The Perfect Disciple

Palm Sunday

So rich, and in authority, 
    The Sadducees are glad to be.
But now, in Yah's eternity, 
    The Sadducees are sad, you see.

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Mark 1:1-11

Almighty Father, on this day your son Yahshua entered the holy city of Jerusalem and was proclaimed King by those who spread their garments and palm branches along the way.  Let those branches be for us signs of his victory and grant that we who bear them in his name may ever hail him as our Lord and follow him in the way that leads to eternal life.  Amen.  (UMBOW)

Yahshua is approaching the Mount of Olives on the outskirts of Jerusalem  from Bethany, riding a donkey colt.  The people throw their clothes along with palm branches and other greenery in the dusty roadway to welcome Yahshua in.  Clothing was as valuable as money in those days, and this 'green carpet treatment' was their traditional way of hailing a new king (2 Kings 9:13).  They cry out, 'Hosanna! Blessed is he that comes in the name of Yahweh, even the King of Israel!' -- the ancient triumph song preserved in Psalm 118.  (We still recite it every time we have the Master's Supper in the hope of his soon return.) 

Yahshua's arrival in Jerusalem was to bring his public ministry to a successful conclusion.  Even now his disciples reminisce about the great healings and  signs they'd seen and taken part in.  At long last it appears that the public will acclaim Yahshua King of Jews.  Finally, Israelites throughout the nation will hear and heed the call to overthrow the odious Roman occupiers.  Israel will once again be a sovereign nation with the promised King who would rule for eternity.

For hadn't they all seen him casting out demons and healing every disease imaginable?  Hadn't he fed multitudes, stopped storms, released prisoners and outsmarted the educated?  Hadn't he possessed supernatural wisdom and revolutionary teaching on authority?  Hadn't he loved like the legendary King David, both in word and deed?  Wasn't he humble, meek, lowly, yet at the same time, ultimately powerful?  Wasn't he the very antithesis of all the other religious leaders and messiahs that had come and gone?

Yes, the people took notice of his grace and strength, and they followed him, and they loved him, and they emulated him.  He had risen from the ranks of sinners and from the grind of poverty; he'd been a pauper who worked with his hands and heart just like them.  Hadn't he also suffered the same injustices they had, been afflicted and exploited the same way they had?  Yet they saw how he overcame every hardship without sin.

So they hailed him their King -- they sacrificed themselves, and rejoiced festively and freely, not unlike those liberated from the rule of a tyrant in our days.  Even before the fall of Herod, they dared proclaim the new kingdom had come, loudly, fearlessly, hailing their new king.  "All hail, King Yahshua!"

Despite the crowd's misunderstanding of his mission, their intentions, their devotions, and their actions were right on the mark that hot day on the Jerusalem road.  

In vast contrast to these, dubious religious leaders command him, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples!"  For, with every shout of acclamation, these children of the devil see their own authority dribbling away like gold dust through their fingers.  "What of us if he were made king?" they wonder in desperation.  "And what of the nation?  Could it survive?"

Ascending the throne of Herod was not in Yahshua's plan at all.  Many messiahs had arisen before him and would come after, claiming the throne. Over and over, Yahshua warned, "Beware of false messiahs; many will come."  He told his detractors, "My Kingdom is not of this world."  He made no claim on worldly royalty at all.  But he rode the donkey to remind the people of Zechariah's word for the future, that the unseen kingdom of Yahweh might stretch far beyond earth's limits, and in the unseen kingdom, shalom might reign. 

In fact, Yahshua, in his own person, was and is the Kingdom of Yahweh. The unseen kingdom could be seen when he was seen -- it became real to the masses as they observed his life and actions.  Though he mightn't liberate the people from the power of Rome, he might liberate them from a much more treacherous enemy  -- the devil and his unprincipled hordes.  He would free the common people by conveying to them an uncommon and invisible power.  He would endow every person who believed on his name with the same authority he possessed, to discern, expose and overcome every form of evil, even in the face of political tyranny.  The test for the people would soon come, as they beheld their King hanging dead on a stake.  

