Making Peace at Easter
Jesus is about to ride into Jerusalem to face certain death. He knows this. It’s been his plan all along. It’s been his mission from the start.
But he’s not dead yet - and there are some things he needs to set straight before he dies.
As we look at our text today, I want you to ask yourself that -
what do you need to set straight before you die?
Now, for many of you, death is way in the future, but a year ago on Thursday, my dad thought the same thing....and he didn’t get to see the end of that day. I know I’ve mentioned my dad a few times over the year - I’ve tried not to - but what happened to him is a wake-up call to everyone on how death could be just around the corner for some of us.
And if you’re waiting until you’re almost dead before you ‘set things straight’ with God - like the thief on the cross - then what happens if you don’t even see your death coming? Where will you be?
If you don’t see the end of today, are you SURE you’ll be in heaven and not hell?
Jesus did see his death coming - and he set things straight before he died.
So Jesus heads to Jerusalem, and we have this triumphal entry into the city.
But Jerusalem is not as welcoming as it looks… Jerusalem is a hostile place. The religious leaders are out to get Jesus - they’re looking for a way to trap him and get rid of this heretic who claims the same authority as God. They think Jesus is a blasphemer and they want him dead.
And then you’ve got the Romans who have occupied the land and brought with them a tremendous sense of fear - and we’ll look at that in a minute.
And the crowd welcome Jesus and hail him as a king, crying out to him, ‘Hosanna’, which means ‘save us’. But this crowd soon turn on Jesus when they realise that he isn’t going to save them…at least, not in the way they think.
So with all this going on...Jesus rides in on a donkey.
And Zechariah 9:9 prophesied this many years before, that the king will come to them - humble and on a donkey.
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
Now, what is the significance of this?
The significance is this…Jesus was brining peace. If Jesus rode in on a horse, he was waging war. A house was the mount of war. But a donkey was the mount of peace.
And that’s what the people wanted. Cos they were sick of the peace that Rome brought.
Cos the Romans brought peace. It was called the Pax Romana - which is Latin for ‘the peace of Rome’.
Pax Romana - Peace of Rome
But the pax Romana wasn’t real peace - it was peace through fear and oppression. It went something like this...
If you get out of line and disturb the peace - I’ll kill you.
So anyone who got out of line and disturbed the ‘peace’ was taken away and killed - crucifixion was the popular method.
Now, what happens when everyone who disturbs the peace has been crucified? There’s no more disruption of peace - everyone is happy.
Everyone is SCARED - scared to put 1 foot out of line. That’s not peace, but that’s what Rome brought.
And the zealots - who were Jews out for rebellion - they were trying to bring peace by going to war. They took up arms against the Romans in an effort to drive them out, but they were unsuccessful.
And so the crowd were crying out, ‘Hosanna’ - save us…save us from Rome. Son of David, establish David’s kingdom. Bring his reign back to us.
And they would have expected a horse…but what they saw was a donkey. They would have expected war…they wanted this king to come and take up arms and finally bring peace.
And here’s the thing, Jesus brought peace…but not in the way ANYONE had thought. Jesus brought peace through humility - humble and riding on a donkey.
So what’s the first thing that Jesus does when he enters Jerusalem?
He enters the temple and turns the place over…not a very peaceful thing to do.
And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons.
Or is it…?
Cos the temple system had become corrupt and it abused the poor…and the poor had no peace, cos they had no access to worship and had no access to God.
Cos we’ve to to remember, it’s not like it is now - back then, God was only accessible through the temple system, and if the religious power-hungry, greedy leaders blocked access to worship, people didn’t have access to God.
And that’s what was happening back then.
So picture the scene...
A poor family are in the courtyard with their best lamb for sacrifice. They are queueing up to bring it to the priest, but they get to this table where people are inspecting the animals. Now, don’t forget, the whole system is corrupt...
So the man behind the table says, ‘uh…you can’t bring THAT for sacrifice. Look at it.’
‘But it’s our best lamb. All our others aren’t as good as this one.’
‘But it’s blemished - you need to buy one of OUR lambs.’
‘But we can’t afford one of your lambs.’
‘Well then…get out.’
To make matters worse, there was a temple tax of half a shekel that had to be paid, but with mint coins - you know when you get a £1 coin that’s fresh from the mint and it’s shiny and new - that’s what the temple tax had to be paid with. A tarnished old looking coin wouldn’t be accepted.
‘But it’s ok - you can change your money here…but we’ll charge you a hefty commission for it - You think Thomas Cook is bad - you ain’t seen nothing yet!’
Now, think of how the poor felt - they can’t get access to God, they can’t make atonement for their sins cos they can’t afford the lambs that are being sold, they can’t afford the commission to change the money for the temple tax.
So where to do they stand with God? How will they get right with him?
DO YOU THINK THEY HAVE PEACE?
Now, with all that in mind, what does Jesus do? He removes all the obstacles for the poor people so that they can get to worship God. He removes ALL obstacles that hindered those who WANTED to get to God from actually getting to God.
And for the first time, the poor had access to God. For the first time, the poor could breathe a sigh of relief.
But that was just a foretaste of what he would do on the cross…cos our sin is an obstacle that hinders us from getting to God. And Jesus removed that obstacle when he died on the cross to take the punishment for sin.
Jesus brought peace...
Jesus was a peacemaker.
We’ve been looking at this in the midweek - Jesus wasn’t a peacekeeper, he was a peacemaker.
A peacekeeper is someone who keeps the peace - in other words, there already IS peace, they just keep it that way.
A peacemaker is someone who brings peace where there IS no peace. And there was no peace in Jerusalem at the time…cos the Roman way of peace wasn’t peace at all. And the zealots way of peace wasn’t peace at all.
