Welcoming the King on Palm Sunday

There is something exciting about being in a crowd. A crowd came from Jerusalem to greet him… to welcome him into the great city of David as the long anticipated Messiah… the deliverer for whom they had hoped.

But Jesus rides into Jerusalem in a manner that shatters the expectations of his people of their coming Messiah. The term Messiah means anointed one. In the OT, there were three different ministries for which people were anointed… king, priest, and prophet. On Palm Sunday, Jesus comes as the ultimate King of Zechariah’s prophecy. He comes into the temple as the great priest. He speaks to his people with the authority of the great prophet.

This is the simple message of Palm Sunday. The Lord Jesus Christ comes in a manner very different than our preconceived notions. He comes to do things in our lives that we do not anticipate or expect.

Why are we to welcome Him into our lives? The text of Matthew 21:1-17 suggests at least three reasons…

First of all, Jesus comes as a humble king to liberate us from sin’s oppression and bondage. When the King comes, He delivers us from the dominion of sin (Zechariah 9:9), not from temporal oppression. He comes not to disarm political enemies (i.e. the Romans), but to disarm all the spiritual enemies of his people that oppress them.

Why does he do this? Matthew tells us why in verses 4-5, “This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet.” Thus, Jesus fulfills Zechariah’s prophecy who wrote 500 years before the birth of Jesus. By riding a donkey, Jesus declares what type of kingship He comes to institute. This means, yes, I am king, for that’s what the prophet says it means: “Behold your king.” “But,” he is saying, “I am gentle and lowly. I am not, in my first coming, on a white war-horse with a sword and a rod of iron. I am not coming to slay you. I am coming to save you.

How important was this for our Lord? The only personal characteristic that our Lord calls attention to in Himself is his humility, meekness, and lowliness of heart (Matthew 11:28-30). He wouldn’t lift up his voice in the street. He wouldn’t be domineering. Bruised reeds and dimly burning wicks… He comes not in wrath to take vengeance, but in mercy to work salvation. The wonder of his kingship is that it saves sinners.

How are you to welcome Him? Appeal to Him to save you. Petition Him to deliver you. The word hosanna means, literally, “O save us.”

This salvation is not merely a one-time decision, but a life-long battle against sin, temptation, and unbelief (Hebrews 10:39 – But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.).

How does he save us? The king comes to ascend a throne. It is not a throne of glory and power, but one of shame and humiliation. The eternal Son of God suffers in your place – the great sacrifice for sin is offered up – the great Passover lamb is slain. He is meek to suffer the greatest injuries and indignities for us, meek to endure the hostility and brutality of sinners against him. He comes at this point not to conquer but to die as the Savior of sinners in humiliation and indignity. He is a Savior marked by a gracious kindness and humility. Thus, He is precisely the kind of King you and I need.

(The King comes in deep humility and meekness, but his meekness is not a sign of weakness. Look at what happens next.)

Secondly, Jesus comes as the great priest to cleanse His house. He comes into the temple with cleansing power.

In verses 12-13, Jesus drives out the moneychangers showing forth His authoritative presence.  He evacuates the whole court of the Gentile claiming: ‘My father intended this place to be a house of prayer.’ This court will be devoted to worship.

Recently, the Barna Group reported on the spiritual involvement of twenty-somethings. The findings: only 20 percent of students who were highly churched as teens remained spiritually active by age 29.

The children who have been brought up in the church are abandoning the faith. Rather than lament this, let resolve to pray fervently that they would come to a place in their own journey where they will cry out “Hosanna – save me Jesus.”

Here’s an interesting question: If Jesus came into the temple of my life, what tables would he overturn? Jesus never ignores sin and bondage in our lives. We are made to worship Him, yet we all too often have our own den of thieves – distractions and inordinate desires for other things that we seek to satisfy our longings rather than God’s glory. We need to be cleansed. Jesus did this to the Temple.  Would you ask him to do it to your own heart today? Could you says today that your life is a house of prayer?

How about you personally? Have you ever appealed to Jesus to cleanse you? Confess your need for His cleansing (Matthew 21:12-13). Have you ever welcomed him into your life?

