An Episcopal priest was preaching in an unfamiliar church one Sunday morning. As he stood in the pulpit to begin the service, he tapped the microphone to make sure that it was on. He heard nothing, even though, it was working fine. So he leaned closer to the microphone and said, he thought, to himself; “There is something wrong with this thing.” The congregation, being well trained church people immediately responded, “And also with you.”
This story illustrates the danger of the familiar. We can be so steeped in routine that we stop paying attention to what we are doing.
- It can become dangerous to drive on a road that we drive on every single day. It’s dangerous because we stop being alert, we take things for granted, we figure we can drive this route with our eyes closed. If something different happens on the road we may not notice it at all… At least, until it’s too late.
- A husband and wife can soon take for granted all the things their spouse does. In fact, they become so used to those provisions (meals cooked, garbage taken out, laundry done, yard mowed, children taken care of) that before long we don’t even realize the person is doing those things. And before we know it, we feel we are the only one putting anything into our relationship. It is at those points that marital Affairs often occur.
- A parent can become so used to having their child filling their life with joy that they don’t appreciate their child…. Until they move away.
- The same is certainly true about living in a small town. We often hear people gripe about how “Smothering” a small town can be. All the time, unappreciative of the friendly neighbors, good school system, safe community, and even a post office where the mail will get to you even if it has the wrong address. We become so used to these things that we don’t notice them–until they are gone.
This is also the danger we face as we come to the Easter season. The accounts of the Triumphal Entry, the cross, and Easter are so familiar to most of us that we can easily go through the motions of a celebration without ever allowing the message of these events to touch us.
The challenge every year is to read these accounts with “fresh eyes”. Look with me at this familiar account of the Triumphal Entry of Jesus and see if you don’t see what I see.
We See a Strong Declaration of Love
1. This event was so out of character for Jesus.
Previous to this, Jesus had always avoided the spotlight. In John 2 Jesus is asked by his mother if he would help Friends of the family with an embarrassing wine shortage problem. Jesus responded, “My time is not yet come.” Jesus did not want to make a public scene.
In John 6 we see an occasion when Jesus felt that the people were ready to take him and make him king by force. Rather than enjoy the public acclaim, Jesus left town. In fact, whenever the Ministry of Jesus seemed to be getting to a point of success in a community, Jesus would move to a new community.
On several occasions Jesus tells those that he has healed, “Don’t tell anyone”. Jesus was not looking for public demonstrations on his behalf. He was not seeking the spotlight…. Until today.
Notice also that in the past, though Jesus never compromised the truth, He generally walked away from conflict situations.
2. It was organized by Jesus himself.
Again, in the gospel of Luke, we are told, that Jesus had arranged to use a donkey. He told his Disciples to go to town to find this donkey that would be tied outside. If they were asked why they were taking the donkey, they were to respond: “The Master has need of Him “. Apparently, Jesus had made arrangements to use a donkey. Jesus had this parade in mind in advance of it taking place.
This was not a spontaneous demonstration . . . Jesus intended it to happen. The question we must ask is why? Why was Jesus orchestrated this grand demonstration? It certainly was not because Jesus wanted to throw a party in His honor. When Jesus caught His first glimpse of Jerusalem he didn’t stop to savor the moment . . . .He wept.
This procession was not frivolous . . . .it was purposeful. It was not provoked by vanity but by compassion and love.
First, it was time. It was time for Jesus to do what He came to do. In verse 23 we see that “the hour has come.” God was determining the timing . . . .not man.
These leaders had previously decided that it was unwise to make a move against Jesus during the Passover celebration. They felt it would cause too much of an uproar. So, they were willing to wait until things cooled down. All of that changed after this parade.
Why was it important to Jesus that these men arrest him during Passover? Not only because there were so many people in town. . . . It was because it was God’s plan for Jesus to die at the same time as all the other sacrificial lambs. To understand the significance of this you have to understand something about the Passover celebration.
Passover was a yearly celebration commemorating the freeing of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. On the night called Passover God struck every First born child of the Egyptians. This devastating plague led to the release of the Jews from bondage.
God told the Israelites to slaughter a lamb and to take the blood of that lamb and apply it to their doorpost of their homes. This blood of the lamb would be recognized by the Angel of Death as protecting the first born child that lived within that home. It was meant to be a picture that pointed to another Lamb who would die in our place to free us from a much greater slavery; a slavery to sin and death.
It is likely that at the very time Jesus was dying on the cross . . . the lambs were being slaughtered for the Passover feast. He was the Lamb of God taking on the sins of the world.
Second, Jesus wanted it to be clear that this was a voluntary act. He could have simply ” laid low “, he could have been conciliatory, he could have walked away like he had done before.
We read throughout the New Testament of times when the people went to kill Him and he simply walked away. They had no power over Him. They could not take Him until He allowed them to.
Knowing what was before him: betrayal, humiliation, suffering, death, he chose to come to Jerusalem. Such is the magnificent love of our Savior. Jesus was not the unwilling victim of a vicious plot. . . .He was a willing sacrifice for all who would believe.
Do you hear how practical this message is? Some of you wonder if God could possibly love you.
- Perhaps you have failed him. You are so ashamed that it is impossible for you to imagine that God could still care about you. My friend, look with fresh eyes at the parade into Jerusalem. Jesus is not surprised by our failures. He came to Jerusalem in order to deliver us from such things. He knows what you have done, and wants to make you clean and to set you free. His invitation is simple, “Come to me, all you who are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. ” Have you done that? Are you hiding from the very One who wants to love you more than you have ever been loved before? Maybe it’s time to stop hiding and to start believing.
