Crossroads

Go to Jesus Outside the City Gates

Faithful,

Look! Jesus has risen, just as he said! This past Sunday during our church meeting T—— prayed with us for the first time, the church gave generously to L——’s mission and M——’s need, H—— served us with dinner, S—— taught us a worship song in Hindi, and M—— lead us in spontaneous worship. Awesome thunder rolled outside as we boldly approached God’s throne of grace. We welcomed our brother P—— who powerfully shared the good news and told the story of how his father in India turned from worshiping a spiritual guru’s lifeless skeleton to loving and serving the Living Lord Jesus. Our church meeting was such a demonstration that Jesus lives among his church.

Christians traditionally celebrate the week before Easter as “Palm Sunday.” On Palm Sunday we remember Jesus, riding on a donkey finally through the city gates of Jerusalem. He was praised as the humble King (Lk. 19:28–44), even welcomed in the name of the Lord in the spirit of Psalms 118. But that same week the people turn on the One they praised. This week points us to the most crucial moment of history in Christ’s crucifixion on the cross.

The Holy Spirit warns us not to welcome Jesus in vain. Jesus is not who we often think he is. We want to put Jesus on the throne because we hope to share in his glory. But Jesus’ purpose went far beyond the fanfare of the crowds that day. He was not looking for the praise of those in the crowd. He was looking for us, those outside God’s gates. “Jesus suffered outside the city gates on the cross to make people holy by his own blood” (Heb. 13:12). Jesus left the city for Calvary, the place of the cross. That place on the hill outside the city was for sacrifices and criminals; it is a place of spectacle and ridicule far from the fanfare of Jerusalem.

Jesus truly is the King of Kings. He has the right to demand obedience from the world. But first, Jesus gave everything. He disrobed and lived the life of a man as a servant. He died a bloody, disgraceful death for our sins. His life was sacrificed in our place. If you welcome this truth, you enter into God’s gates. If you turn away from this truth you reject the “stone” God made the “capstone” that holds everything together (Ps. 118:19–23). You cannot seek glory and shy away from the cross. To avoid the hard path of the cross is to miss Jesus and heaven altogether.

The Spirit now challenges us to “go to Jesus outside the city gates and bear the disgrace that he bore” (Heb. 13:13). Following Jesus always leads us in humility and thankfulness to his sacrifice for us on the cross. It is about repentance before a holy God. And it’s about dismantling high hopes for yourself or for this world because you’ve entered into the joy of the real fanfare and festival of heaven. “For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come” (Heb. 13:14).

And this has everything to do with Christian missions and evangelism. Going to where Jesus is outside the gates means going to others who lived like us in shame and disgrace apart from God. It is going out to welcome the international into your home, to train the soldier to fight the good fight, to share a tract at the curb of the bus-stop, to serve college students partying on spring break, to live like Christ among a jungle tribe, to stand in the path of those heading toward karoshi (“death from overwork”), to whisper living words to the terminally ill, and to adopt the orphan into your family. For broken hearts this season, the news of a permanent home specially prepared in God’s city is good news.

And what does Jesus, your gracious Savior, demand of you? For your own offering, continually offer to God this sacrifice of praise from a new heart: confess his name at every opportunity (Heb. 13:15). With the disgrace of the world behind and the glory of the cross before, may it be said of you, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (Ps. 118:26).

Your brother,
C.