Sunday, April 1, 2007

Palm Sunday 2007

INTRODUCTION

SCRIPTURE READING

Luke 19:28 - 44

Luke 19:29 – 31

29As Jesus approached Bethpage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30“Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it.’ ”

PRAYER

Our story begins on an early Sunday morning as Jesus was walking toward Jerusalem.

Jesus stops along the way and sends two of his disciples ahead of Him into a nearby village to carry out a special errand.

The two disciples must have wondered about what Jesus had told them to do, because we know that no where else in the scriptures does it tell us of Jesus riding any animal to get from one place to another.

He must have walked hundreds of miles up and down the land now called the “Holy Land”, but there is no mention of Him ever riding, except in a boat across the Sea of Galilee.

But now, He gives this unusual command to go into the village to get a colt that had never been ridden, and to bring it to Him.

It must have seemed a strange command.

It is obvious though that Jesus knew what He was going to face in the city of Jerusalem.

So His decision to go must have been difficult.

But He knew His fathers will, and He lived it.

To ride into a city on a colt or a donkey, rather than to walk into it as He had often done before, must have also seemed strange to the disciples.

Because riding a colt into a city was a public declaration that was reserved for a King.

In times of war the conqueror would ride a prancing stallion. But in times of peace, the King would ride a colt to symbolize that peace prevailed.

For Jesus to ride a colt into Jerusalem, He was declaring He was a King, and that peace prevailed.

How would the people respond to that notion?

Would they recognize that His kingdom was not of this world?

That it was a spiritual kingdom and He was a spiritual King?

Not likely, because He had been teaching them this for 3 ½ years already and they still had not learned that lesson.

I imagine the scene that day as Jesus rode the colt into Jerusalem.

Perhaps some of them would greet Him with laughter?

Maybe they would be amused by what Jesus was doing? After all, it was rather a ridiculous picture.

Here is a carpenter declaring Himself to be a King!

Perhaps some would think, “He is a lunatic, living in a world of fantasy – imagining Himself to be a King!” And they would laugh.

Others would greet Him with anger – upset because they would interpret His riding into the city as arrogance and blasphemy against God.

Of course, many would hail Him with joy, welcoming Him as an earthly King, come to reestablish the throne of David and overthrow the Roman Empire.

They were ready and eager to place a crown upon His head.

Perhaps among the crowd there would be people He had healed.

Some may have been among the thousands He had fed.

Many more had seen he miracles, and listened as “He spoke with authority.”

They had listened and their lives had been changed.

Jesus knew all of this. He knew that just over the horizon was the cross, looming like a monster waiting to consume Him.

But in spite of all of this, Jesus still “…set His face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem.”

Jesus rides on.

As Jesus rides down toward the gate of the city, the crowds are growing, and there is a festive air, for it is Passover and pilgrims are gathering from far and near for this greatest of all Jewish holidays.

Jews from all over are coming with their traditional sacrifices for the Passover feast on this day, to bring them to the high priests to be examined for blemish before their sacrifice.

Most of them unaware that the true sacrifice had arrived!

The perfect Lamb without blemish that all of the traditions and scriptures had pointed to for generations.

The only one who could make things new.

The one who would face those very same high priests in the courtyard, and be examined for fault before His sacrifice, and be found to be without blemish or fault.

Even before Jesus arrived, the news has spread that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. You can imagine the excitement.

“Have you heard the news? Lazarus died, and was buried in a tomb so long that the body was starting to decay. But this teacher from Nazareth called, ‘Lazarus, come forth’ and Lazarus came forth!

He actually walked and breathed again! Surely only the Messiah – only the Son of God could do that!

The news travels, until finally when Jesus is ready to enter the city, great crowds had collected on both sides of the road.

They had cut palm branches and were shouting, “Hosanna to the King!”

Excitement prevailed through the whole city.

Then Jesus looked over His waiting audience.

He looked at the mixture of expressions upon their faces.

There were those who loved Him, perhaps Bartimaeus was there, the man who received his sight, no longer in beggar’s rags.

Maybe Zacchaeus was there as well? He paid back his debt to society, and had made peace with God.

Maybe some of the lepers whose skin had been cleansed now rejoicing for the healing that the Lord had given them.

There were also sinister faces in the crowd, faces with squinting eyes, waiting for Him to say one wrong word – to make one mistake.

The Sadducees and Pharisees were there. They were supposed to be keepers of the law, the spiritual leaders. But Jesus had gained so much popularity that they felt threatened. So, full of jealousy they watched Him.

The Romans were there, fearing revolt and watching for any sign of rebellion against Rome. They were ready and watching to crush any uprising.

Jesus listened to their “Hosanna’s,” knowing that soon the sinister voices would drown out the voices of love.

He knew that those crying for Him to be King would soon be crying, “Crucify Him!” or simply standing aside, saying nothing at all.

Now Jesus is descending along the road from the Mt. of Olives, across the brook, toward the gate, the crowds surrounding Him.

I wonder how the apostles were reacting to all of this.

Judas was probably ecstatic – basking in the reflected glory – perhaps wanting an earthly kingdom more than the others.

Peter with his chest out enjoying the cheers of the crowd, maybe with one hand on his sword just in case something went wrong.

Thomas a bit skeptical about it all, and wondering what was going to happen next.

Andrew overwhelmed with the size of the crowd, being used to bringing those to Jesus one by one.

James and John thinking about Jesus being crowned King so they could sit at His right and left hand in positions of authority and power.

They were all in Jerusalem – loving faces, sinister faces, anxious apostles.

Crowds trampling almost one upon another – when suddenly – the whole procession stopped.

