Purple is the Color of Royalty

“A pastor visiting the U.S. related what happened on Nov. 9, 1989 – the day the Berlin wall fell.  It was not a “planned” event.  There was a huge meeting taking place. It was a worship service. The order for service was scripture reading then sermon then a chance for anyone who wanted to come to the microphone and speak and then of course they closed with prayer.

“There were 2,000 people in the church, but there were another 5,000 outside, listening on speaker placed outside the building.  When it was time for people to come to the microphone, a woman came into the building. She was all excited. She couldn’t get to the mike, because of all the people. So she shouted from the door that she had come in. The wall had fallen. East Germany was now free.

“There was dead silence – but only for a moment. The people started to stomp their feet. That is what they do for applause. There was joy and shouting.

“Ten minutes later – when the sound subsided – the pastors realized that the 5,000 people outside the church hadn’t heard the announcement. The woman hadn’t gotten to the mike, and wasn’t heard outside. The announcement was repeated and there was 10 more minutes of foot stomping and shouting outside.

“People were going crazy. Freedom! When they heard it on the radio, even those with doubts no longer had doubts. This was like a Palm Sunday for them.”

From a sermon by Wally Seibel, The Three Praises of Holy Week, 3/23/2010, accessed at SermonCentral.com.

Like Palm Sunday, the fall of the Berlin Wall provoked a spontaneous celebration of good news, the joy of freedom finding expression in the lives of ordinary people.  Palm Sunday was also a parade given to honor Jesus as King – which He was – though not necessarily the kind of King everyone wanted.  Today we observe Palm Sunday with a celebration of our own, rejoicing in this fact:

Jesus is the King of Kings: He deserves our devotion and obedience.

  1. The signs of His sovereignty.

Witness #1 = His lineage and His birth.  The lineage of David is an aspect of the HUMAN side of His kingship.  The genealogies of Matthew 1 and Luke 3 trace the ancestry of Jesus back to King David and beyond.  This is important to establish Jesus as King of Israel.

The Fatherhood of God is an aspect of the DIVINE side of His kingship.  The Virgin Birth establishes Joseph is Jesus’ adoptive father, not His biological father.  Jesus was born King of Kings because God was His Father.

Witness #2 = Jesus’ own testimony.  Jesus’ trial before Pilate is the only occasion where Jesus is asked directly if He was a king.  Here, Jesus replied to Pilate’s question, “Are you a king?” in the affirmative: “Yes, it is as you say.”

Witness #3 = The testimony of friendly witnesses.  We can cite three friendly witnesses; the Old Testament prophets, Jesus’ disciples, and the gospel record of His Triumphal Entry.

The Old Testament prophets predicted an eternal king in David’s lineage.  In Isaiah 9:7 it is written: OF THE INCREASE OF HIS GOVERNMENT AND PEACE THERE WILL BE NO END.  HE WILL REIGN ON DAVID’S THRONE AND OVER HIS KINGDOM, ESTABLISHING AND UPHOLDING IT WITH JUSTICE AND RIGHTEOUSNESS FROM THAT TIME ON AND FOREVER THE ZEAL OF THE LORD ALMIGHTY WILL ACCOMPLISH THIS.  In Jeremiah 23:5 we read, “THE DAYS ARE COMING,” DECLARES THE LORD, “WHEN I WILL RAISE UP TO DAVID A RIGHTEOUS BRANCH.”  In Daniel 7:13-14 we are introduced to the “Son of Man.”  “IN MY VISION AT NIGHT I LOOKED, AND THERE BEFORE ME WAS ONE LIKE A SON OF MAN, COMING WITH THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.  HE APPROACHED THE ANCIENT OF DAYS AND WAS LEAD INTO HIS PRESENCE.  HE WAS GIVEN AUTHORITY, GLORY AND SOVEREIGN POWER: ALL PEOPLE OF EVERY LANGUAGE WORSHIPED HIM.  HIS DOMINION IS AN EVERLASTING DOMINION THAT WILL NOT PASS AWAY, AND HIS KINGDOM IS ONE THAT WILL NEVER BE DESTROYED.”

Jesus’ disciples declared Jesus’ kingship on at least two occasions.  In John 1:49 NATHANAEL DECLARED, “RABBI, YOU ARE THE SON OF GOD, THE KING OF ISRAEL.”  Reading John 6:15, we see this incident; JESUS, KNOWING THEY INTENDED TO COME MAKE HIM KING BY FORCE, WITHDREW AGAIN INTO THE HILLS BY HIMSELF.

The most obvious testimony to Jesus’ kingship occurred at His Triumphal Entry.  In John 12:13 we read,

THEY TOOK PALM BRANCHES AND WENT OUT TO MEET HIM, SHOUTING, “HOSANNA!”  “BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!”  “BLESSED IS THE KING OF ISRAEL.”  That event fulfilled to prophecy of Zechariah 9:9, where it is written, REJOICE GREATLY, O DAUGHTER OF ZION!  SEE YOUR KING COMES TO YOU, RIGHTEOUS AND HAVING SALVATION, GENTLE AND RIDING ON A DONKEY, ON A COLT, ON THE FOAL OF A DONKEY.

Witness #4 is the testimony of “hostile witnesses.”

The Roman soldiers mocked Jesus while they tortured Him and while He hung on the cross.  In all four Gospels (Matthew 27:27-31; Mark 15:16-20; Luke 23:36-37; John 19:1-5) they called Him “King of the Jews,” put a royal purple robe on Him, and jammed a crown of thorns on His head.

The Roman governor, Pontius Pilate also referred to Jesus as the King of the Jews.  In Mark 15:9+12 and John 19:14-15 he introduced Jesus to the mob as the King of the Jews.  Also, the sign above the cross identified Jesus as the King of the Jews.  When the Jewish clergy protested and asked the sign be removed, Pilate refused.

