Palm Sundy 2022 – In true passion or pretense?
By way of intro, I’d like to take a statement of Jesus’ from today’s reading as our starting point.
“If anyone wants to serve Me, he must follow me, and where I am, my servant will be too. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.”
Turn with me this morning to Matt. 21…
The Triumphal Entry
“(1) Now when they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, (2) telling them,
“Go to the village ahead of you. Right away you will find a donkey tied there, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, you are to say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.”
4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet:
5 “Tell the people of Zion, ‘Look, your king is coming to you, unassuming and seated on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”
6 So the disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them, and he sat on them.
8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road. Others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those following kept shouting,
“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”
It’s Palm Sunday…and quite honestly I wonder why we celebrate it.
Yes we know that 2000 years ago Jesus rode into Jerusalem with the crowds shouting hosanna in the highest, but we know the rest of the story. These shouts of praise were empty and pretentious. They were celebrating what they thought they stood to gain from this magnanimous prophet, they were not celebrating HIM.
Hosanna! from the Hebrew meaning “save now, help now, or save we pray thee”. It became a word of common acclamation (Psa 118:25), and later a common form of wishing safety and prosperity, Save and prosper, O Lord
This day in history is actually very sad, so it seems odd that as Christians we have chosen to celebrate a day when our Lord was celebrated in pretense and not in sincerity.
For me, Palm Sunday is my spiritual annual check-up (which actually happens many times a year but especially now) when I begin a week of careful reflection and inward inspection. Do I worship Jesus in Passion or in pretense…or more honestly, I search for both for both can be found.
Now this event was quite ironic and it was not without its true worshippers…Jesus had brought some with Him into the city in the form of His disciples and God does not miss the sincere in the midst of the superficial. He ministers to them as if they were the only ones that mattered.
God loves drama, metaphor, illustrative teaching, hints and suggestions to hidden truths open only for those who have eyes to see it.
These blind Israelite were fulfilling prophecy and acknowledging Jesus‘ certain victory without even realizing what it really meant.
The passage they were quoting is from Zechariah 9:9,
“9 Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout in triumph, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your King is coming to you; He is righteous and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
You see, these branches they were laying out grew in abundance, near that part of the Mount of Olives closest to Bethany, which is where that town got its name; for it signifies the house of dates, the fruit of the palm tree.
Now here is the near part… that tree was a sign of joy and victory.
The Jews used to say,
“if a man takes באיין, (the very Greek word here used,) palm tree branches in his hands, we know that he is victorious.”
These Jews in Jerusalem only partially quoted Zechariah’s words, leaving out the post about victory. Nevertheless, they carried these branches in their hands, as they met their true King & Messiah, who was about to make His public and triumphant entrance into Jerusalem.
But like all superficial praise of man, this was not the true victory nor triumphant entrance… that would be reserved for His resurrecting and entrance into the Father’s presence with His blood.
Now there is more. If we were to back up and read Zechariah 9:7-10 we not only see this event, but also the cleansing of the temple which was the very next thing Jesus did.
“7 I will take away their abominable religious practices; then those who survive will become a community of believers in our God, like a clan in Judah, and Ekron will be like the Jebusites. 8 Then I will surround my temple to protect it like a guard from anyone crossing back and forth; so no one will cross over against them anymore as an oppressor, for now I myself have seen it. 9 Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion! Shout, daughter of Jerusalem! Look! Your king is coming to you: he is legitimate and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey – on a young donkey, the foal of a female donkey. 10 I will remove the chariot from Ephraim and the warhorse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be removed. Then he will announce peace to the nations. His dominion will be from sea to sea and from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth.”
The Holman uses the words,“My house” instead of temple.
When God does things like this it doesn’t seem like He does it for the blind, that they might see, but almost like hidden treasures for those who can. They are like little love notes or forget-me-nots along our journey. He plants in unexpected places to encourage our faith, love on His beloved and make them chuckle in delight as they see His sovereign hand at work hidden in plain sight.
Lets continue this telling of Palm Sunday in Matthew 21 picking up in verse 10
“10 As he entered Jerusalem the whole city was thrown into an uproar, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Cleansing the Temple
“ 12 Then Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all those who were selling and buying in the temple courts, and turned over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves. 13 And he said to them, “It is written, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are turning it into a den of robbers!”
[This passage is taken from Isaiah 56:7, “I will bring them to my holy mountain; I will make them happy in the temple where people pray to me. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar, for my temple will be known as a temple where all nations may pray.” & Jer. 7:11,“Do you think this temple I have claimed as my own is to be a hideout for robbers? You had better take note! I have seen for myself what you have done! says the LORD.”]
“14 The blind and lame came to him in the temple courts, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the experts in the law saw the wonderful things he did and heard the children crying out in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became indignant 16 and said to him, “Do you hear what they are saying?” Jesus said to them, “Yes. Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouths of children and nursing infants you have prepared praise for yourself’?” 17 And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and spent the night there.”
Jesus’ week of Passion began with testimonies of the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead being spread about Jerusalem, a town that just 3 weeks earlier had people in it who had actively tried to kill Jesus. As a result the people were stirred to cry out Hosanna, upon Christ’s arrival while laying down various pieces of cloth and palm branches before Him.
They did not know that this too was in preparation for His death. The word “Hosanna” as used here would means come Lord now and save.
This was in fulfillment of at least two passages in the Old Testament, one of which is found in Psalm 118:20-29,
“(20) This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous will enter through it. (21) I will give thanks to You because You have answered me and have become my salvation. (22) The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. (23) This came from the LORD; it is wonderful in our eyes. (24) This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. (25) LORD, save us! LORD, please grant us success! (26) Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you. (27) The LORD is God and has given us light. Bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar. (28) You are my God, and I will give You thanks. You are my God; I will exalt You. (29) Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His faithful love endures forever.”
