We are finishing up our Fighting Temptation sermon series this morning. If you’ve been here following along, this is the culmination. We’re going to take everything we’ve learned about fighting temptation and apply it to enduring in the fight against temptation.
If you haven’t been here, that’s okay. Because we’re going to be talking about how to endure your walk of faith -- in a world filled with doubt, shame, guilt, and other things that make it feel like you should just give up on faith.
In short, if you want to enjoy eternal life…this is for you.
Before we study, a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth, your Word is the truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; open our ears to hear what you want us to hear; and open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Surrounded by Witnesses
The section we’re going to look at it from the book of Hebrews 12: 1-3. Briefly – Hebrews is a letter written to believers anywhere at any time. We are believers. We are somewhere and sometimes – so…this is written to us.
This is written to you.
Look at the encouragement in chapter 12:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Right away, I get this picture of a track and field meet. The stadium seating is filled with people. They’ve got their popcorn. They’ve got their sports drinks. They’ve got their sunglasses on and a granola bar for the kids. They are cheering on your behalf – “You can do it! You’ve got this! Keep running.”
There’s even that coach running alongside the infield. He’s the one’s that’s running by you as you hit the corner – he’s screaming. He’s yelling. He’s waving his arms in big old circles – (because I think he thinks that it’ll help with the airflow so you can run faster.) He’s part of the crowd of people that are encouraging you and cheering you on.
But who is this group of people that the Bible is talking about?
Who are these witnesses?
(1) Those who have Finished the Race
It is usually in good taste, once you finish a race, to turn around and cheer for those who are still finishing up. You’re letting them know it’s possible by the fact that you already made it.
Scripture is filled with those who have finished the race.
Scripture is filled with those who have fought the fight against temptation.
Scripture is filled with those who have walked the walk of faith.
Like a guy named Abraham -- God said to him, “Get up. Move your family. Go to a different country. Even though I won’t tell you where, it’ll be good, just…trust me.”
And Abraham did.
And God gave him the land of Israel that would lead to the entire nation of Israel as we know them today.
Like a woman named Sarah – God said to her, “Even though you’re 90 years old and are barren, I will come back in a year and you will have a son – trust me.”
And Sarah did.
And God gave her a child named Isaac --- the great, great, great, great, many times over, grandfather of Jesus Christ.
Like a guy named Moses – God said to him, “I will work through you to do miraculous signs and lead my people out of slavery in Egypt – trust me.”
And Moses did.
And God sent locusts, frogs, hail, bugs, darkness and blood until the king of Egypt finally let them go.
And a young boy named David – God said to him, “Even though you are small, I will take care of you. Trust me.”
And David did.
And God protected him – guiding a tiny little stone from a sling shot into the gap of the giant goliath’s helmet – knocking him down – dead.
And a young man named Joshua – God said to him, “Even though there’s a gigantic wall surrounding the city, I will help you defeat Jericho and it will be yours…trust me.”
And Joshua did.
And God roared, Jericho trembled, God shook the city of Jericho and sent the walls of Jericho a tumbling down.
And a guy named Daniel – God said to him, “Even though the king has threatened a night in the lion’s den for not worshipping him, don’t do it. I’ll protect you…trust me.”
And Daniel did.
And God sent angels to calm those ferocious beasts – that come the next morning – the lions were snuggling up to Daniel purring like housecats.
And a young woman named Mary – God said to her, “Even though you’ve never slept with anyone – and biology says it’s impossible, trust me…You will have a Son and will call his name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
And she did.
And God did. And Jesus was born of a virgin.
And a guy named Peter…And Andrew. And James and John…and Thomas and Philip and hundreds more – to whom Jesus himself said, “They will kill me…. But…three days later…I will come back to life. Trust me.”
And they… didn’t.
But God did anyway. He came back to life.
The Bible is filled with people who have finished the race of faith.
And through the pages of Scripture – they cheer you on:
You will win.
(2) Those who are Running the Race with you
Because when you run a race – it’s good to run a race with friends. It’s nice to have people there to push you. People there to encourage you. People there to say, “You know what. Why don’t we walk for a bit.”
God has given you people to encourage you.
God has given you people to uplift you.
God has given you people to witness to God’s grace and run the race with you.
I remember Pastor John Jeske. He was a pastor of mine growing up. He preached rather long sermons. (Some of you are wondering – “How long does he think a ‘long sermon’ is…?”) He was a kind, gentle, older man – who always took the time to shake my hand and ask how my day was going.
He encouraged me.
One of the interactions that I ever had was a graduation card that I received from him. It said, “Philip, keep holding onto Jesus and keep sharing him with others.”
It wasn’t much.
A few simple words.
Yet – even today –
Years after I received that card.
Years after Pastor Jeske became a member of God’s congregation in heaven.
I hear his encouragement.
I want you to take a moment and think about some of the people God has given you to encourage you.
A grandma? A grandpa?
A church friend?
Because that’s really the point of church. It’s a group of people who gather together to encourage, uplift, run beside, pull each other along, and occasionally -- give someone a ride on their back as we run the race of faith together.
If you don’t have that group of people, God says you need it.
If you have that group of people, God says, “Don’t forget to encourage them too.”
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Because you wouldn’t do very well in a race if your shoelaces were tied together.
You wouldn’t do very well in a race if you were wrapped up in toilet paper.
You wouldn’t do very well in a race if you are the only one with a weighted backpack of about 50 pounds. (Unless you’re that one guy at my gym – who always wears the 50-pound backpack…I think he wears it when he brushes his teeth.)
But you get the point? You can’t run well when things are tangling you up and slowing you down.
And you can’t run the race of faith when things are tangling you up and slowing you down.
Again, what might entangle you? Two things:
(1) Sin that Entangles
This one seems easy.
Sin is bad.
God is good.
Sin is wrong.
God is opposed to wrong.
If you are trying to run the race of faith with God, then you’re going to be immensely slowed down.
And we’re not necessarily talking about tripping up in sin – that happens to all Christians all the time because we are all sinners.
But we’re talking about sin that entangles.
Sin that’s repeated.
Sin that’s repetitive.
Sin that’s got you all wrapped up.
Because think about it:
It’s hard set your heart after God, when your heart is after a bunch of porn on the internet.
It’s hard to run with all your strength, when most of your strength is boasting on social media.
It’s hard to run with joy, when you’re harboring bitterness in your heart.
It’s hard to share Jesus with people of all cultures, when you’d rather share your racist thoughts about other cultures.
It’s hard to trust God’s forgiveness of you, when you’re struggling with forgiving in your heart.
It’s hard to work together to share the Gospel, when you’re working on your own to share gossip about others at church.
Throw off the sin that entangles.
(2) Anything that Hinders
But it’s not just that. Scripture says to throw off anything that hinders.
Meaning things that aren’t necessarily sin.
Cause there’s all kinds of things in this world that aren’t necessarily sin. They are spiritually neutral. Things like: TV, sleep, food, money, career, sports, Rice Krispy Bars, Pokémon, and vegetables – (except for brussels sprouts – those are probably sinful – just kidding…kind of.)
Neutral things are not wrong on their own.
They become wrong, when they consume you to the point of slowing your spiritual race.
Like video games. I enjoy video games. Not the violent, intense, R rated games that have all kinds of questionable content.
But the light-hearted, goofy video games – that leave you questioning how old I am.
But here’s the thing. If those video games start to take up my time, if they start to envelop my thoughts, if I start thinking more about “How can I save princess Peach from Bowser” – rather than – “How can I share Jesus who saves eternally with that person…”
Video games have become a hindrance.
They need to be thrown off.
Think about you and your life.
What is slowing you down?
I bet it’s different than mine.
But I also bet there is one.
The devil will do everything possible to make you think that’s most important.
But it’s not.
So…whatever has become a hindrance to growing in faith, following Jesus, and sharing his message.
Identify and throw it off.
III. Eyes on the Prize
One more thing that Scripture implores us to do as we run the race of faith:
Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. (v.2)
Over at Lafayette Village, every September they hold Octoberfest. Let me say that again – Every September, they hold Octoberfest. (I think that the 4th of July is celebrated on August 10th this year, too). Part of the celebration is the Annual Wiener Dog Race. (Picture it.) It is exactly what you picture. A race with wiener dogs. The race isn’t long. It’s probably the length of a pew. And the dogs are dropped off at the starting line. They are positioned behind a starting gate and then, their owner goes down to the finish line – ready to call for the dog and cheer them to victory.
Sounds simple, right?
But…here’s what happens.
The announcer says, “On your mark. Get set. Go!”
