Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Forgotten Prophecy

One of my favorite memories of when I was an intern at a church in Southern California in the 70's was getting together with friends who were attending seminary and quiz each other on what we called bible trivia. One of the questions we came up with was " how often does the bible say Jesus wept?". Of course, although most wanted to say once, it was obvious that by asking the question there must be a different answer. True.

Today is the day Christians around the world celebrate what has become known as Palm Sunday. It is the day that Jesus of Nazareth rode a donkey into Jerusalem to present Himself as the coming Messiah promised by the prophets of the Old Testament. But although virtually every Christian knows that, many don't know the circumstances surrounding it, and the fact that those circumstances caused our Savior to weep.

If you look in your Bible at Luke 19:41 you will find that as Jesus approached the city from the direction of the Mount of Olives, "He saw the city and wept over it". Why would Jesus weep at the sight of the city of Jerusalem on the very day He came to proclaim Himself as the Messiah? That question is answered in the following verses where we see Jesus say that the people did not know "the day" and the "time of your visitation". In other words, Jesus was holding the people accountable for not knowing the day that He was to appear.

Now this obviously leads one to ask how they were supposed to know the exact day the Messiah was to appear in their presence if God had never told them? The trouble with that is what I have come to call "The Forgotten Prophecy". You see, God had told them when the Messiah would come but the religious leaders of the day, the Sadducees and Pharasees, and the people themselves had totally forgotten it.

If you look in your Bible at Daniel 9:25-26 you will find an amazing prophecy given to Daniel that not only outlines the future of Israel, but predicts the exact day that the Messiah would appear. In this prophecy Daniel is told that there will be 69 weeks from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem until the Messiah would appear. The word here for "weeks" is "shabua" which is what is called a "heptad", meaning it stands for a group of seven. In this particular case, it stands for a period of seven years, so what Daniel is being told is that there would be a period of 69 "weeks of years" or exactly 173,880 days from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem to the day the Messiah appeared. (69 x 7 x 360 days/year)

The decree to rebuild Jerusalem was given by Artaxerxes Longimanus on March 14, 445 b.c. You can find that referred to in Nehemiah 2:5. If you add the period of time Daniel was given, 173,880 days, you arrive at Sunday, April 6, 32 a.d. which we now call Palm Sunday, the week before Easter and the very day Jesus wept when He saw the city. Why did He cry? Because even though God had gone to such great lengths to predict the exact day His Son would arrive as the Messiah, everyone had forgotten it.

Jesus has told us, His followers, to watch for His return. He went to even greater lengths to tell us what to watch for so we would recognize the time of His appearing. My question to you is this: "Are you watching?" At this most holy of weeks when we celebrate the Resurrection, let us not forget the promise of Jesus' return, and the responsibility we have to actively "watch" for it. It's coming soon.