Very few realized that the King had come to die.  We know that for sure now.  But then, when he was in the grave, only a few would remember his words: 

John 14:12. Whoever believes in me will do the same works as I and will perform even greater works because I am going to the Father.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

In the action of both the crowd the religious leaders, we find five distinctive characteristics of dedicated discipleship often unheeded today.  The first distinctive of dedicated discipleship we encounter is that:

(1) The masses publicly proclaimed him King by faith.  This indicates for us that the dedicated disciple knows Yahshua's identity, has faith in his ability and regards him with highest respect and praise.  For our Master is not merely a great moral teacher; not simply one of many messengers from heaven; not just a revered hero from Bible days.  But he is the Unique King; the King of all Glory, the Prince of Peace, the Rock of all Ages, the Cosmic Commander, the Champion of Hearts, the Master
 of Hosts, the Righteous Potentate.  He alone is the Son of Yahweh, who rules and reigns from Heaven, but who will soon return to rule and reign the nations from the New Jerusalem on Earth. Dedicated disciples  know him as their King, and "he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever"
(Luke 1:33).

The crowds worshiping Yahshua stand in stark contrast to the religious Pharisee who call him "teacher."  The implication is that Yahshua is just one of many uneducated, unwashed, itinerant preachers roaming the countryside, taking advantage of the peoples' generosity and religious ignorance. Pharisees do see the uniqueness of Yahshua, but they never dare to admit it. They might concede he is a kind, naive teacher, a splinter in the little finger of their religious oligarchy, but a King?  Never!  They have but one king: the beast Caesar.

The dedicated disciple, who knows Yahshua as King, must be wary of the modern-day Pharisee, who may give lip service but have treachery in heart.  

Matthew 7:22, 23. When the day comes many will say to me, `Lard, Lard, did we not prophesy and work miracles in your name?'  Then I shall tell them to their faces: I have never known you; away from me, evil doers!

The second distinctive of the dedicated discipleship is that:

(2) The worshipful crowds spread their clothes on the road before Yahshua. The dedicated disciple is self-sacrificing. She sees a need, and in the spirit of her generous King, meets that need any way she can. She doesn't have to pray about it or even think about it much.  Because she's reborn in his likeness, she's compassionate and knows what her King would do in any circumstance without having to consult any one or any thing.  Dedicated disciples are living sacrifices, which is their reasonable service, their logical duty, their spiritual worship (Romans 12:1).  When there's a chance to do right or do good, what's there to think about?  Time, talents, gifts, service and worship have already been pledged years ago!

It was the Sadducee, another religious leader of the time, with whom we may contrast the dedicated disciple's generosity. You see, Sadducees are institutional religious rulers who really care little about true religion, but care a lot about propriety -- the long, gorgeous, costly robes; the respect of the upper-crust; their names on the social register; their investments in the blue chips, their costly toys.  The Sadducees would never think to sacrifice anything to help someone of lower status, unless helping would gain them greater accolades for their generosity.  

I composed a little poem that I dedicated to the Sadducees:

So rich, and in authority, 
    The Sadducees are glad to be.
But now, in Yah's eternity, 
    The Sadducees are sad, you see.

The dedicated disciple, who knows Yahshua as Yahweh's Great Passover Sacrifice, must not be like Sadducees, who may give you a token to win your favor; but who'll sadden you in the end with an exceedingly great invoice.

(3)  Did you witness the joy of the common people of Baghdad this week when they were liberated?  Did you see them dancing in the streets and hailing the Marines when the statue of Saddam Hussein was pulled down [April 9, 2003]?  Such a site illustrates the third distinctive of the dedicated disciple.

The crowds hailing Yahshua king are bold and festive at the time of their visitation.  Likewise, the dedicated disciple is fearless and bold, knowing his nemesis the devil has been defeated in his life. He's unashamed of his Master and freely speaks of him to anyone, giving him public glory for the many and varied victories in his life. He lifts the palm branches high in the air so his neighbor can see just who he worships and trusts. Furthermore, the dedicated disciple does not meander, but runs out to meet his Savior straightway on every occasion offered -- in the church service, in the fellowship meeting, in the prayer group at work, in the Bible study at school.  The dedicated disciple is always in attendance, because he loves the presence of the King and the King's holy family. They love to hear and eat the Word. They aren't afraid to let others know, either!  

Let's contrast the dedicated disciple now with the Pharisee. Pharisees were the religious fundamentalists of Yahshua's day (not unlike the extremist Muslim clerics of our day).  Pharisees know the Scripture and think they're experts in telling people how to live. They think of themselves as "better than others, more holy than others" and want to force others to perform religion as they say.  If you cross them, then you are an infidel and doomed to heck. The fact is, the religion of the Pharisees is as dead as they are.

