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.

Give Us Hearts that Burn O Lord

William Cowper says in one of his letters
that he once was friends with a man of fine taste
who confessed to him that
although he could not subscribe to the truth of Christianity,
he could never read this passage in Luke’s Gospel (the Emmaus Walk – Luke 24)
without being deeply affected by it,
and feeling that
if the stamp of divinity was impressed upon anything in the Scriptures,
it was upon that passage.

Below is a portion of Cowper’s poem entitled “Conversation.”
Read it slowly savoring each one and envisioning that memorable walk to Emmaus!

It happen’d on a solemn eventide,
Soon after He that was our surety died,
Two bosom friends, each pensively inclined,
The scene of all those sorrows left behind,
Sought their own village, busied as they went
In musings worthy of the great event:
They spake of him they loved, of him whose life,
Though blameless, had incurr’d perpetual strife,
Whose deeds had left, in spite of hostile arts,
A deep memorial graven on their hearts.
The recollection, like a vein of ore,
The farther traced enrich’d them still the more;

They thought him, and they justly thought him, one
Sent to do more than he appear’d to have done,
To exalt a people, and to place them high
Above all else, and wonder’d he should die.
Ere yet they brought their journey to an end,
A stranger join’d them, courteous as a friend,
And ask’d them with a kind engaging air
What their affliction was, and begg’d a share.
Inform’d, he gathered up the broken thread,
And truth and wisdom gracing all he said,
Explain’d, illustrated, and search’d so well
The tender theme on which they chose to dwell,
That reaching home, the night, they said is near,
We must not now be parted, sojourn here.

The new acquaintance soon became a guest,
And made so welcome at their simple feast,
He bless’d the bread, but vanish’d at the word,
And left them both exclaiming, ’Twas the Lord!
Did not our hearts feel all he deign’d to say,
Did they not burn within us by the way?

Worship Reflections for Resurrection Sunday

To a Christian, Easter Sunday means everything,
when we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Bernhard Langer

The enemies of our joy are banished by our Savior’s resurrection:
The finality of death, the fatality of sin, and the seeming futility of life.
“He was delivered over to death for our sins
and was raised to life for our justification” (Romans 4:25).
—   Adapted from Max Lucado

In the bonds of Death He lay, Who for our offense was slain;
But the Lord is risen today, Christ hath brought us life again,
Wherefore let us all rejoice, Singing loud, with cheerful voice, Hallelujah!
Martin Luther

The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the crowning proof of Christianity. If the resurrection did not take place, then Christianity is a false religion. If it did take place, then Christ is God and the Christian faith is absolute truth.
— Henry Morris

The resurrection proclamation could not have been maintained in Jerusalem for a single day, for a single hour, if the emptiness of the tomb had not been established as a fact.        — Paul Althus

Good Friday and Three Truths the Cross Enforces

When the Apostle Peter discovered that Jesus would experience humiliation and suffering, he exploded, “God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” Then, Jesus’ offered a devastating rebuke: “Get behind me, Satan, you are a stumbling block” (16:22-23). Jesus reminded him and us that the son of man came to give His life.

This notion parts company with all other religions. The Jewish Encyclopedia quotes Psalm 22:1 in debunking the notion of a crucified God: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” “This final utterance was in all its implications itself a disproof of the exaggerated claims made for Jesus after his death by his disciples.  No real messiah could suffer such a death.  It is an impossible article of belief which detracts from God’s sovereignty and absolute otherness.”

Jesus is defeated and destroyed… destroyed by his enemies.  This was a sign of weakness and a sign of judgment from a common sense perspective, but it wasn’t God’s perspective.

Something happened to his disciples that overcame their common sense. It “changed the cross from a proof of defeat into a badge of honor, a bottomless source of joy and peace and a comfort for absolutely anything” (Timothy Keller).

As we prepare for Good Friday, it is wise to reflect upon these wise words from John Stott and his book The Cross of Christ: “The cross enforces three truths” (page 83).

