By Brooke Holt
“Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it”. Psalm 118:19-20
In The Liturgy of the Palms this year, the church reads Matthew 21:1-11. Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey while the crowds herald him: “Hosana to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosana in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9) So great was this celebration, it stirred up the entire City of Jerusalem, and many people were inquiring about this prophet named Jesus.
The Liturgy of the Palms intentionally includes Psalm 118, the last of the Hallel Psalms. The Israelites sang the Hallel Psalms as part of the Passover celebration in remembrance of the Lord rescuing the nation of Israel from slavery in Egypt. Jesus and his disciples would sing these psalms during their Passover meal a few days later (see Matthew 26:30).
This day, the day of Jesus’ triumphal entry, was part of that Passover week. Thus, we consider why Psalm 118 fits with this triumphal entry. As Jesus passed through the city gates, righteousness entered Jerusalem. Living a fully sinless, perfectly righteous life, Jesus himself was and is righteousness. As he entered those gates, people saw their promised Messiah. For those gathered, they celebrated at the time as Jesus was fulfilling all the Jewish expectations.
Yet in less than a week that celebration turned to rejection and condemnation. The triumphal entry celebration then was followed by the unrighteous court trial while politicians and religious leaders took their stands. Unrighteousness does not see or admire God’s righteousness. Instead of rejoicing in and revering the righteousness of Christ, they sought to destroy it. Jesus’ righteousness threatened their power and their position.
Jesus did not find the way of righteousness easy, and neither will you. True righteousness requires dying to self and receiving the righteousness of Jesus Christ. You must intentionally choose to separate yourself from the unrighteousness of this world. As Jesus taught, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13-14).
As we enter into holy week, ask yourself which gate you are walking through – the gate of righteousness or the wide gate of destruction. This somber week reminds us that the gate of righteousness is not often the popular or accepted gate. It stands in contrast to the teachings of this world Nevertheless, it is the gate of the Lord, and it leads to the way of life.
What gate are you walking through today? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
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