All four Gospels speak about Palm Sunday, the day Jesus road into Jerusalem on a donkey in fulfillment of prophecy that had been spoken hundreds of years earlier. A crowd of people had laid their cloaks on the road to make a path for Jesus’ entrance. Others cut palm branches, symbols of victory in that day. The palm branches would be waved, signaling Christ’s victory, alright, His perceived victory over the Roman government that had oppressed the Jewish people for quite some time. Folks thought, “Surely the Man who had raised Lazarus from the dead had the goods to overthrow Rome.” So, they waved their palm branches and shouted, “Hosanna” which means “Save us” or “Save us now.”
I guess there were people who had not yet heard of Jesus, and this demonstration raised a lot of questions for them. Matthew 21:10 reports: 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.”
“The prophet?” That phrase reveals that the praise of Palm Sunday wasn’t in worship for the Messiah, but it was in response to the miracles of Jesus. His popularity had swelled, not because of Who He really was, but because of what He had proven He could do. The crowd had freedom from Rome on their mind, but Jesus was fixed on providing freedom from sin. The crowd saw a government as their enemy, but Jesus was planning to battle Satan. The crowd believed if they could escape Rome’s grip they could live in peace. Jesus, however, had come to help us escape death’s grip, enabling us to live in peace forever, without fear of death. The palms waved in praise were in prediction of an earthly victory. We know the victory Jesus secured was much larger than the temporary overturning of an earthly government or a carnal religious system. The kind of victory Jesus secured was one that could never be undone.
Often, however, a lot of people want Jesus on their terms, don’t they? They want to praise and worship the Jesus who will do their bidding, who will perform according to their expectations. And it wasn’t long before public opinion shifted. We’ve all been witnesses to how easily culture can be manipulated, haven’t we? And on the heels of the high praise of Palm Sunday, right after Jesus cursed the fig tree for not being fruitful, representing Israel’s lack of spiritual fruit, representing their dead spiritual condition, it was on. Jesus’ authority was questioned, rumors and innuendo spread. There were back alley meetings, emails were sent, and a smear campaign began to convince the crowd they had been wrong about Jesus’ motives. Long before Jesus appeared before any Roman authority for trial, He was put through the ringer by the religious leaders.
In Matthew chapter 21:23ff Jesus’ authority was questioned. He answered by telling a few parables that exposed the religious leaders’ hypocrisy. Well, that didn’t sit well with the religious elite. Another religious group stepped forward to try to trap Jesus during a conversation about paying taxes. Jesus didn’t fall for it. So, yet another group entered the scene to try to bait Him into saying something blasphemous as they asked about marriage at the resurrection.
None of the groups who had tried to instigate a war of words with Jesus was winning so in Matthew 22:34ff they questioned Him about the greatest commandment. Jesus eloquently answered and then, trying to help them see Who He really was, Jesus talked to them about the Messiah. He asked how the Messiah could be David’s Lord and the Son of David at the same time. No one could answer. Jesus did more teaching about religious hypocrisy and pronounced woes on people with a religious spirit. The religious leaders got hotter and hotter under the collar.
Jesus shifted to talk about the destruction of the temple in AD 70 and about end times signs. Jesus talked about how people needed to live ready and how there would be a separating of the “sheep” and the “goats” in Matthew 25. If they had truly wanted to hear the answers to their questions, if they had wanted to know the truth about Jesus and if they had wanted to see the error of their ways, Jesus had given them more than enough information to assist them in that process. But again, a lot of people want to encounter Jesus on their own terms, don’t they?
The religious leaders were infuriated. They had had enough. In Matthew 26 they decided He had to be killed and quickly. And they maneuvered and conspired and got one of Jesus’ disciples to turn on Him. And Matthew 26:47 says that those sent to arrest Jesus were sent by the chief priests and the elders of the people. The damage was done. Jesus’ character was now so questionable in such a short amount of time that another crowd, perhaps populated with some of the same Palm Sunday praises, would condemn Him to death.