The gates open…and…
One of them immediately runs over to the walls and starts trying to jump over them to get to the crowd.
Another sees a butterfly in the air and chases it to the other side.
A third was on his way to the end but stops when he sees the little kid eating a “hot dog.”
And a fourth – just kinda settles down for a nap.
I remember watching a race. It’s literally 30 feet in length, but it took about 5 minutes because the dogs couldn’t keep their attention on the endgame.
The same thing is true in this life.
We can’t get distracted by shiny, flashy things.
We can’t lose focus from Christ – and drift to career, money, friendship, physique…
None of those things lead to the finish line of eternal life.
None of those things lead to the finish line of heaven.
Only one thing does --
So fix your eyes on Jesus.
Why Jesus? Three reasons…
(1) He is the author of your faith
An author is someone who writes a book. They are the ones who come up with the ideas and write it on a page. People like Dr. Seuss, Maya Angelou and Nathaniel Hawthorne. All authors – all wrote their ideas and thoughts down on paper.
Jesus is the author of faith.
Its contents: He looked down upon earth. He saw that we were mired in sin, guilt and shame. He saw that we couldn’t get ourselves out of it – and eternal death was our destiny. So…he wrote “Faith.”
He came down to earthly willingly.
Lived perfectly when we couldn’t.
Died innocently in our place.
And rose triumphantly for the forgiveness of all of our sins!
He said, “Put your faith in ME, in ME, in ME, not in yourself, in ME!”
Jesus authored the contents of our faith – but – more than that – he authored your faith.
He came to you through Scripture.
He came to you through the words of someone who knew Scripture.
He came to you through the waters of baptism.
He brought you the message that we are sinners and are in need of a Savior.
He wrote on your heart the words of faith:
“I belong to Jesus.”
“He is my Savior.”
“I will follow him.”
Think about it: If he is the one who set you on this journey of faith!
Since he’s the one who started you on it, keep your eyes on him – he’ll help you through it.
(2) He is the Perfecter of Your Faith
In fact, he’ll get you to the end! The Scripture says, “He is the perfecter of your faith.” That means – you can’t do this race without him. You can’t do this race without your Savior. You can’t do this race on your own.
Be careful with that. It’s so common for Christians to say – “Thanks Jesus for starting me out on faith. I appreciate it. But…I don’t want you to get tired…Let me run it on my own.”
And a couple of paces – they’re passed out in a spiritual ditch.
Jesus said this, “I am the Vine; you are the branches. If someone remains in me and I in them, they will bear much fruit. Apart from me; they can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
If you think you can do this race without Jesus, you’ll be like one of those old branches lying in the woods. Brittle. Withered. Dead.
But…if you stay connected to Jesus, hear his promise: you will grow.
You will be nourished.
Your faith will flourish.
You will run and you will run fast.
(3) He’s Excellent at Keeping His Eye on the Prize
One more reason to keep your eyes on Jesus.
Today is Palm Sunday. It’s the day we remember how Jesus came to Jerusalem in a festive fashion.
He rode on a donkey.
People were cheering for him.
They were waving Palm branches in the air.
They were pumping their fists in the air.
They were laying their coats on the ground so the donkey didn’t have to step on mud.
The entire city of Jerusalem was watching this one-person parade of Jesus and shouting:
HOSANNA! HOSANNA TO THE SON OF DAVID!
The scene is impressive.
And you might think – I can understand why Jesus wanted to go to Jerusalem.
If that was his goal…Who wouldn’t want to have an entire city singing your adulation and giving praise and attention to you.
That’s not why Jesus went to Jerusalem.
“We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; they will flog him and kill him.” (Luke 18:31-33)
Do you see it?
Jesus reason for going to Jerusalem wasn’t Palm Sunday; it was Good Friday.
He didn’t come to earth for the adulation of the crowd; but the ridicule of the soldiers.
He didn’t come to hear “Hosanna!”; but to hear “Crucify him.”
He didn’t come to have palms waves at him, but to have nailed driven into his him.
He didn’t come to ride on a donkey, but to hang from a cross.
He didn’t come to gain glory for himself; he came to gain glory for you.
Jesus’ eyes were on the prize.
And the prize wasn’t himself.
The prize was YOU.
Hebrews says, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
That ultimate joy of God.
That ultimate joy of God that powered Jesus to go through with dying on the cross.
Was the promise of eternity with you.
What helped Jesus endured his immensely painful moments on the cross, was considering eternity with you.
What will help you endure the intense painful moments in this life, the moments that make you doubt, the moments that make you want to give up…
Is considering Jesus.
You will not grow weary and lose heart.
You will run.
All the way.
To your Savior’s waiting arms. Amen.
Today we want to learn about the events of Palm Sunday. Our goal is to better understand the big celebration then and now… Before we do that, a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; our ears to hear what you want us to hear and our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Story of the Shouting
The lesson we are looking at is from Mark 11:1. As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany…Jesus said to his disciples, “Go…you’ll find a colt…bring it here.” (v.1-2)
Geographic note -- Jesus wants his disciples to stop near before they get to Bethany and Bethphage. Both are located a few miles outside of Jerusalem. Which is a bit strange. Why not finish the journey and get to Jerusalem?
The answer – a colt.
Now remember: Not everyone owned a car back then. In fact, no one did. They weren’t invented yet. You either walked or rode a camel or a horse…or a donkey. And when you weren’t riding that donkey, you’d park it on the side of the road and tie it to a nearby post.
So, do you understand what the disciples are hearing from Jesus? It’s like the Fast and the Furious – only Slow and not so Furious – and instead of Vin Diesel? Jesus. (Less tattoos – more miracles).
And...if anyone asks what they’re doing, because it’s a small town and everyone knows what type of animal everyone else rides. It’s like Ms. Ethel who lived near me in the town I grew up – and also knew that I drove a red Chevy Minivan and also that I drove a bit fast down the road last Tuesday evening. “If anyone asks you why you are doing this, tell them: ‘The master needs it.’ “(v.3)
Imagine you were one of the disciples. How would you feel about this request?
Does Jesus know the guy?
Is Jesus trying to test them?
Is this some kind of hidden camera show?
Jesus is the guy who told the blind guy to see….and he did.
Jesus is the guy who told the lame man to walk…and he did.
Jesus is the guy who told the dead girl to come back to life…and…she…did.
The two of them walk into the city. They notice the donkey tied near a pole in front of the house just as Jesus had told them. They also the neighborhood watch (aka nosy neighbors) looking on.
They make they way over as nonchalantly as possible. They act like they notice some litter on the ground; they start to untie the rope; one of them starts sneezing as a distraction.
It doesn’t work. The people surrounding begin to question: “What do you think you’re doing? That’s not yours! Hey Ezekiel! I think they’re stealing your donkey.”
Suddenly, the owner – I imagine a bigger, muscular man – shows up from around the side of the building. He happens to have a few chains in his hand – which he’s pulling tightly together as he walks. The other bystanders – also decently sized – make their way over to the scene until they’ve surrounded the disciples and cut off escape routes.
What do you think you’re doing? That’s my donkey.
The disciples look at one another.
One of them drops the rope and mutters:
“Get ready to run.”
“Ummm…the master needs it, sir.”
“Oh. Jesus? Why didn’t you say so! It’s yours. I hope he has a wonderful time on it.”
And the disciples breathe a sigh of relief. It’s amazing what people were willing to do for Jesus…
They make a few jokes with the crowd.
And they throw their coats on the back of the colt as a makeshift saddle.
And a crowd of people has gathered to watch them.
And the disciples walk out of the city towards Jesus…
And the crowd follows them.
And they get to Jesus.
And so does the crowd.
And Jesus sits upon the donkey.
And he begins riding toward Jerusalem.
And they follow.
And…suddenly, some of the crowd starts sprinting to get ahead of the processional. As they run, they are removing off their jackets and throwing them on the dusty Roman road. Others notice that the coats will only last so long, so they start breaking off Palm branches from nearby trees and ad them to the makeshift red carpet.
Meanwhile, people at the city gate hear the crowd coming and make their way to the road – adding their coats and joining the Palm branch road construction.
All the while, the people begin shouting: “Hosanna! Hosanna to the Son of David! Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
People start clapping.
People start shouting.
People start dancing and waving palm branches to the beat.
Some (like me) don’t quite get the beat.
But it doesn’t matter. Jesus is here!
And the commotion is loud enough that more and more people join the procession.
They drop their coats, grab palm branch, start dancing and singing Jesus’ praise: Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest.
Until it’s a mini-parade.
It’s a full-fledged parade.
