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.