19 Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to the Lord.
20 This is the gate of the Lord through which the righteous may enter.
21 I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation.
22 The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; 23 the Lord has done this, and it is marvellous in our eyes.
24 This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
25 O Lord, save us; O Lord, grant us success.
26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the Lord we bless you.
27 The Lord is God, and He has made His light shine upon us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar.
28 You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you.
29 Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.
1 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and He will send them right away.”
4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: 5 “Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of Him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”
10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”
11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Today is Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday commemorates the Sunday before Jesus’ crucifixion. The scene is Jesus’ final trip into Jerusalem, and He would not leave Jerusalem again until He was executed, buried and rose again.
The day begins by Jesus sending two disciples ahead of Him to bring Him a colt, a young donkey which He used to ride into Jerusalem.
They find the donkey and after obtaining permission to use it, they take it to Him and they use their tunics to fashion a makeshift saddle.
But why would Jesus have chosen to ride into the city on a donkey?
Most people walked everywhere, and He was young and fit, so at first glance it does seem a rather strange thing to do.
But He has His reasons. Jesus riding a donkey into Jerusalem was the fulfillment of an old prophecy about the Messiah. The Messiah was to be God’s deliverer which had been promised for centuries. One of the prophecies is found in the Old Testament book of Zechariah 9:9 – “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
This prophecy was written about 500 years before Palm Sunday, but the Jewish people would have been familiar with this prophecy. God had promised them a Messiah, and they were waiting in anticipation for Him to come.
They also knew about Jesus. They knew the things He had claimed about Himself, they’d seen Him perform all kinds of miracles, so it was a very easy and a logical thing for them to put two and two together.
This extraordinary man is now riding a donkey into Jerusalem – something they had been waiting 500 years for.
So this can only mean one thing – Jesus is the promised Messiah, so the crowd goes wild with excitement.
Added to this is the oppression they were subjected to at the time. Throughout their history the Jewish nation had suffered under cruel oppression and dictatorships. It happened in Egypt, they’d been conquered by all kinds of nations, and had even been taken out of their own land into exile in Babylon. Now the Roman Empire had arrived and occupied their country, so it’s no wonder that they received Jesus so enthusiastically that day.
Remember that the roads were dusty and dirty in those days, so when royalty or other VIP’s came to visit, people would traditionally lay their cloaks on the road for the procession to walk or ride on. And so they did the same for Jesus on Palm Sunday. Cloaks, tunics and palm branches were strewn across the road in honour of the arriving Messiah.
And then the chanting and singing began. “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”
‘Hosanna’ means ‘praise God.’
At last, their struggle was nearly over, and a new kingdom, just like it had been in King David’s days was about to be established.
It must have been quite a spectacle. The Passover was about to be celebrated, so Jerusalem was packed with not only the people who lived there, but thousands of visitors too.
We’ve all seen pictures of what Palm Sunday probably looked like, but those drawings only ever show a small crowd of maybe a hundred or so, but in reality there were thousands and possibly tens of thousands or even more. The noise of the celebrations that day must have been deafening.
That all happened on Sunday.
Here’s what that same crowd was chanting five days later: “What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them. “Crucify Him!” they shouted. “Why? What crime has He committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify Him!” (Mark 15:12-14)
This was on Friday, and it’s important for us to know that these were the very same people who just five days earlier were singing Hosanna. This wasn’t another crowd which suddenly turned up. It was the same people. So what changed, and why?
What happened from Monday to Thursday which changed the minds of all of those people so dramatically?
Basically it was because Jesus was not who they wanted Him to be.
The Jewish people were oppressed and it was an insult to have the Romans occupying the land God had given them. To them, the Romans were Gentile dogs, and the Messiah was supposed to, in their minds at least, set them free from Roman occupation.
But the Romans wouldn't even acknowledge who Jesus was, and in fact, they were going to kill Him.
That wouldn't happen to the real Messiah, would it? So if He was the Messiah, as He claimed to be, He wasn’t very good at it.
Not only that, the Romans’ favourite means of execution was by crucifixion. And the Law of Moses says in Deuteronomy 21:23, “Anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse.”
So in the minds of the Jews that day, Jesus was not only a failure, but He was a cursed failure.
They had such high hopes on Palm Sunday, but now there is no way they could see how Jesus could be the Messiah. But they missed the real Jesus, the real Messiah.
They missed Him for who He really is because Jesus was not who they wanted Him to be.
Jesus was, and is, the Messiah. They missed Him though, because He didn't fit into their ‘Messiah box.’
And if we look around at the world today, not much has changed, has it? People today are still missing Jesus because He doesn't fit into their box.
We still want Jesus to be who we want Him to be.
We want Jesus to be our problem solver. We get ourselves into a mess, then we try everything we can think of to get out of this mess. The result though is usually that we end up digging an even bigger hole for ourselves. The deeper mess leads to an even bigger mess.