One of the thieves crucified with Him.  ONE OF THE CRIMINALS WHO HUNG THERE HURLED INSULTS AT HIM: “AREN’T YOU THE CHRIST?  SAVE YOURSELF AND US!” (Luke 23:39)

The Jewish clergy and other onlookers were also hostile witnesses.  Their testimony may be read in Matthew 27:41-42; Mark 15:31-32: IN THE SAME WAY THE CHIEF PRIESTS, THE TEACHERS OF THE LAW AND THE ELDERS MOCKED HIM.  “HE SAVED OTHERS,” THEY SAID, “BUT HE CAN’T SAVE HIMSELF! HE’S THE KING OF ISRAEL!  LET HIM COME DOWN NOW FROM T CROSS, AND WE WILL BELIEVE IN HIM.”

In modern practice of law, a “hostile witness” is someone whose opinion is contrary to one’s client but whose testimony will prove the client’s point.  All of these people we’ve cited did not believe Jesus was the King of the Jews, but by their referencing Jesus as the “King of the Jews” by their questions and mockery, prove the point that His kingship was the point under contention.

Witness #5 = the first generation Church.  Read 1 Corinthians 15:25: FOR [CHRIST] MUST REIGN UNTIL “HE HAS PUT ALL ENEMIES UNDER HIS FEET.”  This passage is a statement of the faith of the first generation Church.  It is the result of eyewitness testimony and is the core of our faith.  Here Paul affirmed that Jesus Christ reigns as King and will do so until all His enemies (the last of which is death; v. 26) are defeated.

In 1 Timothy 6:15 Paul wrote about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, which GOD WILL BRING ABOUT IN HIS OWN TIME – GOD, THE BLESSED AND ONLY RULER, THE KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.  Revelation 1:5 & 19:16 directly affirm the kingship of Jesus ON HIS ROBE AND ON THIS THIGH HE HAS THIS NAME WRITTEN: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

  1. The proper reaction to the King is to worship Him (Philippians 2:5-11).

This passage is a hymn of the first generation Church.  As hymns do, it expresses our faith.  It contrasts Jesus’ voluntary servitude with His exaltation.

It describes our worship.

– EVERY KNEE SHOULD BOW in awe, wonder, admiration, and respect.

– EVERY TONGUE CONFESS the truth; which is…

– THAT JESUS CHRIST IS LORD.  He is King of all creation.  He reigns even over those who refuse to believe in Him, who refuse to bow or confess the truth.

– TO THE GLORY OF GOD THE FATHER.  This is the ultimate purpose of our lives and the greatest good we can do.  Worship is the pinnacle experience as we are directing attention to God, who is the greatest good.

  1. Why do we need a King?

Our King can forgive our sins.  Because He sacrificed Himself on the cross to make forgiveness possible, Jesus can exercise His divine authority to completely remove our guilt and shame.

Our King makes us rulers and priests.  In Revelation 1:6 & 5:10, we are promised that God will make us a KINGDOM AND PRIESTS who are in service to God.  Our King delegates His authority to us!

Our King makes laws for the citizens of His kingdom to obey.  In Mark 12:20-31, Jesus set forth the two greatest commandments, both of them having to do with love.

Our King commissions us for royal service.  Matthew 28:18-20 is called “The Great Commission.”  It is there Jesus tells us that our main job is making disciples.  Those two words take in both witnessing (making new disciple), and edifying (maturing existing disciples).  He offered teaching and baptism as two means of doing these.

Jesus is the King of Kings: He deserves our devotion and obedience.

“Did you know the United States once had an emperor? Believe it or not, it’s true – at least, it was in the rather confused mind of Joshua A. Norton.

“Norton lived in San Francisco during the gold-rush days of the 1800’s. When speculation in the rice market brought him to financial ruin, something happened to Norton’s mind. He declared himself “Emperor of These United States.” It might have been a practical joke, or it might have been the result of a clouded mind. Whatever the initial reason, Norton’s pretending soon grew into a delusion. In 1859 he published a proclamation that he was emperor according to an act of the California legislature. He found a sword, stuck a plume in his hat, found a cape, and marched the streets in colorful costume.

“The citizens of San Francisco were amused by this ploy they played along. They gave him recognition with free tickets to special events. He was invited to gala opening nights. In fact, they allowed him to collect a small tax and issue his own currency. It was all done in the spirit of fun.

“When he died in 1880, more than ten thousand curious people attended Norton’s funeral service – one of the largest funerals ever to take place in California. He lived and died in his own delusion of grandeur. He didn’t hurt anyone; in fact, he brought a bit of a smile and a chuckle to people who came across his path.

“But make no mistake about it. Joshua A. Norton was never really the emperor. Had he really insisted on a confrontation with the United States government, he would have been disposed of rather quickly.

“Imagine the poor soul who enters eternity convinced that life was all about him, that she was the focus of the universe. What a shock to find that the Bible’s title for Jesus is accurate. He is King of Kings, Lord of Lords, and no pretend emperor will ever take his place.”

(From a sermon entitled “He is King of Kings” by Andy Cook , retrieved from LifeWay.com.)

Today we declare our allegiance to our King Jesus Christ and swear to Him our love and obedience.  Palm Sunday is about more than commemorating an historical event; it is about each of us picking up our palm branch and celebrating Jesus as OUR King.  During this Holy Week especially, let’s make it personal, folks.

 

RESOURCES:

Message #966

https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermon-illustrations/76289/heart-by-sermoncentral?ref=TextIllustrationSerps

https://www.lifeway.com/en/articles/sermon-jesus-king-of-kings-palm-sunday-hebrews-3-12

Temporary Triumph

Please read John 12:12-19.

tri entry

          Matt Gurney, reporting for The National Post, wrote the following three years ago; “In 1967, Paul McCartney was 25 years old and already a legend. A founding member of The Beatles, he and his band mates had risen to global fame so gigantic that McCartney’s partner John Lennon had proclaimed, that The Beatles were “more popular than Jesus now.”