II. The Story Behind the Shouting
It’s amazing what people will do for Jesus. The celebration is on the level of Mardi Gras and it’s totally spontaneous. What I mean is that when I go away from Raleigh for a while and then I drive back into town…the only thing that greets me is rush hour traffic.
But Jesus gets a spur of the moment parade?
Look at what they’re shouting. I think the answers are there.
1.Recognition of Jesus’ Authority
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. (v.9) In case you are wondering, “the name of the Lord” is not the name of tunic brand Jesus was wearing. He wasn’t “in the name of the Lord” like someone comes “in Gucci.”
The phrase means that Jesus is God’s representative.
It means that Jesus comes with God’s approval.
It’s like the Papa John’s delivery guy coming to your door. He comes in the name of Papa John’s. He comes with their approval and with their pizza. He can answer your questions based on what Papa John’s offers its customers – and his answers are as legal as if they were coming from Papa John himself.
It’s the same thing with Jesus.
He came in God’s name.
He spoke in God’s stead.
He came with God’s approval.
The proof? A hat with God’s insignia on it isn’t enough.
How about controlling weather with your hands?
How about producing bread out of thin air?
How about making a blind guy to see simply by telling him to?
That’s the stuff only God could do.
It means Jesus has authority from God.
2. Recognition of Messianic Lineage
In Matthew 21, the crowd is recorded as shouting, “Blessed is the Son of David!” (Mt. 21:29) David as a very famous king in the Old Testament. He’s the young boy who took a sling shot and defeated the giant Goliath with one stone to the head. He’s the guy who became king and transformed Israel into an Ancient Super power. He’s also the guy to whom God promised that one day the Messiah – the Anointed One – the Savior would come from his family line.
Jesus is David’s great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, grandson. That’s not important because he had a famous ancestor. It’s important because these people believed him to be the Messiah.
They knew that he was born in Bethlehem just like Scripture said about the Messiah.
They knew he was born of a virgin just like Scripture said about the Messiah.
They knew he made the blind see, the deaf hear, and the lame walk; just like Scripture said about the Messiah.
They knew he was the one who would save them – just like Scripture said.
3. They Recognized Jesus’ Kingdom
Check out verse 10: Blessed it the coming kingdom of our father David.
Granted – for some – they incorrectly thought this meant Jesus was here to beat up the Romans and put Israel back on top.
But for many – they saw correctly:
That Jesus would bring forgiveness of sins.
That Jesus would bring peace with God.
That Jesus would restore them to God’s kingdom.
That Jesus would bring eternal life.
That Jesus would bring each of them to heaven.
Cause that’s the kingdom of David.
It’s a kingdom in which there isn’t any political power struggle.
There isn’t fake news.
There isn’t bickering and fighting.
There isn’t violence and destruction.
There isn’t racism, terrorism, or elitism.
There is peace. There is joy. There is life.
Each of these statements is a statement of intense faith.
Each statement is a statement of belief in the invisible.
And yet this crowd shouts it!
Coats on the ground in unison!
The reason that these men and women do such a thing is that they believed.
They believed Jesus was from God.
They believed Jesus was their Savior.
Which is what we believe.
Why aren’t we shouting like that?
A while back, there was this guy who attended worship that whenever he attended worship, he looked like he was having the worst time in his life. He looked disgusted as he listened to sermons. He rolled his eyes during sermon parts. His signing of hymns sounded a lot like this: “praise…God…blessings…flow.”
I figured he wasn’t a very emotive guy.
I figured he wasn’t a very expressive person.
I figured it wasn’t that big of a deal.
Then…On Facebook…a post. He went to the UNC-Duke game.
And the excitement! The screaming.
The video in which he was filled with emotion, expressing his feelings and singing – a song – he made up – about how awesome UNC was!
What’s the deal? Because he’s not the only one like this.
I admit – I have times like this. When I’m just not that excited…
And I’m not just talking about the volume of a voice in worship.
Cause it’s easy to sing real loud here and then go out there – and never mention Jesus’ name except as a swear word.
You can be sure to invite all of your friends to the bar – but pastor has to pull teeth to get me to invite someone to worship.
You have no problem talking about why that team will win the Final Four – but grab a beer, chug it, and run away from the conversation as soon as “God” is mentioned.
What’s the deal?
(1) We don’t recognize who Jesus is.
In spite of all the miracles, all the prophecies, all the eye witness accounts written down for you and me. In spite of all the sermons, all the literature, all the New Testament passages explaining Old Testament prophecy. In spite of all times God has brought it before our eyes – we – even the best of us – even the pastors of us – we still find ourselves saying, “Hmm…He might be the Savior…”
Divine forehead slap.
(2) We don’t care.
This option is considerably worse. Because if you find yourself in this area, then you might even see that he’s the Savior. You might see how he fulfills prophesies. You might recognize that Jesus was something very, very, very special who deserves careful thought and attention.
But…you don’t care.
I gotta make money.
I gotta get in a relationship.
I gotta have fun.
Foolish. None of that lasts.
None of that gives forgiveness.
None of that gets you to heaven.
Thankfully – Jesus knew exactly who you were.
Have you ever heard of Nisan before? Not the car maker – the month. It’s the Nisan with one “s”. Nisan is the seventh month in the Hebrew calendar. It takes place in spring and it is a festive month. Nisan is the month that the Jews celebrate Passover.
Passover is a special meal in which the Israelites celebrate their freedom from Egyptian Slavery. Briefly – God sent a man named Moses to the Egyptian Pharaoh – and asked for the release of the Jewish people. When Pharaoh said no, Moses said, “If you don’t let the people go, God will send a plague.” And Pharaoh sent him away. What occurred next would send a plague – turning all the water of Egypt into blood, sending armies of locusts, frogs, gnats, hail, even lice.
And at the end of each plague, Pharaoh pleaded with Moses, “Please, pray to God to take the plague away.” And…Moses prayed, God relented, and the plague was taken away. Only to have Pharaoh say, “Just kidding. You’re still our slaves.”
Finally, God warned Pharaoh about a final plague. A plague in which he sent the angel of death to take the life of every firstborn son residing in Egypt unless he let the Jews go. This plague would occur to every family – and every firstborn son would die, unless you trusted God. Then, you would take a lamb…shed it’s blood…and paint some of that blood on a wooden frame. When the angel saw that blood – he would “pass over” that house and the child would live.
Passover was a celebration that remembered this important event.
But there’s another important day in the month of Nisan. The 10th of Nisan. Look at what God told the Israelites in Exodus 12: On the tenth day of this month each man is to select a Passover lamb to be a sacrifice for his family. (v.3)
Do you see the connection?
In the year of the Palm Sunday event, the 10th of Nisan is Palm Sunday.
Palm Sunday is the day of selecting the Lamb for the Passover sacrifice.
Jesus is the Passover Lamb.
Jesus died as a substitute for your sins.
Jesus died as a substitute for your failures.
Jesus died – that God’s wrath against your sin would “Pass over” you.
Jesus died to save you.
HOSANNA! He saves us!
And now – God in heaven above, with all of his angels, and the witness of Jesus beside him shouts about you.
And they aren’t shouting sinner.
They aren’t shouting failure.
They aren’t shouting loser.
They shout FORGIVEN!
III. What Now?
You have been set free from sin! You are forgiven. You are promised to be a part of his kingdom. This is worth shouting about.
And I don’t mean that you increase the volume in a church service.
God wants you to unapologetically share the message of your Savior.
God wants you to unashamedly tell of His love for you.
God wants you to absolutely sing his praises in all of your life.
Even—if people start looking.
A few years back I remember watching a mom in Walmart with a kid that was being a bit loud. He was singing his song – “Jesus loves me this I know…”
And it was kinda loud, “For the Bible tells me so.”
And people were looking “Little ones to him belong.”
And his mom said, “Hey! That’s enough. People are listening.”
And the boy looked up.
And said, “Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?”
Shout like that boy.
Wave palm branches like those Palm Sunday people.
Give up your donkey like that donkey owner.
Shout Jesus’ praises – no matter what people think.
The scene was amazing.
Coats and jackets – big and small – new and old-- strewn on the ground – a make shift red carpet for the coming of the Messiah.
Palms branches broken off of trees and lining the streets – waving in a jubilant fashion. Like big foam fingers long before big foam fingers existed.
And shouting. Oh the shouting. Shouting from people to the left and the right. From the balconies and the gutters. Shouting for Jesus:
Hosanna! Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest!
It was a straight up street party.
But not everyone was happy.
There was a certain group that was strangely silent on this occasion. Normally, they loved to be heard; but today they sat aside in bitter silence. They were standing at the entrance to the synagogue, wearing their finest religious clothing and decadent religious jewelry. They also had on their very best SNEERS.
