Today, we enter into the absolute most turbulent week of the Gospel story. It’s turbulent because within this week the entirety of the Gospel is encapsulated. Listen as we read our Scripture today. I have no doubt if you’ve attended church over the years you are familiar with these passages what they point to, what they say, and perhaps what’s been said about them.
You and I have the privilege of living in the post-resurrection world. But I want to encourage you to not simply gloss over what comes before.
You can’t get to the resurrection without Jesus’ death.
You can’t get to his death without the cross.
You can’t get to the cross without his trial.
You can’t get to his trial without his arrest.
You can’t get to his arrest without the betrayal.
You can’t get to the betrayal without the expectation.
You can’t get to the expectation without the need.
Yes, I know, some of that feels cryptic. I hope that you’re ready to listen for God’s Word to you this morning as we come to our Scripture readings.
Old Testament Reading
Old Testament Reading
Our Old Testament reading this morning is from Isaiah 50:4-9
The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward. I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting. But the Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame. He who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who is my adversary? Let him come near to me. Behold, the Lord God helps me; who will declare me guilty? Behold, all of them will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up.
New Testament Reading
New Testament Reading
Our New Testament reading comes from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi. Philippians 2:5-11.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Our Gospel reading today is from the Gospel of John chapter 12, verses 12-16.
The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him.
If you’ll indulge me, let’s pray:
Heavenly Father, Lord Creator God who sent your only Son that we might be saved; Lord, we come to this place on this day to hear from you. Give us clarity of thought, Lord. The story is familiar but it is not fiction. Open our eyes to see, our ears to hear, our hearts to hold, and our minds to understand what is the message for us today. Show us our story in your story. And in it all may you receive all the glory, AMEN.
Today is Palm Sunday - it is the day in the church we recall Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem riding on the colt. We don’t have much to compare what that day might have felt like for the jewish people. Perhaps the closest we might get in our country is when the president you voted for gets elected. In that moment you’re excited, you’re hopeful, you have dreams of what it will mean for the country and for the people, and of course you also think of what it will mean for you. On election night the once candidate, now elect, steps forward to give an acceptances speech. In the crowd the feeling is electric, there is adulation, excitement, relief, joy, and there are tears which the camera operators’ eagerly zoom in on.
No doubt it was the same but to a much greater degree for the Jewish people in Jerusalem that day. It wasn’t a mere campaign season, nor four years they’d been waiting. It had been centuries, even millennia they’d been waiting. The excitement can’t even compare.
This is the picture our Gospel reading depicts.
Their need was real in their minds. The Jewish people had been oppressed for centuries, currently by the Roman government. And they had grown up hearing of a Messiah that was coming. Someone who would set them free! The prophets foretold of his coming.
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.
The people perhaps can’t believe it’s true! By waving palm branches (a Jewish national symbol) the people hail Jesus as the Davidic king and echo the language of Psalm 118:25-26.
Save us, we pray, O Lord! O Lord, we pray, give us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! We bless you from the house of the Lord.
Right away, we see their expectation. They are hoping that Jesus is the promised Messiah. They likely understood the title of King as a political one, and they are assuming that Jesus is going to take the title of King of Israel in both the political and military sense leading them to independence from Roman rule.
As we now know, they were wrong. Jesus had not come to overthrow the government. In fact, Jesus had not come for a political purpose. Yet he had come for a purpose.
Perhaps Jesus put it best:
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
Jesus came that we might truly live an abundant life, and that is not merely our life here in this world. It is an eternal life.
The God we worship is not limited by this world, or even our life spans. The God we worship is eternal and invites us to live an eternal life in relationship, in fellowship, with Himself through the gift of faith in Jesus Christ.
Let’s face it, we like to view ourselves as good people. And you know what, by the world’s standards, you most likely are. Many people in comparing themselves to others miss the fact that they are not the good people God would have them be. You see, God does not compare us to the worst in our world, nor even to the best. God simply compares us to Himself, and said,
"Be holy, for I am holy.” (Leviticus 11:44; 1 Peter 1:16).