          McCartney’s fame failed him when he attended the 2016 Grammy Awards ceremony. “After the show, the former Beatle attempted to enter a private party being hosted by Tyga, a rap artist. Security personnel at the event turned McCartney away as he wasn’t on the list. The entire incident was, of course, caught on someone’s smart phone and quickly uploaded to the Internet. A mini-scandal soon followed.

“Let’s not pretend that this is earth-shattering news. But there is something worth noting in the case of McCartney and the bouncer. Even for a Beatle, fame is fleeting.

“Video of the incident shows him jokingly inquiring, ‘How VIP you gotta get?’ and musing that he needs some new hit songs. It was an appropriate response to a mild but probably healthy snub — and in its own small way, a lesson in grace and humility for us all.”

Worldly things (fame, acceptance) are important only in serving God’s purpose.

          Its heart-breaking to think – in the space of a week – Jesus went from being hailed as a king to being ridiculed as the “King of the Jews.” What’s ironic about the Triumphal Entry is that the crowd blessed Jesus as the King of Israel (v. 13), but He was not crowned by them.  The only crown He ever wore was the crown of thorns shoved on his head by cruel Roman soldiers (19:2).  The only royal garment He wore was a purple robe they put on Him to mock Him before bringing Jesus to Pilate.

We remember the Triumphal Entry as the one time in Jesus’ life that He got the recognition He deserved.  Sadly, it was a moment too fleeting as Jesus’ own disciples deserted Him and His fellow Jews cheered for His murder.  While this event tells us some about Jesus, it also tells us about the fickle and superficial nature of human beings.

  1. Three clues Jesus organized this event.

First clue: throughout the gospels Jesus demonstrated sensitivity to what the crowds thought about Him and reacted appropriately.  An example of this is found in John 6:14-15.  After the miraculous feeding of the 5000 the people began to refer to Him as “THE PROPHET WHO IS TO COME INTO THE WORLD.”

Jesus knew exactly what they meant by that: THEY INTENDED TO MAKE HIM KING BY FORCE.   Appropriately He WITHDREW from them before they could act on that impulse.  Jesus’ mission was never to be that kind of king and certainly not by means of violence, so He left them for a time to allow their passions to cool down.

Second clue: even though John did not go into detail about it, the other three gospel writers offered considerable detail about the instructions Jesus gave His disciples to prepare for this moment.  For example, in v. 14, John wrote Jesus merely FOUND a YOUNG DONKEY and SAT UPON IT.  John makes it sound almost accidental.  But in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, He sent the disciples on ahead to get the animal and have it ready to use in His approach to the city.

Third clue; in v. 12, THE GREAT CROWD knew when JESUS WAS ON HIS WAY TO JERUSALEM.  They self-organized to meet Him there.  The question is, how did they know?  One answer is that Jesus and/or His disciples announced it.  Another answer is that there had been a CROWD around Jesus for days; they were there when Lazarus had been raised from the dead and hung around afterward (11:45; 12:9).

  1. Our text supplies four reasons Jesus had for doing it.

First, to give His disciples a testimony they would understand after His resurrection (16).  The Gospels often say the disciples did not understand something until later.  I have no doubt that their receiving the Holy Spirit more than 50 days later is the chief reason they understood these things later.

Second, to fulfill Old Testament prophecies that would identify Him as the Messiah (12+15).  The prominent example is the matter of Jesus riding a donkey into the city.  There are two sides to the donkey riding.  In verse fifteen, John cites Zechariah 9:9 as a prophecy of the Messiah that Jesus fulfilled by appearing on the back of a donkey.

In the customs of the time, if a king rode to the gates of a city on a horse, he announced he was coming as a conqueror.  But if he rode a donkey – a more humble means of transportation – he was coming in peace.  Surely these connections between their experience and the Scripture were also apparent to the pilgrims headed to Jerusalem.

Third, to use a public demonstration of His kingship to put maximum pressure on His enemies, resulting in His crucifixion (19).

As we observed in v. 11, the Jewish leaders were thoroughly intimidated by the number of followers Jesus was gaining.  Their statement is clearly an exaggeration and just as clearly shows their desperate state of mind.  Their actions during the days to come cannot be satisfactorily explained if we don’t appreciate how intimidated they’d become.

This was, I believe, Jesus’ chief purpose in orchestrating this event.  The passions of the pilgrims were sincere and so was the panic of the rulers of the Jews.  When the Pharisees said, “LOOK HOW THE WHOLE WORLD HAS GONE AFTER HIM,” they used a figure of speech to express two things: the size of Jesus’ following and their exasperation at His success.  They saw Jesus as a credible threat to their rule.

I wondered why the Jewish leaders would need to be prodded into action when it’s clear they feared and hated Jesus.  The reason they needed to be pushed along is indicated in all three of the other gospels; they had decided to wait until AFTER the Passover to have Jesus killed (Matthew 26:5; Mark 14:2; Luke 22:2).

Why is the timing crucial?  That was not the Father’s plan.  The Bible gives several reasons it was important for Jesus’ crucifixion occur during the Passover.

There would be more of God’s people in the city at that time; more to hear Jesus’ final teachings and witness His death.  If Jesus had suffered a private assassination and an anonymous burial, we would not have the proofs of His death and resurrection that we find in the Bible.

The connection of Jesus’ death as the ultimate sacrifice for sin with the Passover lamb bridges both testaments.  It is affirmed in three New Testament texts.  In John 1:29+36 John the Baptist indicated

Jesus was the Lamb of God, who would take away the sin of the world.  Paul indicated in 1 Corinthians 5:7 Jesus is our Passover Lamb our sacrifice for sin.  In Revelation 5:6, Jesus is represented as a lamb that looked as if it had been slain.  John’s gospel implies Jesus died on the Day of Preparation for the Passover, the same day that lambs all over the city were being killed.