I invite you to turn to John 18. I’ll get there in a moment. Last week we read from John 14 where Jesus made this bold declaration about Himself in verse 6, ““I am The Way and The Truth and The Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
Last week I outlined some of the ways that Jesus is the Way from John 14 and John 15. Today, I want to focus on the second descriptor Jesus used to declare who He was. He said He was the truth. This attribute came into view for sure during the last week of Jesus’ life as He dialogued with the religious leaders under tremendous pressure and then as He stood before Pilate in John 18.
John 18:28-40-Jesus Before Pilate 28 Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?” 30 “If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.”31 Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” “But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected. 32 This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die.
33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” 34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?” 35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?” 36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world IS TO TESTIFY TO THE TRUTH. EVERYONE ON THE SIDE OF TRUTH LISTENS TO ME.” (Read that last sentence with me.)
38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. 39 But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?” 40 They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.
Allow me two quick observations, and then I’m gonna preach: Note that Jesus didn’t say, “Those who aren’t for me are against Me.” No, He said, “Those who are against Me are against the truth because I am the truth! So, observation one is: Those who reject Jesus reject the truth. Observation two is simply Pilate’s response to it all. After Jesus said He had come to testify to the truth and that everyone on the side of truth listens to Him, Pilate retorted, “What is truth?” And then…he walked away!
His response, though perhaps one of sarcasm, speaks with cutting clarity across the ages and is relevant for our day. I’ve simply concluded that a growing number of people don’t want to hear or deal with the truth. Like Pilate, they’d rather walk away.
I want to ask you this morning, “Are you on the side of truth?” Because to be on the side of truth is to be a follower of Jesus. It means sticking around and dealing with any hard issues, any heart problems that Jesus wants to address. It means you recognize Him as the final authority and that your opinion takes a backseat to all Jesus has declared. We cannot wave our palm branches in praise and then want to tell Jesus how it’s going to be, friends. We cannot wave our hands in worship as if we were waving some kind of magic wand to get Jesus to perform according to our expectations. No, He is the Truth, so He sets the standards and calls the plays. We are to line up with Him.
How do we understand Jesus to be the Truth? John emphasizes this character quality of Jesus more than any other Gospel writer. The word, “truth,” occurs one time in Matthew and three times in Mark and in Luke, but it appears 25 times in the Gospel of John.
It was so important to John that we know that Jesus was the truth that he stated it in the very first chapter in verse 14: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, FULL OF GRACE AND TRUTH.
And John describes Jesus in three ways by using the word, “True.” Here is the main outline for today’s message: Jesus is the True Bread. (John 6:28-51) Jesus is the True Vine. (John 15:1) Jesus is the True Light. (John 1:9-13)
Jesus is the True Bread. (John 6:28-51)
In John 6:35 Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” Back up to verse 30: 30 So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’[a]” 32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the TRUE BREAD from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
In an overwhelmingly majority of places around the world, bread is still considered to be a staple, a basic dietary item. It really is symbolic of food in general. We may even use the phrase, “Breaking bread together,” when we refer to having just a general meal with someone. Bread was an integral part of Jewish history. There was unleavened bread to prepare and eat each year to commemorate the Passover, the Exodus from Egypt and the night their first born were spared by having lamb’s blood applied to their doors. When the Jewish people wandered in the desert for 40 years, God provided bread from Heaven, literally, out of the blue, from the sky, causing it to appear daily on the ground so that the Jewish nation could eat and be sustained as He led them to the Promised Land.