They made a beeline for the ceremony. A group of them stood in the middle of the road – protestors. They were there to stop the celebration. As Jesus stopped the young colt and motioned for their leader to come near – the one with the longest beard made his way over. He leaned his mouth to Jesus ear and protested:
“Teacher, rebuke your disciples. Tell them to SHUT UP! Stop this party!”
And Jesus looks at him thoughtfully.
And Jesus smiles.
And Jesus leans in real close- - “I would; but then the stones would cry out!”
In other words – this party is off the chain – and there’s no stopping it.
Now if you’re a fan of parties, you might think of the Pharisees as a bunch of wet blankets – the bad guys in the story. But I think the situation is deeper than that. It poses an important question:
Is Palm Sunday worth it?
Is Jesus worth shouting about?
Is Jesus worth getting your kids to shout about?
Today we hope to find the answer as we study the account of Luke 19. Before we begin, let’s say a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth, your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; open our ears to hear what you want us to hear; open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Why so quiet?
A bit about the Pharisees -- The Pharisees were the religious leaders of the day. They were the ones that told people about spirituality. They were the people you would go to for all your spiritual needs. They were the ones who knew the names of every religious fabric and when to use what incense on what day and how many minutes of fasting a particular sin needed to be fasted for in order to bring you back to God.
But recently – with the arrival of Jesus – less and less people had stopped to question them. Less and less people looked up to them. More and more people went to Jesus.
And the thing about Jesus’ message -- it was completely different from what they taught. In fact, we could summarize their problems with Jesus’ message in 3 BIG ways.
1) He Treated Bad People the same as Good People.
If you want to find an example of this, back up in the very chapter of Luke 19 that we’re examining. In verse 1, Luke writes about a man named Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus was a tax collector. That means he worked for the Roman government. It means he got paid by telling people they owed more money than he did. It means he stole.
The Pharisees considered people like Zacchaeus a lost cause -- a sinner through and through. There was no hope for his soul. No hope for his righteousness. No hope for God to ever love him and no hope for them to ever spend a moment eating with them. He was bad; they were good.
He ate with the man!
He had dinner with the sinner! (Sounds like a failed Dr. Seuss book.)
That’d be like Jesus holding a party for all of his closest friends. You pull up in the parking lot and there’s the people you expect. The usher, the lady who arranges flowers, and the organist. But as you walk through the parking lot there’s a car or two that’s unexpected. You get into the fellowship area and find your spot at the table.
Hi – I’m a member of this church. What do you do?
Me? I’m a drug dealer. Jesus invited me. This is my friend the pornography actress – she’s sitting over there next to the known terrorist. I can’t believe he sprung the money to get us all steak dinners.
Does that sit well with you?
Steak dinner just like all the other “Sinners?”
Then you understand the Pharisees.
2) He Acted like He was God.
This is illustrated in one particular occasion. There’s this paralyzed man. He’d never been able to walk in his life. His friends bring him to see Jesus. The house that Jesus is inside of is so packed that friends have to climb up to the roof of the house. They use a handsaw to cut a hole in the roof. They lowered than man down via rope until he lands at Jesus’ feet.
What an entrance! If Jesus can help him walk, awesome.
But that’s not what Jesus does first. First, Jesus turns o the man and says, “Take heart, your sins are forgiven.”
The Pharisees – again – lose their minds! How can he say that? He’s not God! No one can forgive sins but God. This guy needs to be shut up! He’s teaching a deadly, false doctrine.
He’s telling people that he’s God! He’s teaching the children that he’s God!
Not that long ago there was some confusion at Precious Lambs. It was one of the kid’s first days. It just happened to be a chapel day. At the end of the day as mom was picking her up and she was leaving past my door she said, “Bye God!”
I immediately of course corrected her. “I’m not God.” I apologized and pointed out repeatedly, obnoxiously, “We definitely do not teach that I am God in any way shape or form.” If I did, I imagine that we would not have so many kids in our program.
But Jesus did teach he was God.
And he looked like an everyday, normal person.
Can you understand as to why the Pharisees wanted him to shut up?
Why they wanted him to stop teaching the children such stuff?
3) He Revealed their Evil Plans.
Fast forward two days from Palm Sunday. Luke 20. Jesus tells the Pharisees a parable:
A man planted a vineyard. He rented it out and went away for a long time. Then he sent some servants to give him rent payment. They refused. He sent another servant. They beat him up. They sent a third. They left him for dead. Finally, he sent his son, “They’ll respect him. He’s my son.”
They didn’t. They killed him.
When Jesus finished the story, he said to the Pharisees, “What do you think will happen when he owner of the vineyard comes back?” The Pharisees – in all of their arrogance and pride answer correctly: “He’ll kill them. He’ll get revenge. He’ll get justice.” Jesus looked directly at them and said,
“The story is about you.”
Can you imagine the backlash from the crowd? “The Pharisees are planning on killing Jesus? How awful? They really are #Insecure.” Their personas took a nose dive! This was horrible press. I’m sure they started telling everyone that this was Fake News at its finest!
Never mind the fact that as soon as they get behind closed doors -- they respond to Jesus’ claim that they are trying to kill him by finalizing plans on how to kill him. Who would like a guy like this – that has no problem dropping truth bombs – that you are all sinners in front of all your friends?
No wonder they didn’t want to join the party!
No wonder they weren’t making any noise.
No wonder the rocks were louder than them.
II. Why so Loud?
But the Pharisees were the minority at the impromptu block party. The majority of the people there were shouting his praises and having a blast. Why? Right kind of music? Nope. They also had their reasons:
1) He Treated Bad People the same as Good People.
Take Zacchaeus. (We mentioned him earlier). He probably didn’t have a lot of friends. Stealing from others and working for the IRS are not exactly the best recipe for friendships.) Zacchaeus had a lonely life. A friendless life. A life filled with guilt. No matter how he tried to ask for forgiveness, to change, to invite people over for hot wings and watching the big game – no one came.
No one forgave him.
No one thought he could ever be good.
Except for Jesus.
In fact, that’s exactly why Jesus came to Zaccahaeus’ house. He said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick. I have come to seek the lost.” Zacchaeus was lost. Zacchaeus was found.
I bet you Zacchaeus was showing off his best dance moves on the streets of Jerusalem.
This is good news for you.
If you’ve done bad.
If you’ve done wrong.
If you think of yourself as the hussie, the jerk, the manipulative, the heathen, the drunkard, the addict, the homosexual, the one that God could never love! --- Jesus does.
Jesus loves you.
Jesus lived for you.
Jesus died for you.
Jesus wants to be with you.
And he has the power to do something to change you.
2) He WAS God.
Remember the story of the lame man that Jesus told his sins were forgiven?
Remember how people didn’t exactly believe that Jesus could do such a thing?
Remember how they were mad that they were equating himself with God?
Look at Jesus’ response. He said to the crowd of Pharisees:
“Which is easier to say: Your sins are forgiven OR get up and walk?”
Answer: Your sins are forgiven. Because I can say it and there’s not any proof in any way that what I just said actually happened. (Sins don’t start flying off of the body nor do you see someone’s heart change from black to bright pink!)
But if you tell someone to get up and walk – who has never gotten up and walked before in his life—he better do it. Or everyone will know you’re a phony.
So…to give people visual proof of the invisible truth?
Jesus turned to the man and said, “Get up. Take your mat and walk.”
And the man does just that.
Visible proof of the invisible truth.
And it’s not the only visible proof.
He made the blind see.
The deaf hear.
The mute talk.
He made storms clouds stop storming.
He made sick people stop being sick.
He made people who were dead come back to life.
The reason people were shouting his name in the streets? Because they had seen these miracles! They knew he wasn’t a phony. They knew he was the Son of God!
They knew he could do what he said he was going to do.
He was going to win them forgiveness.
He was going to restore peace with God.
He was going to bring peace between them and heaven.
He was going to -- and now has – brought peace between you and heaven.
Between you and your God.
3) He Revealed His Plan to Defeat their Evil Plan
Because if you follow the Holy Week narrative – Jesus doesn’t seem ready to defend himself. If he knew the Pharisees were plotting to kill him, why does he go out into the temple courts preaching and teaching in front of their face? Why did he approach the mob that met him in the garden with his hands turned upside down – peacefully ready to be arrested?
It was all a part of his plan.
Because three days after he dies.
Three days after he was silenced.
Three days after the shouts of the party had been replaced with shouts of CRUCIFY…
…A rock shouts Jesus’ praises.
…A rock quakes with the loudness of a magnitude 7.
