Reporter-Thanks, Candace. I’m here on the streets of Jerusalem. Word has spread that the miracle working man named Jesus will be riding through here with his disciples any minute. You can see that the streets are lined with people, anxious to see this parade. Many of them have their cloaks in their hands and I’m told that they intend to spread them out on the parade route as Jesus passes by. Others have palm branches in their hands that they say they will either throw down in front of Jesus’ parade float or that they will wave in praise and honor as he passes by. While we’re waiting for the parade to begin, I’ve asked some of the people along the route to answer some questions about what this day means to them and why they have come out early stake out a spot in the parade route.
(To Paralytic)Yes, Sir, tell me your name and why you have come.
Paralytic: People used to call me Paralytic. Now I just go by “Al.”
Reporter-Okay, Al. Tell me why you are here and why you are carrying that stretcher.
Paralytic: The truth is I haven’t stopped carrying it. I couldn’t walk and when Jesus healed me, he told me to take up my stretcher and walk. I’ve been carrying it ever since so that when people ask me about it, I can explain that I am now carrying the very thing that once carried me. On top of that, I can tell them that Jesus not only healed me, but He forgave my sin.
Reporter-So this stretcher is like a souvenir of your healing?
Paralytic: I guess you could say that. I knew if I brought it to the parade, when Jesus passed by He would know that it was me, and He would be glad that I came to praise and celebrate Him on this special day.
Reporter-And you, Sir, what is your name?
Blind Bartimaeus-I used to be called Blind Bartimaeus, but now I just go by Bart.
Reporter-Okay, Bart. You have a cloak draped over your hand. Can you tell us about it?
Blind Bartimaeus-Yeah, when I was blind, I used to spread this cloak out to collect the coins I’d get from begging. Since I was homeless, I wrapped it around me at night to keep me warm.
Reporter-And you’ve come to the parade to see Jesus now?
Blind Bartimaeus-Yeah. That day when I was calling to him to heal me and have mercy on me, his disciples told me to shut up. I knew at the parade, I’d be able to praise and honor the Lord without anyone trying to keep me quiet.
Reporter-And the cloak?
Blind Bartimaeus-I plan to spread it before Jesus as he passes by. When he called me to come to him the day of my healing, I cast it aside. After my encounter with Jesus, however, I went back and picked it up. I never wanted to forget the poverty and self reliance that Jesus had delivered me from. I went from being a blind beggar to being someone freed from all darkness who was rich in mercy. By spreading it out, I hope to honor Jesus because of all that He’s done for me.
Reporter-And you ladies.
Mary and Martha-(Speaking at the same time) We’re sisters. I’m _________. (Looking at each other) She’s ____________.
Mary-Our brother Lazarus is here somewhere. I think he went to the front of the parade route. We wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
Martha-We’ve brought our “Palm Palms!” (Waving them like a cheerleader) Give me a “J!”
Mary-Martha! (to reporter) You’ll have to excuse my sister. She gets a little carried away.
Reporter-It looks like you also have brought something unusual to the parade.
Mary-Our Lord freed our brother from death even though he had been in the tomb for three days. (Martha holds her nose and nods her head.) These are the strips he was wrapped in.
Martha-We take them with us everywhere we go so that we can tell people about the miraculous power that Jesus has over death. Today, we’re going to spread them out in front of him as He passes by. We want Jesus, in all of His majesty, to ride on the symbol of our testimony.
Reporter-So, Candace apparently, the people in this Praise Parade as it is being called, seem to be folks who have experienced the miraculous power of God through this Jesus person. (Martha sneaks behind reporter and waves as if to wave to someone at home and then waves her branches) It will be interesting to see the impact his entrance has on the Jewish leaders here as you know He has been a very controversial figure. Back to you, Candace.
We read in Luke 19 that Jesus sent two of his disciples to the next village where they would find a donkey that had never been ridden. They were to untie it and bring it to Him.
We pick up the story in verse 35 35They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. 37 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: 38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
Now obviously we don’t know who was in attendance at this parade, but we know from our text that there was a crowd. We know it was a crowd of Jesus’ followers. We know they had witnessed miracles. We know that they were shouting praises to the Lord. Blind Bartimaeus, the Paralytic, Mary and Martha and Lazarus-they were likely there. John’s account of the Triumphal Entry says in chapter 12 verse 17 17 Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word.
