Palm Sunday - "Sunnyhill" Herne Bay Evangelical Free Church

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Palm Sunday

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Reading:  Mt.21:1-11

Palm Sunday



Introduction:
Today is  Palm Sunday , the Sunday before Easter. It is the day on which we traditionally celebrate Jesus’ triumphal arrival in Jerusalem. Jerusalem was packed because it was the time of the Jewish festival of the Passover.

As Jesus approached the city, great crowds of people lined the streets waving palm branches to welcome him. It was a joyful occasion and the people were very excited and the procession was noisy.  It wasn’t long before the entire city was buzzing with excitement. And all because of Jesus!


This is what happened:
The account of the Triumphal Entry is vivid and we don’t have much difficulty in trying to imagine the scene. The facts are clear and exciting because they are out of the ordinary. Let me highlight them for you:

  • Jesus makes arrangements to ride the last part of the journey into Jerusalem and he chooses to ride on a young colt of a donkey. It was the first time we ever find Jesus using an animal as a means of transport.

  • His disciples put some of their outer clothing on the colt for Jesus to sit on.

  • Others threw their cloaks on the ground and yet others cut palm branches and placed them on the road too. They were intent on giving Jesus the red-carpet treatment.

  • The crowds were calling out loudly, shouting and joyfully praising God. As they cried out they called upon God to save them with the coming of the promised Messiah. Many also called out to Jesus with cries of welcome and approval.


Such are the events but what does it all mean?


This is what is means:
The answer is to be found in looking at Jesus and not being distracted by pictures of donkeys or palm branches.

Jesus is at the heart of this scene:

  • He is in charge and he knows it:

He decides how he will proceed
He issues instructions to his disciples fully expecting them to do what he tells them
He explains what to do if opposition is encountered

  • He sees himself as "Lord"

  • He is recognised as "the king" referred to it OT prophecy

  • He is recognised as the Son of David by the enthusiastic crowd

  • He is recognised as coming in the name of the Lord

  • He is recognised as being the One who can save

  • He is identified as Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee

 

Let’s look more closely at all this:

  • Jesus is in charge:

For some time now Jesus had set his face resolutely to go to Jerusalem. The fact that it was a dangerous place for him to go was not the slightest deterrent – Jerusalem occupied a special place in God’s plans for dealing with a lost mankind and Jesus knew that it was there that his life’s mission would be accomplished.

As he headed towards Jerusalem his disciples followed him and while there were some incredible "ups" on the way there, like the raising of Lazarus from the dead, the disciples were somewhat pessimistic. This is how one of them, Thomas, put it:

Jn. 11:16  "So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him.""


With this mindset it’s difficult imagining the disciples urging a public demonstration to welcome Jesus to the city.

But that was exactly what Jesus had in mind. He had no intention of slipping into Jerusalem quietly and unobserved! This was possible, he had done it before, but not this time.

Jesus sent two of his followers with a careful set of instructions: they were to bring a couple of pack animals to him and he would enter the city riding on one of them.

He didn’t do this because he was too tired to walk the last couple of miles rather he did it to make a point. The point stands out all the more clearly because this was the first time we ever read of him riding on an animal at all.

Now why did he do this? What point was he trying to make? Was it to impress? What was his choice of mount?

The animal he chose was a lowly beast of burden and not the horse of a mighty warrior riding out to war. No, he was coming not to wage war on the city of Jerusalem but was entering the city in peace and to secure the peace for the inhabitants of the city. The inhabitants of Jerusalem had no reason to fear his coming he wasn’t coming to fight against them but he was coming "to destroy the works of the devil". He would do that by his death that would crown the end of this passover week and begin the first week of the new creation with his resurrection!

So Jesus chose to draw attention to himself as he entered the city on this particular visit. He was on important business and men and women must be made aware of what was going on.

The disciples are sent to make the necessary transport arrangements and given instructions concerning how to deal with any potential glitches.

The fundamental role of a disciple is to follow his Master and carry out his instructions. These disciples do just that and find that they are enabled to accomplish just what Jesus told them to do.

There is a simple and quick lesson here for us and we mustn’t try to make things difficult for ourselves. The Christian disciple is meant to do what his Master tells him to do. Or in the words of the old hymn:

"Trust and obey,
for there’s no other way,
to be happy in Jesus,
but to trust and obey."  