And what Jesus did is to show the world that peace comes through humility - by bringing yourself down a peg or two and submitting to someone else’s will. And that’s what Jesus did - he humbled himself, rode in on a donkey, and submitted to the will of the Father...
Remember those words in the Garden… ‘Father…remove this cup from me. Nevertheless not what I will, but what YOU will.’
The crowd were expecting Jesus to start a war…and he did. But it was a war on sin…it was a war on Satan.
But in doing so, Jesus removed the obstacles that get in OUR way of getting access to God. And the cleansing of the temple was a visual prophecy of what Jesus was going to do on the cross.
Jesus removed the obstacles that get in OUR way of getting access to God
THAT’S what he was setting straight before he died…and WHEN he died.
So the crowd had these expectations of Jesus, but they were warped expectations. The crowd had expectations of how peace would come to the land, but they were warped expectations.
The crowd LOVED Jesus when he rode in, because they thought he would pander to THEIR expectations, but when he didn’t do that they turned against him.
The crowd were proud... but peace comes through humility. Peace comes through saying sorry. Peace comes through forgiveness.
Peace comes from bringing yourself down a peg or two and letting Jesus take over your life.
But the question I have for ALL of us, especially those who are unsettled - ESPECIALLY those who have little or no peace in their lives…my question is this...
What obstacles are in YOUR way of peace. What obstacles are in YOUR way of getting access to God?
What do you need to set straight in your life before you die?
Now only YOU know the answer to that - and now you’re faced with a choice.
Cos you can ignore everything I’m saying here and think to yourself, ‘I’ll sort that out just before I die’ Or, ‘I don’t even care about that.’
You can bring these obstacles before the Lord and ask him for forgiveness if necessary, or ask him for his help to overcome these obstacles...
But that takes humility. That takes you to come down a peg or two and get on your knees and recognise that you’re not the person you thought you were.
But here’s the thing…with that comes peace - peace like no other.
So my question is this…what is disturbing your peace? What’s causing you to be agitated, to lose sleep?
It’ll obviously be a different thing for each person. For some it might be a certain sin.
I know of people who have been having an affair and the thing has been eating them up inside - they guilt, the lying, the fact that they’ve broken their promise to someone they loved, or still do love. And the thought of confessing was also tearing them up inside. And they had NO peace.
And it was only when they confessed it and asked Jesus to remove that obstacle - to free them from the affair and the lust. It was only THEN that they felt peace and a relief.
King David himself felt that…Look at his psalm in psalm 32...
Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin.
I don’t want to be crude here, but it’s like when you’re sick and need to throw up. Before you are sick you feel awful and it’s only when you physically ‘get it all out’ that you feel that relief. That’s what it’s like confessing something like this.
For some they are trusting in Jesus, but, like Peter when he walked on the water, they’ve taken their eyes off Jesus somewhat…and the worries of the world are starting to creep in - maybe financial difficulties, maybe the threat of redundancy - and it’s causing sleepless nights and a disruption of your peace. Don’t forget that as a child of Jesus, he loves you and he DOES want the best for you…So leave all of your worries at his feet and trust in the one who brings peace - trust in the peacemaker. Remember the verse from 1 Peter 5:7…
casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
For others it actually IS the thought of what happens after death. Most people don’t think about death or the fact that it can come at any time, but there are those who DO think about that, or who are facing death. And some people are NOT at peace with that, or they’re not at peace because they KNOW they haven’t committed their lives to Jesus. Peace will only come when you trust in Jesus Christ. THAT’S what Easter is about.
Do you think we celebrate Easter because it’s a fun time of the year?
Do we celebrate Easter because of the chocolate?
We celebrate Easter because of what Jesus did to bring us peace. Before Easter sin was a major problem and an obstacle to peace. It was an obstacle to us getting to God - like the temple system. But after Easter that ALL changed. We have access to the Father through the death of the Son, and we have access to peace - and it’s right there for us - perfect peace…right at our fingertips…but it takes humility. It takes us to say ‘NO’ to ourselves and ‘YES’ to Jesus.
And for many people, that’s a hard thing to do…why??? Cos we’re proud.
We need to realise that peace comes through humility.
So how will you celebrate Easter?
Jesus died to remove the obstacles that hinder us from getting to God - Don’t put your own obstacles in their place!
This Easter, why don’t you look at your life and see where there is no peace, and humble yourself to let Jesus come in and remove those obstacles to peace - confess whatever you need to confess…let go of whatever it is you need to let go…change whatever you need to change…love whomever you need to love…forgive whomever you need to forgive.
Now, it occurred to me that there may be people who are here and are listening to this and, if they’re honest with themselves, they are struggling with their faith - they may have doubts or they may not even know where to start in this ‘peace process’. Like, even the thought of submitting to Jesus fills them with dread, or confusion - I mean, how do I do this? What does this LOOK like?
If there IS someone here who is feeling that - reach out to me or Paul or one of the elders…THAT’S why we do pastoral visits - at least, it’s supposed to be reason behind why we visit. Reach out to us. Call us, text us - use the contact form on the website. Let us walk you through this peace process.
But that requires you to humble yourself and ADMIT that you’re struggling…and THAT’S OK - there’s NOTHING wrong with humbling yourself. There’s NOTHING wrong with saying, ‘I’m struggling’ - Jesus - our KING - humbled himself, so it’s OK to admit that you’re struggling...but by doing that you’re already on you journey of discovering real lasting peace. Follow it through - reach out and let Paul or myself or one of the elders pastor you.
So let’s set these things straight before you die…and do it now - today…do not waste time on this. Your life depends on it - your quality of life on this earth depends on it.
Jesus made this possible for us…don’t leave him hanging.