So it was fulfilled…Israel cried out for salvation, acknowledged God as the source of their salvation and even called out to Jesus for saving…and at the end of the week He was bound to the altar and became their salvation and the salvation of the entire world!
Over the course of that fateful week, He poured out His heart in passionate displays of love, teaching, warnings, righteous anger, miracles and devotion.
A verse lifted from Luke I think illustrates how the passion of His work, from beginning to end – but especially the end, was never far from His mind…it consumed His thoughts and drove His actions…not out of trepidation but out of passion to fulfill the will of the Father.
Luke 12:49-50, “(49) I came to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already set ablaze! (50) But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how it consumes Me until it is finished!”
All of this is in fulfillment to that passage we just read in Isaiah 11. The Spirit of God filled Him with power to execute Him plans and produced absolute loyalty to the LORD causing Him to take delight in obeying the Lord!
There are three accounts of this event in scripture but I found Mark’s didn’t seem to add anything but further attestation to what had already been said in the other gospels, so let’s look at the other account offered in John 12…
“9 Now a large crowd of Judeans learned that Jesus was there, and so they came not only because of him but also to see Lazarus whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests planned to kill Lazarus too, 11 for on account of him many of the Jewish people from Jerusalem were going away and believing in Jesus.”
The Triumphal Entry
“ 12 The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him. They began to shout,
“Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the king of Israel!”
14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,
15 “Do not be afraid, people of Zion; look, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt!”
16 (His disciples did not understand these things when they first happened, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that these things had happened to Him.)
17 So the crowd who had been with Him when He called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead were continuing to testify about it.
18 Because they had heard that Jesus had performed this miraculous sign, the crowd went out to meet him.
19 Thus the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you can do nothing. Look, the world has run off after Him!”
“ 20 Now some Greeks were among those who had gone up to worship at the feast. 21 So these approached Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and requested, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.”
22 Philip went and told Andrew, and they both went and told Jesus. 23 Jesus replied,
“The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 I tell you the solemn truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains by itself alone. But if it dies, it produces much grain. 25 The one who loves his life destroys it, and the one who hates his life in this world guards it for eternal life.
26 If anyone wants to serve Me, he must follow me, and where I am, my servant will be too. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.
27 “Now my soul is greatly distressed. And what should I say? ‘Father, deliver me from this hour’? No, but for this very reason I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.”
Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”
29 The crowd that stood there and heard the voice said that it had thundered. Others said that an angel had spoken to Him.
30 Jesus said, “This voice has not come for my benefit but for yours. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Myself.”
33 (Now He said this to indicate clearly what kind of death He was going to die.)
34 Then the crowd responded, “We have heard from the law that the Christ will remain forever. How can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this Son of Man?”
35 Jesus replied, “The light is with you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become sons of light.” When Jesus had said these things, he went away and hid himself from them.”
The Outcome of Jesus’ Public Ministry Foretold
“ 37 Although Jesus had performed so many miraculous signs before them, they still refused to believe in Him,
38 so that the word of Isaiah the prophet would be fulfilled. He said, “Lord, who has believed our message, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
39 For this reason they could not believe, because again Isaiah said,
40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, so that they would not see with their eyes and understand with their heart, and turn to me, and I would heal them.”
41 Isaiah said these things because he saw Christ’s glory, and spoke about Him.
42 Nevertheless, even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they would not confess Jesus to be the Christ, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue.
43 For they loved praise from men more than praise from God.”
Jesus’ final public words that day
“ 44 But Jesus shouted out, “The one who believes in Me does not believe in Me, but in the One Who sent Me,
45 and the one who sees Me sees the One Who sent Me.
46 I have come as a light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me should not remain in darkness.
47 If anyone hears My words and does not obey them, I do not judge him. For I have not come to judge the world, but to save the world.
48 The one who rejects Me and does not accept My words has a judge; the word I have spoken will judge him at the last day.
49 For I have not spoken from My own authority, but the Father Himself Who sent Me has commanded Me what I should say and what I should speak.
50 And I know that His commandment is ETERNAL LIFE. Thus the things I say, I say just as the Father has told Me.”
Rom. 8:33-39, “(33) Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God Who justifies. (34) Who is the one who will condemn? Christ is the One Who died (and more than that, He was raised), Who is at the right hand of God, and Who also is interceding for us. (35) Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will trouble, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? (36) As it is written, “For your sake we encounter death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” (37) No, in all these things we have complete victory through Him Who loved us! (38) For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, (39) nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
1Cor. 15:50-58, “(50) Now this is what I am saying, brothers and sisters: Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. (51) Listen, I will tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – (52) in a moment, in the blinking of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. (53) For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. (54) Now when this perishable puts on the imperishable, and this mortal puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will happen, “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” (55) “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (56) The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. (57) But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! (58) So then, dear brothers and sisters, be firm. Do not be moved! Always be outstanding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”
In introduction to next week…
Matt. 12:14-21, “(14) But the Pharisees went out and plotted against him, as to how they could assassinate Him. (15) Now when Jesus learned of this, He went away from there. Great crowds followed Him, and He healed them all. (16) But He sternly warned them not to make Him known. (17) This fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah:
(18) “Here is My Servant Whom I have chosen, the One I love, in Whom I take great delight. I will put My Spirit on Him, and He will proclaim justice to the nations. (19) He will not quarrel or cry out, nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets. (20) He will not break a bruised reed or extinguish a smoldering wick, until He brings justice to victory. (21) And in His name the Gentiles will hope.”
The words, “bring justice to victory” could also be translated “until He vanquishes separation”.