BEHIND THE FACADE
Sermon at Anderson Chapel
May 20, 2012
John S. Fyfe
This passage of scripture describes the so-called "triumphal entry" of Jesus and his prophecy of destruction concerning the very place he was entering, Jerusalem. I say so-called because if Jesus had been accepted by everyone as King and Messiah at that time there would have been no need for the destruction of Jerusalem. Instead, in verse 39, we see dissension by some of the Pharisees. Then in verse 41 comes a profound change. In the midst of the multitude's praise and rejoicing, Jesus gazes ahead at the city he is about to enter and starts weeping. He then utters a prophecy of complete destruction for Jerusalem. Throughout the Bible, destruction is associated with sin and evil. Those who oppose God and his word try to destoy his message by deceit and perversion. In the end though, God will destroy all the workers of iniquity. What was it, when looking upon Jerusalem, that triggered this uncharacteristic display of emotion by Jesus? Try to visualize how the spectacularly beautiful panarama of the Old City of Jerusalem as seen from the Mount of Olives could drive someone to tears. Keep that image in mind as I try to give you a modern day example.
Recently, we visited my daughter and son-in-law at Fort Belvoir, VA which is near Washington, DC. One of the places we went was Arlington National Cemetery. Over the years, I have driven around, flown over, and ridden trains and Metro within sight of the cemetery. This, however, was my first time to actually go into the cemetery. One reason for finally going was that my son-in-law is stationed at Fort Myer and Arlington Cemetery is part of his extended workplace. The last stop on the cemetery tour was Arlington House. It is the highest point in the cemetery. From here a person has one of the best if not THE BEST views of Washington, DC. I took several pictures and let the panorama before me sink in. After we returned home, I found myself dwelling on our visit to Arlington Cemetery and doing more research on its history. Yes it was beautiful, but why was I so enamored by a cemetery? Finally, it hit me. It wasn't the cemetery itself; it was the view of Washington from the cemetery! It was just as beautiful as I had imagined it would be. And it reminded me of another beautiful view that I had experienced on a similar spring weekend 34 years earlier. That weekend, on a college trip, I was fortunate enough to see Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives several times. Now after finally experiencing the vista of Washington from Arlington Cemetery, I couldn't help but compare it to Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives. The similarities between the two are overwhelming, at least to me. Allow me to try to explain.
On the surface, the panorama of both Washington and Jerusalem from their respective vantage points provides a breathtaking image that should be positive and inspire the soul. From ancient times, God has intended Jerusalem to be a beacon of spiritual light in a world of paganistic darkness. In modern times, we have thought of Washington, DC as a symbol of both religious and political freedom. In Jerusalem, the Temple was to be the center of worship to Jehovah. It provided freedom from sin. In Washington, the Capitol and various monuments dotting the skyline are intended to continually remind us of those who recognized the importance of freedom and the price that is paid to maintain it. But behind the facade of a beautiful view is a sinking reality. Yes, I said facade. It means deceptive appearance. It is a showy misrepresentation intended to conceal something. Misrepresentation means pretending to be something you really aren't. Just another word for hypocrite. Seven times in Matthew 23 Jesus said:"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!" Seven times in one chapter! To say that Jesus was adamant about his feelings toward the religious leaders of Israel would be an understatement. (MATTHEW 23:25-28) Verse 27 is the answer to why Jesus was weeping over Jerusalem. Verse 27 is also an excellent definition for facade: Beautiful on the surface, but dead and unclean inside. The Pharisees should have been helping the people maintain a close relationship with God. Instead, they were more concerned about continuing rituals and traditions that were not an integral part of the Mosaic Law.
(MARK 7:1-8) Jesus and his disciples were trying to bring Israel back to God. They were thinking about the people's spiritual well-being. All the Pharisees could worry about was that the disciples didn't wash their hands! Lip service, traditions of men, and washing the outside rather than obeying God's commandments and having a clean heart. Is this not what Washington, DC and other world capitals are concerned with today? Political correctness and legal technicalities are the rule of the day. We are told not to offend our fellow man. How far we have strayed from the days of the early church. (ACTS 5:29)
When it comes to eternal life, we must obey God! When this country's leaders base their moral decisions on the opinions of their adolescent children rather than the Word of God, we have a major problem! To say that alternative lifestyles are a matter of personal choice then utter the phrase "God bless America" is the height of hypocrisy! It is disconcerting to admire the view from Arlington National Cemetery and then think of the lying, cheating, and other ungodly things going on in the buildings you are looking at.
Jesus obviously had those same feelings, but much stronger, as he prepared to enter Jerusalem. He then did something that was symbolic of will happen to the entire earth. (LUKE 19:45-48) Jesus cleansed the temple just like he will cleanse the world during the age of restitution. Let us not be deceived by the outward appearances of mankind's actions. Instead, let us remain pure and steadfast in following God's commandments. Let us be like the people in verse 48; be very attentive to hear him!