One of the great events leading up to Easter or Resurrection Sunday as I like to call it is the Palm Sunday. Resurrection Sunday this year is Sunday April 21st which puts Palm Sunday on Sunday April 14, which is next Sunday. Normally, I will preach a sermon dealing with the death and resurrection of Jesus on Resurrection Sunday and I will do that, Lord willing, on the 21st. But what I want to do this year is to also spend some time talking about the events of Palm Sunday as well. So, for today and next Sunday, I plan to preach from a Palm Sunday passage from John 12:12-19 and then the following Sunday to speak about the death and resurrection of Jesus. So both for today and next week, look with me at John 12:12-19. The Triumphal Entry
12 The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” 14 And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, 15“Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” 16 His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. 17 The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. 18 The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.” (John 12:12-19)
What a great passage! The Triumphal entry of Christ as it is often referred too. There are many truths that we could meditate on together from these 8 verses. But what I want to do this morning for the sake of time is to simply concentrate on one main idea that sort of jumps out of this text. And then Lord willing, next time we will cover additional thoughts from these same verses. What this passage does is it puts to rest any idea that Jesus was simply a victim of an angry mob or a victim of jealous religious and political leaders when He was beaten, humiliated and crucified on Calvary. This passage forces us to put away thought of Jesus’ life coming to some sad and unpredictable end at the hands simply of men or demonic beings. These verses makes the chief priest words foolish who said,
“He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him, He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him.”
Why does this triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem put to rest any idea that Jesus was merely a victim of man, a pawn of Satan or a helpless creature who had been swept into circumstances for which He is no match?
Because we have here, the picture what we have here is that of a willing savior, a savior determined to ride into Jerusalem to purposefully and publicly offering Himself as a sacrifice for our sins. That is what we have here. It is Jesus coming in with a grand entrance, with great show in effect giving himself to be crucified for our sins.
Jesus had said on many occasions and in many ways that He came to do His Father's will and now His words have reached a pinnacle with this very public entrance into Jerusalem. There was no conflict between Jesus’ words and Jesus’ walk. Because one's words and ones walk can sometimes be in conflict…but not with Jesus. Because when Jesus prayed in the Garden before His crucifixion,
“if it possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”
He meant it! He said that He came to do His Father's will and He meant it. Even at its most painful moment, Jesus remained committed to do what the Father sent Him to do.
We see again and again Jesus single minded commitment to His Father’s good will. In John 4:34 as He was physically hungry and tired and His disciples offered Him food for the comfort of His body He said,
“My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.”
He was determined to do His Father's will no matter what!
The Triumphal entry of Christ here is the beginning of the finishing of the work that the Father had given to the Son in His earthly ministry.
So here is what I want us to see this morning. I want us to see, in this passage, the clear picture of a sovereign God and a willing Savior working in unison, orchestrating the events which lead to the death and resurrection of Christ. REPEAT. This is a very high level view of this passage, a general thought from the passage and next week we will look into more detail And secondly for today, by way of application I would like for us to consider this; If the Father and the Son, can work in unison and by their wills bring to pass, this world changing event so perfectly in all its grandness and in all of its minute details then surely they can do the same in us according to a perfect divine will.
So, let’s look at the purposefulness of Jesus actions as He comes into Jerusalem in the way that He did.
First let’s recall the raising of Lazarus and the stir that it caused because it is mentioned here too in verse 17, it is connected to this account of Palm Sunday. Many witnessed Lazarus coming from the grave as Jesus called his name. Remember, Jesus did not come immediately upon hearing that Lazarus was sick. If he had come and healed him few would have been there to see it, the crowd did not gather because Lazarus was sick, the crowd had gathered because Lazarus had died, they came to mourn His death. Lazarus was dead and had been for a while, giving plenty of time for many to gather in Bethany to mourn his death. The crowd was there before Jesus arrived, why, in order that many would see this great miracle. Many saw this great miracle. Jesus planned this, this miracle to be done publicly before a great crowd. The crowd then spilled over to this Palm Sunday event where Jesus was treated as royalty as He entered Jerusalem.
After the raising of Lazarus, Jesus then retreats for a time just before the Passover. Again, all perfect timing…this brief retreat gave time for the news of this great miracle to spread throughout all of Jerusalem during the exact time when the city would be most populated as travelers came from the entire region into Jerusalem for the Passover feast. So there was a gathering of people plus the news of the miracle all stirring up the people, And, this is important, this gave time also that was needed for the religious leaders to become more and more enraged at Jesus and His popularity. The more popular Jesus became the less influence the Pharisees had on the people and influence and power is what the Pharisees loved most.
So in hindsight it is easy to see that a real storm, so to speak, was brewing.
Everyone was wondering if Jesus would show up for the passover. He was the talk of the town as we see from chapter 11 verse 56 and 57, look at those verses:
56 They were looking for Jesus and saying to one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think? That he will not come to the feast at all?” 57 Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where he was, he should let them know, so that they might arrest him. (John 11:56-57)
Was he going to show up? Would He be arrested? What would the Pharisees do? There was a great deal of intrigue about this man Jesus.
And so everything was primed for what now takes place.
And so Jesus enters into the fray, He does show up in the most public way demonstrating, I believe, that He came to lay down His life voluntarily not by coercion, but came to give His life of His own will which was His Father's will. He came in a way that said, Here I am. Some of you may remember, when the US invaded Iraq that the Iraqi leader Sadam Husein, who was purported to be a fearless man, he was found hiding in a hole in the ground from his enemies. Why was he hiding in a hole in the ground, he was attempting to preserve his life. Jesus makes a public entry, making Himself very visible, out in the open for all to see.
