It was the day He had been waiting for since eternity began. The day that He would announce to the world that He was the Promised King. The day the world had been longing for throughout the ages. As Jesus began his route into the Holy City of Jerusalem, He set out from Bethphage, which was located between Bethany and Jerusalem. Bethany was located just two miles southeast of Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives so the ride from Bethphage to Jerusalem would not take long.
The people began to gather. They waved palm branches and cheered, “Hosanna! Blessed be the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” They laid their coats down before Jesus creating a “red carpet” arrival for their King. Jesus rode slowly, humbly along the route not saying a word. There were no “Kingly” waves, no banners or campaign slogans lining the route, no bands playing “Hail To The Chief,” and no stops for speeches. He rode, with the crowds cheering, but inwardly there were tears dripping from the heart of Jesus.
Finally, Jesus made His way past the crowds to a place overlooking the Holy City, and He stopped. As Jesus looked over the beautiful city of Jerusalem the tears burst forth. His heart sank as He considered the people’s celebration and the realization that they had missed it. They didn’t “get” it. They didn’t understand. They came to see the Man who had healed blind Bartimaeus. They came to see the Man who had raised Lazarus from the grave. They came to see the Man who they thought would overthrow the Romans and reinstate the powerful reign of the Jewish people like in the days of King David. Jesus had the power to do all of those things, some He had already done, but that is not why He had come this day. He had come for something much grander, much greater, much more needed. So as He looked upon the city He spoke these words with tear-filled eyes. Luke tells us,
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.” 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)
The saddest words that a person can hear coming from the lips of the Savior where spoken that Sunday to the people of Jerusalem, “You did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” How could they have missed it? How could they not have recognized that God had come to deliver them from their sins, to heal their sin-sick hearts, and to offer them salvation? How could they have had the opportunity for a real celebration, a celebration of deliverance from sin and death, but settled for something superficial?
All over the world today there are untold millions who are waving palm branches, singing, “Hosanna! Blessed be the King who comes in the name of the Lord,” and celebrating the coming of the Savior. Today is Palm Sunday, the day set aside to remember Jesus’ riding into the city of Jerusalem on a donkey and declaring Himself to be the King! As we celebrate “Palm Sunday” we look back with 20/20 vision. We see clearly the announcement of Jesus’ declaration. We understand that God was moving Jesus center stage for the greatest event in human history – the crucifixion and resurrection.
Those in the first century, at the time of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem during Passover, were not as fortunate as we are. They didn’t have hindsight to help them. They were caught up in the moment. They were overwhelmed by the crowds who had arrived in the Holy City for the Passover. They were guided by their preconceived notions what the Messiah would do and be. They were caught up in the emotion of the electricity of the crowd. As a result of all of these things, they found themselves participating in a superficial celebration and they missed their opportunity for eternal life.
On this Palm Sunday in the year 2000, I am certain that there are still adoring crowds who are waving palm branches and singing festive songs – my prayer is that we recognize the time of God’s coming to us on this Palm Sunday. My prayer is that we will take the time to study God’s Word, that the Holy Spirit will enable us to understand this important story, and that we will bow before the King of all kings this very day. Let’s make the most of this opportunity given to us by God to fully understand the meaning of Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem. I pray that we recognize the time of God’s coming to us, right here at Britton Christian Church.
Let’s watch the events unfold on Palm Sunday by taking a look at Luke 19:28-44 in our Bibles. Turn there with me and let’s read together.
28 After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 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?’ tell him, ‘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 19:28-44 NIV)
There were many people lining the road on the way to Jerusalem on Sunday as Jesus made His announcement to the world that He was the long awaited King of glory. There were all kinds of people there from all over the world because it was the time of Passover, the time when people would make their journey to the Holy City to remember God’s deliverance of His people from the oppressive hand of Pharaoh in Egypt. God was announcing, through Jesus’ ride into the city, that a deliverance far greater than that of Moses was at hand, but the people did not recognize what was happening.
The story of Jesus’ announcement as the promised Savior is the realization of the hope of every longing heart, it is the fulfillment of prophecy throughout the ages. It is one of only a few incidents in the life of Jesus that is reported in each of the four Gospels. You can find the story in Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19, and John 12. When you take time to study the story and its details, it is easy to see that Jesus was setting the scene so that there would be no doubt about who He was and what He was doing. Let’s take a look a few of the details.
