 1:1). The prophet Isaiah captured this dichotomy in his inspired and oft-quoted words: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given” (Isaiah 9:6). In time, on the planet Earth, in the insignificant land of Israel, in the obscure village of Bethlehem, a child was born. But, that child was also the preexistent Son of God (Micah 5:2). The beloved physician Luke made this same observation when he recorded the angelic message to Mary: “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David” (Luke 1:32). From a divine standpoint, He would be “the Son of the Highest” from a human standpoint, He would be given “the throne of his father David.” Jesus Christ, as the Son of David (both His physical mother, Mary (Luke 3), and His legal father, Joseph (Matthew 1), were of the lineage of David), was rightful Heir to the throne of Israel.

At His birth, wise men came from the East inquiring, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:2); and at His death, the Roman ruler, Pontius Pilate, had these words placed on His cross: “THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS” (Matthew 27:37).

It was customary in biblical times for kings to send out a herald or forerunner. The forerunner's job was to go before his king and announce to the people that the king was coming. The multitudes were then, as it were, to sweep the sidewalk, whitewash the fence, bring in the children's bicycles, straighten up the porch - in general, clean the area through which the king would be coming, for this was the king's highway. During a visit of an American President to the former Soviet Union and China, those nations spent millions of dollars beautifying the highway between the airport and the place where the President would be staying. Truly, there is little new under the sun.

It was the privilege of John the Baptist to be the herald of the Lord Jesus Christ. His responsibility was to announce the King's coming. His ministry fulfilled the words of the prophet Isaiah: “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain” (Isaiah 40:3-4).

As the herald of the King, John the Baptist pled with Israel to “repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). He was not, however, speaking of external cleansing, but internal cleansing. The One whose coming he heralded was both human and divine, and the kingdom which John spoke of was at hand in that, if the nation repented of its sin, Jesus, as the Son of David and Heir to the throne of Israel, would establish a literal kingdom on the earth. The form of government by which Jesus would govern was presented in His Sermon on the Mount. First, He identified the character of those who would become citizens of the kingdom (Matthew 5:1-16); second, He established the principles of righteousness in the kingdom (Matthew 5:17-7:12); and finally, He invited men to the kingdom (Matthew 7:13-27).

Following John's beheading by Herod, which was the beginning of the handwriting on the wall (that repentance, the one requisite for establishing the kingdom, would not be met), Jesus continued proclaiming the same message as that of His forerunner: “Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). And, still later, He commanded His disciples to share the very same message of hope: “Go not into the way of the Gentiles . . . But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 10:5-7). Since Jesus was the rightful Heir to the throne of David, it was to the Jewish people exclusively that Jesus was offering Himself as King. For this reason, He told His disciples to “go not into the way of the Gentiles” (Matthew 10:5). Did Jesus not die for all mankind? Was He not the Savior of the Gentile as well as the Jew? Why then this prohibition? A statesman running for the office of President of the United States of America cannot be elected by Canadian and Mexican votes. It is American citizens who can, by their votes, place him into office. Jesus had the proper credentials to rule over Israel. But, they would have to demonstrate their desire to have Him rule by turning to God from their sin.

The conflict and skirmishes between Jesus and the Jewish leadership could go on no longer. A clash was imminent.

On Palm Sunday, one week before the Jewish feast of Passover, Jesus descended the Mount of Olives, passed through the Kidron Valley, climbed the hill on the other side, entered Jerusalem through the Eastern Gate, and made His way to the Temple. The one requisite for establishing His earthly kingdom was that Israel repent. At the Temple, the pulse and heartbeat of the nation could be felt as nowhere else. Had they met the one requisite? Had they repented?

At the Temple, He found sellers of animals and changers of money. Passover was one of the three yearly Jewish festivals (the other two being Pentecost and Tabernacles) when the people were commanded by the Mosaic Law to worship at the Temple in Jerusalem (Deuteronomy 16:16). Many, living out of the land, had to make long, difficult, and often dangerous journeys to reach the Temple. Carrying a sacrificial lamb hundreds of miles for Passover was impossible - a lamb would have to be purchased - and foreign currency had to be exchanged if the visiting worshiper was to be able to go about his business. At the Temple, the cost of purchasing an “acceptable” Passover lamb (one without spot or blemish and with priestly approval) was excessively high, and the exchange rate in currency became a money-making scheme for the Temple leaders. Here, then, were devout Jews who had made the trek to Jerusalem to worship the God of Israel, and they were being “ripped off” by their own religious leaders.

When Jesus saw the corruption, in righteous indignation, He turned over the tables of the “merchandisers,” drove them out of the Temple and said, “It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Matthew 21:13). It was now that elements from within the national leadership (not the common people) began to seek His life. Jesus of Nazareth had become a threat to their corrupt practices and distorted theology.

The one requirement for His setting up a kingdom was repentance - that one requisite was not forthcoming. From a human perspective, the Jewish leadership was responsible for the rejection of their Messiah. From a divine perspective, to this end, God had appointed them (Romans 11:8-11). Now the good news of salvation through Christ's death and resurrection would go to both Gentile and Jew, and the promise made to Abraham that “in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 22:18) would find fulfillment.

Jesus went out of the city, and from the depths of His loving and compassionate heart, He wept. Soon He would say, “If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes” (Luke 19:42). And again, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not [have me]!” (Matthew 23:37).

A poet captured something of the pathos and tragedy of Israel's rejection of her greatest Son with these words:

Jerusalem, Jerusalem,
    Enthroned once on high,
Thou favorite home of God on earth,
    Thou heaven beneath the sky,
Now brought to bondage with thy sons,
    A curse and grief to see,
Jerusalem, Jerusalem,
    Our tears shall flow for thee.
O, hadst thou known thy day of grace,
    And flocked beneath the wing
Of Him who called thee tenderly,
    Thy own anointed King,
Then had the tribes of all the earth
    Gone up, thy pomp to see,
And glory dwelt within thy gates
    And all thy sons been free.
Jerusalem, Jerusalem,
    Until thou turn again,
And seek with penitence of heart,
    The Lamb thy sons have slain,
Till to the Savior of all mankind,
    Thou humbly bow the knee,
Jerusalem, Jerusalem,
    Our tears shall flow for thee.

But, did Israel stumble that they should fall? Is God vindictive? Was it the divine intent to simply punish Israel? Hear the answer from one of Israel's greatest sons and history's towering personalities. The apostle Paul wrote, “God forbid:” [a strong idiom meaning 'don't even think such a thought'] but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles“ (Romans 11:11). In the very stumbling of Israel, God's redemptive plan for all of mankind would be implemented (Romans 11:12). Precisely as promised in the Abrahamic Covenant, God had promised the patriarch that in his seed all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:3). Concerning the divine plan, the inspired penman could only write: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33).

The next article (6 of 8) is entitled “Forsaken.”

Unto His Own
Part 5 of 8 Articles

From the Writings of Marvin J. Rosenthal
Published in Zion’s Fire Magazine in March/April, 1995