They say that hindsight is 20/20 and I’ve sure found that to be true. Looking back now, over many, many situations that I’ve experienced in life, I would have done them differently if only I’d known. Opportunities were missed, people have been misunderstood, words were spoken that I wish I would have never said, and decisions have been made based on emotion and desire rather than prayer and seeking God’s will. With time, through the work of His Word and the work of the Holy Spirit, clarity came and I once again said, “If only I’d known.”
This past week I Googled, “If only I would have known,” and you would not believe the number of people and ways that this phrase has been used. Neither would you believe the massive amount of thoughts recorded by those who have used this phrase. Individuals have used the phrase to describe heartbreaking situations where relationships that they thought held great promise for happiness and joy turned sour and robbed them of the very things they thought they would experience. Parents have used the phrase to describe how they missed warning signs in their children’s behavior, children that eventually committed some horrible crime, suicide, or were discovered to have addiction issues. The phrase has been used by workers who faithfully went to work every day and gave their all for the betterment of the company only to find out that because of mismanagement and corruption, the company would fold, and they would lose their job. The phrase has been used by college athletes who took a coach at his word only to find out later that the coach’s word didn’t mean a thing. I read a report this week from the BBC about some horrible crimes against humanity that are taking place in North Korea. The UN report urges the International community to do something. Michael Kirby, chairman of the Independent Commission of Inquiry, said, “At the end of the Second World War so many people said ‘if only we had known… if only we had known the wrongs that were done in the countries of the hostile forces.’” “Well, now the international community does know… There will be no excusing of failure of action because we didn’t know.”
Those who looked back on WWII said, “If only we had known.” Michael Kirby raises a very pertinent and important point when he said to those before him, concerning North Korea, “Well, now the international community does know… There will be no excusing of failure of action because we didn’t know.” I’m not here to speak about North Korea. I’ve come here today to share God’s Word with us, to pray that through the work of the Holy Spirit we might hear from God, and respond as God would have us respond.
Just as Michael Kirby challenged the members of the United Nations, I would like to challenge all of us. There were those who were alive during Jesus’ day that looking back said, “If only we’d known.” That’s not our excuse. We do know. We have the whole counsel of God’s Word before us, we have the history of God’s activity in the world and in the lives of people and nations before us, and most importantly, we have the reality of Easter morning, an empty tomb, and a Risen Savior before us. We cannot say, “If only we had known.”
Now, there may be some here this morning who, like me, you were not raised in church. You’ve heard about Jesus, but you really don’t know too much about Him other than what others have said, I want to assure you that you will know by the time we finish our time together this morning.
Today is Palm Sunday. The first Palm Sunday was a day that appeared to be full of great celebration and the fulfillment of the hopes of the people for a King. In actuality, the people were celebrating for all of the wrong reasons. Let’s take a look at our Scripture for this morning and see what we can learn.
29 As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30 “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.'” 32 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 They replied, “The Lord needs it.” 35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. 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!” 39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” 40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” 41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace–but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” (Luke 19:29-44 NIV)
Palm Sunday begins the final week of Jesus’ life. It was a week full of activity as Jesus rode into town, cleared the temple of the money changers, taught the people in the courts of the temple, confronted His antagonists, shared the Last Supper with His disciples, spent a night in prayer at the Garden of Gethsemane, was arrested, found guilty in a kangaroo court, crucified on a cross on Golgatha, and was resurrected on the third day. Later this week we will gather here in this sanctuary on Thursday evening at 7 pm for our Maundy Thursday Communion Service. Then we will come back next Sunday to celebrate the great and glorious resurrection of our King, but this morning I want to focus on Palm Sunday. Let’s retrace the Lord’s steps.
For three years Jesus had ministered in and around Jerusalem and the Sea of Galilee. He had taught the people about the Kingdom of God, He had performed miracles that validated His claim to be who He said He was, and He had poured Himself into His disciples, teaching them everything they would need to know so that when the time was right they would go into all the world and make disciples.
If you’ve been here the last two weeks then you know that we’ve been studying the Scripture from John where Jesus fed more than 5,000 people with five loaves and two small fish. One verse that we didn’t get around to studying, but which I would like for us to take a look at this morning is found at the end of that story, in John 6:15. Take a look with me.
15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself. (John 6:15 NIV)
The people wanted to make Jesus their king, but the time was not right and neither were their ideas of the Kingship that Jesus would fully embrace in time, so He withdrew from the crowd. Jesus was King, but He would only reveal Himself as King when the time was right, at the time appointed by the Father. On Palm Sunday, the day had arrived and Jesus made preparations.
