Palm Sunday

The past three weeks, we learned about some significant burdens of ours that Jesus took on Himself; physical sickness & disease, mental pain & suffering, and all of our sin including the punishment, transgressions, and iniquities.

This week, we celebrate the tradition of Palm Sunday.  This marks the day when Jesus went into Jerusalem knowing that He was about to take on the weight of all of these burdens.

Unfortunately, all of the palm trees that I’ve ever planted failed to grow and I suspect this might be the case for you as well.  Whether or not you have a palm branch or leaf with you this morning, we’re still going to celebrate Palm Sunday together.

Have you ever experienced a time when you were hurting badly inside, weighed down so heavily, but those around you were not feeling the same way?  Everyone around you seems to be joyfully laughing and celebrating while you feel like you are dying inside?

I suspect that Jesus felt that way on this day that we now celebrate.  He knew exactly what lay before Him because He had warned His disciples about it several times beforehand.  He knew the agony and horror that He was about to experience in order to pay the price of our sin.

However, the people around Him were rejoicing.  They were celebrating and honoring Him as their king, their long-awaited savior! 

It was a time of great joy, hope, and eager expectation of what Jesus was about to do.  Both the crowds and Jesus were looking forward to the fulfillment of our salvation prophesied so long ago. 

However, their perspectives and expectations of what this salvation would look like were radically different.  Jesus was aware of this and tried to help everyone to better understand what was about to take place.

This moment in history, this fulfillment of the prophecy found in Zechariah 9, was so significant that all four gospel accounts were sure to record it.  The diversity of their expectations and emotions is revealed most clearly in Luke’s account:

Luke 19

10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.

11 While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. 12 He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. 13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’

14 “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’

15 “He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.

In this parable, Jesus goes on to explain the timing and the way in which the Kingdom of God was going to be established.

Many of those with Him believed that Jesus was about to ride into Jerusalem, overthrow the Roman government and be their physical king.  They limited their expectations of the salvation of God to their worldly experience.

As we know full well now, Jesus was about to save His people and that He is certainly a victorious king.  However, His kingdom is not of this world. 

He was not going to meet the expectations of many Jews and the same crowd who was soon going to praise Him as their king would also, days later, shout to reject Him entirely and have Him crucified.

28 After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 As he approached Bethphage 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. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’”

32 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”

34 They replied, “The Lord needs it.”

35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.

37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:

38 “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 Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”

40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

You can imagine the pure joy experienced by everyone as they travelled along in a parade-like manner.  They were joyfully praising God in a loud voice for the salvation that Jesus was about to bring them.

They were living out the fulfillment of prophecy unfolding right before their very eyes and they knew it.  It was so momentous that Jesus knew that it could not be stopped, even the rocks would cry out.  I’m sure that He was rejoicing with them as well.

But then…  Jesus reached a point in their journey that brought the reality of the cost of this salvation back into focus.  The loud rejoicing of the people faded away as the sight of Jerusalem came into view.  Jesus alone understood fully what was about to take place.

41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. … because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

Sometimes, we don’t understand what God is up to.  He permits things to happen that do not make sense to us.  We find ourselves in frustration asking God, “Why?”  While the whole town of Jerusalem was astir, His disciples had this same experience.  John recorded it saying this:

John 12:16

At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him.

After they entered Jerusalem and were preparing to celebrate the Passover together, Jesus began to wash the feet of the disciples.  He explained to them:

John 13:7

“You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

When God doesn’t make sense to us, we can turn back to the things that we know of for sure.  God is faithful and trustworthy.  In fact, Revelation assigns the names to Jesus of Faithful and True.

Though we may struggle to recognize the timing of God and the season that He has us in and the way in which He is working, we find peace when we choose to trust in Him and press into Him instead of leaning further into our own understanding.

It’s OK not to be OK and not understanding everything right now is sometimes just a part of being right in the center of God’s will for us.