The leadership’s fear of a riot made them easier to manipulate.

History tells us that riots had occurred in the city before and the Romans ruthlessly put them down.  They were cruelly assertive in discouraging rebellion by over-punishing their rebellious vassals.

A fourth reason Jesus had for creating the Triumphal Entry was to create a “platform” from which He could deliver more of His message (chs. 14-17).  To this point, it’s instructive that about one-fifth of John’s gospel takes place at the Last Supper.  That event gets much more attention John than the other Gospels combined.   Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem created “buzz” among the people in the city.  Coming into the city the way He did prompted people pay more attention to Jesus’ message than if He’d just walked through the gate.

Worldly things (fame, acceptance) are important only in serving God’s purpose.

I don’t want to give anyone the wrong impression.  Jesus was not playing to polls like a politician, worried about His “legacy,” or posturing to gain points in His “approval rating.”  In John 6 we saw how little Jesus cared about those things.

Instead, with purity of motive, He used public opinion as one of many tools to turn the tide of events toward the cross.  Because the cross was necessary, the Triumphal Entry was too

Here is Jesus as a victor, not a victim.  In orchestrating this event, Jesus was proactive, taking steps toward His own death on a cross.  In 18:18, at the moment of His arrest, after Peter had acted in Jesus’ defense, He said to Peter, “PUT YOUR SWORD AWAY!  SHALL I NOT DRINK THE CUP THE FATHER HAS GIVEN ME?”

In this, Jesus demonstrated His obedience to the Father’s will.  He will demonstrate it again in the Garden of Gethsemane and a final time on the cross.  He set an example for us to follow in single-mindedness and determination to be obedient.  None of us will have to face anything like what lay before Jesus but our obedience is very much needed just the same.

 

RESOURCES

Message #748

The Anchor Bible, Raymond E. Brown

One Perfect Life, John MacArthur

Presentation of the King

 

The King has come!  What is YOUR decision?

John 6 is an interesting study because it records the rise and fall of Jesus’ popularity.  If you read it carefully you can see His popular acclaim rise and fall like a presidential approval rating!

The absolute height of Jesus’ popular appeal is found in John 6:14-15.  Not surprisingly, it came after Jesus fed 5000 people.  Give folks a filling free meal and they’re more likely to be your pal, right?

But here’s where it gets strange.

After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the prophet who is to come into the world.”  Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

Jesus had supernatural knowledge of what was on the minds of the people around Him.  He knew that crowd of about 10,000 people were ready to drag Jesus along to Jerusalem, using FORCE to make Him their ruler.

This was not God’s plan, so Jesus disappeared and thereby thwarted this crowd that was becoming a mob.  Now here’s the ironic thing: Jesus once fled from the people to avoid being made a king, but now He creates a crowd who openly acknowledge Him as king.  Why this 180?

I believe this dramatic event served many purposes, one of which was to give God’s people one last chance to receive Him as their King.  It was one last powerful demonstration of His true nature.   It was a call to decision.

  1. There were divided opinions on the King.

First, there were the pilgrims who were coming into Jerusalem: they received Him.   Who were these “pilgrims?”  The Gospels make a clear distinction between the people who welcomed Jesus (the out-of-towners) and those who rejected Him (the residents of Jerusalem).  A VERY GREAT MULTITUDE THAT HAD COME TO THE FEAST.  People traveled to Jerusalem from all parts of the ancient world just to celebrate the Passover.  THE MULTITUDES answer the residents of the city who asked who He was.

Why did they receive Him as King?  They heard the WITNESS of the people who had been there when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.  Miracles are referred to as “signs” because they are supernatural acts that verify the claims of people who say they are from God.  They believed He was the Messiah, God’s Promised One, selected by God to save His people.  This is indicated by the things they shouted.  They believed Him to be a PROPHET, but of course, He was so much more.  Even the CHILDREN among them offered praise to Jesus.

The second group takes in the religious leadership (including the Pharisees and scribes): they rejected Him.  They realized their earlier attempts to entrap and discredit Jesus were too meager and ineffective.  They feared the crowd coming into the city and the devotion they were expressing in this worshipful procession.  They demanded Jesus stop the procession and tell the people to cease offering worship of Him.  The religious leaders must have realized there was no way the Romans could not take notice of a gathering of this size and this loud.  They feared reprisals from the Romans and riots by their own people.  When they learned of the miracles Jesus was performing in the temple courts and heard their voices joined in worship, they BECAME INDIGNANT.  (INDIGNANT means they pretended to have righteous anger but they were actually just wound up and anxious because they saw Jesus as a threat to the status quo.)

The third group we observe in this account: the people of the city of Jerusalem: they wondered about the Jesus guy and all the commotion He was causing.  The residents of the CITY did not fail to notice all the commotion and asked who was riding into their city at the head of this noisy parade.  They may have recognized Jesus and were asking, in effect, “Who does THIS GUY think he is?”  It was a crabby kind of rhetorical question.  However, as most of Jesus’ ministry was conducted in Galilee, a province several miles to the north, it is possible most people in Jerusalem would not know Jesus on sight.

The distinction between pilgrims and residents is important in the whole scheme of the Passion Week; it helps us understand how the “crowds” could welcome Jesus like this on Palm Sunday and call for His crucifixion on Good Friday.  The answer is that they were two different groups of people.  On Palm Sunday, the “crowds” were pilgrims; people coming to the city for Passover.  It seems likely to me that some of them had come that year especially in the hopes of seeing Jesus.  On Good Friday, the “crowd” was made up of residents of the city, people hand-picked and recruited by the religious leaders for their loyalty and obedience.  Their job was to stage a near-riot to intimidate the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, into ordering Jesus’ crucifixion.

