Theme: You who fear the Lord give Him praise
Text: Is. 50:4-7; Phil. 2:6-11; Lk. 19:28-40
Read Luke 19:38 “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.”
Biographers normally devote very little space to the death of their subjects but the authors of the Gospels devote nearly a third of their length to the final week of Jesus’ life. Each one of them give a detailed account of the events leading to His death and our procession this morning is an enactment of His triumphal entry into Jerusalem riding on a donkey. Jesus chose this dramatic way to proclaim that He is the Messiah, the King they were expecting. He chose a procession, which was different from the impressive Roman ones the people were used to. In these processions rulers or generals would ride on decorated horses or in golden chariots accompanied by officers in polished armour. Jesus’ procession, however, was different because Jesus did not come to rescue the world as a warring king, but as a gentle, humble and peace-loving king – a king that no one would have a problem approaching. Such a king deserves our praise and you who fear the Lord give Him praise.
The Jews had been expecting the Messiah and Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem fulfilled in every detail the prophecies made concerning Him. Although they had waited for a long time, He arrived at God’s appointed time, the right time for His presence to make the greatest impact. He came at a time when there was an extensive empire, the Roman Empire, with one administration and with one national language, which made effective communication possible. The triumphal entry took place when people from all over the then known world had gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover providing them with the opportunity to hear and spread the Good News. They witnessed the Messiah entering Jerusalem fulfilling the prophecies made about Him. They had either witnessed or heard about His power and authority and the many miracles He had performed. He had healed every sickness and disease and even raised the dead back to life and the raising of Lazarus from the dead was still fresh in their minds. His triumphal entry itself was full of miracles. Although the Lord did not own a donkey, He knew where to get one and the few words “The Lord needs it” was all the disciples had to say and the owners gladly turned their animal over to them. Jesus again demonstrated His authority by riding on an untamed animal, a donkey that had never been sat on before, and we all know how stubborn donkeys are.
Great care had been taken for the Jews to recognise the Messiah. Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a colt that had never been ridden before since objects used for such sacred purposes should not have been used for any other purpose. He entered Jerusalem at a special time, when the Jews were preparing to remember the exodus and celebrate their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Their deliverance was not without battle and ten terrible plagues fell on Egypt before they were allowed to leave. The last of the ten plagues was the destruction and death of all the firstborn of animals and men. To save His people God made provision to pass over them. They had to kill lambs and sprinkle the blood on the lintels and doorposts of their homes. When God saw the blood He would pass over them to protect them from the destroying angel. The Passover prophetically portrayed the deliverance from slavery and bondage to sin by the Messiah. Just as the Passover lamb gave the Israelites the chance of a new beginning, so our Passover Lamb, Christ, gives us the chance of a new beginning. Jesus fully fulfilled the requirements of the Passover lamb. He entered Jerusalem presenting Himself to the people at the same time that the sacrificial lambs that would be brought to the priests for examination were being inspected. The lambs were set aside for four days to make sure they were without blemish before being killed. Jesus, the Lamb of God, in the prime of life, also came before the people and leaders for close examination for four days. The Herodians, Sadducees, lawyers and Pharisees examined him and they could not find anything to accuse Him of. The civil authorities examined Him and Pilate also pronounces that Jesus qualified to be the Passover Lamb by finding no fault at all in Him. He was found to be without blemish before shedding His blood on Calvary, the perfect Lamb of God. Just as the blood of the Passover lamb had to be applied to provide a protective covering so also must the blood of Jesus Christ. We apply the blood when we acknowledge Christ as our Passover Lamb and confess Him as our Saviour and Lord. Jesus Christ fulfilled prophecy in such a way that we cannot fail to recognize Him as the Messiah. The mathematical odds of all of those prophecies about the Messiah being fulfilled by one man cannot even be calculated. This really proves that Jesus is indeed the Messiah. It is, however, not enough to know Christ as the Messiah. We must also welcome Him into our lives. He alone can bring us freedom from slavery to sin, death, Satan, hell, and the law.
Jesus did not come to do his own will but to do the will of the Father. Although He was in the ‘form’ of God, He did not hold on to his rights. He gave up all he had, assuming a human body and a human nature, humbled himself and became a servant. He set aside the right to his glory and power and was obedient all the way to death. Jesus was obedient to such a degree that he was ready not only to die but also to accept death in its most shameful and most painful form, death on a cross, death in public, death in agony, death without relief, death without dignity.