When the most significant time of God’s salvation was occurring, the most important event of mankind’s history aside from the beginning and end of creation, misunderstanding was everywhere. 

In fact, it seemed that Jesus alone fully understood what was happening and why.  Only later did others begin to understand what occurred, even though Jesus explained it to them several times.

Just because you don’t understand what is happening does not mean that you aren’t right where God wants you to be and doing exactly what God wants you to do.  This is precisely why we walk by faith and not by sight; why we are lead by the Holy Spirit and not by our flesh.

When we look at the world around us, it is being reported by others as if though the world is falling apart.  From God’s perspective, however, it might just be getting put back together. 

Families are being forced away from their hectic schedules of work and practices and games to spending simple time together. 

Our trust in the things of this world is being shaken as the economy is on an uncertain roller coaster.  The things that we often rely on for our daily provision is unsure.

Many are turning back to God in prayer and reading the Bible for answers and direction. 

The church is being forced outside of the walls of a building.  The measure of a church’s success can no longer be based on a number of attendees sitting in seats nor the amount of money brought in by offering plates.  Rather, serving the various needs of the community has become the renewed focus of the church.

Perhaps, as in the lyrics of the Casting Crowns song states, your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place.  You’re not alone, He’s on the throne, stop holding on and just be held.

As Jesus said to His disciples after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem as He washed their feet, Jesus is saying to you right now:

John 13:7

“You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

It’s recorded in Matthew’s account that:

Matthew 21:10

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

For certain, the whole world seems to be stirred right now.  In the middle of all of the chaos, many people are asking that very same question today about Jesus, “Who is this?”  Jesus’ response?

“I am He.”

This was His response to the woman at the well thirsting for living water that satisfies.

John 4:25-26

25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

This was His response when His own disciple betrayed Him and handed Him over to His death.

John 18:5-8

5 “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.

“I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) 6 When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

7 Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?”

“Jesus of Nazareth,” they said.

8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he…”

Jesus says, “I am he.”

He is the way, the truth, the life. 

He is the only way to eternal life into the Kingdom of God.

He is the only God who wrapped Himself in our flesh, relating to us in every way.

He is the only human to live a sinless life.

He is the only God who sacrificed Himself on our behalf.

He is the only one who can forgive our sin.

He is the beginning and the end.

He is the only one who will forever faithfully be with us and for us.

He is the only defender we have before the Father and our accuser.

He is everything we will ever need and so much more!

Many are asking who this Jesus is.  That same question that Jesus asked Peter, He is asking you and I now this morning.

Matthew 16:15

“But what about you?” Jesus asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Who is Jesus to you?  Is He your savior?  Is He Lord of your life?  Jesus said:

John 8:24-28

I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.”

There is no need for us to die in our sins.  Forgiveness is freely available to anyone who will simply believe Jesus at His claim that, “I am he.” 

If you believe that Jesus is who He said that He is, call on Him and He will forgive you of all of your sin.  He will give you eternal life and today will be the first day of your new life!  Jesus said that:

Mark 13:6, Luke 21:8

Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many.

We, however, do not need to be deceived by anyone else who claims that they can save us.  It is Jesus alone who is mighty to save us.  He alone is all that we need. 

If we put our faith in Him, we will get to celebrate this Palm Sunday event once again!  The disciple John was given a peek forward into Heaven and saw this:

Revelation 7:9-14

9 After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,

who sits on the throne,

and to the Lamb.”

13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”

14 I answered, “Sir, you know.”

And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

“These are they” who believe Jesus who said, “I am he.”

Today, we all have the awesome opportunity to ensure our place with the “these are they” multitude with palm branches in hand loudly giving praise to Jesus who has saved us.

Today can be the day of your salvation when all of your sin is forgiven and your new life begins.  Jesus declares, “Behold, I make all things new!” and that can be said about you!

We can gain the victory over our many tribulations through the blood of Jesus that was shed on the cross.  He took it all on Himself, won the victory, and now freely offer us the rich reward from it.