  1. The King had one opinion: He loved them all.

Jesus inspired their worship by fulfilling prophecy: that is the purpose behind the whole donkey-colt aspect of the story.  There is a lot of information about Jesus’ choice of these animals that we’re not going to cover because we don’t have time.  To summarize, all these details eventually contributed to the understanding that Jesus came to Jerusalem as a king.  This is one of those occasions in the Gospels where Jesus acted deliberately to fulfill prophecy:  most of the time He fulfilled prophecy without any input (i.e., His birth), or while doing things that had a more immediate focus (i.e., miracles of healing). For reasons I don’t know, the Jews of this time locked onto Zechariah 9 as a prophecy of the Messiah.  It can be said that those who were there understood the actions of Jesus as a fulfillment of prophecy and happily joined in. The Gospels tell us Jesus’ DISCIPLES DID NOT UNDERSTAND these things in the moment, but after Jesus ascended to heaven, they remembered this chain of events and understood its significance.

Jesus received their worship because it really was due Him.  We shouldn’t let the fact that Jesus started this whole chain of events deter us from getting the real point of this statement.  His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem was part of God’s plan and therefore inevitable.  But it was also something He deserved.  Jesus deserved to be honored this way.

– Because of who He was: King and Creator.

– Because of what He did: throughout His ministry, including that very day in Jerusalem, Jesus healed and taught in the power of God.

Would the STONES have really raised a cheer?  I guess we’ll never know.  Habakkuk 2:11 uses a similar image.  There the STONES of a WALL would CRY OUT against injustice perpetrated against the poor.

When the texts say Jesus LOOKED AROUND AT ALL THINGS, we’re to picture a leader surveying his followers or a king inspecting his holdings.  Jesus was checking to make sure all was in readiness for the important events that were to occur in the days ahead.

Jesus rebuked their falsehood.  Jesus responded verbally on two of the three occasions the religious leaders confronted Him during His Triumphal Entry.  To their demand that Jesus quiet His disciples, Jesus said that if they didn’t worship Him in this way, the STONES beneath their feet would raise up the cry!  This may sound flip, but I think this is meant to show that God chose this day to be Jesus’ day to enter Jerusalem in triumph.  It was so inevitable that the STONES sound forth praise if the people failed to do so.

Later, Jesus quoted Scripture in response to their passive-aggressive protest.  He paraphrased Psalm 8:2.  This is the approach Jesus used in rebuking Satan when He was tempted in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13).

One important effect of this event is that it forced the hand of the Jewish religious authorities.  This was a very public event and it was in their backyard, so to speak.  They’d already been plotting to kill Jesus, but these events at this time made them push up their timetable and seek Jesus’ death in a hurry.  It’s certain they would NOT have picked the Passover as the time to do this, not the annual time when the population of the city swelled to 1000 times its usual size.  Historically, the city was a powder keg and they saw Jesus as a lit match.  So they were suddenly very motivated.

Jesus warned them about their future sorrows.  I picture Jesus stopping just down slope from the summit of Mount of Olives.  Even as the CROWD surged around Him and kept on partying and celebrating, Jesus looked at the city through tears and predicted the demise of the city and the intense suffering of her people.

This prophecy was fulfilled in AD 72 when the Romans sacked the city and reduced it to rubble.  The Siege of Jerusalem began in AD 70, when the city was surrounded, trapping inside people who’d come to celebrate the Passover.

The reason?  “BECAUSE YOU DID NOT KNOW THE TIME OF YOUR VISITATION.”  In other words, the people of the city rejected Him as their King.

In the Gospels there were two other occasions when Jesus WEPT over the city of Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37; Luke 13:34).  This shows the tenderness of Jesus’ heart for the City of God and her people.

Jesus healed their hurts.  That Jesus went immediately to the temple courts was obviously also part of His plan for the day.  How wonderful it is that the acclaimed King of the Jews stopped to bless His people.  It gives us insight into Jesus’ character that His ministry of healing continued up to the last days of His life.  It is a good reminder of what He was about, that His mission was not just the cross, but to save people along the way as well.

The King has come!  What is YOUR decision?

This day we remember Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, calling it “Palm Sunday.”  The event itself is called the “Triumphal Entry.”  Think about that for a moment.  That’s a BIG EVENT.  A big event like that goes by the name “Triumphal Entry” is NOT something to be overlooked.  It was loud, splashy, and in the face of the authorities of Jerusalem.  More than any other single event, it is what propels Jesus to the cross.

It is the kind of event that demands a decision.  The residents of Jerusalem asked, “Who is this?”  The Triumphal Entry demanded an answer to that very question.  Today we’ve seen that the pilgrims welcomed Jesus as King, Prophet, and Messiah.  He is all those things and many more.

The people of the city were confounded.  They wondered what all the fuss was about.

The religious leaders decided Jesus was a danger to an order that gave them wealth and power.  He needed to go.

It turns out that today is a day of decision for you too.  Who is Jesus?  Being confounded is not an option.  You must decide to accept or reject Jesus as your king. In order to live, you must honor Him as the pilgrims did on that day, even with your life.

 

“Don’t Rain on the Parade”

(Please read Luke 19:28-44 & 23:32-34.  I quote the NIV.)

Message: At Jesus’ Triumphal Entry and crucifixion are examples of people who did and did not understand.

  1. The crowd celebrated (19:28-38).

The details of the account in vs. 28-35 are there to tell us that Jesus prepared this parade. The details of the colt and the code phrase are not meant to describe some sort of miracle. Instead, they demonstrate Jesus’ control over the situation; He prepared to enact a symbolic entry into Jerusalem that the pious pilgrims would immediately understand.  When Jesus set this parade in motion, He was doing so under the orders of God the Father.  We know that’s so because Jesus said that He did not do anything except what God told Him to (John 5:19).

Verses 36-38 tell us the people were joyous participants; they understood perfectly what Jesus was demonstrating, knew the symbolism, and responded enthusiastically.  Their part was spontaneous.