18 Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him.
One thing is for sure. Those in attendance were people who had been amazed by Jesus.
They were amazed by Jesus, and our text says that those along the parade route spread their cloaks before Jesus as he passed by. Spreading clothing to carpet one’s pathway was a way to honor the person. I guess you could say this practice was the predecessor to “rolling out the red carpet.” When the people were aware that Jehu had been anointed king of Israel, “They hurried and took their cloaks and spread them under him on the bare steps. Then they blew the trumpet and shouted, ‘Jehu is king!’ “(2 Kings 9:13) Mark tells us, “Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields” (Mark 11:8). John’s Gospel indicates the people were going out to meet the procession with palm branches (John 12:13).
Just assuming those in the skit were there that day I’d like to take a quick look at each of them and why they had every reason to be amazed. Mark 2 depicts the story of the paralytic. We pick up the story in verse 4: 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….” He said to the paralytic, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”
What’s amazing about Jesus in this story?
We see He backs up what He says.
I came to this conclusion by analyzing the question Jesus asked the teachers of the Law. He said, “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? At first read, it might seem a confusing question. Let me ask it this way. Which would be easier to do in order to convince someone you had miraculous powers? A miracle you could see or a miracle you couldn’t see? Jesus could say, “Your sins are forgiven,” but no one would be able to see that taking place. Up to this point, remember, the visible sign of the forgiveness of sins was the sacrificing of an animal. Here Jesus is, in someone’s house, not in a temple, not offering a sacrifice, and He is claiming that sins are forgiven. There is only one person who can forgive sins. That would be God. In this encounter, Jesus was demonstrating He was and IS God by backing up the comment about forgiveness with something that could be seen, the healing of the paralytic.
If I told you that I had all power and authority, you’d want me to prove it, right? Of course Jesus was interested in the physical healing of the paralytic or he wouldn’t have healed him, but the physical healing that the teachers of the Law could see with their own eyes was to serve as the proof that Jesus actually pulled off the greater miracle which was the forgiveness of the man’s sins.
I’m sure as the paralytic was lowered everyone knew why he had been brought to Jesus. But Jesus knew more. He knew beyond what was seen with human eyes and human understanding because He was and IS God. Deliverance from demons, the healing of the body, those are all fantastic, but forgiveness is the greatest miracle that Jesus ever performs. It meets the greatest need. It costs the greatest price, and it brings the greatest blessing and the most lasting results.
Jesus did what He did in the order that He did it in to give evidence of his authority to forgive sins. He backed up His words by His actions. They could not see sins being forgiven, but they could see the effect of Jesus’ further words in the man’s response. It is easy to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” because no one can ordinarily see whether sins are forgiven or not. But if one tells a paralyzed man to get up and walk, the words will quickly be shown to be empty words if nothing happens. “But,” said Jesus to his critics, “that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,” and then, addressing himself to the paralytic, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” When the paralytic did just that, Jesus’ power as a healer was confirmed—but more than that, Jesus’ authority to forgive sins was confirmed at the same time.
The Scripture says Everyone (including the scribes) was amazed (existasthai, lit., “out of their minds” and praised (ascribed glory to) God because of Jesus’ display of supernatural power. So, Jesus backed up His word of forgiveness with a word of healing, and the man went home whole.
Jesus always backed up His words. He said in John 3:14, “14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up.” Wouldn’t you say the cross backed up those words? “In three days, I will rise again. Don’t you think the resurrection took care of that one?” “I will ask my Father to send you another Comforter, the Holy Spirit. Don’t you think Pentecost proved that comment true?”
Church, Jesus is still backing up His words. When He says, “If you confess your sins, I will forgive them,” he backs them up with action. When He says, “If I’ve called you to do something, I’ll be faithful to you and I will enable you to do it,” He backs it up. When He says, “Cast all your cares on me, for I care for you,” He backs it up with help, and strength and hope. When He says, “Call to me, and I will answer you,” He isn’t just blowing smoke. You can count on Him to do everything He says.
