Palm Sunday April 5 2020

Palm Sunday (April 5, 2020)
The night before there was a big party held in the honor of Jesus.  He had done something amazing.  He stood at a grave and commanded Lazarus to come forth and Lazarus did.  That would freak me out.  Lazarus after having died was now alive and well.  I sure would have liked to interview him.  Anyway, Martha and Mary are Lazarus’ sisters and they throw a party.  It makes sense to me.  It just might have been the last time of enjoyment for Jesus. The next day Jesus enters the city of Jerusalem.  It’s Passover time. The city is packed with pilgrims; tourist season.  When the folks heard Jesus was making his way to Jerusalem, it’s only a couple of miles from last night’s party, anticipation was palatable. The people are excited.  Large crowds have gathered.  Let’s read the gospel according to John.

John 12:13-19 (NIV)

[The people] took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, "Hosanna! "
"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"  "Blessed is the King of Israel!" Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written, “Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey's colt."

16 At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him.

17 Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. So the Pharisees said to one another, "See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!"

Date palm branches are being waved and laid down as a kind of red carpet for Jesus to enter upon.  The waving palm branches are a symbol of joy and triumph (Leviticus 23:40).  It would not be surprising if in the symbol of the waving palm branches there is the recollection of the festival called the Feast of Booths (Sukkoth) which commemorates God leading the people out of bondage into the promised land and God’s faithfulness to the people as they journeyed through the wilderness. 

Hosanna is the Greek translation of the Hebrew which means “Save Now.”  It’s used like the Brits use “God Save The Queen.”  As such it’s
an expression of patriotism, loyalty, and the hope of long life and a successful rule of the monarch.

That “Save now” is found in Psalm 118:25-26, its translated in the Message as “Salvation Now.”

Psalms 118:25-26 (MSG)
Salvation now, God. Salvation now! Oh yes, God—a free and full life!
Blessed are you who enter in God's name—from God's house we bless you!

Jesus is being hailed as a great liberator.  Hearts are hopeful for the Messiah.  The great conquering King in the line of David who would arrive and lead the people in throwing off the bondage of Rome, leading the nation to preeminence, and filling the land with justice and righteousness.  The Messiah brings good things, great blessings for the people, happy days are here again.

Jesus enters not on a white stallion, symbolic of a Roman conqueror, a leader bent on war and conquest.  Jesus enters in fulfillment of a prophecy concerning the Messiah.  Jesus enters in peace.

Zechariah 9:9 (MSG)
"Shout and cheer, Daughter Zion! Raise the roof, Daughter Jerusalem! Your king is coming! a good king who makes all things right, a humble king riding a donkey,
a mere colt of a donkey.

Jesus is called the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).  This is symbolized by Jesus riding a donkey and would not have been lost on the crowds.  They are acknowledging Jesus as God’s anointed leader.

The religious leaders are not happy.  In my studies, when religion supports the government you will discover that it’s not a good thing.  When I have taught through the Revelation of Jesus Christ the point is made that the book speaks to all generations and it is most plausible to think of the false prophet, that second beast, to be a religion that is in support of the government, and the government we can call the anti-Christ, the first beast when we see the active oppression of people.  The last thing the religious leaders want is a Messiah inspired revolt against Rome. That would not be a good thing for those prospering under Roman rule.  Jerusalem is catching Messianic fever and it could set the whole place on fire.

The whole scene reminds me of the beginning of a college football game.  The home team enters the field to the roar of the crowd.  The anticipation and excitement are at a peak.  The fans can hardly contain themselves, exuberance marks the moment.

Is it not the same when we first come to believe that God sent Jesus to save us from our sin, reconcile us to Himself and lead us to life eternal?  It’s Jesus’ triumphal entry into your life.  You naturally are full of great expectations.  By acknowledging that you have sinned and are therefore estranged from God, you believe that Jesus is the only one who can forgive you of your sins and reconcile your relationship with God, and committing yourself to be a Christ-follower, in faith you asked God to let you into His life.  In that instant you were forgiven of your sins, you were made new, being born spiritually, you were adopted into God’s family and you were made an heir to the Kingdom blessed to live an abundant life here and now that will lead you to life eternal.  You have been given great and precious promises (2 Peter 1:4) of provision and protection, of seeking and finding (Matthew 7:7) of asking and receiving the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4; John 14:13).  Life got good and is getting better. Of course, we wave our palm branches; of course, we are all excitedly shouting Hosanna; of course, we are shouting our blessings to God.  It is an incredible thing that has happened.  We have great expectations.

