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Palm Sunday

April 26, 2009

Today is Palm Sunday; the day we remember Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. It is also Lord’s Supper Sunday. And so we are going to look at this celebration and then we will rejoice and glorify God with the multitudes as we partake of the Supper. And my prayer is that our rejoicing will not be as fickle as that of the crowds who came to Jerusalem that day, who only a few days later were crying for His crucifixion. I pray that we are not double minded, double hearted people; who love Jesus one moment and the world the next! And I would like to begin with a poem by G.K. Chesterton called “The Donkey.”

 

THE DONKEY
 
When fishes flew and forests walked 
and figs grew on a thorn, 
some moment when the moon was blood 
then surely I was born; 

With monstrous head and sickening cry 
and ears like errant wings, 
the devil’s walking parody 
of all four-footed things. 

The tattered outlaw of the earth, 
of ancient crooked will; 
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb, 
I keep my secret still. 

Fools! For I also had my hour; 
one glorious hour and sweet: 
There were shouts and praises in my ears, 
and palm branches at my feet.

 

We will look at two texts. The first is Jo 12:12-16 where we read “On the next day the large crowd who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13  took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, “Hosanna! BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD, even the King of Israel.” 14  Jesus, finding a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written, 15  “FEAR NOT, DAUGHTER OF ZION; BEHOLD, YOUR KING IS COMING, SEATED ON A DONKEY’S COLT.” 16  These things His disciples did not understand at the first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things to Him.

 

The second text is found in the 19th chapter of Luke’s Gospel and beginning at verse 28 “After He had said these things, He was going on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 When He approached Bethphage and Bethany, near the mount that is called Olivet, He sent two of the disciples, 30 saying, “Go into the village ahead of you; there, as you enter, you will find a colt tied on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it and bring it here. 31 “If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of it.’” 32 So those who were sent went away and found it just as He had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 They said, “The Lord has need of it.” 35 They brought it to Jesus, and they threw their coats on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As He was going, they were spreading their coats on the road.

37 As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, 38 shouting: “BLESSED IS THE KING WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” 40 But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!”

 

Here we have the account of the Triumphal Entry. It is called so because of the spontaneous celebration that occurred. Now we must ask ourselves; why did this celebration occur? What was the catalyst? Was it, as one of my New Testament professors believes, Jesus attempt to get people to believe that He was the Messiah? This is incredibly sad and worse still, because people humanize Jesus to the point of fallibility, they believe it. This is all possible because people who are saved under faulty ministries are taught that Jesus was a man who had ‘the Christ’ spirit upon Him. Others are taught that Jesus was a good teacher, a great moral leader and whatnot. Still others teach that God took on the body of a man and was limited to time and space and this included the giving up of His omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence.

I disagree. Consider first the proclamation of Lu 2:11 “for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Jesus Lord at Thy birth! Cristov o kurios: that is Christ, the Messiah, the Savior and the Lord, Ruler, Master! Joh 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Let me give you a Greek grammar lesson to illustrate what is being said here. This passage states that “In the beginning or at the origin of all things, the Word was. Was is a present active indicative word which signifies an ongoing action. John is telling us that this Word always was. In the beginning, the Word had already existed from all eternity. He was and is (this is an ongoing action) with God and indeed He was and is and always will be God! Then as we read Joh 1:14 “And the preexisting Word Who was and is and always will be God stepped out of time and became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw in Him, His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

 

In Jesus was life and that life was the light of men. It is interesting that men try, in their humanization of Jesus, to say that it was possible for Him to sin, that if He could not have sinned then what was the point of temptation. To this I answer that He did not come down for the purpose of possibly sinning. He came to take on  a body of flesh Heb 10:5 declares “Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, “SACRIFICE AND OFFERING YOU HAVE NOT DESIRED, BUT A BODY YOU HAVE PREPARED FOR ME; Jesus Christ took on a body of flesh for the purpose of living a life of perfect conformity to His Law, offering that body up as a sacrifice for our sins and then rising from the dead in that body for our justification.

 

Note what Heb 4:15 says to us: “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” Now does that mean that Jesus was considering the offers of the devil? Does that mean that he was pondering taking him up on his offer? NO! What this passage means first of all is that, in His human body Jesus felt hunger and thirst and weariness. And when the devil tempted Jesus in the wilderness, he tempted Him in every manner that we have ever been tempted in; lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh and the pride of life.