“First, our sin must be extremely horrible. Nothing reveals the gravity of sin like the cross…. If there was no way by which the righteous God could righteously forgive our sin, except that he should bear it himself in Christ, it must be serious indeed….

Secondly, God’s love must be wonderful beyond comprehension…. He pursued us even to the desolate anguish of the cross, where he bore our sin, guilt, judgment and death. It takes a hard and stony heart to remain unmoved by a love like that….

Thirdly, Christ’s salvation must be a free gift. He `purchased’ it for us at the high price of his own life-blood. So what is there left for us to pay? Absolutely nothing!”

The Power of the Cross of Jesus Christ

“The cross of Christ is

the door to heaven,

the key to paradise,

the downfall of the devil,

the uplifting of mankind,

the consolation of our imprisonment,

the prize for our freedom.
The cross of Christ is…

the safeguard of our faith,

the assurance of our hope,

and the throne of love.

It is also the sign of God’s mercy and the proof of forgiveness.

By his cross Jesus has redeemed us from sin and atoned for our punishment.

The way to peace, joy, and righteousness in the kingdom of God

and the way to victory over sin, despair, and death is through the cross of Jesus Christ.”

Abbot Rupert of Deutz (12th century)

A Worship Guide for Good Friday

Grieving on Good Friday

REFLECTIONS

O all ye who pass by, behold and see; man stole the fruit, but I must climb the tree; The tree of life to all, but only me:  Was ever grief like mine?

—  From the poem “The Sacrifice” by George Herbert

Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?  Look around and see.  Is any suffering like my suffering that was inflicted on me, that the LORD brought on me in the day of his fierce anger?”

— Lamentations 1:12

CALL TO WORSHIP  – Galatians 6:14

Leader: “The cross of Christ is the door to heaven, the key to paradise, the downfall of the devil, the uplifting of mankind, the consolation of our imprisonment, and the prize for our freedom. The cross of Christ is the safeguard of our faith, the assurance of our hope, and the throne of love. It is the sign of God’s mercy and the proof of forgiveness. The cross is the way to peace, joy, and righteousness in the kingdom of God. The way to victory over sin, despair, and death is through the cross of Jesus Christ.”

— Abbot Rupert of Deutz, ca. 1100 AD

People: Therefore, “may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified.”

SCRIPTURE READING #1 – John 18:1-11

With clubs and staves they seek me, as a thief, who am the Way and Truth,

The true relief; Most true to those, who are my greatest grief: Was ever grief like mine?

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died,

My richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.

See, from His head, His hands, His feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down:

Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown?

SCRIPTURE READING #2  – John 18:12-24

See, they lay hold on me, not with the hands—Of faith, but fury: yet at their commands

I suffer binding, who have loosed their bands:  Was ever grief like mine?

There is a Fountain

There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners, plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains . . .

The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day;
And there may I, though vile as he,
Wash all my sins away . . .

SCRIPTURE READING #3 – John 18:28-40

Then they accuse me of great blasphemy, That I presumed to be the Deity,

Who never thought that any robbery: Was ever grief like mine?

What Wondrous Love is This?

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!

What wondrous love is this, O my soul!

What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss

To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,

To bear the dreadful curse for my soul.

SCRIPTURE READING #4 – John 19:1-9

The soldiers lead me to the Common Hall; There they deride me, they abuse me all:

Yet for twelve heavenly legions I could call: Was ever grief like mine?

Man of Sorrows,” What a Name!

“Man of sorrows!” what a name for the Son of God who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim!  Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude, In my place condemned He stood,
Sealed my pardon with His blood; Hallelujah, what a Savior!

SCRIPTURE READING #5 – John 19:10-16

Thus trimmed, forth they bring me to the rout, Who Crucify him, cry with one strong shout.

God holds his peace at man, and man cries out:  Was ever grief like mine?

O Sacred Head

O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down;
Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown;
O sacred Head, what glory, what bliss till now was Thine!
Yet though despised and gory, I joy to call Thee mine.

