Matthew 21:1-16 1 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: 5 “Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.'” 6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest!” 10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” 11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” 12 Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.'” 14 The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant. 16 “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him. “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, “‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’?”
Anyone know what it is like to pack a ton of stuff into one day? Sometimes Thom is going one way, Hannah is going another way, and Josh is yet going another way. Getting everyone where they need to be and then getting them picked up and picked up on time, can be a feat. It can take great strategy and creativity! Anyone know what it is like to cram so much into a day that you can’t even remember at the end of the day what you ate for lunch or dinner?
I remember one evening that Thom and I had set aside for a date. We decided to go to Huntington for dinner. Between the time we made the plans and the night of the date, someone from church was put into a Huntington Hospital, the chairman of our Trustee Board at the time, Jeff McComas who lives in Barboursville needed to run something past us, and Scott Haas who lives in Huntington needed a book in order to teach some certain class that weekend. So guess what we worked into our dinner date? A book delivery, a meeting with the Chair of our Trustee Board, and a hospital visit, all in the Huntington area and in one evening. I think we even walked around the mall. It was a busy, productive, romantic evening. J
When I read our Palm Sunday text it struck me how busy Jesus was that day, how much He accomplished in one day, and how that day was a lot like today.
Palm Sunday was a Day of Discipleship. Verses 1-6 record instructions Jesus gave the disciples. They were to go into the village and upon arrival they would find a donkey with her colt by her. It wasn’t a donkey or a colt that belonged to the disciples. It wasn’t’ a donkey or a colt that Jesus had arranged to use ahead of time. It was a colt and donkey that belonged to a stranger. The disciples were just to tell anyone who questioned them that the Lord needed them.
The use of a donkey on Palm Sunday was a fulfillment of OT Prophecy. Zechariah had prophesied hundreds of years earlier that the King would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey. While the disciples may have had many questions, they didn’t question Jesus’ instructions. They just did (VS 6) as He instructed them to do.
What a picture of discipleship. Obedience without question. Trusting what Jesus said even though they may not have understood completely why they were going to borrow animals from people they didn’t know in order to bring them to Jesus.
Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” Following Jesus doesn’t just mean believing in Him for salvation. It includes doing what He asks us to do.
Imagine, if you will, that you work for a company whose president found it necessary to travel out of the country and spend an extended period of time abroad. So he says to you and the other trusted employees, “Look, I’m going to leave. And while I’m gone, I want you to pay close attention to the business. You manage things while I’m away. I will write you regularly. When I do, I will instruct you in what you should do from now until I return from this trip.” Everyone agrees.
He leaves and stays gone for a couple of years. During that time he writes often, communicating his desires and concerns. Finally he returns. He walks up to the front door of the company and immediately discovers everything is in a mess–weeds flourishing in the flower beds, windows broken across the front of the building, the gal at the front desk dozing, loud music roaring from several offices, two or three people engaged in horseplay in the back room. Instead of making a profit, the business has suffered a great loss. Without hesitation he calls everyone together and with a frown asks, “What happened? Didn’t you get my letters?”
You say, “Oh, yeah, sure. We got all your letters. We’ve even bound them in a book. And some of us have memorized them. In fact, we have ‘letter study’ every Sunday. You know, those were really great letters.” I think the president would then ask, “But what did you do about my instructions?” And, no doubt the employees would respond, “Do? Well, nothing. But we read every one!” Charles Swindoll, Living Above the Level of Mediocrity, p. 242.
God has a plan for our lives, and He intends to use us to accomplish plans that are about way more than just us. If we read the play book but never run the plays that are in the book we can never legitimately call ourselves disciples of Jesus Christ! Oh, but the joy of following Him, listening to Him, and doing what He asks of us. We make history when we pay attention to HIS Story!
I mean, how do you think those two disciples felt just a few minutes later when they were watching Jesus be lauded as King by a huge crowd of people? They had played a part in the fulfillment of Scripture. Zechariah’s prophecy that Jesus, the Messiah, would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey had been fulfilled, and their obedience to Jesus played a part in seeing that miraculous fulfillment come about. I imagine they were high fiving each other behind their palm branches! They had done what Jesus asked of them, and they stood there to watch history that had been foretold unfold before their very eyes!
