Palm Sunday March 16, 2008
Matthew 21:1-5; John 12:16; Matthew 21:8-11; Luke 19:39-40; John 12:17-19; 2 Corinthians 4:13-18
161, 725 (TLH alt. 160), 162, 341(4-5)
Matthew 21:1-5, John 12:16
Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me. And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.” All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: “Tell the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold! Your King is coming to you, lowly, and sitting on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”
His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done these things to Him.
Who is my king? My king is Jesus. I am one of the two disciples whom Jesus sent to go find the donkey that He rode on His way into Jerusalem. I and the others have been following Jesus for three years. We have seen His miracles and have been amazed. We have heard His teachings and have been deeply moved. Over the last several weeks, however, Jesus has disturbed us more than a few times by talking about dying. He talks about going to Jerusalem and being killed there by our leaders. He talks about rising from the dead which we can’t really understand.
On one occasion not so long ago, Thomas, one of us, urged Jesus not to come to Jerusalem because of the danger of His enemies who are growing stronger and more determined to stand in His way. But, here we are. We followed Jesus to Jerusalem.
To add to our confusion and our uncertainty, just last night in Bethany a woman came and poured expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet. There was quite a buzz around the crowd last night because that perfume could have been sold for so much money and the money given to the poor…at least that is what Judas said, but we know that Judas hasn’t been completely honest with our treasury so we believe he might have had other things in mind (cf. John 12:1-8).
Now this morning, Jesus sent two of us to find this donkey and a colt the foal of a donkey. I’m sure that you can’t just walk up to somebody’s animal and take it away, but that is what Jesus told us to do. And He said if anybody were to ask us what we were doing, we should just tell them that the Lord has need of him.
We went into the city and there we found the donkey and the cold just exactly as Jesus had said.—though that shouldn’t have really surprised us because again and again things that Jesus has said have come true. And now as we walk into Jerusalem and see the crowds praising Jesus, we also know that all of this happened to fulfill the Old Testament. The prophet Zechariah had prophesied that the Messiah would come on a donkey and people would shout His praises, but He would also be lowly and appear to be a common man. This fulfillment of Old Testament prophesy shouldn’t have surprised us either because again and again we have seen how Jesus fulfilled all of the words that were written about the Christ.
Jesus of Nazareth has fulfilled those words of prophecy, He has come with powerful preaching and powerful deeds. These are the reasons I am so certain that He is the Christ. He is the One of whom Zechariah prophesied. He is the One whose coming the other prophets saw with great joy and anticipation. He is my King, my Lord, my Savior! He has fulfilled the prophecies—He is the Son of God and King forever!
And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: “Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Hosanna in the highest!” And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, “Who is this?” So the multitudes said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.”
I was there the day that Jesus of Nazareth rode into Jerusalem in most peculiar fashion. I was there because I had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. While I was there all of a sudden this crowd began to gather. I didn’t know why. I looked and here was this man riding on a donkey! Can you imagine?—a man riding into Jerusalem on a donkey!
I once saw a king riding into a city mounted on the biggest and best steed he could find in his stable and all the people honored and praised him as he came to their city. When that king entered the city all of us who were on the route of the procession laid things down in the pathway of the road so that the hooves of the noble steed bearing the honorable king would not touch the common earth—that would be too simple and too plain for the king.
But now in Jerusalem, was a man riding on a donkey and people were still behaving as if he were a king. His followers had put coats on the animal, set Him on top, and then led Him into town. As they came into the city, the people around me started cutting palm branches—signs of victory and something we would do to honor a king. They laid the palm branches on the ground. They laid their own coats on the ground. So I joined in and laid my coat on the ground and cut down palm branches. The cry went out, “Hosanna!” Hosanna means “save me” and we cry that out to a king or someone else who could actually help someone. The crowd cried out, “Hosanna!” and I joined in, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”
I didn’t know who this man was so I asked around, “who is this?” And the people who were from Jerusalem and the surrounding area responded, “He is Jesus of Nazareth” and they told me about His preaching and His miracles and why the crowds were so excited to see Him in Jerusalem.