- Maybe life is difficult for you right now. Perhaps you wonder if God is ” out to get you “. Perhaps, things are so painful in your life that you are questioning his love for you. If that is the case, look again at the parade into Jerusalem. Realize, that the Savior who gave his life for you, loves you with a depth of love that is unfathomable. See Him as he goes to the cross on your behalf and in your place. Realize friend, that his love is so great that you can be certain that he would not allow any needless suffering in your life. The trials that come at present are purposeful and designed to lead you into something good.
- Perhaps, you find that life is characterized by loneliness and a feeling that you have been forgotten. As others celebrate the Easter season with family, your table will be set for 1. It is possible, that you walk around your house wondering if anyone would miss you if you were gone. Look at the parade and see with new eyes! Understand that when Jesus marched into Jerusalem you were on his mind. The death He willingly suffered was a sacrifice designed to make you part of his family. You may feel alone, deserted, unimportant….. but you were significant enough to the Savior for him to go to a cross on your behalf. He knows you and loves you.
How easy it is for us to talk about the love of God. How difficult it is for us to accept it. Do you understand that he went willingly to Jerusalem for you, and for me?
J. I. Packer writes; ”
If I understand God’s love, why do I ever crumbled in show discontent and resentment at the circumstances in which God has placed me?
Why am I ever distrustful, fearful, or depressed?
Why do I ever allow myself to grow cool, formal, and half-hearted in the service of the God who loves me so?
Why do I ever allow my loyalty to be divided, so that God has not all my heart?
Packer asked good questions.
We also See a Strong Reason for Hope
John writes ” Jesus found a young donkey and set upon it, as it is written, ” do not be afraid, O daughter of Zion; see, your King is coming, seated on a donkey. ”
This is a quote from the Old Testament book of Zechariah. In Zechariah 9:9 we see a prediction that a King would ride into Jerusalem one day on a donkey. The declaration was made around 550 years before Jesus rode into Jerusalem. At the time Israel had no King. They were just returning to Israel after their Babylonian exile and captivity.
One author (J.C. Ryle) gives us a flavor for the prophecy to the ears of that day: “Fear not; be not cast down or depressed, O daughter of Zion, or inhabitants of Jerusalem. Low and depressed as your condition may be now, there will be a day when you shall have a King again. There shall come one who will rise on a certain public location into thy gate,-a King on an ass’s colt, not as a Warrior, with a sword in hand, but as a peaceful Prince, a just and holy King, better even than David, Solomon, Hezekiah, and Josiah, and burning with him salvation for souls. Therefore, think not yourself forsaken, because thou art poor now, and have no King. Look forward to your coming King. ”
So What? What does this mean to us? It’s a simple but vital truth for daily living:
“God has a plan”.
There is more prophetic evidence. The late Ray Steadman writes: “In the book of Daniel Chapter 9 we read a prophecy about 70 weeks. It is generally understood that the prophecy talks about ” a special 490 years of Jewish history which would begin to run its course when the command was given to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem following the Babylonian captivity. When 483 of those years had elapsed, Daniel predicted, Messiah, the prince, would then be presented to his people. Two very interesting books by Sir Robert Anderson, ” MESSIAH THE PRINCE, ” and ” DANIEL AND THE PROPHET” trace the fulfillment of this prophecy, pointing out that on the very day when Jesus rode into Jerusalem 483 years had elapsed from the time of the issuing of the commandment to the rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.”
O.K., I hear the question again, “So What?” Work with me a little – – God has a plan! God’s plan did not end with the coming of Christ. This world in which we live is not running out of control. God is not surprised by what is taking place in our society today. God is not pleased with what is happening but he is not caught off guard.
The Bible is clear that there is coming a day when Jesus will return and this time He will not come as a humble servant but will return as the King of Kings and Lord of Lord’s. The decadence of our world does not surprise Him . . . He told us it would come (see 2 Timothy 3:1ff). God is not wringing His hands wondering what to do. He’s in control.
Practically brother and sister in Christ, do you understand that things are not out of control in your life either? Do you understand that God as a plan for you too? I know from personal experience that there are times when I see what is going on in and around my life and I wonder what God is trying to do. But I remind to of our text; in verse 16 we read: “at first his Disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him.”
On that day when Jesus walked toward Jerusalem the Disciples were unaware of what God was doing. They missed the significance of that day. Only later did they come to see the hand of God in all that was taking place. That may be true in your life as well.
Friend, the fact that you don’t understand what is going on in your life, does not mean that God is not at work. He has promised that he would lead everyone who believes in him to that which is ultimately good. Our promise is that God knows what he is doing. You may not understand but you can trust him. In fact, God does not require you to understand . . .He just asks you to trust Him. The one thing we do understand is that the Lord wants us to entrust ourselves to Him. Are you willing to do so?
In conclusion. . . .
Are you coasting in your spiritual life? Have you taken the things of God for granted? Are you listening to God’s Word but hearing nothing? Perhaps it is time for you to read once again the fresh and pivotal accounts of how God has revealed his love to you. Maybe it is time for you to wake up to the fact that God is on the throne of life. Perhaps it is time for you to bow before his throne and to give him the honor and praise that he desires and deserves.
Jesus loves you. He faced the mobs for you. He endured torture for you. He went to the cross for you. He went there so you could be free . . . free from sin’s addiction, free from the treadmill of futility, free to live.
Have you responded to His invitation to be His?
You admire Him . . . .but are you willing to trust Him?
- Are you willing to follow Him . . . not just to church but in your daily life?
- Are you willing to entrust yourself to Him even when the future is confusing believing God has a plan?
- Are you willing to serve Him until that day when His plan on earth is fulfilled?
These are the questions of Palm Sunday. Take a fresh look at this familiar event . . . You may be surprised at what you see. It could change you forever.