“This is the day that the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it!”
As we begin today, I want you to look around and behind me for a moment at the beauty of springtime as it announces itself among the azaleas that Miss Lynn planted behind our house many years ago.
It always amazes me how much beauty remains in this broken world. And it makes me even more hopeful and excited for what the world will be like when Jesus makes all things new.
Obviously, I am not preaching today’s sermon from our church building. Instead, I chose this location, because I really needed something that would make a good impression on you all as I start this message.
Annette has been telling me that it’s especially hard to look at me now, since I can’t go to the barbershop to have this beard wildness taken care of.
So the setting today from our back deck is intended to help distract from the fact that my beard desperately needs a trim.
Now, if one of our neighbors who isn’t watching us live on Facebook comes out to cut the grass or something, that might prove to be too much of a distraction, and in that case we may have to make some quick adjustments. But for now we’ll pray for peace and march onward.
As most of you know, today is Palm Sunday, the day on which we commemorate what is known as the “Triumphal Entry” of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem just five days before he was hung from a cross as the atoning sacrifice for the sins of mankind.
We will read one account of that familiar event in chapter 21 of the Gospel of Matthew today, and if you have your Bibles you can go ahead and turn there now.
As you do so, I want to suggest to you that what’s happening in this passage, though certainly significant for those who were there at the time, has far greater significance in light of what the Bible tells us His second coming to Jerusalem will look like.
First, let me give you some context about what is going on in this passage.
At this point in His ministry on earth, Jesus was a marked man. When He raised His friend, Lazarus, from the dead, it was the final straw for the Jewish religious leaders, who considered the gospel message He taught to be a threat to their comfortable world order.
They believed they controlled access to God — that was the lesson they tried to teach the blind man when they threw him out of the temple after Jesus had healed his blindness.
They believed that they had earned the right to stand before God because of their Jewish heritage and because of their meticulous keeping of the Mosaic Law.
But Jesus came with a message of grace and mercy. Jesus came saying that no man could come unto His Father but by Him. In other words, entry into the Kingdom of God is through Jesus.
Jesus came reminding the religious leaders what the Old Testament had already told them about righteousness — “There is none righteous, no not one.” Jesus came saying that people could have eternal life only by faith in Him.
Jesus came with evidence that He was the promised Messiah, the Son of God, the savior whom God had promised throughout Scripture, the Son of David who would rule as King.
But it would shake things up for the settled Jewish religious establishment if Jesus were to continue to assert these things. He would upset the delicate balance of power they had achieved with the Roman officials who occupied their land and subjugated their people.
And as He continued to work miracles, Jesus made it harder and harder for those religious leaders to discredit Him among the people who had followed Him by the thousands.
So they plotted to murder Him. And even though He knew that plot would come to fruition in just five days, Jesus was headed to Jerusalem on the day that we know as Palm Sunday.
He was going there to celebrate Passover, but He was also going to offer Himself as a sacrifice, as the spotless and sinless Lamb of God, the only one who could ever pay the debt that mankind had accrued with God because of its ongoing rebellion against His holiness.
We were created in the image of God; in other words, we were created to be like Him and to display His characteristics of righteousness, holiness, justice, grace, mercy and compassion.
And yet we chose to glorify our own image, to set ourselves in the place of God by choosing for ourselves what is right and what is wrong.
And so, God decreed that the rebellion that began in the Garden of Eden and continues through each of us even today would be stopped in the same way that all rebellions against kings are stopped — with death.
There was nothing any of us could do to save ourselves because the very sinful nature that was imparted to each of us through Adam created a gulf between us and God that we could not cross.
But the cross of Calvary is a bridge. The cross of Calvary, where Jesus bled and died, provides the access we never could have gained otherwise.
At Calvary, our triune God offered Himself in the person of His eternal Son, Jesus Christ. He paid the debt that we could never repay.