We wonder how, a week later, the crowd could turn on Jesus and demand His crucifixion.  The answer is that these were two entire different groups.  Let’s make this clear.  The group that welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem we’ll call “the crowd.”  The group that shouted for His death is “the mob.”

The Crowd was made up of out-of-towners; pilgrims, religious tourists; faithful folk who had journeyed to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.  They came from all over the ancient world.  A faithful Jew was to return to Jerusalem once a year; most of them chose to return for the Passover.

The Mob was made up of locals; residents of Jerusalem fully allied with the priests and other leaders, ready to do as ordered.  When the religious leaders thought a mob threatening to riot would influence the Roman governor, they called upon their faithful flock to turn out and coached them on what they were to say.

  1. The complainers crabbed (19:39-40).

Their complaint was that the crowd was out of control. Luke identifies the complainers as PHARISEES.  Let’s review who these people were.

– They were the most religious people around: they had probably memorized the entire OT, and tried to keep all the details of the Law, and in addition the 600+ interpretations of the Law that teachers had added over the centuries and which they considered on a par with Scripture.  Because they were so legalistic, they could easily keep the letter of the law but neglect the weightier matters of the Spirit.

– The common people both respected and hated the Pharisees, and the Pharisees treated the people with contempt, especially “sinners.”

– They were dogged protectors of the status quo.  Thought they chafed under Roman rule as much as anyone, they defended the power, authority, prestige, and money the system provided them.

– These are the reasons the Pharisees so frequently put themselves in opposition to Jesus, why they feared Him, and why they conspired to kill Him.

So you can understand how they were upset with Jesus.  They saw this whole episode as a threat.  On this occasion, their opposition was particularly petty; “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”  They told Jesus to end this parade and get these unruly pilgrims under control.  (Notice how that word comes up!)  They sought control and probably thought they had Jesus right where they wanted Him; He could either be defiant or shut them up.  Either way, they won!

But Jesus’ response denied them control.  He took a third option and effectively responded, “God is in control.”  God is so much in control, and the parade was so much His will that if the pilgrims did not shout, then He would do something miraculous and make the stones under their feet shout out praise!

  1. The crowned Christ cried (19:41-44).

This event is unique to Luke’s Gospel.  It fits perfectly with his theme, that Jesus came to find and save lost sinners.

It also fits in the sense that it is in Luke’s Gospel that Jesus three times pronounces a woe on Jerusalem.

– The first is in Luke 13:34-35 = “O JERUSALEM, JERUSALEM, YOU WHO KILL THE PROPHETS AND STONE THOSE SENT TO YOU, HOW OFTEN I HAVE LONGED TO GATHER YOUR CHILDREN TOGETHER, AS A HEN GATHERS HER CHICKS UNDER HER WINGS, BUT YOU WERE NOT WILLING!  LOOK, YOUR HOUSE IS LEFT TO YOU DESOLATE.  I TELL YOU, YOU WILL NOT SEE ME AGAIN UNTIL YOU SAY, ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD’.”

– The second is here in chapter 19.

– The third is in Luke 21:20-24 = “WHEN YOU SEE JERUSALEM SURROUNDED BY ARMIES, YOU WILL KNOW THAT DESOLATION IS NEAR.  FOR THIS IS THE TIME OF PUNISHMENT IN FULFILLMENT OF ALL THAT HAS BEEN WRITTEN.  THERE WILL BE GREAT DISTRESS IN THE LAND AND WRATH AGAINST THIS PEOPLE.  THEY WILL FALL BY THE SWORD AND WILL BE TAKEN AS PRISONERS TO ALL THE NATIONS.  JERUSALEM WILL BE TRAMPLED ON BY THE GENTILES UNTIL THE TIMES OF THE GENTILES ARE FULFILLED.”

Still, this pronouncement against Jerusalem comes at an unexpected time.  Jesus stood before a group of people cheering for Him when He stopped and cried for Jerusalem, bringing a prophecy o/t city’s doom.  Imagine the emotional effect of “Santa Claus” stopping the Thanksgiving Day parade, climbing down from his float, kneeling in the middle of the street and pronouncing a tearful prophecy of New York City’s destruction.  What a down beat!

Jesus cried because He foresaw their rejection of Him and what it would cost them; it broke His heart.  Jesus did this because He had knowledge. He knew their present condition.  He knew they were arrogant, rebellious, and stubborn and that they were going to reject Him.  He also knew their future condition: He had already repeatedly predicted the downfall of the city.

As importantly, Jesus wept because He had had heart.  Though they deserved the wrath that was going to be poured out on them, it was still heart-breaking for Him to see His people and their great city come to an end.  God’s vengeance and wrath are not occasions for rejoicing, no matter how richly deserved – Jesus wept.

  1. The crucified Christ forgave (23:32-34).

They knew exactly what they were doing in the sense that His crucifixion was according to their plan.  The religious authorities and the residents of Jerusalem acted in secret because they did not want the pilgrims to find out and riot on Jesus’ behalf.  The betrayal of Judas allowed them to act under the cover of darkness and their conspiracy pushed the Roman governor to the action they wanted.

However, they did not know what they were doing in the sense that they did not know who they were crucifying.  Their intent was to eliminate a threat to their control, their sense of orderly life.  They thought Jesus was just a man who’d vaguely threatened the temple, another nut job who’d stir up the common folk and bring down another brutal Roman retaliation.  They had rejected the notion that Jesus was the Messiah.  They found Him guilty of blasphemy because He claimed to be the Son of God.  They clearly did not know who they had put on t cross.  They did not know what they were doing.

Demonstrating the love and grace that should been seen in every one of His disciples, Jesus prayed to God the Father, asking Him to forgive them.  The reason He gave was true; they didn’t know what they were doing.

Though they acted out of hatred and self-righteousness, their evil act was accomplishing God’s will.  (Remember what Isaiah wrote; “It was the LORD’s will to CRUSH him.”)  God is so powerful He can turn evil to good and accomplish His will!

