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11 November 2022

The arrival of the Gospel

Friday 10 February 2023 | Written by Supplied | Published in Church Talk, Features, National

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The arrival of the Gospel
Cook Islanders celebrating Gospel Day commemorating the arrival of Christianity to Cook Islands’ shores on October 26, 1821. 20102619

I wrote this muse two years ago, as we were celebrating the arrival of Gospel to Aitutaki, I thought it was worth raising up again in the light of Rarotonga’s 200-year celebrations in 2023, slightly edited of course, writes Paul Kauri, lead pastor at The Arepua Gateway Assembly of God Church.

In Matthew chapter 21 an event is recorded of a moment when Jesus was celebrated, with the laying of coats and palm branches as He entered the city of Jerusalem. Today it is commonly known as Palm Sunday and is usually celebrated the Sunday before Good Friday.

Today I’m referring to the scripture reference, knowing full well that it is way ahead of its usual time of celebration. However, I reference it not because of the festivities of Palm Sunday, but because of ‘WHO’ was celebrated in Matt 21, Jesus himself.

I want to draw out some points between this first Palm Sunday, when Jesus arrived at Jerusalem, and our national celebration of the arrival of the gospel of Jesus to our shores 200 years ago, to the shores of Rarotonga.

The first point is this – Jesus came riding into the city of Jerusalem on a donkey, and for two reasons this detail is important.

Firstly, it was common practice in those days, for a King to ride into the city they conquered on his horse. The book of Revelations tells us that when Jesus returns in the last days to take back all who are his and deal permanently to his enemies, He’s coming back on a White horse. That will be a terrifying and fearful day for those who do not know Christ, and a day full of awe for those who do. So Christ humbly entered into Jerusalem on a donkey.

Secondly, (and I think this is the key) this was act fulfilled the prophecy spoken by Zechariah 9:9 “Behold, your king comes to you, triumphant and victorious. He is humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

It is interesting to note that the people recognised the moment and the man as he rode into the city on a donkey. And, for this reason they laid palm branches ahead of him, that’s like the Hebrew Red Carpet treatment! Every Jew would have known Zechariah’s messianic prophecy. They were waiting for Him, eagerly expecting Him, generation after generation waiting, looking. And after all that Jesus had done healing the sick, raising the dead, leapers clean, lame walking, and deaf hearing they recognised what was happening when they saw him entering the city on a donkey. That’s why the crowds hailed Jesus as their king shouting,“Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matthew 21:9).

However the Pharisees did not recognise the moment despite recognising Jesus, and demanded that Jesus rebuke the crowds, but Jesus did not, insinuating instead, that even the rocks recognised him and would cry out, if the people did not!

The second point I want to draw out, is the people praising Jesus outside the city, as Jesus was on the road making his way into the city. Matt 21:9 “… as the people followed him, they were all shouting!”

This word ‘shout’ is the Greek word “Krazo” it means to ‘scream out’, ‘shout loudly’, ‘cry out’. In other words, there was quiet a commotion going on as Jesus was entering on his donkey, it was crazy outside the city gates!

However, as a result of this crazy welcome outsidethe city, we read in verse 10, “the WHOLE CITY was stirred and asked, ‘Who is this?!’” to which the reply was, ‘This is Jesus!’”

(Pause to consider this)

I’ve considered how blessed we have been as a nation since the pandemic broke out and the world has been scrambling to figure out what to do. In 2020, when the reality of this global issue was taking hold of the world, we had the Cook Island Games, which served as a great distraction from the demoralising news and its focus on Covid. It also gave us something healthy and great to rally together, as a nation. It was a great morale booster.

In 2021, as the world slipped into the new segregation of ‘Vaxed’ and ‘Unvaxed’, the Cook Islands united to celebrate 200 years of the arrival of the gospel of Jesus, to the island of Araura – Aitutaki. And now in 2023, preparations are well under way to celebrate 200 years in Rarotonga, and the Ngaputoru.

What does this seemingly irrelevant muse over our nation’s celebrations, both past and present, have to do with Matthew 21? Let me try and connect the two.

I mused over ‘Who’ the Jewish people celebrated.

I mused over the effect that their “Red Carpet Treatment” of Jesus had on their city.

I mused over our national celebrations with the arrival of the gospel and CI Games.

I mused over our celebrations in Aitutaki regarding the arrival of the Gospel in 2021.

And in all my musing I wondered if we had overlooked something? I wondered if, in all our preparations over a great event if we missed what mattered most?

During Aitutaki’s gospel celebrations, I heard Papeiha’s name, and John Williams name, and with good reason as these were the men God used to bring the gospel to our people.

With a collaborated effort from the beautiful locals, the Religious Advisory Council, the Government, the organisers and the many volunteers, a great celebration was held on the pristine shores of Aitutaki, a great applause for all those involved.

I also recall in one of our own local Assemblies of God celebrations, the story was re-told of the journey of the gospel, through the Southern Group and eventually into the Northern Group and the names of those who were on the boat, including the name of the boat itself! It was very enlightening and full of fun.

Yet for me, even in our own AOG celebrations, I thought that the Name that mattered most was ominously absent.

Yet I read in the scriptures, that as Jesus entered Jerusalem, they laid out the red carpet for him, the people SHOUTED His Name – it was crazy, caused quiet a stir in the city. They recognised the moment and celebrated The One who came in the Name of The LORD by shouting Hosanna, which means ‘Oh Save Us’. (and we sure could do with some help in these strange times)

I wonder if the emphasis will be different in this year’s celebrations of the arrival of the Gospel. I wonder if we will hear His Name above all the other names. I wonder what our celebrations will look like and who’s name will resound around our shores? Time will tell.

One final muse … the sound of their ‘Krazo’ celebration stirred the whole city to ask ‘who is this?’ I wonder, if this year’s celebration can stir our nation to find Hope in the Name by which all people are saved, I’m praying for it.