It was Palm Sunday but because of a sore throat, 5 year old Sammy stayed home from church with a babysitter. When the family returned home, they were carrying several palm fronds. Sammy inquired as to what they were for. ‘People held them over Jesus’ head as he walked by,’ his father responded.
‘Wouldn’t you just know it?’ Sammy complained, ‘the one Sunday I don’t go and he shows up.’
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.”
Two million people were milling about in Jerusalem for the Passover. Jesus often had tried to maintain a low profile. Miracles were performed and words followed like, “Don’t tell anyone about this.” Jesus often wanted to fly under the radar. But on this day, Jesus had actually planned and promoted a public demonstration. Jesus wasn’t a calculated politician who was trying to build some kind of campaign to a climax and then capitalize on the time and place in Jerusalem when He knew the most people would be around. No, in all things, He was merely obeying the Father and fulfilling prophecy. Zechariah 9:9, foretold the triumphal entry hundreds of years before it took place. It was so detailed about the Messiah entering Jerusalem on a donkey, a colt that had never been ridden, that there should have been no mistaking that Jesus was who He was rumored to be.
Jesus knew this public demonstration would outrage the Jewish leaders who had been looking for a way to trap Him. Such a large spontaneous street demonstration would lead them to the conclusion that Jesus had to be destroyed. You can hear their panic in John 12:19 when after the parade into Jerusalem, the religious leaders huddled together and said, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!” Jesus threatened every system, every burden, every authority they had set up to keep people under their control. This became the “final straw” for them. Jesus brilliantly staged the whole thing during Passover not because of the crowd, but because of the prophecies that the Lamb of God would be crucified on Passover.
We see in this passage about the triumphal entry that some people had made a shift from merely following Jesus, to claiming Him as their King by their words and their deeds.
The people in the streets of Jerusalem had their “praise on” that day. They had their “shout on” that day. They were shouting, “Hosanna,” which means “God saves” or “save now.” They were quoting Scripture from Psalm 118 which is messianic in its character. They had spread out their coats on the ground and had broken palm branches from trees to wave. Both acts 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.
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. Let me ask you, “Is He YOUR King today?” Do your words and actions reflect the place you have given to Him in your heart and life?
Let me suggest a few reasons we ought to praise the Lord:
1. You can praise Him because Jesus loves sinners, lepers, and tax collectors. That means, He loves us.
No one has gone to greater lengths to prove their love for you. No one. He loved you when you were at your worst. He loves you unconditionally. He loved you before you were even born. He keeps pursuing even those who reject Him. God loves us so much He wants to adopt us-all of us. The most well-known verse in the Bible talks about God’s love. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) He loves us so much that He paid for our ransom with His own blood. He loves us so much that He wants to share everything at His disposal with us. Human love has limits, but God’s love has none. Doesn’t that reality cause you to want to praise the Lord?
“A farmer had a weather vane on top of his barn on whose arrow occurred the words, ‘God is love.’ Someone asked, ‘What do you mean by that? Do you mean that God’s love is changeable – that it veers about as the arrow turns in the wind?’ ‘Oh, no,’ said the farmer, ‘I meant that whichever way the wind blows, God is still love.'”
“A man may die and go to hell unsaved, but he will never go to hell unloved.” –Curtis Hutson
“If there is ever a doubt in your mind as to the love of God, I challenge you to take a look back at a place called Calvary. There you will see a holy and a sinless God, the Creator, dying for the creature that hates Him. Watch as the life leaves His body. Watch as His blood runs down the cross. Listen as His blood drips in great pools on the ground. Hear Him as He gasps for His last breath and gives His life a sacrifice for sin. Look at that broken and bleeding form hanging there lifeless on that cross and tell me that God doesn’t love you! There never has been, nor will there ever be a greater demonstration of God’s love than that of a broken and dead Savior on a bloody cross.”
2. You can praise Him because Jesus’ presence makes a difference in sickness, grief and death. When it matters most, Jesus can provide what matters most.
Oh, He’s good with parties too. There is an indescribable joy that is the reality for all who trust Christ. I’m telling you from first-hand experience. But you all know people who are good at parties. When there is a reason to celebrate or life is good, we can join forces with others who know how to party and laugh and have a good time. You may not see a need for Someone like Jesus when all is happy and bright. You may be alright in the light-hearted moments of life.
But when the rubber meets the road and the news is bad and your stomach is churning and you can’t think about facing tomorrow, there is no one who knows how to do sickness, grief and death the way Jesus does. And you dare not walk into those moments without Him. Does anyone know what I am talking about? You can’t make it through sickness without a Healer on board. You can’t make it through grief without a supernatural Comforter on board. You won’t make it through death without The Resurrection and the Life leading the way.
Even if Jesus doesn’t do what you want Him to do, His presence will make a huge positive difference in whatever your difficulty is. Read the Gospels and you’ll come to the same conclusion. Jesus’ presence will impact your situation in a positive way. Jesus’ presence will calm you, quiet you, guide you, anchor you and sustain you. Can someone praise Him this morning for His presence in our lives?
3. You can praise Him because you know the end of the story. The tomb is empty!
Death and Satan have been defeated. Christians, we have everything to look forward to. For the Christian, the best possible life is yet to come and it’s on the other side of the doorway to death. Something non-Christians fear is something we by faith and with anticipation can see beyond. 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? Stand with me and begin to praise Him with me on this Palm Sunday, a day of praise!
Break in Sermon
39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” 40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” 41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace–but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”
Palm Sunday is not only a day for praising, but it’s also a day for weeping. The people praised, but Jesus wept. When was the last time you watched a parade and saw the main character on the main float crying? Doesn’t seem right, does it? Aren’t parades happy times?
