Follow the Leader 4/16/00

Luke 19:28-38

Jesus Christ relates to real people. People like those who comprised His entourage in the last days of His life on earth. People like us. Let’s be very personal —- people like you. Not just like you, but you. He wants to lead us.

Let’s mentally slip into the band of followers around Christ who were in Jericho days before His execution. Let’s join the crowd. They have dozens of unanswered questions. Their future was uncertain. Rumors were Jesus was soon to leave them.

It was the time of festival in Jerusalem and they were to go there, but hearsay persisted that the religious leaders had conspired against Christ and desired Him dead. What were they to do?

As the guest in the home of Zacchaeus in Jericho, Jesus taught a parable regarding obedient servanthood. It is profound. Scholars still dissect and analyze the teaching. However, God is so good. Right in the middle of this profound passage God inspired the writer to include a simple bite size statement even I can digest. Notice it in Luke 19:28: “He went on ahead…”

What are we to do Jesus? Which way are we to go? Shall we retreat to our comfort zone in Galilee or the isolation of the Wilderness of Judea? The choice is not ours, it’s His.


There embedded like a jewel in a most unlikely setting is the answer. “He went on ahead.”

Follow the leader. He always goes on ahead. He who foresees the future won’t forsake you in the present.

We can say as it was said of the Good Shepherd “He leads me.”

Ingrained in hymnals for years are these words:

“He leadeth me, he leadeth me, By His own hand
He leadeth me:
His faithful follower I would be,
For by His hand He leadeth me.”

Count on it.

Adults did you ever play “follow the leader?” Children do you play it? It involves doing what ever the leader does. The object is to be and do like the leader. If the leader walks backwards you walk backwards. If the leader hops on one foot you hop on one foot.

A version of this game is played under the title “Peer Pressure.” It too involves being and doing like the leader.

In the Christian arena it involves choosing Jesus as your Leader and asking Him to help you be and do as He. It soon becomes a lifestyle.

As they left Jericho on their way to Jerusalem and the awaiting cross, Mark in his gospel tells us of the trip: “…they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was going before them; and they were amazed. And as they followed they were afraid” (Mark 10:32).

Jesus walked alone that we like they might never have to walk alone.

The eastern sky gave a hint of the coming new day on that morning that will forever be known as Palm Sunday.Jesus having gone before His followers awakes in Bethany on the back side of the Mount of Olives no more than five miles from Jerusalem. Having arranged to borrow a donkey and her colt Jesus leads His entourage to the summit of the Mount of Olives.

Jesus had a full view of the walled city of Jerusalem in all of its splendor. Historian Josephus wrote of Jerusalem:

“The outward face of the temple in its front wanted nothing that was likely to surprise either men’s minds or their eyes; for it was covered all over with plates of gold of great weight, and, at the first rising of the sun, reflected back a very fiery splendor, and made those who forced themselves to look upon it to turn away their eyes, just as they would have done at its own rays.”

The Mount of Olives was second only to the Sea of Galilee as a favorite retreat spot for Jesus and His disciples. Compassionately He had viewed the Golden City of Jerusalem from here and wept. His gaze focused on the 1,000 square foot temple plateau on the summit of Mt. Zion. Some stones used to construct the temple were 20 by 40. feet and weighed 100 tons. Pillars supporting Solomon’s Porch were 37 feet high and of such circumference that three men could not reach around them. An ornate bridge from the lower city to the upper spanned the Tyropoeon Valley. This is what He saw but what He beheld was the need of the people.

No modern rock star has ever entered a stage to greater acclaim. At this moment He was a celebrated celebrity. Mystics and militants, the local populace and loyal pilgrims wanted Him to assert His leadership. Only the hard core pious religious leaders were fearful of Him. Here on the Mount of Olives Jesus was among His people.

When pilgrims came to the various festivals in Jerusalem those from different regions always camped in the same area. The southern end of the Mount was where those from Galilee always camped. Going from Bethany to Jerusalem the route crossed the southern end where the Galileans were camped. Galilee was His home territory. He had grown up there, performed miracles there, and taught there. They knew Him.

From these rural friends arose shouts of “Hosanna” and other praises.

Across the Kedron Valley inside the walls of Jerusalem the people heard the shouts and many came outside to see what was happening on the Mount of Olives. These were the wealthy who had learned to accommodate and appease the conquering Romans in order to prosper. They were comfortable and confident.

As Jesus began to ascent from the Mount of Olives on His way into Jerusalem a drama prophesied long before was playing out.

Behind Him were His sermons; ahead, His suffering.

Behind Him were His parables; ahead, His passion.

Behind Him were His suppers of fellowship; ahead, His last supper of betrayal.

Behind Him were the delights of Galilee; ahead, dark Gethsemane.

Prophecy was now to become practice.

Let’s set the stage and walk the Palm Sunday road with Him.