I will not suggest that I understood all that went on in Jerusalem today. I was caught up with the crowd and joined in their shouting, but there were people in the crowd who clearly knew this man and knew why they were singing His praises. They were confessing Him to be their king and the fulfiller of Old Testament prophecy.
I must also confess that later this week, on Friday going back so many years, I was in that crowd that also became caught up in the moment and I shouted, “Crucify Him!” When I think back to those days and those events, I think of how excited I was on Palm Sunday and how vicious I was on Good Friday. I rejoice to say that Jesus is my king. I rejoice, not because of any pride or my role in the events of Palm Sunday, but I rejoice in knowing that Jesus as my king went to battle for me. I now understand that He rode into Jerusalem to die and that he died to forgive all of my sins. My comfort, my hope, my help is in my confidence that Jesus is my Savior King.
Luke 19:39-40, John 12:17-19
And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”
Therefore the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of his tomb and raised him from the dead, bore witness. For this reason the people also met Him, because they heard that He had done this sign. The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, “You see that you are accomplishing nothing. Look, the world has gone after Him!”
Who is my king? Not Jesus of Nazareth, I’ll tell you that much! Jesus of Nazareth is nothing but a trouble maker. My fellow Pharisees and I were leaders of the people and well respected. People viewed us as being their role-models. They heard our words and they followed us and we had power and authority in the land and most of all we had influence. But then Jesus came into the world and created all kinds of trouble. He had the gall to rebuke us. Imagine!—a rabbi from Nazareth rebuking a Jerusalem Pharisee such as I! But that’s exactly what He did! He challenged things we had taught for years and continued to teach. Imagine!—a rabbi from Nazareth challenging us!
This Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. We are children of Abraham and we know very well that He was no Son of God. I believe he had a demon even though I couldn’t really find a good and justifiable reason to believe that, nor could I prove it. In the weeks and days leading up to that “Palm Sunday” as His followers call it, we were plotting more and more definitely to kill this Jesus of Nazareth. We hated him so much!
Then this Jesus raised a man from the dead—or at least that’s what the people said—and so many people were there and saw it happen that we couldn’t deny it. People began to follow Jesus because He had raised this man, Lazarus, from the dead. So we thought we would kill Lazarus too!
On Sunday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem and was honored as if he were a king—this man who challenged us, who wouldn’t answer our questions the way we wanted them answered, the one whom people were following and calling him the Son of God. He rode into the city and people praised him and honored him. Even the children joined in the celebration and that was more than we could take. I was one of those who told Jesus to rebuke His disciples and the children and the people crying out. Do you know what Jesus said? He said that if these did not sing his praises, the stones themselves would cry out! That was too much!
On this Sunday of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, my friends—fellow Pharisees—and I are actively plotting Jesus’ death. He is not our king. We would take Caesar over Him, though we don’t want Caesar as king either. We prefer being our own king and determining our own destiny.
2 Corinthians 4:13-18
Earlier in Jesus’ ministry, He asked His disciples, “Who do people say that I, the Son of Man, am?” The disciples responded with a variety of prevailing theories of the day. “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Then Jesus asked, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered through inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Matthew 16:13ff). There were many theories as to who Jesus was. The only truth was that He is the Christ, the Savior of the world.
Today we are asking the question, “Who is your king?” There are many answers but there is only one saving answer. Who is your king, O, disciples? Jesus—with not an entirely clear understanding at this point. Who is your king, O, multitude? Much the same answer though both the multitude and the disciples were mostly looking for a king to redeem them and save them from the Romans. Who is your king, O, Pharisee? Themselves as they relied on their merits and their goodness.
Who is your king, O, Christian of 2008? To answer that question, and to put the events of Palm Sunday into perspective we turn to the Word of God recorded in 2 Corinthians 4:13-18.