In His death, Jesus gained victory over sin. And in His resurrection on the third day — that wondrous event that we will celebrate next Sunday — He gained victory over death itself.
And all who put their faith in Him — that only His sacrifice can save them from the penalty for their sins — can have eternal life.
This is the gospel message — the good news — that Jesus had been teaching for three years. But at this point, most of those who heard Him did not understand.
At this point, five days before His crucifixion and seven days before His resurrection, most of those following Jesus thought He was simply a great prophet or, as we shall see today, a king.
In fact, they were right on both counts, but even His closest disciples still didn’t see the whole picture.
We’ll pick up this passage in verse 1 of chapter 21.
Now the account of this event in the life of Jesus is familiar to many of you. You will surely recognize that the palm branches laid along the road are where we get the term “Palm Sunday.”
You might recognize that when the people said, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord,” they were quoting one of the Psalms.
In fact, it comes from the same Psalm that I quoted as we began worship, .
This is the day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it. O Lord, do save, we beseech You; O Lord, we beseech You, do send prosperity! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord; We have blessed you from the house of the Lord.
This is the day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Actually the words “do save, we beseech you,” are the English translation of the original meaning of Hosanna. By the time of Jesus, that Hebrew word had become simply a word of praise, but I find it interesting that as the Son of God rode into Jerusalem on the foal of a donkey, the people were unknowingly crying out to Him for salvation.
O Lord, do save, we beseech You; O Lord, we beseech You, do send prosperity!
So what was the significance of the donkey?
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord; We have blessed you from the house of the Lord.
In the ancient near East, donkeys did not have the same reputation that they have in our culture. They were more reliable than horses or camels, they were more loyal, and they sensed danger more quickly.
In fact, it was customary among the people of Israel for new kings to ride into Jerusalem on a donkey, so when the people saw Jesus riding into town on a donkey and they called Him the Son of David, they demonstrated that they understood the Old Testament’s promise of a coming king far better than their religious leaders did.
But there’s something else that’s interesting about this donkey. In their gospel accounts of the Triumphal Entry, both Mark and Luke wrote that Jesus told the disciples to find a colt upon which no one has ever sat.
This colt was holy in the sense that it had been set apart for special use by the Son of God, and there was a tradition of the rabbis that no person should ever use the animal upon which a king had ridden.
Now all of this is interesting, and Jesus’ disciples were amazed when they looked back on the event and saw how Jesus had fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies in His ride into Jerusalem.
But today, I want to show you how this ride points to one that has not yet happened.
Keep your finger in , and turn with me to the Book of Revelation, chapter 19.
Now, the prophecy through the Apostle John about the end times can be tough sledding for us. There’s lots of imagery involved, and there are many places where the scenes shift and where even the timeline shifts.
This chapter follows the destruction of Babylon, which represents an actual city and a system of rebellion against God.
And what we see in this chapter is that we are nearly at the end of the end times on earth.
Let’s pick up in verse 1.
What I want you to see here is what is known as the four-fold Hallelujah.
In our passage from Matthew, we saw some of the people praising Jesus as He rode into Jerusalem. Others, like the chief priests and the scribes, were indignant that people would give such praise and honor to Jesus.
We still see that today. I have a dear atheist friend who said this week that he can’t wait to hear all the religious people praising God for a cure for the coronavirus when it’s found. He believes we should praise science for the cure when it comes.
What I believe is this: The God who spoke the universe into existence is the God of science, too. The God who holds all things in His hand is the one who will direct the paths of whatever scientists help to end this terrible pandemic.
I will praise Him now, because He is worthy of all praise.
And that’s what we see here in the Book of Revelation, where all of Heaven is praising the Lord.
One day, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. But that’s not where we were on that first Palm Sunday, and it’s not where we are today.
Some of us praise Jesus today.
Today, we still have the opportunity to tell the world about this Savior, Jesus Christ. But it will not always be so. There will come a day of judgment.
