Sermon title:  THEIR PALM SUNDAY, AND OURS

 

Luke 19:28-47    Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, April 14, 2019

 

 

 

 

That first Palm Sunday nearly 2,000 years ago

meant different things to different people

—because they didn’t really understand

what was going on.

 

The crowd that welcomed Jesus with palm branches

hoped he would liberate them from Roman occupation. 

 

They thought he would raise up a Jewish army

and drive out the Roman legions.

 

They thought he would restore

the kingdom of David and of Solomon

that centuries earlier

had ruled the Middle East between Egypt and Iraq.

 

Mark 11:10 tells us the crowd was shouting,

 

"Blessed is the coming kingdom

of our father David!"

 

Jesus’ disciples expected something like that would happen, too.

 

Acts 1: 6 tells us

that even after Jesus rose from the dead,

 

Then they gathered around him and asked him,

 

"Lord, are you at this time going to

restore the kingdom to Israel?"

 

The Roman soldiers policing the streets of Jerusalem

didn’t have a clue

what all the fuss was about.

 

They had no idea

why crowds of people

were waving palm branches

and shouting in Hebrew,

as this man rode into town on a donkey.

 

When the religious leaders

saw Jesus greeted by palm-waving crowds

as he entered the city,

they feared his popularity

would lead to a violent uprising,

followed by a crushing blow

from the Roman legions. 

 

It was against Roman law

for anyone to be proclaimed as king

without being appointed by Caesar.

 

The religious leaders were afraid

that the Romans would find out

that the crowds were shouting,

 

"Blessed is the king

who comes in the name of the Lord!"

 

Only Jesus himself knew the full meaning

of all the Palm Sunday events—

that the prophecies he was fulfilling that day

would lead to his crucifixion,

and to our salvation. 

 

Jesus knew he would not rally the Jews

to overthrow the Roman occupation.

 

He knew he would reign as King from heaven

over a worldwide Church,

and that he would later come again

at the head of heavenly armies,

to rule the whole planet.

 

-------------------------------------------------

 

Today, too, Palm Sunday means different things

to different people.

 

Almost everyone today recognizes Palm Sunday

as a special time for Christian churches.

 

But people vary in their understanding of what it means.

 

Most people know it has something to do

with Christ Jesus

and with the branches of Palm trees.

 

Some know that Palm Sunday commemorates

a time when Jesus arrived at ancient Jerusalem

and was greeted by crowds waving Palm branches.

 

Some know that this was the final time

that Jesus arrived at the Holy City—

that this began the week

that ended with his death on the cross on Friday

and bodily resurrection from the dead

on Easter Sunday morning.

 

And that’s the point that separates Christians from non-believers:

 

We believe and know

and publicly acknowledge

that Jesus is alive,

and we follow him as our Savior and our Lord.

 

All who follow Christ are Christians.

 

But, even for Christians,

there is more to learn about Palm Sunday,

that can help us in our Christian growth.

 

After being born again

as children of God,

we continue to grow,

as Jesus teaches us through the Holy Spirit.

 

Jesus’ Twelve Apostles had already been with him

around 3 years,

when they accompanied him into Jerusalem

on that first Palm Sunday

almost 2,000 years ago.

 

They had spent much of those 3 years

sitting at Jesus’ feet

and listening to him preach and teach.

 

But they still didn’t fully understand what was going on

when crowds from the city

welcomed Jesus with palm branches

and with shouts of praise.

 

As John 12:16 tells us,

the events of Palm Sunday were foretold

centuries in advance

by the Hebrew prophets.

 

But Jesus’ disciples didn’t see the connection

while the events were happening.

 

They didn’t understand Palm Sunday

until some time after Easter Sunday,

when they finally put it together in their minds.

 

John 12:16 tells us,

 

“At first his disciples did not understand all this.

 

Only after Jesus was glorified

did they realize

that these things had been written about him

and that they had done these things to him.”

 

As Luke Chapter 24, beginning with Verse 44 explains,

the Risen Christ helped them to understand

by explaining the Scriptures to them.

 

And he opened their hearts and minds

to grasp the meaning.

 

It was a few days after Jesus rose from the dead.

 

He had already appeared to the disciples,

to let them know he was alive—

first to Mary Magdalene

and other women who had gone to the tomb,

planning to wrap his dead body in spices

according to Jewish custom.