Jesus takes matters into His own hands here. He is forcing the issue with His enemies. He deliberately plans a demonstration, fully realizing that, as a result of His public entry amid all the fanfare, the enthusiasm of the masses that this will further enrage the hostile leaders at Jerusalem to such a degree that they will desire even more intensely than ever to carry out their evil plot against Him. Do you see that? He is forcing their hand. He is bringing about His own death! Jesus said, I lay down my own life. That is what I want us to see. And it is even more clear if we consider the many times when He escaped from those who wanted to harm Him. Notice the contrasts.
Often times in scripture we read that Jesus just slipped through crowds, in a miraculous sort of way, as He evades his enemies. In Luke chapter 4 after Jesus angered some Jews by His teaching in their synagogue they “rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff.”
Do you remember that? A very angry mob, a violent scene. And what does Jesus do? It says, “Then passing through their midst He went His way.”
“Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.” (John 8:59)
Jesus had no problem evading capture. Even when the soldiers came to apprehend Him what did He do? He spoke the words, “I am He.” And what happened? "They all drew back and fell to the ground.” That would had been a perfect time to escape, while they were incapacitated on the ground! But this was not a time to escape but a time to give Himself as a sacrifice for our sins.
We need to see the contrast in those events where Jesus so easily escaped, controlled the situation, we need to see the contrast in those events and in His entry into Jerusalem as He willingly and purposefully makes Himself available for capture and death. Things were no more out of His control at His capture, beatings and death than they were when He was miraculously evading capture, beatings and death. In either extreme case He was in control.
It may not be too difficult for you to see the theology of this. The Father had a plan. Jesus is a willing participant in it. The plan is good. The plan will come to pass and it did. Nothing or no one can thwart the plan. God can and does bring it to pass. He is a big God, a mighty God, no one stays His hand. He accomplishes all of His good will. Jesus could have evaded the crowds and his captors but chose not too, He chose the Father's good and right plan even to His own hurt. All of that is sort of the theology behind this event. I hope you see that and I hope you embrace it. I hope it comforts you and renews your mind and gives you peace and leads you to worship.
But I hope also that we are able to bring that theology down and that we wrap that same theology, those same beliefs about God around us and that those beliefs then penetrate our daily living. I hope we are not tempted to think, yes God is in control and is able to accomplish His good will, well except in my life! No, we need to these truths about God also affect our lives as well.
Here is what I mean. We cannot leave our theology, our beliefs about God in some lofty place in our minds with some esoteric meaning. No we have to allow it to affect our lives in our daily, minute by minute walk as Christians.
And so I want to make two points by way of application. And they are both a matter of Faith or Trust.
Firstly, we can trust God with the events of life. We can trust God with the major events of life! Right? Would you agree? The arrest, death and resurrection of Christ were all major events in world history and yet we see that God orchestrated it perfectly for His purposes and His will. He can do that. There are events going on right now that are so big that we cannot fully understand them and cannot even come close to controlling them. And yet we can have peace.
Iran is apparently making great strides to gain nuclear weapons and they hate us. China’s economy has been growing at record speed and is on coarse to someday dwarf ours. The middle east is still erupting with violence and instability. The US political scene is taking shape, who will win, who will rule over us? We don’t know. All of this going on and yet if our theology makes it out of the clouds and into our hearts and minds we can be at peace and say, My God is great, he is mighty, He is good and He is watching over and working in major events that are totally and completely out of my control. He was in control as Jesus rode into Jerusalem marking the end of His public ministry and He is in control today.
We can trust God in the major events of life. We can also trust God in the minor events of life…and that is really where we live isn’t it? God is not just involved in the major things but in the intimate personal things in our lives as well. Luke 12:6-7 “Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
In the big events there are many small events. And God is in all of them.
Secondly by way of application notice Jesus’ willingness to either evade a crowd and escape persecution and death or to ride into town amidst great fanfare knowing it was His path to persecution, pain and death. He knew that evading the crowd would preserve His life for a time and He knew that riding into town publicly would bring about His violent death. He did not falter either way. He was happy to play a part in preserving His life and he was happy to play a part in His own suffering and death.
We have to think about this, we have to consider the mind of Christ because it is Christ whom we are being conformed into. “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.”
And so God the Father placed God the Son in a society of people at a point in history, for a period of time with great purpose and with a determined plan. We can see that right? And He has done the same with us.
Oh to be like Christ and to embrace all of God’s great plan for us and to enthusiastically take hold of it and make it the delight of our hearts! What is this great plan of God for us? It is really no great mystery. What His desire for us? That we know Him and that all other things look pale in comparison. For if we know God in that way, as Christ did, then we will live in obedience to His revealed will. And what is His revealed will? His revealed will is what we find in His word.
And so we read clear instructions from God and we embrace it, we do it. We cannot just be hearers or the word but doers also. And we see it as good. And if it is hard and if we must sweat and toil and pray and fight, and discipline our bodies then so be it as we carry with us mind of Christ who willingly rode into Jerusalem knowing that persecution and death would be the result. Right? And if it is easy in some areas to obey then we can still have the mind of Christ who I am sure with delight evaded the crowds.
Either way in our obedience, God is at work, God is near, God is giving us strength, God is orchestrating, and God is delighted.
Christ Jesus rode into Jerusalem marked the beginning of His persecution leading to death and in it we see His willingness to give Himself for us and for His Father's glory. No act of obedience was too great. He knew His Father was in control and he trusted His Father. And that is what He calls us to do!
And so everyday, every minute we make our choices. To be like Christ, trusting in the Father, and to delighting in God’s will for us, which is embracing His word or we can leave our theology in some theoretical realm where it never really meets with daily life.
My prayer is that we will choose the former, and glorify God as did our leader, Christ Jesus!