 

And yet Jesus never sinned. If He had contemplated the offers of the devil, He would have been considering them in His mind and Jesus Himself said that if we look upon a woman to lust after her, even if we haven’t done the deed physically, we have, in our contemplation have committed the sin in our hearts. So too, if Jesus had thought about these temptations, He too would have already committed them in His mind as well! And this is impossible for “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” 1Jo 1:5 and   “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” Jas 1:17 

 

You see, we are dealing with God here and God is perfect in all of His ways. “Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?” Ex 15:11 

 

Nu 23:19 declares that “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” And what did God make good? What has He said and done? He has sent His Son, according to His promise, to save us from our sins! 1Jo 4:10 “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Ga 4:4-5 “But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”

 

History is His Story, the unfolding of His divine decrees that He made in eternity past. We cannot even begin to grasp any of this for the secret things belong to the Lord. But the scriptures reveal the things God wants us to know and the crux of scripture is summed up in Jesus. He is the crimson thread that runs through all of the word of God from Genesis 1 where we read “Let US make man” to the promise of a redeemer in Genesis 3:15, to the promised Seed of Abraham in Genesis 22, to the promise of the Seed of David in 2Samuel 7:13, to the promises declared to us through Isaiah the Prophet of the virgin bearing Immanuel in Isaiah 7:14, the proclamation of the nature of the Messiah in 9:6, the place of His birth in Micah 5:2, to the prophesy of Zechariah 9:9 which points to our text today.

 

Now let’s follow the events as recorded in the gospel of Luke 19, beginning at verse 28 “After He had said these things, He was going on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. In Lu 13:33 Jesus declares “Nevertheless I must journey on today and tomorrow and the next day; for it cannot be that a prophet would perish outside of Jerusalem. What a miserable indictment against the nation God chose out from all others to be His special people! He delivered them from the power of Egypt and gave them a place they had not worked for, houses they hadn’t built, and vineyards they hadn’t planted. And how did they repay Him? With rebellion! They turned from God and His laws and did what was right in their own eyes. They professes to be wise but demonstrated that they were indeed fools. They exchanged the glory of the living God who had spoken to them at Mount Sinai for stone and wood which cannot see, here nor speak.

 

But see the mercy of God! Despite their rebellion He came to visit them. He came to His own…but the vast majority did not receive Him. Worse still, the religious leaders, who professed scriptural wisdom, did not receive Him. Rather it was they who worked the crowd into a slobbering frenzy to cry for His crucifixion. Note that even though He knew, for He had foreordained all things: that He was going to His death, Jesus did not turn from the right hand or the left but set His face like flint to go to Jerusalem. He declares in Joh 12:27 “Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.

 

And so we read in verse 29 that “When He approached Bethphage and Bethany, near the mount that is called Olivet, He sent two of the disciples, 30 saying, “Go into the village ahead of you; there, as you enter, you will find a colt tied on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it and bring it. Note two things. 1st, Jesus displays His omniscience and His omnipresence. He knows all things for He decreed that on this day there would be a certain donkey in a certain place. And as He had seen Nathaniel under the fig tree before Philip called him to come meet the Master, so to I believe He saw this donkey.

 

He also demonstrates His omnipotence over His creation in two ways. 1st, He has ordained that there will be no objection to the procuring of this animal once the reason is made known  as we read in verse 31 “If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of it.’” 32 So those who were sent went away and found it just as He had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 They said, “The Lord has need of it.”

Matthew and Mark include the statement “and straightway he will send him hither.” In other words, there will be no problems. God has spoken. His decree will be carried out without question. He has decreed the end from the beginning and all things are set in place to fulfill His holy Word.

 

2nd, even though no man has ever ridden on this animal, there will be no trouble for the Lord of creation has called, and even the wind and the waves obey His voice. Now this procession that is about to take place has interesting connotations. You see, this was the manner in which kings visited their capitols and indeed we read these words in Zechariah 9:9 “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. The king was coming and indeed more than a king for here was none other than the KING of kings and the LORD of lords. Note that He came humbly. He had not come to destroy but to save His people from their sins. When He comes the second time it will be as the Omnipotent Judge of all the earth and then men will fear.

 

But this day was not a day of fear. It was a day of rejoicing. Note further in verse 35 They brought it to Jesus, and they threw their coats on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As He was going, they were spreading their coats on the road. 37 As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, 38 shouting: “BLESSED IS THE KING WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Here we come to answer the question asked at the outset of the lesson. What caused this celebration? What was the catalyst? The answer to this question is simple. The Spirit of God came upon this multitude and they could not but sing out in praise and adoration. Note that their praise is scriptural. These men are quoting Psalm 118, known as the “Hallel.” It was the song sung during the Passover celebration and here we have Jesus, the sacrificial Passover Lamb riding into Jerusalem to be offered up as the perfect sacrifice for our sins.