That grand day was a fulfillment of prophecy. Daniel had stated the time (Daniel 9: 24 – 26). A careful calculation reveals it was to be 173,880 days after being foretold. Passover was always celebrated on the 15th of Nisan, mid April. Jesus came to Bethany six days before Passover and entered Jerusalem the next day, April 6, 32 A.D. That was precisely 173,880 days after the prophecy of Daniel. Thus, the Father had further validated the Son as Messiah.

In retrospect it was written of Him: “Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God Lo, I come to do thy will, O God” (Hebrews 10: 7 & 9).

Not only was the Old Testament His Bible it was His biography written in advance. For Him to accomplish His mission His life must be the lake of fulfillment into which ALL the rivers of prophecy flow. At any moment He could have disobeyed the authority of God’s Word. He had come to do the will of the Father.

What does that say about the one who goes on ahead? He knows where and when He is going long before the time arrives. He is worthy to be followed.

Get this and you have a good perspective of life.
All that the Son was to the Father
We are to be to the Son.
All that the Father was to the Son
The Son will be to us.
It should be our purpose to do His will.

As Jesus nears and enters Jerusalem He leaves behind His legion of loyalists and is enveloped in a throng of hostile antagonists. Soon the “Hosannas” fade and the cry begins to reverberate through the old city: “Crucify Him.”

There is a strategic oversight by most modern readers of Scripture. We equate those who shouted hosanna with the crowd that cried “Crucify Him.” They were not. Those from Galilee camped on the Mount of Olives, His proponents, shouted His praise. Those within Jerusalem, alienated from Him by formal, creedal religious bigotry cried for His execution.

In which crowd would you have postured yourself? Please don’t give an answer you know would be acceptable in this setting. Don’t even try to pretend your allegiance if there is no lifestyle of loyalty. If you are going to Talk the Talk then Walk the Walk. Follow the Leader.

A moment of decision charts our course. Standing on the beautiful Bernina Pass in Switzerland, the enchanting Engadine is on one side and on the other the vast expanse of Italy. Nearby are two small lakes separated by only a narrow watershed. Though close in their points of origin, the water from one flows into the Adriatic Sea and that from the other into the Black Sea. Every person has his own Bernina Pass, a time when the flow of the course of life is determined. A choice to obey is a choice favoring a fulfilled life.

Flashback a moment to Jericho and the home of Zacchaeus where Jesus was teaching about obedience. He told the story of three persons being given a sum of money and how each used it. Two of the three were good stewards and used their portion wisely. The unfaithful one tried to excuse himself and explain away his dereliction. Jesus exposed it instead.

Three characteristics of this fraud were made evident by Christ.

The issue in following the leader is the authority of the one leading and the obedience of those following.

Once I was called into the Oval Office of the President of the United States and given an assignment by the President. As I left he did not go with me. My execution of that responsibility was no less diligent than if he had been my companion in performing it. I was under his authority, inspired by his confidence, ennobled by the nature of the task. Being on mission for the president was my motivation. My preoccupation was not with his ability, but his authority. I knew he stood behind what I did because he considered it a worthy task. That made me esteem it all the more worthy of my best. I was at his service even in his absence. So our Leader should inspire us to obedience. His authority deserves compliance with His will.

With that understanding lets engage in a practical activity. Check yourself regarding obedience to our Lord’s Word in these areas:

Have you presented your body to the Lord as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1), or are you continuing to walk according to the flesh (Romans 8: 5 – 7) as if you still do not belong to your Lord?

Do you think of yourself more highly than you ought (Romans 12: 3) and allow fits of hypocrisy to pervert the love you profess (Romans 12: 9)?

Is your loyalty divided between God and mammon (Matthew 6:24)?

Are you neglecting your prayer life (Luke 18: 1, 2) and Bible study (II Timothy 2: 15)?

Are you living in a state of anxiety or discontent (Philippians 4: 6, 11)?

Do you by exercising malice and envy stir up strife (Romans 13: 13)?

Are you fulfilling your role as an ambassador (II Corinthians 5: 19, 20) and witness (Matthew 28: 19, 20)?

Are you seeking first the kingdom, the rule of God, in your life (Matthew 6: 33)?

In fulfillment of the authoritative command to “seek first” the kingdom do you:
Give God the first part of the first hour of the day?
Give Him the first day of the week for public worship?
Give Him a tithe as the first fruit of your labor?
Give Him first place in decision making?
Give Him the position of Lord in your home and work?

Put a mental book mark in your thoughts there on the Mount of Olives and jump ahead a few days in the story with me. After the resurrection the angel appealed to the women and this was his message:
“He goes before you…”

What a wonderful comfortable zone in which to live …. and die.

Strut as we might the time comes. Death takes even the strongest and proudest. I hope it is years before regent death looks you in the eyes, points his boney finger and say, “Your turn.”

How will we do? You who follow Jesus will do just fine. Remember, He goes before you —- and He has. Like Him, we too will do just fine. Follow the leader. Follow the leader today in preparation for that day.

Times get tough. Circumstances get troublesome. Money gets tight and here comes the Easter Angel to tell it like it is: “He goes before you.”

Follow the Leader.