  • Jesus sees himself as "the Lord":


Did you notice that in v.3 "the Lord needs..." these are the key words given to help his disciples overcome any reluctance on the part of the animal’s owners to allowing the animals to be led away. These are extraordinary words when you realise just who Jesus is. Most of us when we become Christians only have a vague idea about who Jesus really is. However as we grow as Christians we grow in understanding of his majesty too. Jesus is the Lord of all. Everything was made through him and for him and he rules over all things and yet as he came into the world to be our Saviour he stooped very low indeed, so low in fact that he had needs! But his humility did not mean that he forgot who he fundamentally was: he was and is "the Lord". Yes, I know that sometimes in Greek that the word translated Lord means little more than a respectful "Sir" But I also see here that Jesus didn’t describe himself merely as the Master of his disciples – he doesn’t tell them to say "our Lord needs them" but THE Lord needs them.

It is out of this consciousness of just who he is that flows his confidence in life and his absolute ease in which he instructs his followers as to what they should do. He instructs and expects obedience because he is the Lord.

Have you recognised his authority as the Lord yet in your own life?

  • Jesus sees himself as "the king" whose coming was prophesied in the divinely inspired Scriptures of the OT.


Back in the prophecy of Zechariah written some 500 years BC there is the promise of a king who would come and by his coming he would bring salvation to his people. He would easy to identify because he would come not as some flamboyant conqueror but humbly riding upon the foal of a donkey.

This was a reference to the Messiah who would come to deliver his people and Jesus had not the slightest hesitation in applying the prophecy to himself.

Entering Jerusalem in this particular manner Jesus was drawing attention to himself and declaring I am the One!

  • He is recognised as the Son of David by the enthusiastic crowd


Nor was Jesus alone in seeing himself as the Messiah – the crowd that flooded out of the city to welcome him and the crowd that followed him towards the city readily recognised him in that way too. That is what is meant by calling out to him as the "Son of David". They had of course heard much already about this most remarkable of men. They knew about the wide variety of miracles he had carried out and the most recent of them all, the raising of Lazarus from the dead, was still very fresh in the memory. They realised that only a very special person indeed could do the kind of things that he did and they arrived at this profound and accurate conclusion.

  • He is recognised as coming in the name of the Lord


Further they recognised that he had not appeared in some self-serving manner out only to promote and foster his own interests. There are plenty of that sort of crank around – there always have been and probably always will be – but Jesus was quite simply not like that. This one had come "in the name of the Lord" that is, he had come to do not his own but his Father’s will, he even said that it was his meat and drink to do what his Father wanted him to do!
So Jesus had done what his Father had given him to do, he had taught what his Father had given him to teach and shortly he would use the very authority the Father had granted him to both lay down his life and to take it up again. Jesus had come to Jerusalem because he knew that was the place where he was supposed to die!

Lk.13:33 "Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’"


  • He is recognised as being the One who can save


The crowds don’t remain indifferent to their knowledge of just who Jesus is. Their recognition of his identity as the Messiah is demonstrated as they cry out with cries of praise and of acclamation. But they do more than this. You may well have some inkling concerning just who Jesus is and you may admire him, you may even go as far as to publicly praise him. But have you done what the people in this crowd did?

Do you remember what they cried out as they addressed him as the Son of David? As they addressed their praise to him who came in the name of the Lord? They cried out "Hosanna". That is a cry that means "Save" or "Save now".

The prophecies concerning the king who was to come riding on a foal of a donkey also contained an affirmation of the king’s righteousness and of his bringing salvation with him. And so the crowd, or at least many in the crowd, don’t just identify who Jesus is but they cry out to him to do for them what he and he alone can do – to save.

My friend, if you haven’t yet called on Jesus to save you from your sins and to take away the debt that you will never be able to pay then why on earth not? What is stopping you? Don’t you realise how serious it all is? Jesus went to such lengths to ensure there was a salvation to bestow and won’t you ask him to bestow it freely on you? He acted in such a way as he entered into Jerusalem that everyone would be forced to think about him. This morning that is what I want you to do, to think about him. To think seriously about him until you realise that you need him, that you can’t do without him and that he is simply too precious a gift to miss out on. And then as you realise these things that you call upon him to save you!

  • He is identified as Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee


There is one final identification that the crowd make concerning Jesus that I want you to think about. They recognise him as being the prophet from Nazareth. Now, a prophet is one who speaks God’s words and bring God’s message to bear. God is not like a man that he should lie and so when he speaks it is the truth that he shares. Jesus is a prophet, indeed the prophet:

Heb.1:1-2"Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world."


Jesus is, in fact, God’s final word to us. How seriously we should treat this and how careful we should be to ensure that we have responded to him and are going on doing so! We’re coming full circle because we began with Jesus the Master instructing his disciples what they should do and them doing so. When we call out to Jesus to save us we are inviting him into our lives as our Lord and Master – there is no salvation without the Lordship of Jesus Christ. And the characteristic mark of the disciple is obedience to his Master – as we receive and believe what he says so we are also to receive and act upon his instructions.

May the Lord help us see what it is important for us to see. May he give us grace to respond with a wholehearted committal to him.

Amen.

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