The timeline of Easter is familiar to many of us. Let me review it with you. On Thursday night Christ will celebrate the Passover with His disciples in the upper room of a home in that city of Jerusalem. Later that night He prays in the Garden of Gethsemene as a crowd led by Judas makes its way to arrest him. By Friday morning he would be nailed to a cross.Today, we’re going to look at when Jesus first entered Jerusalem. A day that is commonly celebrated in some churches as “Palm Sunday” (which traditionally is held the Sunday before Easter). When Jesus entered Jerusalem for the last week of his life, he was coming to the finish line. For this 33 year-old man, the last three years of his life had all been about one moment – the moment when he would look upon the many colored faces of the people who inhabit this world, and willingly give his life on the cross to pay the price for their sins. Everything was leading up to this.
Now let’s look a little closer at this historical event…
Here is Luke’s record of how the day began:
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. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They 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.”
Luke 19:41-44 (NIV)
I find it sobering to learn that Jesus wept over Jerusalem. He knew what was ahead of him in just a few short days. He knew this city would be the site of his death. And he wept because he knew what was in store for this city. “Your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you…they will dash you to the ground.” All this would happen within the next 40 years when the Romans invaded Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
But the last part of verse 44 holds the key to understanding Jesus’ sadness. Why were all these bad things about to take place?
v. 44 – …because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.
The inhabitants of Jerusalem did not recognize God when they saw Him.
God came to them in the person of Jesus, but they failed to recognize him and ended up rejecting him and crucifying him.
“…You did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”
That is a bad indictment. So how can we be different?
We can follow the example of some other people in the Palm Sunday story. Because those who did recognize him honored him. They affirmed His identity as God and King through their actions.
TRANSITION: And we can do the same. Like some on Palm Sunday…
WE AFFIRM HIS IDENTITY WHEN WE OBEY HIM
Lets go back to how this day started.
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?’ tell him, ‘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.
Luke 19:28-35 (NIV)
A. The disciples obeyed Jesus instructions.
I have some Palm Sunday reminders here today. To me this first affirmation of obedience can be symbolized by a rope (hold up rope).
Jesus said to two of them, “Go to the village.” They did.
Matthew and John say the colt was a donkey. It was undoubtedly tied to something with a rope.
Jesus said, “Untie the colt.” They did.
He said, “Bring it here.” Again, they did.
How were they to respond if anyone asked?
“The Lord needs it.”
The disciples were just carrying out instructions. They did what Jesus asked. They affirmed his identity as Lord by obeying Him.
So this rope symbolizes their obedience. “Untie the colt.”
Jesus asked them to do something and they did it.
So here is a question to ponder:
B. If Jesus asked you to do something, would you do it?
Those of us who love Jesus might be quick to say, “Sure I would! I’d climb the highest mountain. I’d swim the widest ocean. I’d walk 500 miles. Whatever you say, Jesus. I’ll do it!”
Jesus might say, “Really? You are ready to do whatever I ask? Then look at my instructions in the Bible.”
In John 14:23 Jesus says,
Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
John 14:23 (NIV)
In other words, “Anyone who affirms my identity as Lord and God will recognize my authority and do the things I ask.”
So now we may wonder,
C. What sort of things is Jesus asking of us?
Are these just pointless requests?
ILLUS – I read a story once from Readers Digest about a mother who would listen with her young children to an instructional program on the radio each morning. She particularly enjoyed the exercise class.
One day she tuned in late, only to hear an energetic instructor already urging pupils along at a fast pace: “Up…down…circle round…up…down…circle round…up…down…circle round.” She quickly joined in, only to find that the instructor would continue the pace for quite some time. Finally, when she was just about exhausted, she heard the voice say, “Okay, you can stop now, and everybody put your paintbrushes back in the water jar.” (Reader’s Digest, date unknown)
Fortunately Jesus doesn’t ask us to do pointless things. He gives us direction for the most fulfilling way of life. Because He loves us.
One time in Luke 6:46 Jesus asked a crowd around him,
“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?
Luke 6:46 (NIV)
“Why are you trying to affirm my identity without obedience?”