In our Scripture for today we read that as Jesus and His disciples approached Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, just to the east of Jerusalem, Jesus sent two of His disciples to get a colt, a young donkey, and to bring it to Him. What the disciples probably didn’t know, but Jesus was more than aware of, was that the young donkey would be the means of transportation used to fulfill a prophecy found in Zechariah 9:9. Let’s read it together.
9 Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zechariah 9:9 NIV)
The King of Glory was about to reveal Himself to all of those who had arrived in Jerusalem for Passover. We need to take just a minute to talk about Passover because the time of Jesus’ arrival into Jerusalem is one of the great illustrations for you and me that God is a God of purpose and there is nothing that He does that is not without purpose.
Passover was one of the three great “feast days” of the Jews which required all of the Jewish men to make a pilgrimage to the temple in Jerusalem to worship the Lord. The three feast days were the Feast of Passover, the feast of Weeks, called Shavuot, and the Feast of Tabernacles, or Sukkot. You can read about these in Leviticus 23. The greatest of the feasts was Passover, the commemoration of God’s deliverance of the Jews from Egyptian bondage. Throughout history the Jews have held onto this great celebration of the faithfulness of God in delivering them from bondage and making them a nation.
Moses and the Hebrew slaves celebrated the first Passover while still in Egypt. Joshua and the Israelites celebrated the Passover at Gilgal. Many years later, after years in exile in Babylon, the Jews who returned to Jerusalem celebrated Passover with Ezra (Ezra 6:19). And now, thousands of years after the celebration of the first Passover, Jews around the world will begin their Passover celebration on Monday and it will not end until April 22. The event of the celebration of Passover and the timing of Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem were no mere coincidence. Let me explain to you what I’m talking about.
God gave very detailed instructions as to how Passover was to be celebrated. If you will turn to Exodus 12 with me; here we can see the instructions God gave to Moses.
1 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, 2 “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. 3 Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. 4 If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat. 5 The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. 6 Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. (Exodus 12:1-6 NIV)
The sacrificial lamb was to be chosen on the 10th day of Nisan. It wasn’t to be just any lamb, but God said that it was to be one year old, a male, and last of all, it was to be without defect. The lamb was to be cared for until the 14th day of the same month at which time the lambs would be killed and the blood of the lamb smeared over the doorframes of the Jewish homes. God gave instructions as to how the families were to roast the meat and eat it with bitter herbs and bread made without yeast. Then, in Exodus 12:12-14 we read,
12 “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. 13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. 14 “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD–a lasting ordinance. (Exodus 12:12-14 NIV)
Still, to this day, the Jews celebrate God’s deliverance from Egyptian bondage. Many Bible teachers believe that the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem was the 10th of Nisan, “lamb selection day” for Passover. As the lambs were being paraded through the streets of Jerusalem and the people were choosing their lamb for Passover, the One perfect Lamb of God, chosen by God, without spot or blemish, the One who never committed any sin, was riding into town on the back of a donkey.
Long before Palm Sunday ever arrived, John the Baptist recognized Him as he walked towards him, while he was baptizing folks in the Jordan River. Do you remember what John said that day? Turn to John 1:29 with me and I’ll refresh your memory.
29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29 NIV)
Since the first lambs were chosen by the Jews while still in Egypt, all of Israel had celebrated the Passover to commemorate God’s deliverance, but on Psalm Sunday, the Deliverer came riding into town to declare Himself King, but not the King the people were looking for. Did you notice how they responded to Jesus? I want us to take a look at all four accounts from the Gospels. Matthew says,
9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Matthew 21:9 NIV)
In Mark’s Gospel we read an account that is very similar to Matthew’s. Turn with me to Mark 11:9-10.
9 Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna! ” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” 10 “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Mark 11:9-10 NIV)
Luke’s report is a little different from those of Matthew and Mark. Turn with me to Luke 19:38 and let’s read together.
38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:38 NIV)
John’s report is much like those that we read about in Matthew and Mark. Turn with me to John 12:13 and let’s read together.
13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the king of Israel!” (John 12:13 NIV)
I want you to notice one phrase, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” The phrase comes from Psalm 118:25-26, where we read,
25 LORD, save us! LORD, grant us success! 26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you. (Psalm 118:25-26 NIV)
“Hosanna! Save us Lord!” Those who shouted praises to Jesus had in their mind the salvation they longed for, but it wasn’t the salvation Jesus had come to bring. I want to share something really interesting with you. Psalms 113-118 is called the “Hallel.” “Hallel” means “praise.” You know the word, “hallelujah,” it means, “praise God.” The last of the Hallel Psalms, Psalm 118, is the conqueror’s Psalm and it celebrates the nation’s victories over their enemies. John MacArthur says about Psalm 118,
It was the one that was sung when Simon Maccabaeus came back during the intertestamental period, the 400 years between the Old and the New Testaments. Simon Maccabaeus had conquered the Syrians and shattered their dominion over the portion called Acra. And when he came back to Jerusalem all of the people cried out and sung to him Psalm 118. So it was the conqueror’s Psalm. (John MacArthur)
They were looking for a revolution, but Jesus had come to town to go to the Cross. Jesus didn’t try to stop the celebration even though the religious leaders of Jerusalem wished that He would have. As a matter of fact, they told Him to stop the people. Listen to the conversation.