What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior! ‘Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor, vouchsafe to me Thy grace.

SCRIPTURE READING #6  – John 19:17-27

O all you who pass by, behold and see; Man stole the fruit, but I must climb the tree;

The tree of life to all, but only me:  Was ever grief like mine?

Tenebrae Hymn—Were You There?

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh!  Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree?
Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree?
Oh!  Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree?

Were you there when they pierced him in the side?

Were you there when they pierced him in the side?

Oh!  Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.

Were you there when they pierced him in the side?

SCRIPTURE READING #7  – John 19:28-30

But now I die; now all is finished.  My woe, man’s weal: and now I bow my head.

Only let others say, when I am dead, Never was grief like mine.

Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?
Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?
Oh!  Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?

BENEDICTION

Father, into your hands we commit our spirits.  AMEN

– Adapted from Psalm 31:5

Sad Hearts Sing – The Walk to Emmaus

Prayer:  O God, open the eyes of our hearts to see You  for who you are today – the risen Savior who conquers all of our enemies.  Renovate our unbelieving hearts so that they burn with devotion and love for our risen Savior and Lord.

I don’t know about you, but  I still get chills every time I read this narrative on Jesus’ walk to Emmaus in Luke 24:13-35.  It still amazes me that the first afternoon and early evening of Jesus’ resurrected life was spent with two obscure people.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, hope disappointed assaults our ability to trust the plan and promises of God.  I still remember the pain of our miscarriage in 1991.  The bright hopes of holding a new baby in your arms dashed and destroyed.   I still remember the despair and depression that gripped my heart when job opportunities closed one by one and I was without a ministry assignment for a year in 1996.

What does our Lord do when his follower’s hearts are gripped with despair and discouragement?

  • What does our risen Lord do?  Jesus draws near to his despairing, hopeless people.  Jesus joins his depressed and confused followers on their journey (vv.13-24).

The hopes of Cleopas and the other disciple were dashed and destroyed.  Their hearts were gripped by sadness and gloom. They were disillusioned. We get the impression that these men were discouraged and disappointed because God did not do what they wanted Him to do. That which causes these disciples despair should have been the surest ground of their hope –  the dying of the Lord Jesus. They had expected that Jesus would usher in the Messianic kingdom, and nothing of the sort happened at least for those guided by the eyes of sight and not the eyes of faith!

 

What was their basic problem? They did not know and believe all that the prophets had written about the Messiah. They saw the Messiah as a conquering King, but they did not see Him as a Suffering Servant. As they read the Old Testament, they saw the glory but not the suffering, the crown but not the cross. Like many who would come after the, they were blind to the total message of the Bible… that the cross precedes the crown.

  • Why does he do it?  For what purpose does He draw near? Our living Lord joins us in the journey for two fundamental purposes:  To make Himself known and to renovate our hearts (vv.25-35).

The living Christ reveals Himself for who He is – the Risen Savior who has conquered sin, death, hell and the devil.  How does He make himself known to us? By opening His Word and sharing His table.

He opens the scriptures, for they testify of him.  The expounding of those scriptures which speak of Christ has a direct tendency to warm the hearts of his disciples, both to convert and comfort them.  The crucial function of interpreting the Scriptures is to reveal Christ, His sufferings and glories to follow from all of the Scriptures – Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms.

The word of God defined and structured Jesus’ life.  How did Jesus come to understand that he was the Christ?  God whispering in his ear”  No, but by reading the Bible.  He read the O.T. and discovered his identity.  v.27.  All of its parts point to Jesus Christ.

Imagine the greatest Teacher explaining the greatest themes from the greatest Book and bringing the greatest blessings to men’s lives:

Perhaps Jesus started at Genesis 3:15, the first promise of the Redeemer, and traced that promise through the Scriptures. He may have lingered at Genesis 22, which tells of Abraham placing his only beloved son on the altar. Surely He touched on Passover, the levitical sacrifices, the tabernacle ceremonies, the Day of Atonement, the serpent in the wilderness, the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53, and the prophetic messages of Psalms 22 and 69. The key to understanding the Bible is to see Jesus Christ on every page. He did not teach them only doctrine or prophecy; He taught “the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27).