We need to be obedient to Christ as He was to His Father. Jesus knew what He was going to face in Jerusalem but that did not stop Him from going. It is easy to wave a palm branch on Palm Sunday, sing, and recount our Lord’s last procession into Jerusalem. But that is not all that Christ demands from us. Christ demands that all our actions demonstrate our commitment to Him. When Jesus rode into Jerusalem he was knowingly and willingly riding to His death. He willingly became the Suffering Servant and calls us out of the crowd to be also servants. He invites us to accompany Him and follow in His footsteps. This means being obedient to Him by also helping those in need, freeing those who are in captivity, supporting those who need support, visiting the lonely and the outcasts, feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty and clothing the naked. It requires that we also become servants. Jesus was humble and willing to give up His rights in order to obey God and serve the people. Like Christ, we also should have a servant’s attitude, serving out of love for God and for others. Are we prepared to do what His faithful disciples did and lay at His feet all that we have? The Lord needs us. We are his hands and feet and voice and His agents of peace in the world.
When Jesus rode into Jerusalem the crowd acknowledged His presence with shouts of praise. It was the only appropriate way to receive Him and you who love the Lord give Him praise. Those who went before Him and those who followed Him shouted, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.” When Christ was born a heavenly host praised God using almost the same words “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace goodwill toward men”. Christ has made it possible for us to be at peace with God and with one another. His birth brought us peace for the Prince of Peace lived among us and His death brought us peace with God, having paid the penalty for our sins. Indeed He deserves our praise for it is in Him that we are blessed. The crowd not only praised Him but also spread their garments on the road for Him to ride on. Others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Those who welcomed Jesus as King did not mind ruining their clothes and using them as a red carpet for the Lord to ride on. They gave what they had for the Lord.
Jesus gave His life for us. He provided a solution for all our problems by paying the penalty for our sins and making it possible for us to become sons of God. Crucifixion was a horrible form of execution. It has been described as a sadistic form of torture that deliberately prolonged the pain and postponed death for as long as possible. To the Romans it was so shameful that it was reserved for slaves and the worst criminals but it was God’s chosen way of salvation. According to the Apostle Paul there is one cross but three crucifixions. First there is the crucifixion of Christ. Secondly there is the crucifixion of the world to us. And thirdly there is our crucifixion to the world. Thus Jesus Christ, the godless world and we ourselves have all been crucified on the same cross (John Stott). Christ died as our substitute, instead of us, so that we might not have to die for our sins. But He also died as our representative, so that when He died we died with Him. Jesus’ suffering and death paid the penalty for the sin of the whole world. It is not enough that He shed His blood. It must be accepted or received and each individual must receive God’s provision for himself. Only then does the blood atone for sin. Christ has saved us from hell and death and misery and guilt and punishment and He deserves our praise. Let us welcome Him into our lives and praise His name.
It is possible to follow Christ for the wrong reasons and miss the blessings that He offers. It appears that it is in the places where the clearest light shines and the greatest profession of religion is made that the people are most ignorant. Those who felt they were defenders of the faith and closest to God, the Pharisees, failed to recognize the Messiah. They were so busy defending what God had said to past generations that they refused to listen to what He was saying to them. They were more concerned about their own position, authority and privileges rather than about God’s eternal Kingdom. Frightened by the enthusiastic shouts, which could justify a Roman intervention and an end to their privileges, they asked Him to rebuke His disciples. They failed to recognize the Messiah as is happening in many places today. We are living in the period when the grace of God is still available for our salvation and peace. This period will come to an end when Christ returns. Then He will not offer salvation anymore but will judge those who have failed to receive and welcome Him. Our celebration of Palm Sunday today should serve to remind us that Jesus is passing by and we can make peace with Him. Will we turn our backs on Him as the Pharisees did? Will we support Him today as most people did on that first Palm Sunday only to go out to crucify Him all over again? Have you made peace with the Lord? Is Jesus Christ your Saviour and Lord? Let us celebrate Palm Sunday today by making peace with Christ. Let us welcome Jesus as our Saviour and Lord. He is the only One who can give hope to the hopeless and light to those who are in darkness. Amen!