All of that is the backdrop for this conversation about Jesus being the true bread. Daily bread sustained the Israelites as they traveled and unleavened bread represented how God delivered them from slavery and death. So, bread represents that which is essential for deliverance and for daily life. Sound familiar? “Give us this day our daily bread…” “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”
If you are going to be delivered from the sin of slavery and enjoy the ultimate freedom in Heaven that can be yours when you enter through the doorway of death, you will have to be sustained and nourished by Jesus, the Bread of Life. The religious leaders wanted to leave Him out of the equation altogether, but the truth is there is no spiritual nourishment or spiritual life without Jesus. When they rejected Jesus as the Messiah, they rejected the truth that He is the Way to freedom from sin and death and that our spiritual life is only sustained in and through a relationship not with the Law, but through Him.
Jesus is the True Vine. (John 15:1)
When Jesus hailed Himself as the True Vine, He was inviting His followers to a close relationship with Him, a close relationship with God. His coming signaled that God had come close and had invited us to move even closer. The vine/branch connection is close. It is tight. Nothing comes in between the vine and the branch. A vine never leaves its branches. Jesus said we could do the things the Vine could do if we would abide in Him. To be connected to Jesus would mean fruitfulness for Jesus’ followers. The religious leaders didn’t want any more of Jesus’ kind. The Roman officials sure didn’t want more people doing the kinds of things Jesus had been doing. That could foster trouble with Rome.
When the religious leaders, when Pilate…when they rejected Jesus as the truth that day in Pilate’s court, they were rejecting a way of life that would put people in a state of intimate dependence upon Jesus rather than on them. I am so thankful that I can live dependent upon Jesus this morning, and that my hope isn’t built on a religious system or a government that rises and falls every few years with an election. My life can bear the fruit of righteousness, peace and joy, and I can see spiritual fruit as I help others get connected to Jesus, the True Vine.
Finally, Jesus is the True Light. (John 1:9-11)
9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.
Jesus, the True Light, was rejected by His own. That means people chose darkness over the light. In some ways, I believe that when the crowd cried to release Barabbas and to crucify Jesus, they were rejecting the truth of Who Jesus was and were choosing the darkness over the light. Light exposes that which has been hidden, doesn’t it? Wasn’t that really what those who conspired against Jesus were reacting to? With the light of the truth Jesus had exposed the broken religious system. His teachings had put a spotlight on the hypocrisy and deception in people’s hearts. They wanted Him gone so that they could hide again in the shadows and live without the conviction Jesus brings, just doing as they pleased. To look at Jesus is to have to face the reality of our sin. Not everyone wants to deal with that. To choose to walk with Jesus is to choose to want to see things for what they really are to see ourselves as we really are. In John 8:12, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” Many people today, when you observe their lives, they reveal they haven’t chosen Jesus because they are stumbling through life, making mistakes, perpetuating failures, living short-sighted, sinful and self-reliant. Human wisdom cannot take you where you need to go. Only walking in the light with Jesus can make that happen.
Oh, Jesus is the True Bread, the True Vine, and the True Light.
A lot of people are trying to work their way to Heaven by partaking of false bread. Good works won’t save us. Good vibes won’t save us. Being “spiritual” won’t save us. Nothing on earth can satisfy your need to be found, your need to be loved, your need to have fulfillment but Jesus. Nothing on earth can set put your heart in the right condition but Jesus.
A lot of people are trying to be fruitful by connecting to false vines. They want to get rich quick. They want to climb the ladder. They link up with people they believe can help them get ahead even though it means compromise of their character and their faith in Jesus. What they are hitching themselves to cannot support or sustain them.
A lot of people choose the dark because the light seems uncomfortable. They are afraid of the transformation the light may bring. They don’t like the dark, but they have grown accustomed to it. It just seems safer.
If we are really going to be people whose Palm Sunday Praise is pure, we are going to need to be people who stand with Jesus and proclaim Him to be the truth. Jesus is always the truth in every situation for every generation.
He is the True Bread. Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
He is the True Vine. You can be who God created you to be as you connect your life to His.
He is the True Light. Oh, walk in the light as He is in the light and have fellowship with God’s people and enjoy being covered by the blood of Christ.
Pilate’s sarcastic question again. “What is truth?” It’s a Person. His name is Jesus. Be found with Him.