And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed and therefore I spoke,” we also believe and therefore speak, knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
In Christ Jesus, our triumphant Savior who rode into Jerusalem to die and who is our King and our salvation, dear fellow-redeemed:
In answering today’s question, we have a great advantage compared to the disciples and the multitude of that first Palm Sunday. We have the advantage because we have the words of fulfillment recorded for us in the New Testament. The confusion and uncertainty among the disciples was gradually removed as the rest of the events of Holy Week unfolded, as Jesus instructed them during the 40 days following Easter, and as the Holy Spirit enlightened them on the day of Pentecost and beyond. We have all of this recorded in God’s Word for our learning. So we have the word of faith which the Apostle Paul speaks of to the Corinthians. We too can say, “I believe and therefore I spoke.” The disciples believed and by inspiration they “spoke” these words for us as they wrote their eyewitness accounts. We also have the advantage of not living through Palm Sunday in real time where we don’t know what happens on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and next Sunday. We have the fullness of information.
As we consider these events of Palm Sunday and see Jesus ride into Jerusalem, we can look back and see Him fulfill the prophecies of Zechariah. We can look back and see how the Sunday before a Thursday Passover was the day the lamb was chosen for the Passover celebration. We see Jesus choosing Himself for our Passover sacrifice in order to redeem us. We can also look forward and see how Jesus agonized in the Garden on Thursday—saving the world from its sin was not an easy affair. We recall how He prayed diligently to the Father, “If it is possible to save mankind in some other way, please do it in that way, but not My will, but yours be done” (cf. Matthew 26:36ff, et. al.). We rejoice to know that Jesus willingly did accomplish salvation in the only way that He could.
Also on Thursday we are reminded how Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper—giving the bread and the wine and saying this is My body, this is, My blood so that generations later we are still receiving Christ’s body and blood in a miraculous way for our salvation as we receive the bread and wine in a natural way. Then comes the day we refer to as Good Friday, but it would seem to be anything but good. Nevertheless, the day Jesus died was “good” because His death is our life. A week from today we will rejoice to again remember the victorious news that He has risen from the dead. All of this is tied up in the word of faith. All of this is part of that truth which the Hoy Spirit has enabled us to believe and therefore we speak even as the apostles did.
Who is our King? It is Jesus who laid down His life for our salvation. Of this we speak and for that we praise Him. Paul also points out that having Jesus as our King doesn’t always come with a great deal of praise for us in this world. We, first of all, live in a sinful world that has the effects of sin so we’ll battle through the things of this life. Secondly, people will afflict us and persecute us because we are proclaiming Jesus as our King.
Paul directs our minds and hearts to the invisible—the things you can’t see. You can see the headlines that challenge Christianity and suggest it is foolishness. You can see and hear those great minds of our age suggesting that if you believe what is in God’s Word and therefore reject what is commonly believed in science today, you’re just a fool. We see people in other places of the world dying because they confess Jesus as their King. We see so much crime and effect of evil in our world. We see sin and wickedness. We see and know that sin is in our own lives. But Paul directs us to see the invisible: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing (part of the effect of sin is that we get diseases, we are injured, and one day we will all die), yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.” [v.16]
We can’t see the inward man being renewed. Nor can anyone specifically see Jesus ruling in the earth because He doesn’t have a visible kingdom, but He is ruling in our hearts and in our lives. What we can’t see is far greater and far better than what we do see. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” [vv.17-18] When we stand at Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week, and begin to recall all of the things we believe and therefore speak, we are witnessing and remembering things that happened visibly but are continually active invisibly because of the truth of God’s Word living and growing in our hearts.
Jesus is our King because He is the One who provides for us. He is our King because He is the One who leads us, He is our King because He is the One who went to battle to defeat our greatest foes. He is our king because He has all power in Heaven and on earth—a power He uses for us and our benefit. He is our King because His Word is the greatest word that we can hear. His Word is our greatest treasure. He is our King because through the working of the Holy Spirit He lives in our hearts, guiding and governing our lives and our faith; and through that faith He gives us forgiveness of sins.
Who is your king, O, Christian? May it ever be the profession of our faith: Jesus Christ is my King, my Lord, my Savior, and by God’s grace, my Brother! Amen.
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