…A rock rolls away from a grave and screams for the world – for you and me to look inside.
He is not dead. He is alive. – The best visual proof of the invisible, incredible truth.
You have a Savior.
Your Savior won.
Death has been defeated.
By faith in him, you will live in heaven.
III. What Now?
What about you? Are you louder than a rock?
Here’s a rock. Notice – there’s nothing all that impressive about it. I’ve flip it over and over and over again. There is not a mouth on his rock. There is no way for it to shout. No way for it to whistle. No way for it to hoot or holler or even blow a kazoo!
Are you louder than a rock? If you have a mouth, a pair of hands and feet, the answer is yet.
But – the question you need to ask yourself on a week to week basis – Am I louder than the rock about Jesus?
Who mentions Jesus more times on a daily basis? Or are you about the same?
Whose Facebook account talks more about the Savior? You? Or this inanimate chunk of minerals?
Who has said Hosanna more this year? Is it tied at zero? Are you winning by the number of Hosannas that we already mentioned in this service?
Wherever you’re at in your life -- be louder.
Be louder than this rock.
Talk more about Jesus than the rock.
That’s what the people did. Whether it was a hand me down coat, or a branch from a tree or their hands – the people used what they could find to shout Jesus’ praises.
Pastor – I don’t know how to play trumpet! Sing some Gospel music.
Pastor – I don’t sing very well. Tell your next-door neighbor Jesus’ loves them.
Pastor – I don’t know what to say. Bring an Easter invite along and invite them to see their Savior.
Pastor – I feel nervous to do that. Send an email. A text. Snapchat a video of you dressed as a dog inviting them to come learn about Jesus.
I don’t care. Use what you got. Use what you have. Share the message of Jesus. Be louder than a rock.
Because here’s the truth – there’s no stopping this party. HOSANNA! Jesus is the Savior! Hallelujah. He defeated sin. He defeated death. Such that – even when we die, we enter into an eternal party that makes Palm Sunday seem like a Sunday School picnic.
The party will go on.
The party will be loud.
There’s a spot for you at the party – consider yourself invited.
My only question is –
Will we need a rock to fill your spot?
Or are you joining in?
35 They brought the donkey 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!"
22 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!”
23 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”
25 All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!” 26 Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
Jesus stumbled to the ground.
His eyes were heavy with sadness. Tears and blood dripped to the ground.
Things had changed.
Five days ago he had entered Jerusalem. Five days ago the people had been thrilled to see him. Five days ago, crowds lined the streets and spilled out of the second story windows. People got up on the rooftops to see him. Excitement filled the air!
People threw their coats on the ground -- a red carpet without the red carpet -- so that his donkey didn’t have to get its hooves dirty. They picked up giant palm branches to wave in unison as he rode into town. The shouted with joy as he passed by them: “Hosanna! Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”
Jesus clenched his eyelids shut through the next strikes.
That time had filled him with joy. He saw God’s people acknowledging Him as the Savior. They understood what he came to do. They were speaking as if they understood his Work of salvation. That crowd sounded like his disciples!
But now…now things had changed. Jesus winced as the fourteenth strike raked his already raw flesh.
Instead of waving palms, the crowd was waving rude gestures in his directions. Instead of throwing their coats on the ground, the were hurling insults at him. Instead of a few pats on the back, he was about to get 30 lashes with a 7 strapped leather whip – tipped with a sharp, triangular ending. Instead of shouting Hosanna – the crowd was shouting for his death!
Hosanna…Crucify Him...Hosanna…Crucify Him...Save Us…Die!
Good Friday and Palm Sunday. Two different days. Two different crowds. Today as we look at the next step in Jesus’ journey to the cross we will examine one very important question:
I. Which Crowd are You in?
It’s kind of like high school. There are a lot of different crowds in high school – Which one were you? The popular kids. The unpopular kids. There’s the jocks and the chess club. The gamers & the computer nerds. The academic stars and the slackers. The band geeks. The cool rockers. The drama club. The drama between boyfriend and girlfriend club.
It’s interesting how we flock to certain groups of people because they fit our interests. It still happens only the groups are a bit different: Soccer moms. Stay-at-home daddies. TurboTax users. Lawn care specialists.
And…Spiritual crowds. That one is more important. Which spiritual crowd do you fit into?
1) The Not-with-Jesus Crowd
This is fairly simple. This crowd consists of all those who don’t want anything to do with Jesus.
Like the Pharisees. They hated Jesus and they were fairly clear about it. They mocked him. They challenged him. The rebuked him. They were the ones who led Jesus to the Roman governor’s palace seeking his crucifixion. In fact, they had been planning his death for over a year!
They were unapologetically against Jesus. In spite of having met hundreds of people he healed, in spite of having seen a lame man made to walk, in spite having heard God the Father’s voice identify him as his Son, in spite of having spoken personally with Jairus, whose daughter had died and Jesus made alive, in spite of having seen with their own eyes… Lazarus who had died and whom Jesus had made alive again. They were unapologetically against Jesus.
If this is you, be careful. Careful, because sometimes people in this crowd aren’t there upon their own accord. Look at what the Pharisees did. The chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask…to have Jesus executed. (Matthew 27:20) Suddenly, the Good Friday crowd is chanting for Jesus’ death simply because that’s what everyone else was doing.
I don’t think Christianity is the cool thing these days.
I don’t think it’s what everyone else is doing.
As a result, I do think many are a part of this group without even learning who Jesus is and what his main message is.
If that’s you, would you be willing to rethink your stance?
2) The Undecided
Of course, you might not feel like you fit into a group. You might think: Pastor, that’s a really big question. There are a lot of different opinions. I don’t really know if I’ve come to any concluding thoughts on Jesus. He seems influential enough not to immediately discount him, but strange enough that I don’t know if I buy it.
That’s Pilate’s crowd – the Roman governor.. He didn’t really have an opinion on Jesus. He didn’t think he was worthy of death, but he definitely wouldn’t have considered himself a follower of Jesus. It seems safe to stay undecided, but…
Ever had one of those messages pop up on your computer that says, “Changes needed. Restart NOW? Or delay 15 minutes?” Those make a person panic. “What should I do? Do I want to make that change? Will I mess everything up? Do I have the time to download that?”
Of course, if you select delay over and over and over again – eventually it just does it for you. Usually – when you’re right in the middle of a promotion considering, PowerPoint presentation at work.
If you haven’t decided on Jesus yet – know that the time is coming when it decided for you. If you aren’t on any side at that time, it means you aren’t on his side either.
3) The Palm Sunday Crowd (at least on Palm Sunday)
Some of you might be in the Palm Sunday crowd. A really easy answer when you are at church on Palm Sunday.
I just lifted up a Palm branch. I just sang God’s praises. I just said “Hosanna – whatever that means.”
But….if you’re in the Palm Sunday crowd – where are you the other days of the year?
Think about it -- Where was Original Palm Sunday crowd on Good Friday? Scripture doesn’t say. Some may have been in the Good Friday crowd chanting for his death. But others were nowhere to be found.
In fact, there isn’t a single record of anyone standing up for Jesus to try and stop Jesus’ crucifixion except for Pilate -- who didn’t even believe in Him!
Just when Jesus needed his people the most – none of them were anywhere to be found. That still happens today – just when Jesus needs us the most – we retreat and aren’t anywhere to be found.
I’m on Jesus’ side…except at work because people don’t like me to talk about faith there.
I’m on Jesus’ side…except with my family, because they get annoyed with me fairly easily.
I’m on Jesus’ side…except when Pastor tells me to invite my unbelieving friends to Easter…That’ll be awkward.
If you aren’t on Jesus’ side all the time, are you really on Jesus’ side?
Take a look at this parable from Jesus. The kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. But while they were in the net, no one could tell what fish were good to eat and which were bed. Which were delicious salmon? And which were disgusting dogfish? When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous.
II. Why It Matters
Of course, you might be wondering, "Why does any of this matter?" It’s like picking your NCAA Tournament winners. Some teams you pick to go all the way (UNC & Duke) and it matters if they win or not. Other games, 8 versus 9 – you think – they’ll only last one round it won’t be a big deal who I pick.
Or it's kind of like the romantic female version of the tournament – The Bachelor! Does it really matter if you’re team JoJo or Team Lauren B? In the end, he’ll break up with whoever he picks.
Take at what Pilate did though. He understood the ramifications of what killing Jesus might mean. He understood – especially when they told him it was the Son of God. Pilate washed his hands and he said “I am innocent of this man’s blood!" As if that would somehow wash away the fact that he was the Roman governor, that he had the final say on legal executions and that he had the Roman soldiers to back up any decision he made.