First, Jesus arranged for a young donkey to be obtained for Him to ride. Why did He want a young donkey that had never been ridden? In Zechariah 9:9 we find an important prophecy that was fulfilled the moment Jesus began His ride. Zechariah writes,
9 Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zechariah 9:9 NIV)
There is another interesting fact concerning the donkey that supported Jesus announcement as King. Zechariah’s prophecy mentions nothing about the donkey never having been ridden. Why would Jesus be so adamant about getting a donkey that had never been ridden? Mark and Luke both tell us that the donkey had never been sat upon. Matthew and John tell us that it was a “young donkey.” What is the significance? Great question. Only animals that had never been ridden upon or who had never been yoked were worthy of royal use. Jesus was the royalty of Heaven announcing His place as King, He needed a donkey fit for a King!
Secondly, let’s look at the responses of the people who lined the streets. They waved palm branches and laid their coats before Jesus on the road. What is all of that about? Great question. Let’s look first at the coats being laid upon the road. Laying one’s coat upon the path was customary of welcoming a King. The people must have been familiar with 2 Kings 9 when Jehu was announced as King. One of Elisha’s fellow prophets was sent to Jehu to speak to him. After the two had talked we read,
11When Jehu went out to his fellow officers, one of them asked him, “Is everything all right? Why did this madman come to you?” “You know the man and the sort of things he says,” Jehu replied. 12 “That’s not true!” they said. “Tell us.” Jehu said, “Here is what he told me: ‘This is what the LORD says: I anoint you king over Israel.'” 13 They hurried and took their cloaks and spread them under him on the bare steps. Then they blew the trumpet and shouted, “Jehu is king!” (2 Kings 9:11-13 NIV)
The people were responding in a way fit for a King when they laid their coats on the road before Jesus. They also waved palm branches. Of what purpose were the palms? What was their significance?
In Leviticus the palm branches were used during the Feast of Tabernacles. The Jews built tabernacles, or booths, as they celebrated before the Lord. We read in Leviticus,
40 On the first day you are to take choice fruit from the trees, and palm fronds, leafy branches and poplars, and rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days. 41 Celebrate this as a festival to the LORD for seven days each year. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come; celebrate it in the seventh month. 42 Live in booths for seven days: All native-born Israelites are to live in booths 43 so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in booths when I brought them out of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.'” (Leviticus 23:40-43 NIV)
Another, even greater Scriptural reference to the use of palm branches is yet to come. The day is coming when all God’s people from every nation, tribe, people, and language will stand before the throne and celebrate His mighty deeds, the victory He has won through the Lamb that was slain! Revelation 7 gives us a glimpse of what his celebration will look like.
9After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9 NIV)
What a glorious day that will be when those who have trusted in Jesus will celebrate salvation with palm branches that will never wither or die!
There is another interesting item that we need to understand and it has to do with what the people were saying. Luke tells us that as they watched Jesus ride by, the people said, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
The other Gospels report that the crowds were shouting Scripture as Jesus rode by into Jerusalem on that day. 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!” (Matthew 21:9 NIV)
Mark says that the crowds were shouting as well. Let’s take a look at Mark 11:9-10 to find out what they were shouting.
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!” (Mark 11:9-10 NIV)
Finally, John wants us to know as well that the crowds were not standing passively as Jesus rode by on Palm Sunday, they were shouting,
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)
Where did they get this? Was there someone passing out worship bulletins that included a “responsive reading” for the crowds to follow as Jesus rode by? Where did they all get the same lines to shout out when Jesus rode by? That’s a great question.
I mentioned to you earlier that Jesus rode into Jerusalem during Passover. An important part of Passover was worship and an important part of worship was the “Eyptian Hallel,” songs of praise to commemorate God’s deliverance from Egypt. “Hallel” is a Hebrew word that means, “praise.” The “Eyptian Hallel” (Psalm 113-118) was sung at Passover, Pentecost, and during the Feast of Tabernacles, but they were especially attached to Passover. Let me read to you from a part of the “Hallel” taken from Psalm 118:25-27,
25 O LORD, save us; O 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. 27 The LORD is God, and he has made his light shine upon us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar. (Psalm 118:25-27 NIV)
The people were shouting Scripture as Jesus rode by on his way into Jerusalem. They knew that one day the Promised Messiah would come to deliver them. They had looked forward to the Messiah’s reign. They knew the Scripture. They knew the protocol to follow upon His arrival. They knew the songs, the verses, and the actions to welcome His arrival, but they missed their opportunity to understand because they did not recognize the time of God’s coming to them.