Once faced with that, we have to admit that under our own power, we can’t. We know that we fall short. We recognize that sin is alive in us:
For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
Even those who were closest to Jesus could not live up to what they thought were Jesus’ standards. Just take a look at Peter:
He professes Jesus as the Christ, and then just 7 verses later in Matthew is rebuked by Jesus, “Get behind me Satan!”
Peter walks on water, begins to sink, and after being caught by Jesus is told, “You of little faith.” - Wait, hadn’t he been walking on water a moment ago? What about the other disciples where are they? They’re still cowering in the boat.
Peter says, I will never deny you, and as we know he denies Christ 3 times before morning when the rooster crowed.
We’re Not Holy
We’re Not Holy
Here’s the truth:
All of you by being here are in some sense declaring that you see Jesus as someone who is different. He is holly. We’re not.
Jesus is different from any other human that walked this earth, because He is holy, and He is God.
That’s what we’re reminded of in our Philippians passage.
And knowing that He is God; we also have to admit, we’re not. It’s a sad thing for some of us to consider, but we know it’s the truth.
As we follow Jesus through the Passion Narrative, that’s what we call the last week of Jesus’ life on earth depicted in the Gospels. The Gospel writers dedicate major portions of their writings to this.
Matthew chapters 21-28; Mark 11-16; Luke 19-24; and John 12-21.
It goes from His Triumphal entrance into Jerusalem through what we will celebrate next week, His resurrection on Easter Sunday! You can’t get to the resurrection before everything else has happened.
I started speaking of how you get to Easter -
you need - we are sinners in need of a savior.
have an expectation - we expect ourselves as Christians to live good lives because we’re attempting to follow the Lord Jesus.
betrayal - as we read the narratives and all that happened to Jesus, we cannot not see that we too betray Jesus regularly. Though we attempt to follow Jesus, we too turn away.
arrest - When Jesus is arrested by trumped up charges, we cannot forget those charges would be true of us, but not Him. Yet he goes silently.
trial - we read of Jesus trial. It’s a sham. There is no proof of his offenses, but there would be plenty for our own.
cross - as Jesus carries the cross on which he is to die, we have to recognize that is our cross. That is our judgment. That is the condemnation that we would deserve.
death - His death is our death. The death we deserve. And the death we too will one day face.
Often in a legal document there will be several paragraphs that begin with Whereas… all leading up to a Therefore.
Where as…we have all sinned and fall short of God’s glory.
Whereas…even in our expectation of our own goodness we fall short
Whereas…we betray our following Jesus regularly and too often turn away from Him to our own desires.
Whereas…our sins are not worthy of God’s glory nor in accordance with God’s will for our lives.
Whereas…judgment is coming and we are fully deserving of condemnation in our sin
Whereas… the cross Jesus bore should have been our condemnation leading to our own death sentence.
Whereas…that sentence should have led to eternal death and separation from God.
WHEREAS ALL OF THIS IS TRUE...WE CONFESS OUR NEED FOR A SAVIOR.
A friend and I were talking once early in Holy Week. He said, “I cringe every time someone says, ‘Happy Easter’. I haven’t gotten to the cross yet.”
That idea has stuck with me.
As we go through this Holy Week, knowing the story as we do, don’t rush to the end. Don’t let your focus be upon the resurrection, yet. Live in the question. The people of Jerusalem had no clue what lie ahead that week. The disciples had actually been told that Jesus would die, and still they didn’t understand.
I would challenge you don’t rush past the cross, or even to the cross, yet.
It was a tumultuous week in the life of Jesus, the lives of the disciples, and it would change the world.
Spend some time living in the “Whereas...”
We have to know the “Whereas...” before we get to the “Therefore...”
If as I have shared today about the Whereas, and Therefore. If you are unfamiliar with this story. If you do not feel like you know Jesus as your savior and you want to know more, I’m going to invite you to come talk with someone after the service. I also want to invite you to come back next week as I will be spending my time sharing with you about the “Therefore!”
For the rest of us, let’s live in the “Whereas...” this week. To paraphrase a famous sermon, “‘Whereas…’ is here; but ‘Therefore…’ is coming!”