But the Jews? Look at their response – “Let his blood be on us and on our children!” Hold us personally responsible for Jesus’ death. We’ll sign our names on that petition. We’ll take the credit.
But…did they really want the credit?
Have you ever had to babysit someone else’s pet? It’s a big deal. You want to take good care of them so nothing bad happens to them. Pet the dogs so they’re happy; leave the cats alone so they’re happy; feed the fish…so they’re happy.
Because if you forget to feed the fish, they die! If these fish are your friends, you don’t want to disappoint them. Who wants to say to a friend – “Sorry, I forgot to feed your fish. I have goldfish blood on my hands!"
How do you think God will react when you kill his Son? Because if you are against him or not for him or not standing up for him – you’ve got blood on your hands!
I’ll tell you from personal experience – that blood can’t be hidden. It screams at me – You didn’t stand up for Jesus. You didn’t care about him. He died for your sins and that means it’s your fault he’s hanging on the cross. He knows. He knows that you’re guilty.
But…when the devil gets a bit loud and the guilt is heavy, remember this: Jesus’ blood is on you!
Wait? Isn’t that the exact same thing? Did you make an error? Did you just copy and paste pastor?
I did, yes; but it wasn’t an error. Look at 1 John it says, “The blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sins." Look at what it says: ALL SINS. NOT most sins. NOT some sins. Not the little tiny sins – all sins!
Because Jesus’ blood is like Purell. It cleans; it disinfect; it destroys 100% of sins it comes into contact with. It isn’t like Febreeze where it just takes care of the stank. Julianna tells me that doesn’t actually work, I have to wash my clothing. Jesus’ blood does so much more. It completely and absolutely removes sins.
You come into contact with Jesus' blood by faith. By believing in Him – your soul has been disinfected. Even if you’ve been on the wrong side of the crowd for your whole life, Jesus’ blood is that powerful. It cleanses from all sins. It cleanses you from all your sins.
You are forgiven. Jesus wants you in his crowd.
III. What Now?
If you are on Jesus’ side and you want to stay there, three important Scriptural truths to keep us in his crowd.
1) P4 (Partake in Positive Peer Pressure).
What happens if you exercise alone? It’s very, very hard to keep exercising. You need a buddy. Someone to text you for the next workout. Someone to try and keep up with. Someone to encourage you when it gets hard. Someone to send you a sad emoji when you don’t workout.
The same thing is true spiritually. You need a crowd – someone to keep you in check. Someone to keep you in God’s Word. Someone to keep you on Jesus’ side; someone to lovingly rebuke you when you get off the path and someone to pray for you when you need encouragement.
THIS IS A SHAMELESS PLUG: I know of such a place. It’s here.
If you aren’t a part of our church, I’d love to have you. I really want you to be a part of our family. I want you to join us in sharing in this incredible message of Jesus.
Because this is a place where we partake in the words of Palm Sunday:
Blessed is the King who comes! And He comes every Sunday – to speak of his loving rules for us!
Peace in heaven! – Because you have been forgiven from all of your sins
Glory in the highest – Because Jesus has added to his crowd of followers – someone he loves dearly….
2) P42 (Provide Positive Peer Pressure)
Once you have that peer pressure affecting you, it’s contagious. You’ll want to share the love of Jesus and you’ll want to encourage others in it. In fact, it’s Jesus’ command to us! He says, “Go and make disciples…” Go and tell others about the incredible benefits of following Jesus!
What’s positive peer pressure sound like? Like this:
“Let’s go to church today. I can’t wait to be filled up with God’s love.”
“Did you want to join me for a Bible study? I could use a faith strengthening.”
“Easter is coming up. I really want you to join me for this event.”
That ain’t hard to do. Simple phrases like that will encourage people to seek the true peace, joy, and love that only Jesus brings.
3) Be #AlwaysRepping
In this year’s NCAA tournament, a lot of the teams have this on their team shirt. “AlwaysRepping.” I didn’t know what it meant so I researched it. It means “Always Representing.” It’s a reminder that every time they step foot on the floor they are representing their school. That means they will work hard, they will play hard, they will be good sports – they will do the things that embodies what it is to play for that school.
Same thing for you. If you’re in Jesus’ Crowd, remember you’re #AlwaysRepping.
There is nothing that kills Jesus’ momentum more than one of his followers being a jerk. Saying rude comments. Calling political people awful names. Letting racism and hatred get the best of them.
Don’t. Don’t because that’s not what Jesus represents.
Be #AlwaysRepping. Show love. Stand for truth.
And remember what Jesus went through for you to be in this crowd ---
His body fell into a heap. The thirtieth lash had connected with his blood stained back. He was faint. He was dizzy. He only heard jeers and mockery in the background.
But…he forced a faint smile. It was all worth it. Worth it because this was the only way his friends could be a permanent part of his crowd. Worth it because it was the only way he could be with you.
May the love which brought us into his crowd, keep us in his crowd until we hang out with his crowd in heaven. Amen.
What makes you shout? Your kid reaching for a cookie even though you told them not to? A coworker expecting you to do something when it isn’t your job? Someone cutting you off in traffic on the way here this morning? Duke making it to the Elite Eight? UNC not making it to the Elite Eight?
Question: Does Jesus ever make you shout? I’m not talking about a firm “Yes” as you politely sip coffee and wait for the next part of the sermon. I’m talking about a feel it in your belly, this is so exciting, I’m just that blessed by God so I’m gonna let the world know, kind of shout.
When Jesus came into Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday before they even knew it was Palm Sunday, the people couldn’t help but shout. But it’s a bit strange shouting, isn’t it? Because there wasn’t anything altogether that spectacular about Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem. This morning we’re going to examine two things: (1) Why Shout? and (2) How to Shout?
I. Why Shout?
Picture the scene. Jesus was on the Mt. of Olives – which is just outside Jerusalem at about 2700 feet. That’s a decent height. From there he can see Jerusalem. Now – if you head back in Scripture just a chapter before Jesus tells his disciples this truth: 33 “We are going up to Jerusalem…and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.”
Do you suppose Jesus could picture it from there? Could he see the garden where he would be betrayed and arrested? Could he see the courtyard where he would be falsely accused and condemned? Could he see Calvary…a hill not too far away…where he would hang on a cross and die?
Understand this. If you book a hotel on Priceline and you want to write it off for your taxes, you have to list the purpose of the business trip. A conference. A client meeting. A nearby Expo.
The point of Jesus’ trip to Jerusalem was that he would suffer and die to save people from their sin. Do you think the IRS would let him write that off on his taxes?
Yet in spite of the gloomy circumstances surrounding his impending stay in Jerusalem, Jesus made preparations to enter. As they approached Jerusalem, Jesus sent two of his disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’”
Maybe Jesus had made arrangements beforehand; maybe he’s just being divine and knowing exactly where to send the disciples to borrow a donkey. Because verse 6 says, The (disciples) went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, 5 some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” 6 They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. 7 When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it.
Now how many here have been to a parade before? Parades are exciting. There are marching bands, beautifully decorated floats, acrobats, a giant balloon or two, and a few people tossing candy.
I grew up in a small town of 20,000 people. We had parades. They had the local beauty queen. A few dozen firetrucks. And that guy who’s driving along in a car--not a particularly impressive car either – maybe a 1997 Chevy Lumina minivan – and on the side of the car is the name of his business – “Bob’s A/C and Heating Supply”. The only thing interesting happening is that the guy is waving from the window. Maybe he’s tossing a few of those hard candies you get in droves from the dollar Store.
It’s not the most exciting.
Jesus is entering Jerusalem in a similar fashion. He’s not on a beautiful stallion. He’s not in the back of an awesome chariot. He’s not driving a fancy muscle car. He’s not at the top of a gigantic horse drawn podium like Santa Claus in the Macy’s parade.
He’s riding a donkey. A young donkey. He’s sitting on a coat for decoration. That’s it.
And the people went bananas: Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. The Apostle John tells us they were palm branches. 9 Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our Father David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
I’ve never reacted with that kind of fanfare for a parade. How about you?
It makes you wonder why. Why are they that excited to see Jesus? If we examine their words closely, we’ll get clued in as to why this is so exciting:
Hosanna! Hosanna is a Hebrew word. It’s an imperative. It simply means “Save!”
If your basketball team has been struggling in any tournament game, maybe you caught yourself chanting: “Score!” Score! Score already!” It’s something they are capable of doing and you want them to do.
Why were these people chanting “Save!?!” “Teach!” we could understand. “Love!” would seem appropriate. “Make the Pharisees look bad,” would be a fun chant as well.
