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.

Confession of Sin – Palm Sunday

Forgiving Father, Your Son came as the gentle King of Glory.

He rode a donkey not a stallion.

He humbled and sacrificed himself in order to bring us peace with You.

We confess our own lack of humility. Forgive us for the lack of gentleness in our lives. Our harsh words have stirred up strife and dissension. Our angry tempers have hurt those we love.

Long ago the crowd with incessant hallelujahs greeted our Savior, but how quickly they mocked as he went lonely to the cross. Forgive us for the ways that we, too, have welcomed Him only in words and resisted His kingship.

May Your Son not find in our hearts another place of crucifixion, but a place of love, loyalty, and devotion fit for such a gentle and humble King. Mold us into the gentle ways of Jesus in whose name we pray, AMEN.

A Chronology of Holy Week

Next week is the most important week of the year for a Christian. Here’s a brief synopsis of the timing of events that took place with the corresponding Scriptures.

Palm Sunday
Triumphal entry into Jerusalem Mt.21:1-11; Mk. 11:1-10; Lk. 19:29-44; Jn.12:12-19

Monday in Holy Week

Jesus curses the fig tree    Mt.21:18-19; Mk.11:12-14
Jesus cleanses the temple    Mt. 21:12-13; Mk.11:15-18

Tuesday in Holy Week

Jesus teaches in the temple    Mt. 21:18-23:39; Mk. 12:1-44; Lk. 20:9-21:4
Jesus anointed in Bethany    Mt. 26: 6-13; Mk.14:3-9; Jn.12: 2-11

Wednesday in Holy Week

The plot against Jesus        Mt. 26:14-16; Mk.14:10-11; Lk. 22:3-6

Maundy Thursday

The Last Supper        Mt. 26:17-29; Mk.14:12-25; Lk. 22:7-20; Jn. 13 :1-38
Jesus Comforts disciples    John 14:1-16:33
Gethsemane            Mt. 26:36-46; Mk. 14:32-42; Lk. 22:40-46

Late Thursday/Early Friday

Jesus’ Arrest and trial    Mt. 26:47-27:26; Mk. 14:43-15:15; Lk. 22:47-23:25; Jn. 18:2-19:16

Good Friday

Jesus’ crucifixion/death    Mt. 27:27-56; Mk. 15:16-41; Lk. 23:26-49; Jn. 19:17-30
Jesus’ burial            Mt. 27:57-66; Mk. 15:42-47; Lk. 23:50-56; Jn. 19:31-42

Sunday
The empty tomb        Mt. 28:1-10; Mk.16:1-8; Lk. 24:1-12; Jn. 20:11-48
Mary Magdalene sees Jesus    Mk. 16:9-11; Jn. 20:11-18
The Road to Emmaus        Mk. 16:12-13; Lk.24:13-35
Jesus appears to 10 disciples     Mk. 16:14; Lk.24:36-43; Jn. 20:19-25

 

Holy Week Worship Services

Here are several worship services that we have offered during Holy Week.

Palm Sunday Worship Servicehttp://www.box.net/shared/meuhlgyx82

Messianic Passover Sederhttp://www.box.net/shared/hg219v3srs

Good Friday Worship Service – http://www.box.net/shared/yqd2e5yyt2

Resurrection Sunday Worship Service – http://www.box.net/shared/vufzp8ne68

Palm Sunday and the Transcendental Interferer

When C.S. Lewis came to faith, he wasn’t happy at all because the first thing that happened to him was the realization that God was God and that he was not. Jesus Christ was a transcendental interferer, barging into Lewis’ life and saying, “You’re not God, I am.”

In his own words, he describes his feelings: “No word in my vocabulary expressed deeper hatred than the word interference. And the Bible placed at the center what seemed to me a Transcendental Interferer.” (C.S. Lewis, Surprised By Joy, p. 172)

What a great description of Jesus: The Transcendental Interferer. We have a natural bent to distrust anyone who wants to rule over us… Remember Paul Revere’s ride … the British are coming, the British are coming. But Jesus initially comes to his people gentle, meek, and humbly mounted on a donkey not on a war horse. This shatters expectations and disappointment to many hearts, but hopefully his manner of coming will slowly dissolve our stubbornness so that we open the door and grant him unhindered sway over our lives. I hope this happens for you in fresh, transformative ways in the near future!

A Devotional Guide for Holy Week

The upcoming week ranks supreme in our church calendar as well as in the life of any follower of Jesus. Thus, I would encourage you to not let this week go by without intentionally spending time in God’s Word asking the living Lord Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit to speak to you.

In our day, the church has lost much of its observance of Holy Week and we are spiritually impoverished because of it. The prayers and Scriptures below are designed to walk you through the events surrounding the passion and sufferings of our Lord. You don’t have to implement the whole guide, but the Lord has a blessing for you in some part of the devotional guide below. I commend it to you as a simple resource to spiritually engage with Christ at this important time of year! This simple guide comes from my days of serving on the staff of a great church called Intown Community Church in Atlanta, GA.

Devotions for Holy Week

Lord Jesus Christ, in this solemn week when we see again the depth and mystery of your redeeming love, help us to follow where you go, to stop where you stumble, to listen when you cry, to hurt as you suffer, to bow our heads in sorrow when you die, so that when you are raised to life again we may truly share in your endless joy. Amen.
– Prayer for Holy Week, Book of Common Order of the Church of Scotland, 1994

We hope that you can find time each day to remember and celebrate all that Jesus endured to rescue us. When reflecting on the gospels, be mindful of certain questions: What is this passage telling us about Jesus – his person, work, and teaching? What difference should this make in my life? How would I live differently if the truths of this text were more powerfully real to me?