Again a similar question for us to consider:
If Jesus asked you to do something would you do it?
Let’s think about some of the things Jesus asks us to do throughout the pages of the Bible:
• “Honor your father and mother” (Exodus 20:12) – Have you been giving your parents the honor they deserve?
• “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Col. 3:2) – Have you been monitoring what goes into your mind through your eyes and ears?
• “Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Col. 3:13) – Have you been withholding forgiveness?
• “Keep the marriage bed pure” (Hebrews 13:4) – Maybe you’re living with your boyfriend or girlfriend or fiancée – are you keeping that future marriage bed pure?
• “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices” (Col. 3:9) – Is there an area of life where you are less than honest?
• “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse” (Malachi 3:10) – Have you been obedient with your generosity to the Lord’s work?
• “Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouths.” (Eph. 4:29) – Do you use foul or abusive language?
• “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31) – How about this? Is there someone you have been failing to love fully?
These are all issues of obedience. Jesus has asked us to do something. He is Lord. He is God. Will we affirm our belief that He is Lord and God by doing what He says?
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
James 1:22 (NIV)
If we want to affirm Jesus’ identity to our friends, our neighbors our family and our co-workers – one of the best ways is to obey Him and to do what He says. Is there an area this morning where you could start right now to obey Him more fully? Why not make that area part of some focused prayer and give it some attention this week?
TRANSITION: We give recognition to who He is through our attention to His instructions. Second…
WE AFFIRM HIS IDENTITY WHEN WE SACRIFICE FOR HIM
Let’s look again at Luke 19. Verse 36 says,
As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.
Luke 19:36 (NIV)
A. Those in the crowd actually spread their cloaks on the road.
When I look for other Palm Sunday reminders, this issue of sacrifice could be symbolized by a coat. (Hold up coat). That’s what cloaks were – pretty much like a coat.
The people of Jerusalem were from all walks of life, much like people today. These people enthusiastically lined the streets with their possessions to celebrate the coming of the Passover lamb. These people threw what they had into the street to honor this important moment. They prepared for Jesus a carpet made of coats.
Would you be willing to take a similar risk?
Close your eyes and imagine something. I want you to imagine your street – the street on which you live. Picture in your mind what that street looks like – where you live – where the trees are – where the other houses or apartments are – where people park their cars – the general amount of traffic that is typically on your street. Imagine yourself standing outside next to your street very close to where you live. Got that picture?
Now I want you to imagine that coming down your street you spot a crowd of people. And in the middle of that crowd of people is a man riding on a donkey. You recognize the man as Jesus. People are laying things down. Some of your neighbors are rushing to the curb to lay things down too.
Jesus approaches where you are standing, riding closer, as he passes by what do you lay down?
B. If Jesus came riding down your street, what would you lay down before Him?
Go ahead and open your eyes.
How would you choose to honor Jesus?
I love one of the worship songs we sing called “The Heart of Worship.” A line from it says…
“King of endless worth – no one could express how much you deserve. Though I’m weak and poor, all I have is yours. Every single breath.”
That is a Palm Sunday attitude. Jesus is worth more than anything we have. He’s worth more than our combined assets, more than the net worth of our future aspirations, and certainly more than any one object we possess. Like a coat.
C. Jesus has come riding down the street of your life.
Just by being here today you have the opportunity to encounter him.
You can affirm His identity by laying down your life before Him. Saying, “My life is yours, Jesus. Do as you will.” That’s surrender, and followers of Jesus do that daily.
When Jesus has our lives, we’re also willing to sacrifice what we have to share with others in His name. Many of you are still in a season of sacrifice as you live out your pledge to be faithful- now and forever. Others of you sacrifice regularly to share with those in other places of the world who have less than you do.
When we recognize Jesus, we’ll be happy to give stuff away. Because He is worth far more.
TRANSITION: We can show everyone around us who we believe Jesus to be through the way we sacrifice for Him. One last thing…
WE AFFIRM HIS IDENTITY WHEN WE PRAISE HIM
A. Those who saw Jesus pass by shouted praise.
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.”