The application of this passage is three-fold but simple:

#1 = DO BE LIKE THE CROWD; worship Jesus as your King.  Get excited!  The crowd was so happy to see Jesus they inconvenienced themselves to go and cut palm branches to wave at Him.  They thought so much of Jesus and so little of their worldly possessions that they laid their cloaks on the road to honor him.  (A person’s cloak was a prized possession, especially for a traveler!)

#2 = DON’T BE NASTY LIKE THE CRABBY PHARISEES.  Obviously, not all Pharisees were like that bunch, but the name “Pharisee” has come to be a byword for hypocrites, control freaks, and nay-sayers.  It’s ironic that they were the most religious people around and yet the people who incurred the sharpest rebukes from Jesus.

#3 = DO BE LIKE JESUS; He is our example in this passage in three specific ways.

a = How he dealt with the Pharisees.  Dr. Jay Carter refers to this kind of behavior as “invalidating,” and the people who practice it as “invalidators.”  Those Pharisees were saying that the procession was an invalid assembly and ordering Jesus to disperse the crowd.  He refused to play their game or even to take them seriously.  He turned to God.

b = What Jesus took very seriously was the outcome of His people.  He looked upon the city with the eyes of God, saw their tragic future, and was moved to tears.  We tend to get things backward: we’re moved to tears by invalidation and miss entirely the real threat: rebellion against God.

c = Most importantly, when He was on the cross, at the moment of the most gross injustice, Jesus was gracious and pleaded to the Father for the forgiveness of His persecutors.  We need to seek the graciousness and gentleness of Jesus.  The ends do not justify the means.  Being right does not always mean that we have the right.  We need to look on all people with the eyes of God to love and forgive.

Faces at the Cross – #6 – The Crowds

Thesis: The people greeting Jesus at His Triumphal Entry weren’t the ones who cheered His crucifixion.

             “News from AMES, Iowa, on April 10, 2014 — The president of Iowa State University canceled a 92-year-old weeklong spring celebration Wednesday after the student-run event turned violent overnight.

            “On Tuesday, thousands of people gathered around 11:30 p.m., flipping over at least two cars, tearing down two light poles, ripping out four stop signs and pelting police officers with rocks and full beer cans, officials said. One student, who has not been identified, sustained severe head injuries when one of the light poles struck him; he was in stable condition Wednesday afternoon at a Des Moines hospital.

            “The name of the annual celebration  — Veishea — is an acronym of the Veterinary Medicine, Engineering, Industrial Science, Home Economics and Agriculture; the colleges at the university at the time of its inception. Officially, Veishea is a weeklong promotional showcase — an open house of sorts to highlight the campus. Events include both education and entertainment programs. But violent acts among drunken young adults have been a problem numerous times in the past 30 years. In 2004, an overnight riot caused tens of thousands of dollars of property damage and led to dozens of arrests.

            “The crowd appeared to get out of control after officers broke up a large party. A second crowd gathered a block away. The two groups converged and that’s when officers moved in, were pelted with beer cans and rocks and saw others start to pull down light poles.”

(Contributing: Regina Zilbermints and Sharyn Jackson, The Des Moines Register. Abridged from http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/04/09/student-celebration-riot-iowa-state-university/7497989/ on 411/14.)

          The difference between a crowd and a mob can be very slight.  This gathering in Ames, for example, was intended to generate a crowd but it became a mob.  Today we’ll take a look at both in Matthew’s Gospel and see how they impacted the ministry of Jesus.

The CROWD at Jerusalem’s gates (MTW 21:1-11).

          The situation is important to note.  The road from Jericho to Jerusalem was 17 miles long and rose 3000 feet.  This entrance to Jerusalem stood about 100 feet higher than the others; it had a great view of the city. It was THE ideal place for a parade. The Passover feast was THE time to be seen in Jerusalem; the population swelled to 2.5 million.

          This was the one time Jesus allowed the masses of people to worship Him. The message Jesus was sending can be discerned in the details.

          The DONKEY AND HER COLT, for example, fulfill the messianic prophecies of Zecariah 9:9 & Isaiah 62:11. The colt had never been ridden; sacred animals had to be previously unused.  Kings rode donkeys when they came in peace (Judges 5:10; 1 Kings 1:33), a horse when they came to make war. Also, the title LORD is one Jesus had not yet used to refer to Himself.

          There are at least purposes we can see in Jesus’ making this demonstration.  One, to demonstrate His true identity; He was their Messiah and King. Second, to give the Jewish people one last chance to receive Him as Messiah and King. Three, to force the hand of the Jewish clergy; to get them to arrest and crucify Him.  After all, there’s nothing more influential to a politician than a crowd: Jesus put the pressure on.  Timing is everything; Jesus set these events in motion to be killed before the Passover.  It worked!  JHN 12:19 records the Pharisees’ reaction; “THIS IS GETTING US NOWHERE.  LOOK HOW THE WHOLE WORLD HAS GONE AFTER HIM!”

          Who was this CROWD? These faces wore joyous expressions; they were delighted to see Jesus and worshiped Him. Their belief in His kingship is evident in what they did.  Spreading their cloaks and palm branches on the road – as for King Jehu in 2 Kings 9:13 – demonstrates this belief.

          Their belief in His messiahship is evident in what they said. “HOSANNA” means “save.”  It is crying out to the Messiah for deliverance from trials. “SON OF DAVID” refers to Jesus’ royal lineage and God’s promise that the dynasty of David would reign forever. “BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD” was the way pilgrims typically greeted one another. “GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST” = Praising God for sending the Messiah.