A lot of people claim Jesus is their Lord, but when His instructions conflict with their own will Lordship is traded for Selfship. (I think I just coined a new word.) Many people have an infatuation with Jesus, but not a real, committed love that moves them to obey Him, but Palm Sunday was not a day for Selfship from these two disciples. It was a day of discipleship, a lot like today.
Palm Sunday was also a day of worship. Verses 7-11 paint a picture of high praise.
What was taking place as people threw their cloaks on the ground to create a path for Jesus to ride on was a huge worship celebration. They threw branches on the ground almost like we would roll out the red carpet today for someone famous. They were welcoming Jesus as King and were shouting praises unto His name. Even the children, according to verse 15, were shouting praises to the Lord Jesus.
By the time Palm Sunday rolled around Jerusalem was crowded. People had been making their pilgrimage to the Holy City to celebrate the Passover. Just as was true the week of Jesus’ birth where Bethlehem was a crowded city, so too, the week of His death He made His way into another crowded city. Even though a star so bright that it could be seen in another country, pointed the way to the birth of a King, and almost everyone missed it, now, three decades later, the shouts of praise from the crowd made it obvious to everyone in Jerusalem that a King was on the scene.
The people worshiped Jesus as a conquering King that day. They were getting their praise on. They were getting their shout on. They were shouting, “Hosanna,” which means “God saves” or “save now.” They were quoting Scripture from Psalm 118 which is messianic in its character. The cloaks on the ground and the waving of palm branches were demonstrations of honor and respect. They were acts often performed when a warrior was victoriously coming home from battle or when a king was entering into his kingdom. They didn’t even realize it, but they were celebrating ahead of time. The battle had not yet been won on the cross, but they had a head start on the praise and celebration. That’s a whole other sermon, but let me just say that the Bible tells us that praise and worship will precede great victory. J
The folks gathered there had reasons to praise and worship Jesus on that day. He had cleansed lepers, healed blind eyes, delivered people from demons and this event followed no doubt the greatest miracle yet, the raising of Lazarus from the dead in John 12. I can’t imagine what other evidence or experience anyone would need to believe that Jesus was who He said He was. I can’t imagine anyone standing outside of Lazarus’ tomb, after watching Lazarus come out, turn to his friend and say, “I think I’m gonna have to have more proof in order to believe in Jesus.” Seriously!
John 12 tells us that there were a lot of people there when Lazarus came out of his grave alive after having been dead for four days. They witnessed that Jesus was and is sovereign over the ultimate enemy of death. Do you know our God can reverse anything that anyone at any time declares is final if He chooses to do so? Word got out about this Jesus who had that kind of authority.
Well guess what? His authority hasn’t changed. He is still large and in charge and He is passing through Scott Depot today. Will anyone give Him praise? He is still riding into people’s lives, Hallelujah! He is still saving people, delivering people from addictions and bringing peace into people’s hearts. “Look what the Lord Has Done” in the life of DJ Escue and scores people in this room! O magnify the Lord with me. Let us exalt His name together.
No one has ever loved you or will ever love you like Jesus. No one else has given their lives for you. No one will ever stick with you and stick by you and stick up for you like Jesus. His presence in your life makes an incredible difference in moments of celebration as well as moments of sadness. No one has ever achieved what He has achieved, and He has promised that His story will be our story if we follow Him. Jesus’ victory has become our victory!
One day, there will be no more mourning. No more weeping. No more taxes. No more energy crises. No more gas prices. No more elections. No more struggle. No more conflict. No more work. No more health problems. No more uncertainties or unknowns. We’ll be face to face with Jesus and share in the glory and splendor of heaven. Who here can’t find that reason enough to praise the Lord? Palm Sunday was a day of worship, a lot like today.
Palm Sunday was also a day of cleansing.
Matthew 21:12-13 12 Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.'”
There was stuff going on in the Temple that shouldn’t have been going on in the temple. The purposes of the Temple had been defiled. Things had gotten twisted. Spiritual practices were tainted by selfish, earthly practices and people turned the worship of God into an experience for profit. Things had really gotten off track. Jesus rid the temple of the people and practices that were defiling it that day.
The cleansing of the temple is a picture of what Jesus wants to do in the life of every Christ follower. Perhaps there is a lot going on in our temples that isn’t supposed to be going on in our temples.