The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday

O Everliving God, let this mind be in us which was also in Christ Jesus; that as he from his loftiness stooped to the death of the cross, so we in our lowliness may humble ourselves, believing, obeying, living, and dying to the glory of the Father; for the same Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.  – Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830 -1894)

I Timothy 6:12-16    Fight the good fight
Matthew 21:12-17    The Temple cleansed

Monday in Holy Week

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross may find it none other than the way of life: Grant us so to boast in the cross of Christ, that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer, 1979

Philippians 3:1-14    The surpassing greatness of knowing Christ
John 12:9-19    The Triumphal Entry

Tuesday in Holy Week

Almighty Father, Everlasting God, you permitted your son to suffer the anguish of the cross for us, so that you might drive the power of the enemy from us: Grant us that we may so commemorate and give thanks for His suffering that we may thereby know forgiveness of sin and redemption from eternal death; through the same, your Son. Amen.
– Martin Luther (1483-1546)

Philippians 3:15-21     Our citizenship is in heaven
John 12:20-26    The hour has come for the son of man to be glorified

Wednesday in Holy Week

Lord God, whose blessed Son our Savior gave his body to be whipped and his face to be spit upon: Give us grace to accept joyfully the sufferings of the present time, confident of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer (1979)

Philippians 4:1-13    Rejoice in the Lord always
John 12:27-36    Now my heart is troubled

Maundy Thursday

Holy God, source of all love, on the night of his betrayal Jesus gave his disciples a new commandment, to love one another as he loved them. Write this commandment in our hearts; give us the will to serve others as he was the servant of all, who gave his life and died for us, yet is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
Lutheran Book of Worship (1978)

I Corinthians 11:23-34        The Lord’s Supper
John 13:1-17        Jesus washes his disciples’

Good Friday

My Father, enlarge my heart, warm my affections, and open my lips to proclaim the love of Calvary. There Christ was all anguish that I might be all joy, cast off that I might be brought in, trodden down as an enemy that I might be welcomed as a friend, surrendered to hell’s worst that I might attain heaven’s best, stripped that I might be clothed, wounded that I might be healed, athirst that I might drink, tormented that I might be comforted, made a shame that I might inherit glory. My savior wept that all tears might be wiped from my eyes, groaned that I might have endless song, endured all pain that I might have unfading health, bore a thorned crown that I might have a glory-diadem, bowed his head that I might uplift mine, experienced reproach that I might receive welcome, closed his eyes in death that I might gaze on unclouded brightness, expired that I might ever live. O Father, help me to adore you by lips and life. O that my every breath might be ecstatic praise, my every step buoyant with delight, as I see my enemies crushed, Satan baffled, defeated, and destroyed, sin buried in the ocean of reconciling blood, hell’s gates closed, heaven’s portal open. God forth, O conquering God, and show me the cross, mighty to subdue, comfort and save. Amen.
– Adapted from The Valley of Vision. A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions (1975).

Hebrews 10:4-17    The true sacrifice
John 19:1-42    The crucifixion

Easter Saturday

O God, whose loving kindness is infinite, mercifully hear our prayers; and grant that as in this life we are united in the mystical body of your Church, and in death are laid in the ground with the sure hope of resurrection; so at the last day we may rise to the life immortal, and be numbered with your saints in glory everlasting; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.                    – Anonymous

Hebrews 4:1-16    A sabbath rest
Matthew 28:1-10    The resurrection

Easter Sunday, the Resurrection of the Lord

God our Father, creator of all, today is the day of Easter joy. This is the morning on which the Lord appeared to men who had begun to lose hope and opened their eyes to what the scriptures foretold that first he must die, and then he would rise and ascend before his Father’s glorious presence. May the risen Lord breathe on our minds and open our eyes that we may know him in the breaking of bread, and follow him in his risen life. Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.                – Lutheran Book of Worship (1978)

Exodus 12:1-14    The Passover
Luke 24:13-35    The Emmaus Road

Praying that We Might Praise Him Like the Children

Is Jesus as loudly praised and as greatly rejoiced in among us today 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! Bickerings soon cease, murmurings come to an end, complaints against one another, and against God’s providence are all hushed; the sense that Jesus Christ is with his people drowns every note of sorrow, and every heart is tuned to loudest notes of thankfulness.” – Charles Spurgeon

Good and gentle King Jesus, make us joyful in your house of prayer.  Remind us Lord that this church is Your house, not ours.

Make us joyful in seeing you answer our prayers.  Rekindle in our hearts a new resolve to seek you in believing prayer for the nations…  You tell us to ask of You and you will give the nations to Jesus as His inheritance…in Bulgaria, England, Peru, China, Japan, Ecuador, Mexico, Uganda, Malawi, and Liberia… In all of these countries as well as our own, transform idol worshipers into worshipers of You, the living God!

Make us joyful in seeing you work your healing power in the lives of those broken by sin.  Long ago, the lame walked, the blind saw!  Today, may Your power work to change people, to make broken people whole by Your transforming grace.

Make us joyful in seeing children (young and older) praising you with great zeal and devotion.