Luke 19:37-40 (NIV)
A good Palm Sunday reminder of this issue of praise would be a raised hand. (Raise hands).
The book of John says the crowd waved palm branches in the air. That’s why the Sunday before Easter is traditionally called Palm Sunday.
According to scripture they praised him for all the miracles they had seen…
What miracles you seen in your life?
Here is yet another question to ponder:
B. If you saw Jesus, what would you shout?
If on your way to your car in the parking lot, you saw Jesus walking across – and you knew it was Him – I mean, He just appeared there – but He’s a ways in the distance. Would you maybe shout to someone else, “Hey, it’s Jesus! Look!” My guess is maybe you would. Because when Jesus shows up, it makes you want to shout.
It was Palm Sunday, and the mother’s 3-year old son had to stay home from church because of strep throat.
When the rest of the family returned home carrying palm branches, the little boy asked what they were for. His mother explained, “People held them over Jesus’ head as he walked by.”
“Wouldn’t you know it,” the boy fumed. “The one Sunday I don’t go, and Jesus shows up.” (Found at PreachingPlus.com)
What that little boy didn’t realize is that Jesus shows up every Sunday. In fact, He shows up every day of our lives. The question is, do we recognize Him when He shows up?
C. We have been allowed to see Jesus in a number of ways.
In the pages of the Bible
In the lives of others
Through the ministry and worship of the church
Through his work in our lives
Do we praise Him? I mean really and truly praise Him. Do we?
Did you praise Him this morning as we sang and give it all you had?
Did you mention his name last night when you were out with friends, and say something good about Him?
Did you praise Jesus in the privacy of your home or your car this past week when it was just you and Him?
Some of us may look at exuberant praise of others during our times of worship and get a little uncomfortable with such emotional outbursts. Maybe our worship has never shown that much fervor. But when we truly recognize Jesus and affirm His identity, we will want to praise Him.
That’s how the crowd on Palm Sunday felt too. They saw the King of Kings – and their natural impulse was to shout out some praise.
When Jesus shows up, it’s time to praise!
Would you all stand up for a second? On the count of three we’re going to try something. Listen closely, I want to make sure you’re ready. On the count of three I’d like us to all shout out the name of Jesus! Will you do this?
1… 2… 3…. “JESUS!!!!!!!” (if it isn’t very loud then say, “Oh come on, people shout louder for their favorite athlete than that! What about the one who has given you eternal life?)
Now, didn’t that feel good?
You can have a seat.
Maybe today was the first time you’ve ever voiced Jesus’ name so strongly.
But when we really recognize who He is, we’ll want to be praising Him all the time.
TRANSITION: Because just like when we obey and when we sacrifice for Him, when we praise, we affirm His identity.
There is a legend about an ancient village in Spain. The villagers learned that the king would pay a visit! In a thousand years, a king had never come to that village. Excitement grew! “We must throw a big celebration,” The villagers all agreed. But, it was a poor village, and there weren’t many resources. Someone came up with a classic idea. Since many of the villagers made their own wines, the idea was for everyone in the village to bring a large cup of their choice wine to the town square, “We’ll pour it into a large vat and offer it to the king for his pleasure! When the king draws wine to drink, it will be the very best he’s ever tasted!”
The day before the king’s arrival, hundreds of people lined up to make their offering to the honored guest. They climbed a small stairway, and poured their gift through a small opening at the top. Finally, the vat was full! The King arrived, was escorted to the square, given a silver cup and was told to draw some wine, which represented the best the villagers had.
He placed the cup under the spigot, turned the handle, and then drank the wine, but it was nothing more than water. You see every villager reasoned, “I’ll withhold my best wine and substitute water, what with so many cups of wine in the vat, the king will never know the difference!” The problem was, everyone thought the same thing, and the king was greatly dishonored
Palm Sunday is all about a day when the King of Kings was greatly honored. Because people gave the very best they had – gifts of obedience (hold rope), praise (hold palm branch) and sacrifice (hold coat).
The question is, won’t you give him your best too?