1 Corinthians 3:16-17 16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
The OT Temple was a place that was wholly dedicated to God and His glory. Nothing that was sinful or defiled could be on the temple grounds. It was sacred space. You and I, as we allow the Spirit of Christ to be born in us, we have become the Temple of God. Listen, it might be your body, but it’s still God’s temple. We are to be serious about keeping our temples clean. It is sacred space. What happens in our temples matters. Where we takes our temples matters. What we allow into the eyes and ears of our temples matters. Our temples are to reflect the glory of God. Just as the Temple that Jesus entered on Palm Sunday was being abused, so too can our earthly temples be abused.
I wonder . . . If Jesus was here present in human form today, how would He feel about our temples? How many tables would He want to overturn in our temples? What cleansing needs to happen to our earthly temples? Are we able to serve God in the shape our temples are currently in or does there need to be a cleansing? Spring is a great time for what many like to call Spring Cleaning. Perhaps you could say Jesus did His own kind of Spring Cleaning on Palm Sunday.
As you know, it was a day a lot like today. Perhaps some cobwebs could be pulled down from our hearts. Maybe some baseboards in our temples could use a good cleaning. Maybe some places that have been neglected need to be washed again in the blood of the Lamb. Jesus said His house was to be a “House of Prayer.” Is your mind available as a place of prayer? Is your heart a place where Christ can dwell in fullness or is there an ongoing preoccupation with sin that causes your Temple to limit God’s work in your life? God wants to remove anything from our lives that keep us from accomplishing the purposes for which He has called us and placed His Spirit inside of us.
Finally, Palm Sunday was also a day of healing.
Look at verse 14: “The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them.” This was the ONE day in His entire ministry when He could have made it all about Himself. I mean He was the celebrity in the town parade. He could have “taken the day off” to enjoy the adulation and praise. He could have justified making Himself the Star of the Parade He had just enjoyed. He could have basked in the shouts of praise from the fan base in Jerusalem. His big moment had finally arrived. And yet, Jesus, the Messiah, was always on mission. His ministry included every kind of healing. He never tuned out the needs of people, and on this Palm Sunday, He fit healing the blind and the lame into His very busy day.
With the temple cleansed, the healing ministry of Jesus flowed in that space. What Jesus was performing in the natural realm by healing blind eyes and lame feet, was supposed to be happening in the spiritual realm in that space. People who were sick spiritually were supposed to be given sight to see God and see themselves the way they really were. They were supposed to be given strength to walk and live in Jesus’ name.
Every time we gather, we expect Jesus to be in our midst with healing. We anoint people with oil as Scripture instructs us to. We pray the prayer of faith as we are told to do as well, and there have been miraculous healings in this place. Eddie Ferrari’s eyesight was restored during one of our services. He isn’t the only person who has testified to the healing hand of God. Where God’s people are cleansed and are seeking Him in humility, He disperses His healing, both spiritual and physical healing. Palm Sunday, you know, was a day a lot like today. Wouldn’t it be wonderful today if someone could testify to God’s healing touch on their body?
Discipleship. Worship. Cleansing. Healing.
I have to believe in a crowd this size that Jesus is calling to several people who have already heard Him say, “Follow me.” Perhaps He is speaking to you. You have already accepted Him as Savior, but following Him as Lord has been really hard to do. Today, on this Palm Sunday, God is saying it is time to obey Him and when you do, recognize you are part of a bigger plan. You will be making history with God as you allow Him to write HIS STORY with your obedience.
Think for a moment about the way you worship Jesus. Are you engaged when the crowd comes together each Sunday to hail Him as King? More importantly, are you worshiping Him with your life Monday through Saturday? Does the way you worship reflect that you truly know who Jesus is and what He has done for you?
Perhaps it was the point about cleansing that has given you pause. Maybe your mind went to that thing that you know shouldn’t be in your Temple; that thing that has become a ritual that has become harder and harder to say “no” to; that thing that is crowding out the relationship God wants to have in you where His power flows freely.
Finally, is it spiritual, emotional or physical healing that you need? As much as God wants you to see Him and worship Him and honor Him with your temple, He also wants you to know this morning that He sees you. He sees your broken heart. He sees the pain that is limiting how you can engage in daily life. He sees your prognosis and the fear and anxiety that can go along with it. He knows what is tormenting your mind and keeping you from sleep and rest and relaxation in Him.
Palm Sunday was a day just like today in that each of us needs to encounter God in at least one if not all of these ways today. Discipleship. Worship. Cleansing. Healing. Today, will you let Jesus ride into your life to accomplish His will in all four areas of your life?