Summary: Palm Sunday Sermon about the sacrifice of Jesus.

Jesus Was Lifted Up…

Numbers 21:4-9, John 3:14-15

April 13, 2003 (Palm Sunday

Note: this message inspired and partially based on an address by Rev. Keith Drury, of Indiana Wesleyan University, given at a seminar on teaching the Bible to adults.


Today is Palm Sunday, and on this day we begin what we call Holy Week. It’s a great time for those who call themselves followers of Jesus to remember and reflect on the sacrifice of Christ.

This week will see services at various churches, including a special communion event here, as well as the community Good Friday service at 1st Assembly of God.

Generally we think of Palm Sunday as the day when Jesus entered Jerusalem with shouts and palms – that event we call the Triumphal Entry.

And I think of the irony involved with the crowd who when Jesus came into Jerusalem, called Him blessed, crying out, “Hosanna!” But a few days later were crying out, “Crucify Him!”

But today, rather than looking at His triumphal entry, I want to look at what Jesus accomplished with His death.

I’m going to use an Old Testament story, that links to the New Testament by a comment by Jesus to a teacher who visited Him one night.

We don’t normally associate the Old Testament with Palm Sunday, but hang on. You’ll how it ties in very nicely.

And I think that when you do, you will walk away with a new appreciation of Jesus and what He did for you. And more than that, I hope that you will walk out of here with a renewed sense of commitment to live for the One who gave His all for you.

Let’s start with…

1. The setting – “Show me the snake!”

I’d like you to turn with me to Numbers 21:4-9. If you are using the Bibles in the seats, this is on page 111.

This story occurs during the trek of the Israelites to the Promised Land, and they were getting a bit cranky.

NU 21:4 They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; 5 they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!"

NU 21:6 Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. 7 The people came to Moses and said, "We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us." So Moses prayed for the people.

NU 21:8 The LORD said to Moses, "Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live." 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.

Let’s recap the scene: the people were in the desert, wandering around. And they were tired of the food, which was manna.

God had provided the manna every day so the Israelites wouldn’t starve. When it first started coming, they were all excited.

“Check it out! This is cool! It just shows up – we don’t have to plant for it, we don’t have to hunt and kill it, all we have to do is go get it. How’s that for awesome?”

We don’t really know what manna was, but Keith Drury has compared it to oatmeal.

I generally like oatmeal. In fact, I could eat it just about every day, at least for a while.

But I think I’d get tired of it if that’s all I got for every meal every day for years and years.

“What’s for breakfast, Ma?” “Oatmeal.” “What’s for lunch, Ma?” “Oatmeal.” “What’s for supper, Ma?” “Oatmeal.” “Hey Ma, what’s for thanksgiving dinner?” “Oatmeal.” “Christmas dinner?” “Oatmeal. Deal with it.”

The people were getting tired of having only manna to eat day in and day out. They don’t like the fact that God had provided them something they didn’t even work for. They also seem to have forgotten that God had delivered them miraculously from Egypt, and that He had been providing for all their needs since leaving Egypt.

They get to complaining, and God sends snakes into the Israelite community. And not just garter snakes, but poisonous snakes. The snakes bite people and they start dying.

Very tragic story – when God brings a judgment, sometimes “innocent” people die. Maybe children were bitten and died.

The people go to Moses and say, “Hey Moses, pray to God to take these snakes away.” So Moses prays.

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