The city of Jerusalem was once again preparing for the Passover. It was a familiar scene, one that had played out in the city every spring through countless generations, a time when God’s people remembered how He had delivered their ancestors from bondage in Egypt. This year, however, as the Israelites began their preparations for Passover, many of them did not recognize the Son of God was in their midst.
When Jesus descended from the mount of Olives and entered Jerusalem on the back of a donkey he was welcomed with rejoicing. People who had witnessed the miracles He performed waved palm fronds, and spread their garments on the ground before Him. They joyously exclaimed, “Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord!” but how many of them truly understood who He was? Did they recognize His role as the Savior and Redeemer of their souls, or did they simply see Him as the potential liberator of their country?
In the days preceding His crucifixion, Jesus interacted with many people, all of whom must have sensed at least a glimmer of who this man was. Some, such as the religious leaders of Jerusalem, identified Jesus as a threat to their authority and power. Through questioning and repeated challenging, they sought to discredit Him and find a way to condemn Him. These men recognized the wisdom of Jesus’ words and understood His power to draw people unto Him. Did these leaders understand who they were challenging? Did they see the marks of divinity in His countenance?
We know that some of the religious leaders believed in Jesus. These men had a conviction of Jesus’ message and witnessed His power over life and death. Being well versed in the scriptures, they must have been familiar with the Messianic prophecies. Did they recognize the fulfillment of prophecy in Jesus’s life and ministry? Whatever their beliefs on who Jesus was, “because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue.“
By contrast, Zacchaeus, a man who was hated because of His profession as a tax collector, sought earnestly for just a glimpse of the Savior. When Jesus saw Zacchaeus perched in a tree, He called out to him and announced His intention to dine with him. This faithful and generous man answered the call of the Savior with excitement and immediacy, despite the murmurings of judgment that hissed around him.
Lastly, we learn of Mary, a woman who had been a faithful disciple of Christ and walked with Him throughout His ministry. In a demonstration of her commitment to and love of the Savior, she purchased a precious and very costly oil. She then ministered to Him by anointing His feet and washing them with her hair. Such a demonstration of love, humility, and sacrifice must have deeply touched Jesus as He prepared to complete His earthly mission alone.
Each of these people was privileged to talk with and see Jesus face to face, and each was given the opportunity to accept and follow the Son of God, or to reject and turn their backs on Him. The most influential of these people chose the latter, but during this Passover, as the Israelites chose their sacrificial lambs, did those who sought His life recognize or consider that their actions where bringing to pass the very events which the Passover foreshadowed? The Lamb of God was preparing to deliver them from an even greater bondage than slavery to the Egyptians. His atonement as he prayed near olive trees of Gethsemane, the sacrifice of his life on the cross, and his resurrection on a glorious Sunday morning would break the bonds of both sin and death, and empower us to truly be free as we choose to come unto Him and allow the power of His atonement to change our hearts.
As the time of Jesus Christ’s Second Coming approaches the battle lines are being drawn. Each of us must determine if we stand with the Son of God, our Savior, and brother, or if we will turn away from Him. Each of us must evaluate ourselves and determine if we are living in a way that will allow us to recognize our Savior at the time of his return. Are we living the life of discipleship that He has called us to live? What must we change in order to prepare for His coming?
Jesus said: If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be…John 12: 26
If we are true disciples of our King, we must stand with conviction and live our lives as a testimony of Jesus Christ. We must show love and respect to all. This will require us to look past our initial judgments of others and refrain from dismissing them because their beliefs are different from our own. Each of us is a beloved son or daughter of God, and each of us deserves to be treated as such. It is in serving and ministering to our fellow brothers and sisters that we will become more like our Savior; it is through us that God often answers the prayers of those in need, and invites others to join the path of discipleship.
Being a disciple of Christ also means that there are times when we will be called upon to defend our faith, especially in a world that is increasingly rejecting the doctrines of God. This is something that prophets and scripture have warned would take place in the last days. It will be challenging and sometimes frightening, but it is something that disciples of Christ have been asked to do throughout the entirety of history, as they strive to live true to the gospel in a world that rejects it. Again, though, we must follow the example of our Savior and defend our faith with love, patience, and respect.
As we follow the example of our Savior: learning to love our fellowmen, keeping our covenants, and defending our faith, we will draw closer to our Savior and to our Heavenly Father. In so doing, we will come to know them. Then, at the glorious day when Christ returns to Earth, we will have no doubt as to the identity of the person who stands before us. We will recognize our Savior because we have dedicated our lives to following Him.
“Why Didn’t the Jews in Christ’s Time Recognize Him as the Messiah?” -Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, Ensign April 1991
“A Personal Relationship with the Savior” -Elder James E. Faust, October 1976
You can follow Jess on Twitter @Jessla_G.