39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” 40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:39-40 NIV)
The praises of the people were appropriate, but their desire to make Jesus a revolutionary king who would overthrow the Romans and reestablish King David’s throne was not. I’ve been captivated this past week by the next verses in Luke’s account of Palm Sunday. As people were waving palm branches, shouting praises to Jesus at the top of their lungs like they were at a Thunder game, and expecting an overthrow of the Roman government, there was something altogether different going on inside of Jesus’ mind and heart. Take a look at Luke 19:41-44 with me.
41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace–but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” (Luke 19:41-44 NIV)
There are no more tragic verses in the entire Bible. While the echoes of the crowd could still be heard, the tears of the Prince of Peace rolled down His cheeks. Jesus said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace…” The people thought they knew what would bring them peace, what would fulfill the longing of their hearts, but they were wrong. Jesus didn’t come to overthrow governments; He came to give His life as the Passover Lamb of God so that you and I might know His peace that surpasses all understanding. Jesus came to free us from the bondage of sin’s slavery and to reconcile us to God. When we recognize our need for Him and accept His free gift of salvation then His peace is available to us. First, we will experience peace with God. Paul wrote to the folks in Colosse and said,
19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. 21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation– (Colossians 1:19-22 NIV)
It is only through the shed blood of the Passover Lamb of God that we are forgiven for our sins my friends. There is another realm of peace that we can experience through our relationship with Jesus and that is peace with those around us. In Jesus’ day there was a great divide between the Jews and the Gentiles and yet, through Jesus sacrifice and resurrection, the dividing wall was torn down and the two groups could experience reconciliation with one another. In Ephesians 2:14-16 we read,
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. (Ephesians 2:14-16 NIV)
There is division and tension between individuals and people groups all over the world today. None so tension-filled as the relationship between the Palestinians and the Jews. I was reading this past week about Ravi Zacharias’ trip to the Middle East which was put together by the former Archbishop of Canterbury. The group of six or seven people had gone to try to sow seeds of peace on both sides. Ravi told about meeting with Sheikh Talal, one of the founders of Hamas who had served 18 years in prison for all of the killings he had been involved with. Several of his children have died in suicide bombings.
Ravi said they were each allowed to ask one questions. After Sheikh Talal answered Ravi’s question he said, “Sheikh, I just want to say this to you: Not far from where you and I are sitting, 5000 years ago, Abraham–whom you revere, whom I revere–went up a mountain. He took his son. You say it was Ishmael. Christians believe it was Isaac. Let’s not get argumentative about that now. Let’s just agree that he took his son up the mountain.” The Sheikh said, “That’s right.” Ravi said, “And offered him as a sacrifice to God, and God stopped him in the nick of time, and held back his hand, and said, ‘Stop!'” Ravi continued, “Do you know what God said to Abraham then?” Ravi said the Sheikh just looked at him. Ravi said, “God said, ‘I, myself, will provide.'” And he nodded his head. Ravi said, “Very close to where you and I are sitting here in Ramallah, not far from here, 2000 years ago, God kept that promise, and He took His own Son.” Ravi said, “Sheikh Talal, this time the axe did not stop.” Ravi said the Sheikh just stared at him. Then Ravi spoke again, “I may never see you again, Sheikh, and you won’t like what I’m gonna say to you, but I wanna leave this with you: Until you and I receive the Son that God has provided, we will be offering our own sons and daughters on the battlefields of this world for land and power and pride.” Ravi said he could see the Sheikh’s lips beginning to quiver as he sat right next to him. Nobody said a word.
As Ravi and his group were walking out of the room he thought, “I really blew it.” Ravi said, “As we were all going down, Sheikh Talal went quickly and shook hands with them and embraced them. And he came over to me, and he grabbed me by the shoulders, kissed me on both sides of the face, patted my face, and he said, “You’re a good man. I hope I see you again someday,” and opened the door to let me in. (Ravi Zacharias)
What Ravi shared with Sheikh Talal is true for you and me as well. Until we recognize God’s gift to us in the sacrifice of His Son for our redemption and reconciliation we will never know peace. We will not know peace in our own personal lives, in our relationships with one another, and this world will never know the peace it longs for until we recognize the Prince of Peace and fall at His feet in worship. Today is the day of salvation won’t you ask Jesus, the Passover Lamb, into your heart?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
April 13, 2014