I can almost hear the yelling now, “What’s going on up there?” “Why are we stopped?” “Get moving!”

Like rush hour traffic, everyone at a stand still.

But the people closest to Jesus could see – and they realized that it was He who stopped the parade.

Then they saw His body begin to shake. Maybe at first they thought He was laughing.

Laughter would seem to be natural – for everybody else was laughing, and joy prevailed.

But then they saw His face, and they saw no evidence of laughter.

Rather, they saw sorrow & tears. He was not laughing. He was crying.

He looked at the city of Jerusalem. He saw the mixture of faces and the masses of humanity crowding there and He saw the emptiness of their lives.

They had not heard the message of peace.

They did not understand the purpose of His coming.

They were lost, and most didn’t even realize it.

This broke Jesus’ heart.

Luke 19:41 – 44

41As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace–but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you.”

The suffering they were going to endure because they did not recognize God’s coming, and Jesus’ sacrifice. Because they rejected Christ and what He had done, they had to endure the what was to come.

They had eyes, but they didn’t see.

They had ears, but they didn’t hear.

They missed the whole point of the message that God had given them.

They missed that the scriptures they so loved, what we now call the Old Testament, all pointed to Christ and His sacrifice for our redemption.

The fact that they waved their palm branches showed that they didn’t understand, because that is exactly what they did when the Maccabees overthrew the Syrian oppressors and reestablished worship in the Temple.

By waving palm branches they were showing that they expected Jesus to be another warlord – another general of the armies – one who would lead them to overthrow the Romans.

They were saying that they were ready to pick up their swords and shields and go to war if He would lead them!

Jesus said, “I didn’t come for that purpose. I came to show you a more excellent way. I came to show you the way of love.”

He said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. If someone wants your coat, give him your shirt as well. If they command you to carry their pack a mile, go two.”

Those listening must have thought, “Beautiful words Jesus, but surely you don’t mean Rome?” You don’t expect us to love Rome? Only a mad man would command you to love Rome! We can’t love Rome.”

But don’t you see – that was exactly what He was saying.

“Love even Rome – because Rome with her mighty army has seen the power of the sword. But Rome has not seen the power of love. Show them love!”

The nation of Israel had the opportunity to show Rome something new and different. But because they didn’t understand Jesus – because they completely misunderstood His mission – Jesus wept over them because the opportunity would be taken away and they would never have it again.

Just one more time God’s people did not seize and opportunity to do God’s will.

These were God’s people – God’s chosen people. God had loved them and led them across the wilderness and into the Promised Land.

But they did not understand the Messiah when He walked in their midst.

Because of that, Jesus wept.

As Jesus sits upon His beast of burden, He sees the towering Temple of God silhouetted against the sky. But beyond that – in the years immediately ahead – He sees the armies of Titus surrounding the Holy City. He sees the Temple stones being taken down and the whole city leveled.

He sees bodies in the streets and blood running in the gutters and hundreds of thousands of people crying because they are starving to death while Titus waits for Jerusalem to surrender.

All of this, because they didn’t recognize the Messiah when He came.

In Matthew we read that Jesus looked at the city and said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem. How many times would I have gathered you together as a hen gathers her chicks beneath her wings. But you would not come.”

Today, just like the city of Jerusalem, we find ourselves in the presence of Jesus.

I wonder what He finds when He looks into our faces?

Does He see people concerned about so many things – worried about income taxes – worried about job security – worried about their health or lack of?

Does He see people who are so busy doing things here and there – so busy that they never bother to consider those things that are eternally important?

Does He see people who recognize Him for who He is?

The Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God?

When He turns and looks into our lives, I wonder, will He weep once again because of what He sees?

Or will He see the joy that passes all understanding as we respond to His outstretched arms and hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”

Jesus entered the city at the same time the Jews were preparing for the Passover.

He entered the same gate as the rest of the sacrifices.

He will also be examined by the high priests just as the other sacrifices were.

Examined for blemish or fault by the relentless barrage of questioning about God and His Holy Word.

And just like the other approved sacrifices, He was found to have no fault or blemish.

Tomorrow at sunset Passover begins and lasts until the 10th, and Jesus spent Passover with the disciples.

Passover was one of the 7 Holy Days given by God to the people to be passed down from generation to generation, to teach a spiritual truth through an outward expression.

To mark a place and time in God’s calendar of time and events.

Passover was to remember that the people of God were in bondage.

Bondage of Egypt.

The sacrifice of a lamb was needed to protect God’s people from the coming judgment.

The first born of each household had died for whoever did not follow God’s instruction.

And then God’s people were delivered through the desert, and having passed through the water of the red sea, escaped destruction from Egypt’s armies.

They then entered the promise land.

Jesus on the night of Passover revealed the Spiritual truth behind the outward expression of the Passover feast to His disciples.

We too are born into bondage, the bondage of sin.

The sacrifice of the perfect lamb without blemish is needed and fulfilled through Jesus Christ, the first born Son, and the cross to save us from what is coming, the final judgment.

And through accepting this sacrifice, and having passed through the waters (in baptism) as another outward expression of a Spiritual truth within us, that we have accepted Christ’s sacrifice and have been washed clean by His redeeming blood, we too will escape the destruction from sin and the devils armies.

We too shall enter into the Promised Land.

But to escape the final judgment, you have to have a sacrifice.

Today is Palm Sunday; do you have the sacrifice needed for the Passover?

Do you have what is needed for the removal of your sins?

Have you received Jesus Christ as your Passover sacrifice? That’s the only one that counts!

INVITATION

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