But this word “Hosanna” teaches us so much about who Jesus is. He’s more than a teacher. He’s more than a nice guy. He’s more than a rebel that made the local officials feel foolish.
He’s the Savior.
This is key. Your level of understanding of this one word alone will affect your excitement today and always.
Truth is there’s a lot going on in our lives – financial struggles, relationship breakdowns, constant business. Learning about Jesus at church or in your Bible seem just like one more thing to cross off the list of ‘ToDos”. Indistinguishable in importance from one bullet point to another. This whole idea of Jesus it might not seem all that exciting all the time. I don’t even toss out candy…usually.
So whether you’ve forgotten, not pondered it in a while ,or simply never been told, consider what Jesus saves us from. Here’s three simple passages:
1 Timothy 1: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…
Sinners are those who have done sin. Sin is anything wrong, selfish, greedy, lustful, rageful. Sin is God’s Word for wrong. It is the word for the awful things that humans say and do to each other.
Are you a sinner? Have you ever said or done something wrong? (I’m raising my hand real high right now.)
Not what 1 Timothy says though. Jesus came to save sinners. It doesn’t say that he came to show off. It doesn’t’ say that he came to high five the righteous. It says that he came to save! To remove sins that had marred our souls from before God’s sight. He came to wipe away our guilt. He came to cleanse us from sins!
This is a big deal. Because sins leads to God’s wrath. That's something else we need saving from. That’s because God hates sin and wants nothing to do with sin. He must punish it.
That may sound harsh, but consider how humans demand fairness. If you are driving down Falls of Neuse at 55 mph –the exact same speed as the car next to you and the cop pulls you over but not him, don’t you demand justice?
If you and a friend complete a test in school, but they get a higher grace because the teacher likes her better, don’t you demand justice?
If so, you’re like God. He’s just. He must punish all sin. Which means he must punish sinners. Sinners like you. Sinners like me.
Romans 5:9 says, We shall be saved from God’s wrath through Jesus! It’s as if Jesus saw God’s wrath coming and stepped in front of it for us.
Like a friend who stands in front of a fan, so that you don’t feel it’s cool breeze, Jesus stood in front of us so that we don’t feel the full force of God’s wrath! He did it on the cross. He suffered and cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Then Jesus saved us from one more thing. 2 Timothy 1:10 says, “Our Savior, Jesus Christ…destroyed death and brought life…through the Gospel.” That happened on Easter. He broke open the grace and broke open death. Death no longer means eternal separation from God and from loved ones. By faith in Jesus death means life. Eternal life.
Maybe you are thinking, “That all sounds nice. But how do we know it’s true?” Check out the second line of praise from the Palm Sunday onlookers: “Blessed is He Who Comes in the name of the Lord.”
Ever been to the store looking for FDA approved meat? If you see that seal on the package, then you know the meat is safe to eat. The practices are humane. The food is not going to poison you. It’s approved by the FDA.
Jesus is God approved. He came in the name of the Lord. We know this from more than just the people’s words. We’re smarter than that. We know this from Jesus’ miracles. God miracles. Things no one else could do! He stopped storms, cast out incurable diseases, made the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the lame to talk, and the dead to rise. On more than one occasion, a voice came from the skies – long before the time of microphones and speakers – and this voice said, “This is my Son whom I love with Him I am well pleased.”
God the Father had given his seal of approval for Jesus’ work. Jesus was now entering Jerusalem -- to suffer and die – work that was approved by God. Approved by the Father as the only way for you and me to get to heaven.
Buddha didn’t get that kind of approval.
Neither did Mohammed.
Neither did that Yoga teacher from Daily Burn ‘becoming one with your spirit’ breathing enhancement.
Jesus is the God approved way to be saved!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of the Father. This wasn’t the chant of some political zealots excited that the “God” party was being formed and soon all the rules in Ancient Rome would match up with God’s rule.
It means God had come to rule in hearts. To speak peace. To give joy. To hold in love. To promise a forever—happily ever after—in heaven to all who believe in Jesus.
Fear doesn’t rule. Peace does. Guilt doesn’t rule. Joy does. Hatred doesn’t rule. Love does. Death –awful, terrifying, frightening no longer rules. It’s not even death anymore. It’s life.
Hosanna in the Highest! Translated loosely this means “Raise the roof!” Why not? Look at all the awesome things that Jesus was going to do for the people in Jerusalem – the things he has done for you. He saved you from your sins. He saved you from your guilt. He saved you from eternal punishment. By believing in Him, he saves you to an eternity of pain free, guilt free, sin free bliss in heaven!
You see – we shout because God shouts! When our consciences shout, “Guitly. You are condemned. God can’t forgive you.” God speaks to us in His Word. He speaks through Jesus. He says, “You are forgiven. You are loved. You will be in heaven!!!”
That’s worth shouting about, isn’t it?
II. How to Shout
So…how loudly have you been shouting?
I don’t own an applause meter. I’m not going to hold it up and see if we can break Gethsemane’s all time decibel record on the next hymn. This isn’t an imperative to go downtown, set up a box on the curb, and scream at everyone who passes by.
Let’s worry less about how loud your voice is and more about how loud your life is. Think about the last couple of weeks…even months. How loudly have you been a witness for Christ?
· Are you certain to never miss a Sunday singing Amazing Grace in church OR just certain that you never miss a chance to sing karaoke?
· Can people glance at the cross by your workplace computer OR is it hard to find under the stacks of Duke memorabilia?
· Does your Facebook wall state, “I’m a Republican. I love country music. I’m obsessed with Hunger Games. I bleed NC State red. But…my religious views? That’s none of your business.”
Brothers and sisters, there are lots of people telling you to quiet down with your Christianity and your Jesus. Today I tell you crank it up! Turn that Jesus praise volume in your life all the way up! Do it in 3 Ways.
1) Shout in More Places.
If there’s anyone outside on a walk and I ran out and asked them what I just said, even if I was screaming it they would probably have no idea.
You can’t just shout in church. You need to “shout” in other places to.
Shout at home. Let them see you reading the Bible. Let them hear you praying. Make sure you practice forgiveness. Let them see you leaving for church. Shout at work. Invite someone to Easter. Pray for your friends. Lovingly, calmly, boldly share your faith in Jesus. Shout on the internet. Pass on Bible passages. Share what God has done for you today. Invite people Easter! Shout in other places too -- Shout in your neighborhood. Shout with your friends. Shout at the dog park, the laundromat, at Starbucks, at Goodberry’s for an ice cream. For goodness sakes shout in the library.
Wherever you are give glory to Jesus and don’t be afraid to let others know what Jesus has done.
2) Shout without Shouting.
The truth is that sometimes audible words aren’t enough. Sometimes big flashy, obnoxious, neon colored signs get your attention better than a few loudly spoken words. Krispy Kreme knows this and their light up “FRESH RIGHT NOW” sign drives people into the restaurant until the cars back up to the street.
Think of your life the same way. Jesus said, “Let your light shine that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Jesus’ point? Do everything you can to show people the love of Christ with your actions. Maybe they’ll take notice and then ask you and you’ll be able to tell them about what Jesus has done for them.
So be the best coworker you can be. Be the best neighbor your neighbor has ever had. Be an incredible mommy. Be a respectable father. Take pride in showing people love in a incredible, selfless, servant minded, “I’ve gotta pay attention to that” kind of way.
3) Shout Clearly
I love the Precious Lambs kids. But sometimes when I’m eating lunch with them, I have no idea what they just asked me. Perhaps it’s my ears OR perhaps it’s all the mashed potatoes up in their mouths.
Make sure your is a clear confession. If someone is seeing you drunk on Saturday night, but off to church Sunday morning, how is that clear? If someone is hearing you use foul language one minute and then, saying a prayer the next minute, how is that clear? If someone is hearing you invite them to church, but then you don’t show up at that same service, how is that clear? If someone is hearing you say “show love to everyone,” but then you are cold and abrasive to someone just because they look different than you, how does that clearly give praise to Jesus?
Shout clearly. Examine every aspect of your life to make sure it’s coming in line with God’s will. Make sure that everything you say and do points people back to Jesus!
Because here’s the deal. If on that first Palm Sunday – only a few people had politely golf clapped – thousands of people would have missed it. They would have missed seeing their Savior. They would have missed the cue to what he was about to do.
But together –that first Palm Sunday was an event for all to see. With everyone shouting God’s praises – it was clear that something awesome was going on. Something awesome was coming.
