Reader One: 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.”
Reader Two: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.
Reader One: 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.”
Reader Two: 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.'”
Reader One: 14 The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them.
Reader Two: 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’?”
Yesterday we celebrated Josh’s 14th birthday, and it was a great day. This has been a great time in his life, and celebrating him, what he has accomplished and what lies ahead for him by faith, just made it a wonderful day. He had his heart set on fishing yesterday and couldn’t even consider anything else but fishing. I knew the forecast had called for rain, and I just prayed all morning that somehow God would make a way for him to fish on his birthday. Now whether God held off the rain because of a mother’s prayer or not, I can’t tell you, but Josh got to fish with some buddies and it was a great day! Even though my van smelled like something I can’t even describe when they were finished fishing and climbed in, I was rejoicing because the person I was celebrating was so thrilled with what was happening. It was a great day.
When I read this Matthew 21 passage and look at the way Jesus was celebrated and all the wonderful little episodes that were part of the day, I have to conclude that Palm Sunday was a great day for Jesus and for those gathered there. Let’s look at what made Palm Sunday such a great day. Let’s look at what made Palm Sunday such a great day.
A Day of Discipleship (Vs 1-3 and 6-7) Verses 1-3 and 6-7 describe discipleship, pure and simple. When Jesus asked the two disciples to go get a donkey and colt from the next village and bring them to Him, Matthew made sure to tell us they did what He asked. What a great day that was for Jesus as He observed two of His followers moving out at His command, not questioning why He was asking them to do what He asked. I mean it would be one thing if He had told them to go borrow a cup of flour from some neighbors up the way, but to borrow a donkey and a colt from some random person? That would have been a big deal, right?
The word “disciple” literally means learner. The whole goal of learning from your Rabbi was to be able to follow or imitate Him. The more you knew, the more you would do the things He did. Discipleship, “followship” begins with “learnership,” “learnership” with the desire to become like Jesus.
John 8:31-32-To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Learning what God says in His word about how He desires we live, and learning to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit about what we should and shouldn’t pursue are key to us being able to live free. Many outside of a relationship with Christ think of it as restrictive and limited when really the opposite is true. Learning the word of God and obeying it is the only way to live truly free.
If you are a Christian this morning, but you are only a Christian by believing, but not by following, you will continue to feel constrained and confined and frustrated. You will continue to wrestle with your desires, the desires of sin, the temptations Satan lays out, and continue on some level to resist the plans God has for your life. Only when we act to obey God’s Word do we find the freedom and power that comes from living that way.
Let me illustrate it this way:
(Picture of Lazy River goes up on the screen.)
I love lazy rivers! You know what those are, right? You float or walk or swim in a current that is constantly propelling you forward. We love lazy rivers so much we even got in one last November in Gatlinburg when it was only 40 degrees outside because the water itself was heated! It was awesome! I feel so strong and capable in the lazy river even though I’m not a fantastic swimmer because I am getting extra help, an extra push, extra power from the current. My forward progress isn’t dependent upon me, but upon the current.
Christians who obey God get to experience a Holy Spirit current that moves them on in life. When the Holy Spirit current propelling you, even the tough times in life are made easier because you are already “going with the flow” of the Spirit. However, those who only believe God’s word in their heart, but don’t regularly seek to obey or live it out would be like people who are in the stream of life, but who are trying to go in the wrong direction! Oh, they are still in the water, but they are struggling upstream. It is hard to go against the current. Not only do you not have that extra sense of empowerment, but you are fighting just to stay afloat. Obedience to God’s Word gives you forward motion. Obedience to God’s Word gives you a buoyancy that helps you stay afloat.
Look for the connection between obedience and freedom in these verses from James:
James 1:22-25 22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives FREEDOM and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it–he will be blessed in what he does.
What a great day for Jesus as He observed two of His disciples following His Word without question.
A Day of Fulfillment (Vs 4-5) In the ancient Near East, if a king came in peace, he would ride on a donkey instead of on a war stallion. On this Palm Sunday, Jesus, the Prince of Peace, rode into Jerusalem on a lowly donkey. He wasn’t just proclaiming peace with the way He entered the town, but He was proclaiming that He was the fulfillment of the One who had been prophesied over 500 years earlier where in Zechariah 9:9 it said the Messiah King would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey. That makes Palm Sunday a great day as it was a day of fulfillment of a prophecy, a promise of Scripture that Jesus made come to pass.
It is always a great day for me when a promise made is kept regardless of who it is that has made a commitment to me. I respect people whose word can be trusted. I love it when people follow through and deliver. What a great day Palm Sunday was for those gathered there and for us as well because it serves as a reminder that God can be trusted. He is a promise maker and a promise keeper.
When someone makes a promise it creates an expectation. An unfulfilled promise will lead to bitterness or emptiness, but a fulfilled promise leads to celebration and peace. God has never made a promise that He hasn’t kept. Never. 2 Corinthians 1:20-“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.”
Just think of the promises God made about Jesus’ birth, life, death, burial and resurrection. He promised that the Messiah would be the offspring of a woman in Gen. 3:15, the offspring of Abraham (Gen. 18:18), the offspring of Isaac (Gen. 17:19), the offspring of Jacob (Numbers 24:17), and a descendant of the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10). How many of those promises did God keep? Every single one! Every promise made by God has been a promise kept by God.
God promised that Christ would be heir to the throne of David (Isaiah 9:7). He promised He would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). He even promised the exact time of the birth (Daniel 9:25). How many of those promises did He fulfill? Every single one because a promise made by God has been a promise kept by God.