So we cry out to Jesus. “Get me out of this mess. Solve all my problems, most of them very stupid and caused by my own bad choices.”
We want our Messiah to clean up the mistakes we’ve made in our lives.
We also want God to be our avenger. Someone has hurt us, or we just don’t like the things they do or the way they talk to us. So we want God to sort them out – just zap them, Lord.
If we’re honest, we have to admit that we really would like God to just do that for us every now and then.
We want our Messiah to fight our fights.
We also want Him to be our ATM. Many of the self-inflicted problems we have in life involve money, so we want Him to bail us out.
It would also be nice for the Lord to give us a time machine. Now that would be great, don’t you think? How many of us have wished that we could turn back the clock so we could undo some of the silly things we’ve done or said in our lives?
Some of the things we’ve done or said have created huge problems. We’ve really hurt someone we love, and how we wish we could undo or unsay those things, but we can’t.
One of the biggest challenges of the real Jesus to sinners like us is that He can see us for who we really are. Our sin shames us, and what makes it worse is that He knows all about our sin. And to make things worse, He won’t look the other way. There are certain things in our lives which we know are wrong, but we can’t or won’t stop. How we wish God would just overlook those things, but He won’t.
We don’t like the idea of a God who holds us accountable.
There are many other things we’d like Jesus to be or to not be, but the point is that just like the Jews of 2000 years ago, we have our own ideas of who God is, or at least what He should be like.
But He doesn’t work that way. God will not be dictated to by us. I need to point out that there are many times when He will and does come to our rescue, and He intervenes in our lives in the most amazing ways at times, often cleaning up the messes we have brought upon ourselves, but He will not do it at our beck and call. And He certainly does not do it in the ways that we would prefer. Whenever God shows up in our lives, He does it for one purpose only – to bring glory to Himself.
It really is all about Him, and not us.
The crowds that day were praising Jesus, but it was all about them, their perceived needs, and what this all-conquering Messiah was about to do for them.
But the message of Jesus is clear: Seek first the Kingdom of God, then all these other things will be given to you.
During this coming week we have something planned every day, and my prayer for each of us is that we will give up some of our own time each day during Holy Week, and come and allow Jesus to reveal His true self to us once more as we prepare for Easter.
Just like those people on Palm Sunday, we need to get a grip on who Jesus really is. There are times when He will step in and supernaturally intervene, but those times are not just for our benefit.
They're to show us who Jesus really is, and to glorify Himself.
And when He decides not to intervene, that doesn't change who He is.
Hebrews 13:8 tells us “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
As the Messiah, this is who Jesus is. He is God incarnate. He is God who came to walk among His Creation. He is not our magic genie in a lamp just waiting for us to decide what we’d like Him to do next.
He is God.
But He is a merciful God. Listen again to the words of Psalm 118: “The Lord is God, and He has made His light shine upon us. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.”
He is almighty, the everlasting God, the creator of the universe, but yet, because of His love for us, He has revealed Himself to us in Jesus Christ.
Do you want to know just who God is, and what He is like? You can. Because when you open your eyes and your heart to Christ, you will see the true Messiah, the one, true God.
This week we look back on the most important day in all of human history. The Cross of Jesus Christ and what it means for us who believe in Him is the most pivotal event in history.
The entire history of the entire universe hinges on Him.
The world has been totally transformed because the Messiah came.
The decision each of us needs to make is this: Are we going to make the same mistake as those people did on Palm Sunday and miss Him and His purpose completely, or are we going to survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died? Are we going to see Jesus for who He really is, rather than for what we’d prefer Him to be?
As the Messiah, Jesus didn’t come just to solve our problems.
He came to save us from our problems.
Our main problem and our biggest sin is that that we have rebelled against and sinned against the Holy, Magnificent God.
All of our problems, every single heartache and disaster in our lives stem from rebellion against God.
Cut away all of the peripheral stuff, and all of the clutter in your life, and you will always come to the same conclusion. The root cause of all our problems is this: we have rebelled against God.
And Jesus, our Messiah, came to save us from the consequences of our sin and rebellion. That’s how much God loves you.
That Friday, when they yelled, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him” they did.
The people that day believed that this fake Messiah got His just rewards.
But God had a far greater plan which they simply could not see, because Jesus’ death was not for naught. It was His death that made us right with our Holy, Magnificent God.
He has saved us from the primary problem we all have: we're sinners.
By His death on the cross, our Messiah has made a way for us to come to God, and He proved this truth in the most incredible way by walking out of the tomb just three days later.
Next Sunday we celebrate life, but this week is an opportunity for us to look inward at ourselves, and to be reminded of the necessity of the death of Jesus Christ. He died because of me. And He died because of you.
I hope you’ll join us this week, and my prayer again for us is that we will see the real Jesus this week.
Is He your Messiah?