Palm Sunday 2019
There are many things that come to mind when one thinks about Easter. Reese’s Eggs for starters. Some people think of Connie in a bunny suit and egg hunts with their kids, we’ll be doing that this Saturday here at CCC. Some people think of flowers starting to bloom, spring-cleaning at the house, the smell of fresh cut grass. Hopefully you think about the celebration of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. You know what most people aren’t thinking about? Xmas. It’s 255 days until Xmas. And all of God’s people said, “shut up.” Don’t be talking about Xmas right now; we’re finally getting some warm weather. As we begin Holy Week with Palm Sunday, as we think about the triumphal entry of the Lord Jesus into Jerusalem, we can’t help but hear the faint ringing of Xmas bells.
Today is Palm Sunday and today does begin Holy Week. The Gospels tell us that on Holy Monday Jesus cleansed the temple, on Holy Tuesday he foretold his death again, on Wednesday Jesus is quiet, though many believe that this is when Judas betrayed the Lord. Thursday is Maundy Thursday. The word Maundy is from the Latin mandatum, which means commandment. At the Last Supper Jesus said, “this is the new commandment that I give to you, that you love one another,” while He washed the disciples’ feet. Friday is Good Friday. We will celebrate the death of the Lord Jesus Christ this Friday night at 7p. And Holy Saturday is the very last Sabbath of the Old Covenant. This is the day summed up in the Apostles’ Creed, “dead, buried, he descended to hell.”
This morning we’re looking at Luke’s version of the Triumphal Entry. What does the Holy Spirit of God have for CCC from Luke 19.28-40 on this Palm Sunday 2019? What is particular about Luke’s rendition that we want to glean? And what in the world does it have to do with Xmas?
Notice first verse 28, and when he had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. All of Jesus’ life and ministry has been leading to this week. All 4 Gospels dedicate a lot of ink to Holy Week. One theologian said that all of the Gospels are basically passion narratives with extended introductions. This is what Jesus has come to do. His whole life has been pointing toward Jerusalem.
Luke is cluing is in on something as he even mentions the name of the city. יְרוּשָׁלַ֫יִם stems from the words יָרָה, which means, “to set or cast a foundation,” and שׁלם, which means peace. Jerusalem literally means, “a foundation of peace.” Like Detroit is nicknamed The Motor City, Jerusalem is called, “the foundation of peace.” It’s ironic because the city of Jerusalem has never really known peace, in fact, you could argue that this has been the most restless city in the history of the world. But Jesus is headed there to accomplish genuine, eternal peace.
Then we come to this strange business about the donkey. Jesus tells his disciples to go into the village of Bethany and there they’ll find a colt that has never been ridden. If any one asks why they’re taking the donkey, they shall say, “the Lord has need of it.” We split hosting of our small group with Richard and Arnette Kauffman. Once a month we have Flocks at our house, once a month at their house. Every month we drive to their place, John R. to 9 mile. So driving there we always pass Brayz, you know the little greasy spoon, as my grandpa called it, at 9/Dequindre? It’s got the donkey on top holding the burger and the coffee. Every time we’re driving to the Kauffman’s, my kids are on the search for the donkey. This is what these two disciples are doing; they’re on a search for a donkey.
So they go to Bethany, and they find the donkey, and they start to untie it. And the owner of the donkey is sitting right there. Um…excuse me? Is there a reason you’re untying my donkey. The two disciples look at each other. “The Lord needs him?” “Oh, ok, carry on then.” Did Jesus prearrange this thing? Did God grant the owners of the donkey clarity to understand? Luke doesn’t say, and frankly, he doesn’t care. It’s like when I turned 16 and was driving that sweet 93 Chrysler New Yorker. The seats were basically red lazyboys. I got to drive it every day, but the car was my dad’s. If he needed the car, his rights superseded mine. This is Jesus’ donkey. He’s the Lord; he created it. The owner is but a steward of Jesus’ property.
Then the disciples bring the donkey to Jesus, and they place their cloaks on it for Jesus to sit. This donkey is sanctified. It’s set apart to carry the king of creation into the city of peace. And not only is the donkey sanctified, but the ground is sanctified because it is leading the king’s way into the city of peace. You see Zechariah 9.9 gives us insight into what’s really going on here. We read it earlier in our call to worship. Zechariah predicted that the final king would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey. Jesus is the fulfillment of this prophecy.
Thabiti Anyabwile gives theological insight into Jesus’ donkeyback ride. You see, when a king would ride into a city on a warhorse it was a battle cry, but when a king would ride into a city on a donkey, it was a declaration of peace. Jesus is riding into the city of peace, on an animal of peace.
And then we hear the declaration of peace. Verses 37-38,
As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
The disciples start singing that the king has come and there’s peace in heaven as a result. They’re singing Ps 118, which is a song of victory. This is one of the distinctions of Luke’s gospel. In other Gospel accounts there is a massive crowd that is waving palm branches, and shouting “hosanna,” but not in Luke. In Luke it’s only disciples that are making the declaration. Luke’s point is that true disciples know who Jesus is and they shout for joy! Even though some of the disciples will scatter, even though Peter will deny Christ, right here, on Palm Sunday, they’re not wrong about Jesus. He is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.
Of course there are some Pharisees there that don’t like what they’re hearing. They say, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” Notice Jesus’ answer in verse 40, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” Even if my disciples didn’t sing about me, then the rocks would. The trees would dance for joy. The creation knows her king, and she will not be silent. Jesus’ character is so lovely that it must be sung. Jesus’ work is so glorious that there must be songs, and hymns, and spiritual songs that put it to melody.
It must be sung, it must be declared with a loud voice because he has brought peace. It is only through Jesus that we have peace with God. Because Jesus was going to die on the cross on Good Friday, because he would stand as the substitutionary atonement for sinners, because Jesus would resurrect on the third day as God’s vindication for his sacrifice, because the gospel is true, we have peace with God. Col 1.20 says that Jesus made peace by the blood of his cross. Ephesians 2.14 says that he himself is our peace. Do you have peace with God? If not, the call of the gospel beckons you this am. Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead. If you do that, you will be saved (Rom 10.9).
Because we have peace with God, we can also have peace with each other. Though we are divided because of sin, it is possible for there to be peace between ethnicities, genders, socioeconomic classes, UM and State fans. CCC should be known as a peaceful community. We should be known as a place where people can find peace with God through the gospel, and where they can have peaceful relationships. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live at peace with all (Rom 12.18). Examine your words and deeds. Are you a peaceable person? Or do you pursue gossip, drama, contention? Do you like to be the person who says “no,” just so someone can say “no?” That’s not godly. Jesus is the prince of peace who rides into the city of peace on the animal of peace. As he’s doing that, his disciples declare his peace.
You know this isn’t the first time Luke mentions peace in connection to Jesus. Luke writes this in chapter two when Jesus is born,
8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
When Jesus is born there’s a declaration of peace. As Jesus is riding to his death, there’s a declaration peace. Everywhere Jesus shows up, there’s peace. Palm Sunday is really about Xmas because the peace declared at Xmas is secured at Easter. Tim Keller says, “Easter proves that Xmas was real.” The hope, peace, joy, and love that we anticipate at advent is riding on that donkey, and he’s going to die. “Joy to the world the Lord has come! Let earth receive her king.”