Cleopas would have thought about isaiah 53:3-4…Is that the kind of Redeemer we want?

Two things about Jesus in v.26 – It was necessary for the Messiah to SUFFER (TO DIE).  It was necessary for the Messiah to RISE.

What do you have to know to be a Christian?  You have to know that Jesus died and that Jesus rose again and that it is for you.

Why was it necessary for Jesus to suffer?
Because of who you and I are. We are rebels.  Our envy, pride, our using our status and material wealth in improper ways…  our antagonism towards God.   We are not neutral.

Because of God’s demand for justice.  Man’s rebellion against God had to be justly punished.  God’s son could only pay such a high price (Isaiah 53:5-6)  But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.

Iniquities – wicked actions willingly done.  Trespasses/transgressions – moving and living outside the safe boundaries of God’s law. He had to be perfect to make an adequate and perfect sacrifice for our sins. Only if he died, could he be man’s redeemer.

Because of God’s love for us. The willful rebellion of man… the righteousness judgment of God and the infinite love of God.  It is staggering that God should love sinners.

 

We buy ugly houses.  Totally renovate them and made them beautiful.  That’s you and me.  God buys ugly people with his blood at the cross and he loves us into beauty.  He renovates us at the cost of his own body and blood.  He transformed those who are overwhelmed with iniquity and conforms us into the image of His beauty. It’s the tale as old as time – beauty and the beast.  The only way for the beast to be free of his beastliness is for beauty to love Him unconditionally.

Why was it necessary for him to rise again? Jesus physically rose again to demonstrate God’s victory over death.  Some scholars say that it doesn’t really matter that Jesus rose from the death.  It is a metaphor for new life, the cycle of spring. This type of Easter Bunny Christianity will not rescue you at death’s door. Death is the result of sin in this world and we will only be delivered from its finality and curse through faith in a crucified, risen Savior.

John Updike summarizes it well in his Seven Stanzas of Easter: “Make no mistake: if He rose at all, it was as His body; if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules, reknit, the amino acids rekindle, the Church will fall.”

Let us not mock God with metaphor and analogy making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded credulity of earlier ages. Let us walk through the door.

Jesus physically rose again so that you might experience new life now. Their hearts burned. They enjoyed real fellowship and communion with the living God. They finally experienced joy in the midst of their sorrows.

He meets them at his table and is revealed to them in the breaking of bread. Blessed art thou O God.  Maybe they saw the nail marks in his hands.  When the bread was broken.

 

  • What are the results? There are at least four results…

Obstructed eyes are opened. Jesus is alive and He is right here with us.  The reference to their eyes is reminiscent of the correlation of sight with understanding, faith, and salvation.  Luke 1:78-79; 2:30; 6:39-42; 10:23; 11:34; 18:35-42; 19:42; 4:18-19.

Slow hearts are turned into burning hearts.  There is a complete reversal of emotions.   Unbelieving, obtuse people are made to burn in devotion for Christ. How frequently I have been slow of heart of believe the promises of the Lord in His Word!  I have failed frequently in orienting myself fully around Jesus’ teaching.

Gospel Community – A fractured community is drawn back together. When the women’s testimony to the resurrection is dismissed by the disciples, fractures begin developing in their company.  They all begin to drift away from their high hopes and the community of discipleship. Cleopas and his friend return to the community of disciples to bear witness to Jesus’ resurrection.

Gospel Communication – Bold witnesses – It is the duty of those to whom Christ has revealed himself to let others know what he has done for their souls. Notes what the two men do after their encounter with the risen Christ. When you are converted, instructed, comforted, you go and strengthen your brothers.

 

 

How are Christ’s followers prepared to be his witnesses of all these things?  Possibility (vv.1-12) gives way to probability (13-35)  and probability to actuality (vv.36-49) and then to resolution (vv.50-53).