This has got to be one of my favorite quotes of Jesus ever. “I will come again and receive you unto myself and where I am, there you will be also.” When He says He’s coming back for us, you’d better believe I Thessalonians 4:15 that says, 15According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
That’s why I can wave a palm branch in praise with confidence because keeps His word. If He said it, He has done it or will do it. He is coming back! And He’s coming for me!
Men, you might go to the Promise Keeper’s conference every other year, but our Lord Jesus is the ultimate PROMISE KEEPER. He’s amazing because He backs up everything He says with action. That’s worth waving a palm branch or two.
LORD, I’M AMAZED BY YOU
Mark 10:46-52-Now we look at Blind Bartimaeus. What’s amazing about Jesus in this story? We see He completely transforms lives.
The day began like any other day for blind Bartimaeus. Waking up, he shook the straw from his shabby, torn garments, stretched, got to his feet, and began tapping his way along the familiar turns which led to the main gate in Jericho. Perhaps he was able to beg a crust of bread or two at some familiar stops along the way. Arriving at the gate he took his regular place with the other beggars, where he drew his greasy cloak tight around him because, though it was spring, it took the sun to dispel the chill.
As he sat there, just like so many days before, he listened to the city come to life—first a donkey loaded with melons for market, after that several women chatting as they took pitchers toward the well, then the clomp of camels’ hooves, and the aroma of fish being taken to market. Soon Jericho was humming, and the blind man was set to work, voicing his beggar’s cry.
Suddenly Bartimaeus tensed and lifted his head, for his blind-sensitive ears heard the hubbub of a great crowd approaching. First came young boys running before the crowd with shrill cries, then more people hurrying past the gate talking excitedly. Bartimaeus, brushed by a robe, reached out and asked what was happening. The passerby, pulling his robe away, called back, “Jesus of Nazareth—the one who heals the lame and lepers and blind—the one some are saying is the Messiah—is passing by!” Everyone had been talking about this man’s exploits and words. Bartimaeus had perhaps even heard a first-person testimony from someone who had heard him and had seen his miracles. Bartimaeus had been doing a lot of thinking, and now he made up his mind. This must be the Messiah, and now he is coming. His heart began to pound.
The crowd was passing. People called to one another. Bartimaeus was jostled. Jesus would soon be gone. He had to do something! So, Mark tells us, “When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!'” (Mark 10:47, 48).
The people around him surely tried to shush him—”Bartimaeus, you are making a scene.” Others chided him or insulted him—”Shut up, beggar!” No way was Blind Bart going to be shut up! “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Mark records, “Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him'” (Mark 10:49a). Remember that Jesus is on the way to the terrible Cross. The last stop is Jerusalem, just eighteen miles away, and yet Jesus has time for this poor beggar. The Son stood still. Isn’t it awesome that Jesus stops for beggars?
Jesus said, “‘Call him.’ So they called to the blind man, ‘Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.’ Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus” (Mark 10:49, 50). The instant Bartimaeus heard the commands, he threw off his cloak (an extreme gesture for a blind man, who would normally keep his cloak where he could touch it), sprang to his feet, and stumbled with the help of others to Jesus. Can you imagine Bartimaeus’ thrill? If his heart was pounding before, what was it doing now?
Now hear the exchange: “‘What do you want me to do for you?’ Jesus asked him. The blind man said, ‘Rabbi, I want to see'” (Mark 10:51). “‘Go,’ said Jesus, ‘your faith has healed you.’ Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road” (Mark 10:52).
When Bartimaeus called Jesus “Rabbi,” he was saying, “My master.” He was giving Jesus authority of his life. When he took off his cloak, he was laying down the only form of self reliance he possessed to trust Jesus fully to make a difference in his life.
Jesus initiated this rescue. Oh, Bartimaeus called out, but Jesus came by the very place where Bartimaeus found himself. He knew Bartimaeus would never be able to come to him. He not only healed him, but he changed His life. Scholars say the reason Mark preserves Bartimaeus’ name was that he became a stalwart in the Jerusalem church. He followed Jesus, likely witnessing the Triumphal Entry on Palm Sunday, the horror of the Crucifixion, and the joy of the Resurrection. Talk about getting one’s eyes full!