 

This Spirit led praise is a picture of what we will be doing before the Throne of Grace for all eternity. Let no one fool you into believing that we are going to be zooming from one end of the universe to another or that we are going to be busy shaking hands with Abraham Lincoln and David and whoever. We will not be given jobs to do such as keeping the golden streets clean for dirt is a result of sin and decay and there will be no such thing in the Heavenly Jerusalem. No, we will be glorifying God for all eternity for the mercy and grace He has lavished upon us in the salvation of our souls.

 

But how about now? What about today? Are you rejoicing today for the mercy that God has shown you in saving your never dying soul? Are you filled with gratitude for this incredible merciful gift that was lavished upon you? Do your praises show it? When you sing hymns to our Lord are you singing to Him or are you merely trying to get through the verses? You see, it has been my experience that many times when people sing hymns, there is very little heart in what they are doing. The scriptures declare that the greatest commandment is to “Love the LORD thy God with all of thy heart, soul mind and strength.” This means that we are to love Him with our whole being. God doesn’t like or want half hearted praise. This is a Laodecian thing.

 

I can’t tell you how many times I have led music in churches only to see the congregation just going through the motions. How many years have you sung these hymns? Don’t you think that if you really loved God and really meant what you were singing that by now you might have many of the words of these hymns memorized? Instead we stare at the words and just hope we can get it over with without making a mistake. The excuses for lackluster praise are many: I can’t sing well, I don’t know the words, I don’t know the melody, I don’t know…

 

What a bunch of hooey! If you love Jesus then you will make a joyful noise unto the Lord. That means what you sing will come from within your being and will pour out of you like rivers of living water.

The praise that you sing to God from the hymns will be the out-gushing of the love you have for Him within you instead of “there’s a sweet, sweet spirit in this place….” with no heart at all. I believe that such ‘praise’ disgusts our God. He gave His all for us. He paid the ultimate price for us. He lavished His grace upon us with nothing held back. How can we just ‘go through the motions?’ How can we think that what He has commanded is for somebody else?

 

“But I don’t want to stand out! I’m not gifted in this or that area! We should be dignified and not let it all hang out! Let me tell you something. The Pharisees had this mindset. Look at what they did when they observed the multitudes worshiping with their whole hearts. 39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” Hold them back. Tell them to tone it down. They are going too far! They can’t say that kind of stuff!

 

What they were really saying is “We don’t what these people are saying about you!” And at the same time, they were demonstrating hatred for the Holy Spirit of God who had instigated all of this. He was the catalyst of this praise-a-thon! When God moves among a people there are always those who will find fault. There will always be people who will say, “You’re going too far!” We don’t do stuff like that around here!” But these people don’t know God for those who do cannot help but to throw their whole beings into praise to God. Their lives radiate His presence and their mouths reveal what is in their hearts.

 

Notice 1 “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. 2 Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” God’s creation is continually praising His Name though men suppress His glory in unrighteousness. But what if God’s restraining hand were lifted for a moment to allow His creation to praise His Name in audibly? Remember Balaam’s donkey. God loosed its mouth and the donkey spoke to Balaam and rebuked him for his sin.

 

In the same way, were God to loose His restraining hand upon His creation…40 “But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!” We are told that creation groans under the weight of sin and longs to be set free from corruption. And one day this will happen. Palm Sunday is the picture. The reality of final deliverance is coming. In our account of the Triumphal Entry, the KING came, riding on a donkey’s colt. He came in mercy to save His helpless people from their sins.

 

But the day is coming and it may be very soon when our great KING of kings will return; He will be wearing crowns and will be riding on a white horse and on that day all creation will rejoice. The Conquering King will come and deliver us from the bondage that we groan under. All the vain devices of man, all the oppression of sin, all the suppression of truth will be swept away as God destroys His enemies with the Sword that comes out of His mouth. Men may shake their fists in rebellion now. Sin may seem to have the upper hand today. We may be killed or imprisoned for our faith in Jesus Christ. But fear not Him who can kill the body but after that has nothing more he can do. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. On that final day when Jesus returns, He will take us home to be with Him and then in unrestrained gladness, we will pour out our very souls before the Throne of Grace in praise and adoration!

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