You may be wondering to yourself, “How did they miss it? How could Jesus say they failed to recognize God’s coming to them when it is easy to see they were celebrating?” That is another great question. I would encourage you to stop and read the Scripture again. When you do so you will see that immediately after Jesus passes the adoring crowds and encounters the Pharisees, He looks out over the city of Jerusalem and cries. Jesus says,
42 …”If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace-but now it is hidden from your eyes.
The people mistook Jesus for someone else. They saw Him as the conqueror that had come to thrash the Romans. They saw Him as the “raiser of the dead” who had come to raise their loved ones from the grave just as He had Lazarus. They saw Him as the ophthalmologist who would restore sight to the blind in the way He did for blind Bartimaeus. They saw Him as the miracle worker who makes everything all right for all of them. Jesus saw Himself as the Suffering Servant who had come to offer His life as a ransom for many. He saw Himself as the Passover Lamb of God who would be slaughtered for the sins of the world. The way He saw Himself was totally different than the way the crowd saw Him.
In five short days, the adoring crowd would change their cheers into jeers because Jesus wasn’t what they wanted Him to be. He failed to do what they wanted Him to do and so they shouted at the top of their voices, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” As Jesus rode into Jerusalem that day He was able to look beyond their superficial celebration and see into their hearts. They did not understand the power of His message. They did not understand the gravity of their condition. They did not see the Savior riding into town as much as they saw someone who would “fix” their momentary troubles. John makes it clear, in John 12:16, that the disciples didn’t even understand the events that were taking place before their eyes.
The people thought that the alleviation of Roman rule would bring them peace. They thought that a miracle would bring them peace. They did not know that the only thing that would bring them peace would be the death of the Son of God. Jesus told His followers in John 14, 27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27 NIV) Yet, they did not understand.
Still today, there are the adoring crowds who are seeking peace through all kinds of means. They are searching every avenue trying to find the peace that their hearts have been longing for, but which constantly escapes them no matter how hard they search or where they look. There is a good reason why this is so my friends. Peace, salvation, can’t be experienced outside of a relationship with Almighty God. It is impossible for us to have fellowship with Almighty God apart from the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
1Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 3For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. (Romans 8:1-3 NIV)
Jesus was riding into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday as a sin offering. He was the sacrificial Lamb of God who was not riding into town to take away their problems, but to take away their sin once and for all by dying on the cross.
Today, we have the opportunity to recognize the time of God’s coming to us. There are millions today who are looking to Jesus to be something other than He is. They want to be happy, while He has come to make us holy! They want to find peace, and yet fail to recognize that He is our peace in the midst of the storms of life. They want to be successful, but He knows that what we need is a Savior.
I pray that this very day you will recognize the time of God’s coming to you and to me and that you will welcome the King of glory with a humbled and receptive heart. This very day the Lamb of God has ridden down the center aisle of this church, how will you respond to His coming? Will you welcome Him as the faithful King who has come to offer Himself for our sins? Will you welcome Him as the Lord and King who is faithful in spite of our unfaithfulness? I will assure you of this my friend, if you will welcome Jesus into your heart for who is truly is, rather than who we wish Him to be, He will meet you at your point of need and bring eternal peace and salvation to your weary soul. I want to share an email with you that I received just last night that illustrates my point. The email was written by a minister in Seoul, Korea.
Before I stand to preach today (April 16, 2000) I was very encouraged by the words your Palm Sunday sermon. I believe the Lord used this sermon from the internet to remind me as to how to handle disappointments. I believe that I was struggling with the energy to preach with such a disappointed heart.
Last night I was staying at the hospital with my Father-in-law. I was discouraged with his long illness and incapable physical abilities. After changing his dirty diaper I went home dragging to find faith and energy to preach the sermon that I’d prepared.
In reading your sermon God reminded me of his love and his faithfulness.
Young Nak Presbyterian Church
Jesus is our Light on the darkest days of our lives. He has come to bring salvation and mercy to those who will receive Him. Will you receive the King of glory this morning as your Lord and Savior?