Thirdly, Jesus comes as the great prophet who unmasks religious hypocrisy (vv.14-17) He comes to blow the whistle on the awful layers of hypocrisy that linger in our own lives. Outwardly and formally religious

The priests and the scribes were indignant to see needy people brought to Jesus and being healed and restored.  Religious people were indignant that ceremonially unclean and blemished people were coming into God’s church. They were indignant at children singing exuberant praise to Jesus.

Would you ask Him to unmask your own hypocrisy and free you to worship Him with the same enthusiam of the children long ago in Jerusalem? Praise Him with no pretense. If you’re like me, we at times struggle with a crippling self-consciousness that hinders our worship (Matthew 21:15-16).

Important application: God will see to it that the Son is praised and worshipped. Christ quotes Psalm 8:2 in order to demonstrate this reality. He gladly receives the worship of little children much to the indignation of religious people (Psalm 8).

The way we welcome Jesus into our lives—and into our church—is through praise and worship. He asserts that the stones would cry out if the children stopped.

C.S. Lewis reminds us what praise is? It is “inner health made audible…I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment:  It is its appointed consummation.”[1]

Is Jesus as fervently praised and as greatly rejoiced in among us as he was by the children long ago in Jerusalem? Oh the joy of Christ’s presence with his people. Oh, that we might have it in greater measure!

Let me close this post with two quick points of application on welcoming the King into your life. At the end of this story, the crowd did not want Jesus to rule over them. Thus, their praises rang hollow. “Those who take Christ for their King must lay their all underneath his feet.” What is it that the Lord is calling you to lay down at His feet this day in submissive surrender?

Also remember you too are coming to a great King today. Do your prayers express honorable views of the love, riches, and bounty of your King? John Newton summed it up best in this verse of his hymn “Come My Soul, Thy Suit Prepare:”

Thou art coming to a King, Large petitions with thee bring;

For his grace and pow’r are such, None can ever ask too much.

What large petitions are you bringing to King Jesus today?

[1] C.S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms, (New York, NY:  Harcourt Brace & Company, 1958), 96-97.

Confessing Our Sin to the One who Restores Bruised Reeds (Matthew 12:20)

Father in heaven,
we are those who have been bruised
and broken by sin and the fall.
We confess that we have bruised others
by our harsh and critical words,
our anger tempers, our betrayal,
and our failed attempts at loving others well.

The devil bruises us with his lies.
We also bruise ourselves and are bruised by others.
Thank you for dealing tenderly with “bruised reeds”
and “smoldering wicks” like us.
We confess to you that our grasp of your grace is weak,
our repentance is feeble, and our faith is small.
Thank you Jesus that you were wounded
for our transgressions
and you were bruised
for our iniquities.
Pour out the healing balm of your graceinto our lives.
For we pray for Jesus’ sake. Amen

Prayer of Confession – Re. Physical Beauty

Beautiful Savior,
You died to make me beautiful.
For I was marred and made beastly by sin.
Late it was that I loved you,
beauty so ancient and so new, late I loved you!
I vacillate between a monkish contempt of physical beauty
and a worldly addiction to physical beauty.
Forgive me where I have not made a covenant with my eyes
and I gaze lustfully at others.
Forgive me O LORD!
Pardon me for comparing myself to others
that leads to me feeling insecure, ashamed, and envious.
Have mercy upon me O LORD!
Rescue me from viewing my body with disdain
For You knit me together and fashioned my body,
which is the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Liberate me from the lies of the Evil One, O LORD!
Free me to know in my soul
that precious sense that I am beautiful
in the eyes of the ultimate loving beholder.
Grant me a renewed sense of Your delight, acceptance, and favor
through Jesus Christ our LORD. AMEN.

The Calling of a Soldier of Jesus Christ

“Remember your high calling,
you are a minister and ambassador of Christ,
you are entrusted with the most honorable and important employment
that can engage and animate the heart of man.
Filled and fired with a constraining sense
of the love of Jesus and the worth of souls;
impressed with an ardor to carry war into Satan’s Kingdom —
to storm his strongholds and rescue his captives,
you will have little leisure to think of anything else.
How does the love of glory stimulate the soldier —
make him forget and forego a thousand personal tendernesses
and prompt him to cross oceans, to traverse deserts, to scale mountains,
and plunge into the greatest hardships and the thickest dangers?
They do it for a corruptible crown, a puff of smoke, an empty fame.
We likewise are soldiers,
we have a Captain and a Prince who deserves our all.”