The dedicated disciple, who knows the King as her baptizer in the Holy Ghost and Fire, must be wary of the Pharisee's leaven.  For Pharisees seem to have their doctrines all together, retain a high standing with denominational headquarters, and can beat you in a Scripture debate every time.  But the Pharisees, being the children of the devil, have substituted religious terrorism for true worship.

The fourth distinctive of dedicated disciple:

(4) The people on the Jerusalem road proclaimed the Kingdom come.  The  dedicated disciple knows that the unseen Kingdom is for all who take Yahshua as King, regardless of race, creed, language, ethnicity, sex, economic status, age, denominational preference, height, weight, vocation or education.  The Kingdom is composed of confessed sinners supernaturally converted to kingdom life by grace!  The dedicated disciple is a non-conformist, and proclaims a Kingdom made up of the diversity of "all Yahweh's chillun."   Though diverse, kingdom people remain united in purpose and in the Person of Yahshua.  The dedicated disciple realizes that the Body of the Savior is made up of many members, some nobler, some baser, all different, but each as important and vital as the next; there are no little disciples and no little ministries there -- all who work accomplish that which has been ordained since the foundation of the world.   The dedicated disciple is vocal about her faith, and shares her faith with all to whom the Holy Spirit leads her. The dedicated disciple proclaims Yahweh's Kingdom in both the NOW and the LATER.  Be it now or later, his Kingdom is based in love as well as law; equity as well as justice.

In contrast, the Scribes of Yahshua's time took the simplicity of the message of Scripture and over-interpreted it to such a degree that it became completely obscured under layers and layers of legalize, legalities, and laws. They demanded that people be conformed to the mold they'd created on their parchments. If they had anything to proclaim at all, it was that Yahweh was not pleased with or loved anyone unless they fit the mold. It would seem that the legalistic, formalistic religion of the Scribes would be so intolerable that it would have quickly died out. But, on the contrary, the demand that disciples conform to some man's image is even more alive today than in Yahshua' time.

The dedicated disciple is liberated from having to measure up to somebody else's standards, for she knows that her Master thinks she's valuable and worthy of love. She's wary of the modern-day Scribe because she recognizes him as a judgmental hypocrite.  We don't coddle hypocrites, Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees in our midst.  We only tolerate them.  One day the wheat and the weeds will both be harvested and the weeds will go into the fire.  

(In summary, the first four distinctives of a dedicated disciple hidden in our text are that he /she

(1) knows Yahshua, and recognizes who he is and what he came for,
(2) is compassionate and self-sacrificing,
(3) is fearless and bold in praise and faith-sharing,
(4) and is accepting of others, even very different others

One final characteristic that may be implied is that the dedicated disciple (5) is busily awaiting the return of the King of Glory to Earth, where he will have a seat at the Great Resurrection Banquet and an important part in the ensuing New World Order -- when the King of the Jews becomes the King of the World.  

Now comes the test: Examine yourself against the measure of the dedicated disciple. And remember that discipleship, especially discipleship that aims at perfection, is not merely following from afar, but staying close to the master, listening and learning, and becoming like him.

One day a lady approached Bishop Cannon, the Methodist scholar and professor (and heir of Cannon Towels). ( I had the opportunity to study under this man shortly before his demise.)  This lady mentioned that she knew of the Bishop through her father, who once been one of his seminary students. The Bishop asked what the lady's father's name was, and she told him.  Bishop Cannon, who was known for being direct, replied with a scowl, "Lady, your father may have attended my lectures, but he was not one of my students!"

Friends, there is a world of difference between attending my lectures on the one hand and striving to be a dedicated disciple of Yahshua the Savior on the other. Do you realize that you are privileged to be living in the Last Days? Yahshua is even now on his way back to Jerusalem from Heaven. When he appears, will he find you absent?  Will even the stones along his pathway cry out against you (Habakkuk 2:6-20)?  Or will he find you rushing out to meet him on that Jerusalem road with your Palm branch raised high and your mouth full of praise, (Hosanna! Hosanna!) following him into the city, through the temple gates, past the wide old curtain that once separated you from Yahweh, and onward boldly into the Holy of Holies? 

Beloved, like the crowds that flocked to the Jerusalem road and followed Yahshua into the Holy City, are you striving to be a dedicated disciple of Yahshua? Judge yourself now, for 

You are writing a gospel, a chapter each day,
By the deeds that you do, by the words that you say.
Yahweh reads what you write, whether faithless or true,
Say, What is the Gospel according to you?

Jackson Snyder, April 4, 1994, updated April 12, 2003



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