 

After that, he had appeared to the Apostles.

 

And now Luke 24:44 tells us

what Jesus said to them

when he appeared to them again later

on the beach of the Sea of Galilee.

 

44 He said to them,

"This is what I told you while I was still with you:

 

Everything must be fulfilled

that is written about me

in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms."

 

45 Then he opened their minds

so they could understand the Scriptures.

 

46 He told them, "This is what is written:

 

The Christ will suffer

and rise from the dead on the third day,

47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins

will be preached in his name

to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.     

 

Earlier in the 25th Verse of that same chapter,

Jesus appeared to two other disciples

as they were walking on road to Emmaus:

 

Luke 24:25 tells us,

 

25 He said to them,

 

"How foolish you are,

and how slow of heart to believe

all that the prophets have spoken!

 

26 Did not the Christ have to suffer these things

and then enter his glory?"

 

27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets,

he explained to them

what was said in all the Scriptures

concerning himself.

 

Those events that took place

on Palm Sunday, and Good Friday and Easter Sunday—

those world-changing events

were all foretold in the Hebrew Scriptures

of the Old Testament.

 

But the disciples were

 

"...foolish ...

and ... slow of heart to believe

all that the prophets have spoken!”

 

And it’s a blessing for us to hear that.

 

It’s a blessing for us to hear

that the Apostles and disciples were like that,

because we, too, are

 

"...foolish ...

and ... slow of heart to believe

all that the prophets have spoken!”

 

Sometimes when we hear these things in church,

or when we call them to mind,

we have doubts.

 

And we have misunderstandings.

 

And we find it hard to believe.

 

And, sometimes we worry about ourselves

and even berate ourselves.

 

We say to ourselves,

 

‘Why can’t I have strong faith like so-and-so?’

 

‘Why do I have so much trouble with my faith?’

 

‘Why do I have so much trouble

learning to live my faith,

and to be consistent

in what I believe

and how I live my life?’

 

When we find ourselves discouraged or depressed

by thoughts like that,

it helps us to remember

that the Twelve Apostles

and the other early disciples of Jesus

were just like us.

 

They, too, were

 

"...foolish ...

and ... slow of heart to believe

all that the prophets have spoken!

 

-------------------------------------------

 

Still, we may wonder,

‘Why doesn’t Jesus just

pop a faith pill into my mouth,

so that I’ll instantly

understand and believe and have strong faith?’

 

Why doesn’t he do that

and save us the agony

of struggling with our faith

and struggling to bring our speech and actions

into subjection to Christ?

 

He must have good reasons

to let us go through this—

just as he did with his Apostles and disciples

who struggled with doubts and fears.

 

The Apostle Paul showed he knew well what it’s like,

when he told believers at Philippians 2:12 to

 

“work out your salvation

with fear and trembling.”

 

Why doesn’t Jesus just make it easy for us,

so that we can grow up as Christians,

without all that “fear and trembling”?

 

He has his reasons.

 

The Lord Jesus is the greatest Teacher

who ever walked the earth.

 

Even many who don’t know him as their Lord and Savior

recognize that about him.

 

Even many who don’t recognize him as the divine Son of God

still acknowledge him as the greatest Teacher.

 

And all good teachers know

that simply telling your students the answer

is not the best way to teach them.

 

People learn better

when you lead them to the answer—

when you lead them to reach the conclusion

on their own,

using their own brain power.

 

And people learn best from experience.

 

So, it shouldn’t surprise us that Jesus teaches that way.

 

As students, we remember things better that we learn that way.

 

But the learning process can be more painful and uncomfortable,

as we stumble about,

making mistakes,

and learning from our experience,

until we arrive at the right answer.

 

Jesus did that with his disciples,

and he does that with us.

 

But we are not left on our own in doing this.

 

He’s given us his Word the Bible,

with all the information we need

for our salvation from sin

and for Christian growth.

 

And he’s put his Holy Spirit inside us,

when we are born again,

to guide us and teach us.

 

At John 14:26, Jesus said,

 

“But the Comforter, even the Holy Spirit,

whom the Father will send in my name,

he shall teach you all things,

and bring to your remembrance

all that I said unto you.”

 

========================

 

So, that first Palm Sunday

nearly 2,000 years ago

meant different things to different people

because they didn’t have all the facts. 

 

We have the complete Bible,

so we can learn what it truly meant.