Together we are that voice. We are one loud voice. Shouted loudly in all kinds of places. Shouting loudly throughout North Raleigh. Shouting clearly this Easter message: JESUS IS THE SAVIOR! Hosanna! Hosanna in the Highest! Amen.
Easter is 8 days away. There are a lot of different ways to celebrate. Some people I have talked to will be visiting the beach in order to relax. That’s nice. Others will spend money on nice new Easter clothes and 2 for 1 chocolate bunnies at the Dollar Tree. That’s nice too. Still others will pack up and go visit family. That’s usually nice.
But Christians…They’re planning on spending the week doing final cleaning at church. Some are making sure music is practiced and ready to go for worship. Others have volunteered time to go and invite the community to the service. Still more will attempt to reconnect with friends and family by inviting them one last time to Easter Sunday Worship.
Why not relax? Kick back? And Catch “It’s the Easter Bunny Charlie Brown,” on TV and call it an Easter celebration? Why get up and follow Jesus?
Over the past weeks, we have discussed how life is a Battleground. We fight temptations. We are in conflict with doubts. We alter our perspective. We fight alongside others who may be very different than us. We even stare death in the face with confidence.
It isn’t easy. So…why do it? Why follow Jesus?
Our Words from Zechariah will work to answer that question for us. Listen as he describes who Jesus is and what he brings. Then, see if there is any good reason not to follow him?
I. Consider Who He Is
Zechariah wrote, “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!” These words describe Palm Sunday 400 some years before it happened! And what it says about the one riding in on a donkey is astounding!
First, he’s righteous! Totally upright and completely just! How many politicians do you know like that? Yet, it sounds good when a political leader calls for some kind of moral improvement – even if they aren’t so moral themselves.
There are a few politicians who are taking flack for wanting to defend “Marriage.” They call homosexuality a sin (which it is) all while asking others to excuse the fact that they are on their third marriage.
Righteous? Not so much.
Here’s how righteous Jesus is:
Then, to top it all off, Jesus never sinned even once! It’s why the Pharisees had such a hard time condemning him. They couldn’t pin a single immoral word or action on him!
This ties into the second thing about Jesus. He is called victorious!
It’s good to follow a perpetually victorious leader. It’s why Duke fans always rest securely between basketball seasons. They’ve got Coach K. It’s proven to be victorious. They’ll be in the Title hunt next year – no worries!
Jesus marched into Jerusalem having won battle after battle.
Anybody else you know defeat death?
You might be thinking, “Jesus rode into Jerusalem righteous and victorious! But I’m lowly. I’m sinful. He wouldn’t want anything to do with me. I don’t know if he even wants me to follow him.”
Listen to the third thing about his ride into Jerusalem. See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey!
I could probably think of about a thousands scenarios in which a hero of Jesus’ fames ride into Jerusalem that seem more appropriate. A white stallion. A chariot. An elephant. He could have come as the Messiah year’s later and chosen a tank. Air Force One. A Hummer. A Limousine! Even a moped wouldn’t have been so smelly.
Yet there he was…on a stinky, stubborn, braying donkey. Bumping up and down as he tried to balance on the stubborn mammal’s back.
Why would Jesus choose such a ride?
Philippians 2 offers us a clue. It says, "Jesus, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness, and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!”
Jesus’ entire life had been one incredible paradox! With his miracles and works, he proved himself divine. He was God worthy of all worship. Yet he humbled himself by coming down from heaven and becoming a man! Understand how that’s humbling:
o He has all authority, yet he lived by the rules of his mom and dad.
o He is all knowing. Yet he grew and learned just like the other children.
o Jesus is God. Almighty! Yet, he became a man and needed rest.
o He is eternal – yet he would – later on this Holy Week – die.
o And not even a noble death! He was crucified with the worst of sinners.
This paradox is clear on Palm Sunday! Jesus is totally righteous and absolutely victorious and completely worthy of the palm branches and songs of praise. Yet he rides on a donkey. Humble.
This is only a microcosm for how he comes to you! Sin separated you from him. He had to go through this sin to get to you. So he did! Even if the only way to do this was to suffer and die a terrible death on the cross for your sins. Jesus was willing to humiliate himself in this way in order to get to you.
And the gifts he offers you? Those are incredible too!
II. Consider What He Brings.
A) Peace for the nations
Listen to what Zechariah describes: 10 I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the warhorses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations.
And what a marvelous thing peace is! At times of political unrest among other nations (even within our nation) how beautiful peace is.
But, you might be thinking, “Jesus came and went…and there’s still war. There’s still violence. There’s not peace.”
Not among humans…not now, no. But the peace Jesus proclaims is greater than that. It’s the divine kind of peace. Peace with God!
Because on your own, there is no peace between you and God. You’re a sinner. You’ve offended God – who hates anything not associated with perfect love – with your thoughts, words, and actions.
But with Jesus, that sin is forgiven. There is reconciliation. There is a peace that says, “God, the Almighty sin hating, fire in his eyes, righteous Lord of heaven and earth, whom I’ve countlessly offended…
…is my friend.”
B) A Global Rule
Look at the next part of verse 10: His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth. King Jesus brings a global rule!
Just think about it. We’re reading about Jesus’ Palm Sunday ride today. That happened in the Middle East long before iPhones, Twitterfeeds, and TV. There weren’t even printing presses!
Yet, here we are today. Jesus’ news of peace with has crossed the Atlantic ocean. It’s in Raleigh. Think of how incredible this is!
I know that not all parents are excited about the school district that their kid might go to here in the Triangle. Where you live determines the district. Many think that therefore, some schools are better and the same opportunities aren’t available in all schools so you might even have to move in order to get your kid into a good school.
There’s no need to change districts to fall under God’s love. Jesus lived perfectly, died innocently, and rose triumphantly for every school district in America! “Whoever believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life!” (John 3:16)
C) Freedom from the Pit!
These gifts really lead to the third one. Listen to how verse 11 describes it: As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit.
A waterless pit doesn’t sound like a good place to spend spring break. Dark. Treacherous. No nourishment. No hope of survival. Just a slow, sad, lonely, pointless death.
Whether your pit is real or spiritual, Jesus sets you free. When you are haunted by your sins, when you are longing for love, when you are frightened by the darkness of your guilt and screaming for help.
Jesus reaches out. Not just with one arm, but with both. (on the cross) And he lifts you out of the pit. He frees you.
But Jesus doesn’t free you and let you go get entangled in some other messy, abysmal pit. He has a place for you to be.
D) A Fortress of Hope.
Listen to verse 12: “Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you!”
Do you know where the President goes in a time of crisis? To a fortress. Hidden underground this fortress is able to withstand nuclear holocaust! Bombs, bullets, and explosions will have no effect and all that are inside will be safe.
Jesus is an even stronger fortress. A mighty fortress of hope. With our eyes on him and his promises of forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life in heaven – nothing that the devil attacks us with can make us hopeless! God’s Word surrounds us with hope that refuses to give up. That knows God’s love is unfailing and unending.
And when you’ve spent plenty of time in that fortress of hope, then you will undoubtedly be given the final blessing of Jesus.
E) A Wake Up Call.
Verse 13 has God’s promise, “I will bend Judah as I bend my bow and fill it with Ephraim.” In other words, and this is a cool picture, God’s going to use his people of Judah and his followers in Ephraim, as a weapon. To accomplish his purpose.
And with archer like precision that’s better than Robin Hood or William Tell, God chooses his arrows and shoots! He awakens his people in order to share his message with the world!
Who is God shooting you at?
It’s one week till Easter! The highlight of the church year. We’ve been inviting people for three weeks now.
Who is God aiming you at? A friend. A relative. A neighbor.
If God has aimed you than, don’t backfire! God wants to use you to share that message of love! Could one more invitation do the trick? Could one more email reminder be helpful? Could a quiet conversation where you open your heart and explain why Easter is so important be the conversation that person needs?
“But I don’t feel up for the task!”
Don’t worry. It’s not about you. Listen to the last part of verse 13. I will rouse your sons, Zion, against your sons, Greece, and make you like a warrior’s sword.
Did you see that? "I rouse you. I will make you.” In other words, God is the one in charge. He has equipped you with his love and a knowledge of his Word to share this wonderful message this Easter. Don’t be frightened. Aim and shoot! Follow in your King's footsteps and share the message of his love!
There's a lot of leads to follow this Easter. Peter Cottontail. Hershey's chocolate. The call of the beach. Whatever you feel like doing.
Why not follow Jesus? He's our righteous, victorious, and humble king. A king who brings peace around the world. A king who has rescued you from the pit and placed you in a fortress of hope. A king who needs you!
Follow his lead this Holy Week and always! Amen.