MARCH 20, 2016
MAIN TEXT: LUKE 19:28-44
And when he had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’” So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”
And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
Palm Sunday signifies the beginning of one of the most important weeks in history – Holy Week. Holy Week is also known as Passion Week, referring to Christ’s suffering. It is the last Sunday of Lent, a season of repentance. Palm Sunday observance originated in the Jerusalem Church around the fourth century when the clergy and the people moved among the various holy sites throughout the city reciting prayers, singing hymns, and proclaiming sermons.
Palm Sunday commemorates the entry of Jesus into the city of Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. Many of us have heard of the scene so many times that we can almost see it in our minds. However, what was really happening that day? What are the implications of that triumphal entry that we should apply to our lives today? Let’s take a look at the scene from different vantage points.
The Scene: On the Surface
If you love irony, Palm Sunday is for you. The scene was crystallized in many of our minds when we were very young. We remember the paintings of Jesus riding bareback on a colt (Zechariah 9:9) and seeing the faces of the happy people as they worshipped Jesus. They lined both sides of the trail ahead of him. Faces radiant, they laid palm branches – symbols of military victory – in the road to make the passage smoother for the Lord.
Their words were filled with expectancy, echoed Psalm 118, and have been spoken down through generations:
“Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel!”
For centuries, Christians have called this trip Jesus’ “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem. Much the opposite, it was really a parade of pain. Luke, the writer of our text, records that Jesus wept when the journey ended. It was not because the party was over, but because the people just didn’t get it (Luke 19:41-42). They didn’t know what would bring them peace. It makes us wonder:
- How could all those people be so nearly right and so completely wrong?
- Why did the Palm Sunday crowd get the words right, but the meaning wrong?
On the surface, the view from the Sunday School painting for children, Palm Sunday seems wonderful - a smiling, cheering throng lining the road as Jesus journeys to Jerusalem. They shout words that we know to be true. That is our Savior they’re talking about! We know he not only “comes in the name of the Lord” but also is indeed Lord. We know that he not only is “King of Israel” but King of all creation. We wish we could’ve been there, to join that happy crowd, to get a glimpse of Jesus.
The Scene: The Bitter Ironic Truth
The palm fronds give away the bitter, ironic truth. Sure, the Jewish crowd cut them down and laid them in the road to smooth His path. But they might as well have thrown stones at his pony, for all the good they did. The palm branches signaled their expectation of a military victory. The facts are:
- They were captive in their homeland.
- Roman soldiers ordered their society.
- The boot of Rome crushed their necks.
The crowd’s cry, “Hosanna” ironically means, “Lord, save us”. They cheered for Jesus, the miracle-working rabbi from Nazareth, because they wanted him to overthrow their oppressors. They expected Jesus to lead an uprising of military and political liberation, not lay down His life as a spiritual sacrifice for Romans as well as Jews. Their words could not have been truer, but they could not have been more understood by those shouting them. Only Jesus knew the full significance of what they were saying.
The Palm Sunday crowd loved Jesus for what they expected Him to be, not for what He was. That “love” evaporated between Sunday morning, when He rode into Jerusalem, and Thursday night, when the Roman and Jewish leaders collaborated to try Him for treason. Even His handpicked followers, who had spent three years watching Him perform miracles and listening to Him teach, fled in fear.
The Scene: Our Vantage Point
Our vantage point and our vanity tempt us to judge then harshly. We know the “rest of the story”. Yes, He died on a Roman cross later that week, but He rose from the grave the following Sunday and defeated death, offering eternal life to all who will believe in Him. So we condemn their hard-hearted spiritual blindness. We can’t understand why they couldn’t get it.
Ironically, not all that much has changed in 2000 years. People still love Jesus for what they want Him to do for them, not necessarily what His heavenly Father sent Him to do, which was to offer spiritual healing to all people, eternal life to “whosoever will” embrace Him in faith. Like the crowd that lined the road that day, we are tempted to succumb to our human selfishness. We want to turn Jesus into
- a national mascot,
- a denominational totem, or
- a personal genie.
Like they did, we still desire to project our desire upon God’s will and proclaim it to be truth. But if they were wrong, we might be too. We must learn what God’s plans are and join Him in those endeavors. His divine will is not always what we want, desire, or would like. Sometimes His plans for us are painful, full of suffering, and not our way.
This day we need to remember the crowd that lined the path and the palm branches and allow them to remind us how little that crowd understood Jesus’ mission; how wrong they were. But rather than smug satisfaction, we need to pray for humility and ask God to superimpose His will for our lives and this world over our own selfish desires. Celebration comes next week. Palm Sunday is a part of Lent, a season of repentance. God forgive us for projecting our will upon You.
Help us live to in humility before God and others!
APPLY TO LIFE
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing as you open God’s Word together.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
DISCUSS THE MESSAGE
Read: Luke 19:28-44
Take a moment to retell this story in your own words.
What is the most striking thing about this story to you?
How does this passage show the need of repentance in our lives and how we often times live with misunderstandings about Jesus?
Name one thing that convicted you during the message.