Holy Week: Palm Sunday

The Lion and the Lamb

“The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,” says the Lord.”  — Isaiah 65:25  

In the mid-1980s, I was leading a retreat for the vestry of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas. At the retreat, I read the passage from Isaiah 65 that contains the verse quoted above. I asked the various members of the Vestry to comment on that passage. One of the women in attendance said that she had no comment. She pronounced that she did not believe in fairytales, and as a successful businesswoman she could not waste her time thinking about things that obviously could never be true. 

The Scriptures that we have studied through this season of Lent reveal to us that God has a plan and purpose for the rebuilding of his Church. It is a comprehensive plan, and as has been pointed out it can be a daunting prospect. It’s not that we don’t believe God’s Word, like that dear parishioner at St Thomas, but we recognize that it is a difficult calling. For many it will be a challenge to take the risk to do the things God demands of His people. And thus, it will be hard to fully embrace this rebuilding process. It will require an effort and decision on our part to yield our will to His. The Theologian and author, G.K. Chesterton, said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult, and left untried.” What the Lord is calling us to do is difficult. But now is the time for us to step up to the challenge, to not leave the plan and purpose of God for His Church untried.

In Isaiah 65, the Lord gives a vision to his people of what he desires to provide for them. It is a vision of the New Jerusalem.  Here is the entire quote from verses 17-25:

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain or bear children for calamity, for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord, and their descendants with them. Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,” says the Lord.

Why would we not want to take part in the rebuilding of this Jerusalem that God wants to create? The prophetic word is sure: God is going to create a new heaven and a new earth. And He is preparing the ground NOW. The New Jerusalem is a present reality being realized in in us, in our day. And we are “living stones” being built up into His Holy Temple.

As we enter this Holy Week, let us remember the words that we prayed on Ash Wednesday. In the litany of penitence we prayed that “those things may please him which we do on this day, and that the rest of our life hereafter may be pure and holy, so that at the last we may come to his eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord.” God is creating a pure and holy Temple. And John’s vision in the Book of the Revelation tells us that Jesus is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, and the Lamb that was slain. He is the Lion and the Lamb, and He has conquered every foe by His sacrifice (5:5). Let us walk with the Lord through the days of this Holy Week, and experience the promises made sure through His sacrifice.

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