John Newton

A Simple Prayer through Psalm 23

shepherd-sheep-10Gracious Father,
at birth we are all launched into a world
that is ringed with terror –
conflicts, accidents, assaults, disease, violence and death.

How easy it is to allow fear to dominate our lives:
The fear of rejection, failure, condemnation, pain and death.
Thank You that Your sword was awakened
against our Good Shepherd who laid down His life for us
so that we might experience
the certainty of your care.

Your lamb was slain to save wayward, stubborn sheep like us.
Grant us grace to trust
that everything is necessary that You send into our lives
and nothing is needful that You withhold.
May all our days be full of praise and delight in You
our Shepherd, King and God.
For we make our prayer in Jesus’ name, AMEN.

The Death of Billy Graham – A Few Reflections

The death of Billy Graham today has caused me to reflect on how this man impacted me and the moments where our lives intersected. One of the special privileges that the Lord gave me was to serve personally with Billy Graham on two occasions:

  • During my undergrad years at UNC Chapel Hill, Billy Graham came to speak at a lecture series in 1982 that a number of campus ministries had planned. One event that served as an impetus for this lecture series was the death of his nephew, Sandy Ford, Leighton Ford’s son. Sandy was a contagious Christian who impacted many lives in his short 21 years, including mine.
  • I was asked to lead the worship for a gathering of Christian students and faculty who were preparing and praying for this series. This initial gathering of believers took place at Memorial Hall in 1982.


  • On another occasion, I will never forget watching a feeble man struggling with Parkinson’s Disease ascend the stairs to a podium and listening to him energetically and boldly proclaim the gospel to a packed house at River Plate Stadium in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1991. His messages were broadcast all over the Spanish speaking world at the time. What struck me that week was how evidently the Spirit of God had anointed this country boy from North Carolina to powerfully proclaim the gospel.


  • On both occasions, I was deeply impacted by how unashamed he was of the simple gospel of grace and how committed he was to living a life of integrity.

O Lord, be pleased to raise up a new generation of men and women like Billy and Ruth Bell Graham and revive us again that your people might rejoice in you (Psalm 85:6)!

After the Lord Jesus greeted Billy, I wonder how many others greeted him in heaven with hearts full of gratitude for leading them to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I bet there is a lot of rejoicing in heaven today, but that is true every day because in the Lord’s presence “there is fullness of joy; at his right hand are pleasures forevermore!” (Psalm 16:11)

The below link is a tribute by FoxNews to the life, legacy, and ministry of Billy Graham.

The Life and Ministry of Billy Graham

For Preachers and Their Listeners


In Mark 1:38, Jesus states succinctly the reason why He came from the Father:

“Let us go on to the neighboring towns,
so I may preach there also;
that is why I came

J.C. Ryle comments in the late 1800s on this verse from Mark’s Gospel:

Let us never be moved by those who cry down the preacher’s office,
and tell us that sacraments and other ordinances
are of more importance than sermons.
Let us give to every part of God’s public worship
its proper place and honor,
but let us beware of placing any part of it above preaching.
By preaching, the Church of Christ
was first gathered together and founded,
and by preaching, it has ever been maintained in health and prosperity.
By preaching, sinners are awakened.
By preaching, inquirers are led on.
By preaching, saints are built up.
By preaching, Christianity is being carried to a lost world.

There are many now who sneer at missionaries,
and mock at those who go out into the highways of our own land,
to preach to crowds in the open air.
But such persons would do well to pause,
and consider calmly what they are doing.
The very work which they ridicule
is the work which turned the world upside down.

Above all, it is the very work which Christ Himself undertook.
The King of kings and Lord of lords Himself was once a preacher.
For three long years He went to and fro proclaiming the Gospel.
Sometimes we see Him in a house, sometimes on the mountain side,
sometimes in a Jewish synagogue, sometimes in a boat on the sea.
But the great work He took up was always one and the same.
He came always preaching and teaching.
He says, “That is why I have come.”

Let us leave the passage with a solemn resolution
never to “despise prophesying.” (1 Thess. 5:20.)
The minister we hear may not be highly gifted.
The sermons that we listen to may be weak and poor.
But after all, preaching is God’s grand ordinance
for converting and saving souls.
The faithful preacher of the Gospel is handling the very weapon
which the Son of God was not ashamed to employ.
This is the work of which Christ has said, “That is why I have come.”