 

The crowd that welcomed Jesus

with palm branches

hoped he would liberate them

from Roman occupation. 

 

The religious leaders

feared his popularity

would lead to a violent uprising,

followed by a crushing blow from the Roman legions. 

 

But Jesus knew

that the prophecies he was fulfilling that day

would lead to his crucifixion,

and to our salvation. 

 

Looking back, we see that Jesus

was on his way to the cross for us,

and to change the world.

 

At Luke 24:44,

 

44 He said to them,

 

"This is what I told you while I was still with you:

 

Everything must be fulfilled

that is written about me

in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms."

 

45 Then he opened their minds

so they could understand the Scriptures.

 

46 He told them, "This is what is written:

The Christ will suffer

and rise from the dead on the third day,

 

47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins

will be preached in his name

to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.     

 

Yes, that repentance and forgiveness of sins

has been preached.

 

It began at Jerusalem 2,000 years ago,

and the message of repentance and forgiveness of sins

spread out to all nations,

reaching even us,

so that we could turn to Christ,

repent of our sins,

and be forgiven.

 

Those events that took place

on that first Palm Sunday 2,000 years ago

didn’t happen by accident,

or by coincidence.

 

As we read in our Responsive Reading from Luke Chapter 19,

they brought the colt of a donkey to Jesus,

and put Jesus on it.

 

36 As he went along,

people spread their cloaks on the road.

 

It was a dusty, dirt road.

 

Spreading cloaks and palm branches on the road

would keep the procession

from throwing up clouds of dust into the air.

 

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!"

 

All of that was foretold

hundreds of years beforehand

in the Old Testament book of Zechariah.

 

Luke 19:39 tells us,

 

39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd

said to Jesus,

"Teacher, rebuke your disciples!"

 

They said that, because they knew

this whole scene was fulfilling prophecy in Zechariah

about the long-expected Messianic King.

 

That scene foretold in Zechariah, Chapter 9,

depicts the Messianic King

presenting himself

to the people of Jerusalem.

 

When Jesus rode into Jerusalem,

greeted by crowds shouting “Hosanna”

and waving palm branches,

he was fulfilling these words of

Zechariah Chapter 9,   Verses 9 & 10,

which says,

 

“Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!

 

See, your king comes to you,

righteous and having salvation,

gentle and riding on a donkey,

on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

 

He will proclaim peace to the nations.

 

His rule will extend from sea to sea

and from the River to the ends of the earth.”

 

This is the real meaning of Palm Sunday.

 

It was our Lord Jesus’ official presentation of himself

as the long-foretold Messianic King—

the permanent King in the line of David and Solomon

who would reign forever,

with no end to his kingdom.

 

And not just the King of Jerusalem, the King of Israel.

 

But God foretold through Zechariah,

that Jesus would also

“proclaim peace to the nations.”

 

That means us—non-Jewish people

of all nations and nationalities.

 

All the nations had long ago

forgotten about the God of the Bible

and instead took up the worthless worship

of idolatrous images made of wood, stone and metal—

but now they would all hear the Gospel.

 

People of all nationalities would again turn to the true God.

 

Zechariah foretold that the Messiah’s

 “rule will extend from sea to sea

and from the River to the ends of the earth.”

 

He would be the head of a church

that would span the entire globe

and that would unite people of all nations

in following Christ.

 

And he would come again

to replace all human governments

with the Kingdom of God, with Christ as King.

 

Zechariah foretold all of that,

and he foretold, too, that in the meantime,

the Messiah would bring us “salvation.”

 

“See, your king comes to you,

righteous and having salvation,

gentle and riding on a donkey.”

 

The thought of coming face-to-face

with the Creator of the universe

can be terrifying—

especially if we recognize

that we are sinners

deserving punishment for our sins.

 

But God reveals himself to us in Christ,

who comes to us

“righteous and having salvation,

gentle and riding on a donkey.”

 

He comes to us, not harshly to punish us,

but “gentle and bringing us salvation.”

 

He comes to us to save us from our sins,

and to rule over us gently as our King.

 

And that’s what that first Palm Sunday was all about:

 

Jesus presented himself publicly

to Jerusalem and to the whole world

as our Savior and our King.

 

And when we celebrate Palm Sunday today,

by reviewing these passages from the Bible,

and by singing hymns of praise,

we publicly acknowledge

that we accept him as our Savior and our King.