2 Corinthians 5:17-18 (NLT)
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ…

Wave those palm branches; shout hosanna.  God is good, all the time.  Rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4). Give thanks in every circumstance (1 Thessalonians 5:18) God is in control.  We have made us more than conquerors (Romans 8:37).  Now no weapon forged against you will prevail (Isaiah 54:17).  Talk about a spiritual high; one of those mountain top experiences, you’re experiencing it, and you’ve got it.

Romans 8:31 (NLT)
What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us

But what happens when Jesus doesn’t meet our expectations?  What happens when instead of times getting better time gets more difficult?  What happens when your props are knocked out from under you? What happens when you find yourself suffering instead of living the good life?  What happens when you’re facing difficulty and challenges that are just plain overwhelming?  What happens when the good thing you are praying for does not come your way? What happens when you’re your loved ones are not healed?  What happens when your body becomes wracked with pain?  What happens when you realize that you are losing your memory, your mind?  I can tell you what happened in Jerusalem.

John 19:15 (NLT)
 “Away with him,” they yelled. “Away with him! Crucify him!”

Friends I have felt betrayed by God.  I have thought that He treated me poorly. I thought that He was not true to His promises.  I was very close to yelling with that crowd who had transformed their praises to curses.  I have cried through the night; my world crashing down; my heart smashed; my dreams in ashes; my well thought out plans trashed.  Not fair, not right!  God, how could you do this to me?  God, how could you let this happen?

I would like to think that this is a natural response when times get tough.  It’s not.  It’s egoism.  Satan nailed me when he accused Job. 

Job 1:8-11 (NLT)
Then the Lord asked Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless—a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil.”

9 Satan replied to the Lord, “Yes, but Job has good reason to fear God. You have always put a wall of protection around him and his home and his property. You have made him prosper in everything he does. Look how rich he is! But reach out and take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!”

Do I follow Jesus because of the perks?

The Holy Spirit let me have my temper tantrum and then sent this impression to me in the form of a question: ‘So you will praise God when He does what you want and curse Him when He doesn’t?”  “So you’re a fair-weather follower and not a Christ-follower?”  Those questions were like a slap in the face.  I saw what I was doing and repented.  In bad times, times of deprivation, times of suffering, times of catastrophe, there is no other place to go but God.  I still lack understanding, but one thing I do know there is no other haven but in the arms of God.  Comfort, strength, the power to cope, the ability to keep on keeping on comes from God. 

Psalms 121:2 (MSG)
“…my strength comes from God, who made heaven, and earth, and mountains.”

Job testified to his friends:
Because even if he killed me, I'd keep on hoping. I'd defend my innocence to the very end. Just wait, this is going to work out for the best—my salvation!
(Job 13:15-16 (MSG)

That’s where I want to be. I want to keep my sacred vows to follow Christ.  Regardless of the situation, I want to love the Lord my God with all my heart, mind, soul, strength (Mark 12:30).  I want to be found faithful even on the road of suffering (1 Corinthians 4:2), on the path of pain, when I don’t understand (Proverbs 3:5-6) when I can’t see through my tears (Psalm 56:8), I want to keep my commitment (Psalm 15:4). That means obey even if it hurts, obey when it hurts, and when it does, for certain, it will, then I will remember that they crucified my Lord. 

I don’t’ want to be one who obeys because of what I get.  I want to obey because it is right. I don’t want to be a lover because it’s convenient. I want to be a lover because it’s right.  God save me from being a fair-weather follower and from the like, save all those who hear your voice through this message. Even in the deepest well of pain, I want them to shout Hosanna with me.


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