Jesus wept because though He, the Prince of Peace, was in their midst, verse 42 says, they still couldn’t see the way to peace. What spiritual darkness existed at the time of Jesus’ earthly life! Jesus would have done anything to get them to believe in Him—and He did. He had done all he could to get them to believe, yet they continued to reject Him.
His tears were shed over the people of God who lacked the discernment to recognize the times in which they lived. He wept because they failed to comprehend the warnings God gave to them.
People in society are not so different from the people who were waving their palm branches in Jerusalem that day. They can’t see the way to peace because they have short-sighted vision. They live for the moment. Yes, we must seize the moment of life, but we don’t live for the moment. We weren’t made for the moment! Christ didn’t die for us to enjoy the moment. He died so we could live for eternity! You see it all the time. People are living with their fingers in their ears, pretending not to hear the warnings about sin and eternity that God has written everywhere.
God was trying to speak to the people of that day. He ushered the Way to peace in on a donkey down the streets of Jerusalem and it went right over their heads and past their blinded eyes. They missed it. Jesus still weeps when people miss it.
There was a lot to see that day. No doubt. Pilgrims from everywhere had come to town for the feast. The city was decked out. There was pageantry and ceremony everywhere, but the most important thing, the Prince of Peace on display, was missed.
Jesus cried because He saw the city. He still sees the city. He sees beyond the pageantry, homecomings, ball games, community events, calendars and politics. He sees individual people. Lonely people, confused people, hungry people, violated people, burdened people, broken people, scared people, abused people, addicted people, sick people, selfish people, controlling people, angry people, and unsaved people. And when He does, He weeps. He weeps because they are out of place and severed from God’s life-giving purpose and power.
He sees you and me. When we miss seeing Him, He weeps. When we don’t listen to His warnings, He weeps. He sees the sin we try to hide. He sees what goes on behind closed doors. He reads our chats and text messages. He sees what we spend our money on. He sees how we fill our time. He sees how busy we are in the time He has designated for us use. He sees how easily we are preoccupied with stuff or “drama” rather than with the mission and task He has given each one of us to carry out. He weeps over people who have walked away from their faith. He weeps over people who have ignored their life’s purpose and calling. He weeps when people keep Him at arm’s length for fear they may be asked to sacrifice more, do more, share more, give more or serve more. He weeps because He knows they miss the best He wants to give.
Jesus sees the churches in the city. He knows our works. He knows our hearts and motives. He knows when we are doing our job as ambassadors for Christ and when we are coasting, calloused and unconcerned about the lost. He sees if we are faithful to the vision He has called us to or if a church has become a merely a social gathering hall. He sees. Beyond the décor and programs. He sees if we are being the church or if we are just having church. When churches miss being the Body of Christ, the hands and feet of Jesus and the Voice of the Gospel, Jesus weeps.
Because those gathered in Jerusalem missed it, because they were preoccupied with earthly thoughts of Jesus being some military king, because they didn’t allow God’s Word that they had learned to connect with the truth of Jesus’ presence in their lives, Jesus prophesied their demise. Just a few decades after Jesus lived the Romans would absolutely pulverize the city.
There are a lot of things we miss in life without too much consequence. If we miss an appointment, we can usually reschedule it. If we miss a day of testing, our overall grade will usually be enough to sustain the total grade. If we miss a meeting, we can almost always get the minutes and read to catch up. But if we miss Jesus, if we don’t tune our spiritual eyes to see where He is moving, what He is offering and what He is asking, we will miss more than a parade or a special event. We’ll miss more than a chance for an autograph, and the consequences have eternal value. We can’t stay dislocated from Jesus and have eternal life. And Christians, we can’t stay dislocated from our life’s mission and have abundant life.
He weeps because He sees the destruction of all who aren’t connected to the peace of God through Him. He doesn’t want us to hurt or suffer. He doesn’t want us to hurt others which happens when we don’t know peace through God and aren’t connected to our godly purpose. He doesn’t want us to be hurt by others which is the result of selfishness-which is at the heart of all sin.
Jesus said in Luke 19:42, “If you had only known.” Christians, are there people in your life who just don’t know what Christ offers? If they knew, how would their life change? If they knew what could bring them peace, how could things be different? “Jerusalem” means “City of Peace,” but do you know it’s been a city of war for centuries? If they had only known. Jesus had the peace they needed and still need. That day, Jesus was shedding tears for what could have been.
Is there someone in your life that needs to know? Don’t let them slip into eternity only to make the statement, “If I had only known.” Is it you? Is Jesus weeping over you this morning? Are you lost and trying to live life on your own apart from God? Jesus is riding by, right now. Don’t miss the opportunity to accept Him as Savior and Lord. Jesus wept because those in Jerusalem missed an opportunity. Don’t be like them. Accept Christ today.
Christians, my challenge to you is to make sure the people you know, know the way to peace. Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, but He rides through Putnam, Cabbell and Kanawha counties by way of His people. His message of peace, the way to peace, will be made known as we share the Good News of the Gospel. Who do you know that does not know peace? As we play part of this song, I’m asking that you will come and pray that God will use you to talk to people who need to make their peace with God. That God will use you to invite people to our Easter outreaches on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. That no one that you know could slip into eternity saying, “Why didn’t you tell me?”
Oh that we would weep over the city and our friends and loved ones who don’t know Christ. Oh that we would cry over those who are dislocated from God and His purpose for their life. Will you join me in seeking God for those who He is still seeking?