Some of you here know what I’m talking about. You were drug addicts. You were alcoholics. You were living in sexual sin. You were burning every bridge you ever had relationally speaking because you were lying and cheating and stealing and Jesus set you free. He stopped by your place. He asked what He could do for you. You took off your cloak and said, “I don’t want to try to run the show anymore.” You followed Jesus and your life became a life of freedom and adventure from that moment on.
O LORD I’M AMAZED BY YOU
John 11:17-49-Mary and Martha
What is amazing about Jesus in the story of Lazarus death? It reveals the complexity of Jesus’ love.
After getting word that Lazarus, a dearly loved friend of Jesus, Scripture details that Jesus stayed where he was on purpose for two more days rather than going to Lazarus. He tells his disciples in John 11:14-15 14″Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
Jesus’ tone here seems to indicate that Lazarus death was going to benefit them. There would be a greater faith, a greater knowledge, a greater understanding; something would be revealed through Lazarus’ death that would be for their good.
We see the same kinds of tone and words echoed again in verse 38
38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” The man has been dead for four days. You can sympathize with Martha. With all of the grief, sadness, and disappointment, why open the grave and let the stench come out? Why look at a decaying corpse?
41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
How did Jesus show Himself amazing? How did any of this benefit those who were there? How was His love expressed?
After Jesus was told that Lazarus was sick, John says Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days. Now the placement of words in the Bible aren’t random or happenstance. God wanted us to see that the circumstances that were transpiring in the lives of Lazarus and Mary and Martha didn’t negate the fact that He loved them deeply. There is an on purpose connection in this verse when it is stated that Jesus loved these people, yet he stayed where He was for two more days.
The word “love” used here is translated as the word agape — that unstoppable, highest type of love, the love of God. Christ loves us with that kind of love. Knowing this, we might expect Scripture to say, “Jesus, upon hearing that Lazarus was sick, went to one of his disciples, found a horse, and rode as fast as he could to be with Lazarus!” But that is not what the Bible says. It says he loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus so much that he stayed away. Incredible!
From ground level it can sometimes appear to us that even though we are Christ’s children and we love him, He does not care about us. At times, humanly speaking, our circumstances seem to admit no other interpretation than that. Think about Joseph being sold by his brothers into slavery. He ended up in Potiphar’s household, and by hard work, integrity, and devotion he rose to the top — only to be toppled because he would not compromise himself with Mrs. Potiphar. As a result, he ended up in a foul Egyptian jail. From ground level it appeared that God had forsaken him. Joseph had honored God as a young man, but it seemed God did not care about him any longer.
When a Christian is falsely accused and pleads with God to bring the evidence to clear him, and it is only after his reputation is ruined that the evidence comes, we wonder if God cares. When we plan some great event for God and the whole thing falls through, we wonder if God cares. When we do everything right and live within our means and invest wisely and come to retirement only to find out that due to this stinky economy what we have left in our investments isn’t predicted to see us through, we wonder if God cares. We must be honest and admit that at ground level there are times when it is very difficult to keep believing in the goodness of God.
But John 11 elevates our perspective. It explains to Christ’s praying, devoted children that no matter how it may appear, these inexplicable delays are delays of love. When we are being ravaged by the events of life, it is very difficult to believe that God really loves us. But John 11 and many other Scriptures clearly claim that these delays are delays of love.
For two days our Lord calmly went about his work far away from his anguished ones. Mary and Martha were anything but calm. They probably went outside each hour to see if their Lord was approaching, then went back in to Lazarus, whose life was ebbing away, then went out again to look for Jesus. After two days the Lord decided it was time to respond to the sisters’ urgent message.
Mary and Martha were wrapped up in grief. Lazarus was literally wrapped up in death. I don’t know what you are wrapped in this morning-a financial mess, a marital mess, a different kind of relational mess, an emotional mess, an addiction mess, a health mess, I am telling you that Jesus is still in love with you. He has a reason for everything that looks like a human delay and it won’t bring decay or death into your life but a strengthening of your love for Him and faith in Him. He’ll do something so impressive, so big, that you’ll be closer to Him than you thought possible as a result.
That’s why I can wave a palm branch in the midst of the trials of life because Jesus who is large and in charge is the One who loves me.
O LORD I’M AMAZED
Are you amazed?