Our Father promised Jesus would die for our infirmities, carry our sorrows, and be crucified with sinners (Isaiah 53:4-5,12). He promised soldiers would cast lots for his clothes (Psalm 22:18), that not a bone in His body would be broken (Psalm 34:20), that He would be buried with the rich (Isaiah 53:9), that He would rise from the dead (Psalm 16:10) and ascend into Heaven (Psalm 68:18). Did God keep those promises? The answer still comes back “Yes”! Promises made. Promises kept! Palm Sunday was a great day because it was a reminder that God is not only a promise maker, but a promise keeper.
A Day of Acknowledgement (vs 8-11)
In verses 8-11 even though the people didn’t understand the significance of their words and demonstration they were on some level aware that Jesus could provide them with some kind of salvation. Their shout of “Hosanna” which means “God save us” or “Save now” was pointing to what Jesus came to do. They were quoting from Psalm 118 when they said, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” Jesus quoted from the same Psalm later in the chapter in verse 42, affirming that what they were saying at the time of His triumphal entry was exactly correct. He was and is the Messiah. It was a great day because on some level, people were looking to Him for salvation.
A Day of Cleansing-(vs 12-13)
I love this text because so many of the happenings are tied to or are quotes from Old Testament passages. I find whenever you have an Old and New Testament collision, Jesus is smack dab in the middle of it. In verses 12 and 13 you have quotes from both Isaiah and Jeremiah.
How can it be a great day for Jesus when He walks into the temple area and sees that what is going on is a perversion of what is supposed to be going on? He sees the corruption of those buying and selling sacrifices, and how the money changers are ripping people off, taking advantage of their devotion to bring their sacrifice before the Lord. He said in verse 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.'” Jesus drove the money scammers out of the temple. That would have been a great day for those who were being taken advantage of. It is always a great day when that which is wrong is exposed so that it can be made right.
The Court of Gentiles, outside the Temple, had been turned into a place where foreign Jews could exchange money and purchase sacrifices. What started as a convenience for visitors from other lands had turned into a lucrative business for the religious elite. The whole purpose of the court of the Gentiles was to give non-Jews an area to come to learn from Israel about the one, true God, but the presence of this “religious market” for profit turned many sensitive Gentiles away from the witness of Israel.
The Court of Gentiles was supposed to have been for a missionary business, not a money business. Some religious leaders were using the temple as a cover for greed and corruption. God intended it to be a place of worship and witness for all people. It is a great day when that which is corrupt is cleansed. It is a great day when sin is exposed. It is a great day when we are reminded of God’s desires for our lives. It is a great day when we are cleansed to refocus on the mission to which God has called us.
A Day of Healing-(vs 14)
The blind and the lame were healed! This act of healing the blind and the lame was a continuation of Jesus’ cleansing of the temple. When He cleansed the temple He was making the statement that the purpose of the temple was to be a place where all people could come and learn of and experience God. This is a continuation of that same ministry. The blind and the lame were usually excluded from the temple area. By healing them, He was not only giving them a gift in their physical body, but He was making a way for them to be included in the corporate worship of God. He was making a way for them to draw closer to God. Their physical illness had kept them outside of the walls of the church. Jesus’ touch on their bodies gave them the opportunity to investigate spiritual matters up close and personal. Jesus showed that He was and is the champion of the least of these. He is the freedom giver for all who are oppressed. When healing occurs and it enables someone to draw closer to God, that is a great day!
A Day of Praise (vs 15-16)
Verses 15 and 16 tell us the children were shouting words of praise as Jesus entered Jerusalem. But not everyone was thrilled that Jesus was being praised and worshipped. The chief priests and teachers of the law were “indignant.” “Indignant” means “I don’t dig it.” J Well, sort of. It means: feeling or showing anger or annoyance at what is perceived as unfair treatment. The people who were praising and worshiping Jesus from young to old were having a great day, enjoying Jesus, celebrating Him and their hope in Him. Imagine the scenario where one group of people is on a high, enjoying the presence of Jesus to the full while at the same time another group of people were simply annoyed.
In verse 16 Jesus said to the annoyed people, “Have you never read, “‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?” Here Jesus was quoting Psalm 8.
Luke tells the same story in chapter 19:37-40 “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: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
Keep quiet? Impossible! It was a day of high praise! It was the climax of Jesus’ ministry to that point. Jesus had just raised Lazarus from the dead. The faith of the crowd was at an all-time high. They couldn’t help themselves but give Him praise. They were having a great day!
But for those who weren’t disciples, those who weren’t interested in making any adjustment to follow Jesus, those who weren’t willing to take Him at His word without question and follow His commands, they wouldn’t have seen this as a great day.
Those who weren’t open to the Messiah’s coming wouldn’t have allowed themselves to rejoice in the fulfillment of Scripture as Jesus rode into Jerusalem. They wouldn’t have acknowledged Him as the Son of David or the “One who came in the name of the Lord.”
Those whose hearts were unrepentant, those who wanted to maintain the status quo even though it was corrupt and defiled, they wouldn’t have seen it as a great day to have lost their corner on the money market in the temple as the temple was cleansed by Jesus.
Those who wanted to maintain control over who was in and who was out when it came to temple worship, wouldn’t have loved the newly healed blind and lame people’s new access into the temple. They wouldn’t have loved Jesus messing with the established status quo.
If they hadn’t been moved by the miracles and ministry of Jesus, His teaching, His reaching, His touching those at the margins, they wouldn’t have had praise in their hearts for Him.
But for those who had chosen to follow, for those who had looked to Him for salvation whether they understood fully or not why He came, for those longed for things that were wrong to be made right, for those who had compassion on the blind and lame and disenfranchised, for those who let their hearts express their worship of Jesus, it was a great day!