Skip down to verse 11 in this 19th chapter of Revelation.
What I want you to notice first here is that Jesus, the Word, is depicted coming upon a white horse.
Throughout Scripture, and especially the Old Testament, the donkey is associated with peaceful situations. When Jesus rode the donkey into Jerusalem, He came offering peace with mankind by its salvation through Him.
But horses in Scripture, especially the Old Testament, are normally associated with war. And when Jesus is seen here in the Book of Revelation on the back of a white horse, the point is clear:
He will come to wage a righteous war against those who persist in their rebellion against God, against those who put their trust in themselves instead of Him, against those who worship themselves or science or political leaders or any of the other things this world has elevated above the righteous and holy God.
When He comes, Jesus will not be wearing the crown of thorns he was given before He went to the cross. Then, He will be wearing many diadems, many crowns, signifying that He is King over everything and everyone.
When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday, he was offering salvation. When He returns on His white horse, He will bring judgment on the earth.
And as the one who is called Faithful and True, His judgment will also be faithful and true — faithful to His holiness and justice and true to the promises He has made.
Just as He was followed into Jerusalem by throngs of people, Jesus will be followed into this battle by the armies of heaven.
We know this refers to the people who have followed Him in faith, because John writes that they are clothed in fine linen, white and clean, the same fine linen that His bride, the church, is given earlier in this chapter.
But we who follow Him will have no part in this battle, because it will be the very word of Jesus — the sword that comes from His mouth — that strikes down the nations.
One commentator wrote the following about the Word of God: “The Bible attests to the healing, creative power of God’s voice on numerous occasions. God spoke, and everything was created. Jesus spoke, and people not even in His presence were healed. People were amazed that He only had to speak and even the winds and the waves obeyed. But at this moment, the sword coming out of His mouth will bring judgment on those who have chosen to ignore the truth of who He is and loved their sin instead.” (Easter Unwrapped: 11 Insights into the Deeper Meaning of the Season. N.p.: Word Alive Press, 2019, Google Books, accessed April 5, 2020.)
Perhaps this sounds like a harsh judgment to you. It is. But is is a just judgment. We were created to bring honor and glory to God, but instead we have tried to bring honor and glory to ourselves.
We were created to worship Him as Lord, but instead we worship everything else.
We were created to love Him, but instead we made ourselves His enemies. We murdered His very Son. And, yes, each one of us had a hand in that terrible act of rebellion.
Each one of use who has sinned — and that’s every person who has committed some evil act or had some evil thought or simply acted as if God did not exist — every one of us has fallen short of the standard that God set for us when He made us in His image to demonstrate His character in the world.
And yet, Jesus rode that donkey into Jerusalem.
He had been telling His disciples all along that He would suffer and die for them, so He certainly knew that many of those who cried out “Hosannah!” on Sunday would on Friday be shouting “Crucify Him!”
And yet, Jesus rode that donkey into Jerusalem.
He knew as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane on Thursday night that a mob was on its way to arrest Him on trumped-up charges, yet He stayed there, and waited, and prayed.
And then, on Friday, as He hung naked and bleeding to death on the cross and watched soldiers gamble for his garments, as He listened to the crowd mock Him, He called out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
What an amazing love this was!
From the cross, Jesus offers to redeem you from your sins. From the empty tomb, He offers salvation and eternal life.
But from the back of His white horse, He will bring only judgment.
The same Jesus who offered peace and salvation from the back of a donkey is the one who will bring judgment and death from the back of a white horse.
He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Each of us will call Him that one day. But if you wait until you are standing before His throne of judgment in heaven to do so, it will be too late for you.
Jesus offers you eternal peace or eternal judgment.
The choice is yours. You can have peace. Simply admit that you are a sinner, believe that His death and resurrection are your only hope for salvation, confess your sins to Him and turn from them.
Today, you can call out Hosanna!, save me, I pray!
Will you make that choice today?