          NOW – the crucial difference that is the key to our understanding these three groups as being distinct from one another.  Vs. 10+11 show that the locals and the pilgrims (the “religious tourists” come to observe the Passover) did not see Jesus in the same light. The WHOLE CITY asks, “WHO IS THIS?”  They hadn’t seen anything like this in hundreds of years. THE CROWD answered them, “THIS IS JESUS, THE PROPHET FROM NAZARETH IN GALILEE.”  Obviously, this is not a real conversation, but an exercise of artistic license to summarize countless conversations in Jerusalem that day and to characterize the difference between Jerusalem residents and Jerusalem visitors.

The MOB at Pilate’s court (MTW 27:11-26).

          These faces wore looks of anger.  Why?

          Because their religious leaders had persuaded them to demand Barabbas’ release & Jesus’ crucifixion (see verse 20). These faces not only wear a different expression; they are different faces.  As we’ve already noted, the visitors to Jerusalem tended to favor Jesus; the residents of Jerusalem did not.

          Part of the reason for the differing reactions is that the people of Jerusalem saw themselves as being better than their country cousins. This caused them to be prejudiced against Jesus, a Galilean.  It also explains why the pilgrims’ “reply” in 27:11 named “NAZARETH IN GALILEE;” they were reminding the city folk that Jesus was a country boy like them.

          Another reason is that the difference existed at the convenience of the Jewish leadership. The Jewish clergy had a great deal of influence over their people.   If they needed a mob who’d do their bidding, they’d create one.

          Let’s take notice of what they said.

          In verse 21 they demanded the release of Barabbas.  This would not have been Pilate’s choice, as Barabbas was probably a Zealot, one of the political parties we talked about two weeks ago.  The Zealots resorted to violent means to overthrow Roman rule.  It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to call Barabbas a “terrorist,” especially from the Roman point of view.  This man’s name means “son of the father.”  It’s only a last name, not a first name, and not a real last name at that.  My guess is they didn’t know his real name.

          In verses 22-23 they demanded Jesus’ death. The Jewish clergy had tried to get Pilate to condemn Jesus on their charge of treason.  When that didn’t work, they made it appear that a riot was going to happen.  This whole mob scene was staged. “Plan B” worked.  V. 24 = WHEN PILATE SAW THAT HE WAS GETTING NOWHERE, BUT THAT INSTEAD AN UPROAR WAS STARTING,” he gave in. Confrontations like this were actually common during the Roman occupation.

          In verse 25, after Pilate charged them with responsibility for Jesus’ death, they replied, “LET HIS BLOOD BE ON US AND OUR CHILDREN!  Given the seriousness with which these people usually held blessings and curses, it boggles my mind that they would make a statement like this.  And they passed their guilt along to their children.  Sometime later, the Apostle Peter held them accountable for this very act; read Acts 3:13-14.  Moreover, consider that they chose a murderous terrorist like over a peaceful preacher who commanded love for one’s enemies.

The PASSERS-BY at Golgotha (MTW 27:33-40).

          These faces wore looks of contempt.  Why?

          Unlike the contrived MOB at Pilate’s court, these people are THOSE WHO PASSED BY. They were walking by the scene of the crucifixion as they went into or out of Jerusalem.  They were not there for the executions, only to use the road that lead by them. They were more likely to be residents of the city going about their who were puzzled by Jesus’ “Triumphal Entry” into their beloved city, resented Jesus’ “cleansing” of their beloved temple, His opposition of their respected clergy, and the interruptions of their routine.  Not all the passers-by acted this way; the ones quoted were cruel people who added to the torment of someone who couldn’t or wouldn’t defend Himself.

          I’m attempting to explain, not excuse their behavior.  I believe Satan was behind these insults as a last-ditch effort to provoke Jesus to save Himself.

          Let’s take notice of what they said in v. 40.

          They showed their ignorance.  When Jesus talked about destroying the temple and restoring it in three days, He was talking about Himself, predicting His death and resurrection. They misunderstood this as a threat.  “SAVE YOURSELF!” is based on the mistaken assumption that Jesus was trapped on the cross.  He was not.  He refused to save Himself, so that He could instead offer His life in payment for our sins.

          They also demanded a sign, a  miracle, that Jesus was unwilling to give them.

“COME DOWN NOW FROM THE CROSS, IF YOU ARE THE SON OF GOD.”  This is a taunt, not a promise.  They expected there was no chance Jesus would come down from the cross, so there was no chance they would have to accept Him as God’s Son.

          It must have been a constant temptation for Jesus to use divine power.  However, the salvation of humanity could only be accomplished by His death and so Jesus endured the torment of their taunts.

          A young man who was a recent college graduate decided to be a short-term missionary and went to Venezuela.  It was his first time out of the States and he struggled with the language. On his first Sunday there, he visited one of the local churches and sat in the front row.     

          So as not to make a fool of himself, he decided to pick someone out of the crowd to imitate. He settled on the man sitting next to him in the front pew.

          As the congregation sang, the man clapped his hands, so the missionary clapped his hands, too. When the man stood up to pray, the missionary stood up, too. When the man sat down, the missionary sat down.

          Later in the service, the man next to him suddenly stood up again, so the missionary hustled to get on his feet too. A hush fell over the entire congregation. A few people gasped. The missionary looked around and saw that no one else was standing. His face turned beet red and he slid back down to his seat.

          After the service ends, the missionary greeted the preacher. “I take it you don’t speak Spanish,” the preacher said.

          The missionary replied, “No, I don’t. It’s that obvious?”

          “Well yes,” the preacher said. “I announced that the Acosta family had a new-born baby boy, and I asked the proud father to please stand up.  He was seated next to you.”

          When will we learn that following the crowd will get us into trouble?  Actually, it’s a matter of knowing which crowd to join, isn’t it?  Palm Sunday sets the choice before us – we can join the mob who jeered or the crowd who cheered Jesus.  You can be one of the people who welcomes Jesus as Messiah and Lord – known today as the Church.  Join the parade!  Give yourself to Jesus and make this Holy Week celebration the very best of your life!