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Luke 19:37-44 - Potent Worship

Palm Sunday 2021 A.D.  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  35:52
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The potency of our worship comes from the proclamation of the reign of Christ

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Introduction

Today is Palm Sunday, the day when we remember Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem the week of His crucifixion. We tend to think about this day as a celebration—the little children singing loud hosannas, the palm branches waving—and it’s true that it certainly was. But when we understand the political, cultural and religious climate of Jerusalem at that time, we will see that this celebration of Jesus’ entry into the city wasn’t just a celebration, it was the equivalent of lighting a match in a room full of gas fumes—their worship of Jesus as He entered the city that day was a potent act of disruption.
Historians of the day tell us that the tensions between the Jewish people and their Roman government were rapidly reaching a breaking point, particularly over the sky-high taxation rates that Rome was exacting from the people. In the years after Jesus’ resurrection, tax riots became all-too common, with Jewish protesters at one point burning down the office building where the tax records were kept in a desperate attempt to prevent the levy from taking place. On top of that, there were several anti-Roman guerilla groups operating out of the Judean countryside surrounding Jerusalem, making attacks on Roman garrisons that would bring swift and brutal retaliation from the Empire (such as the incident in Luke 13 where Pontius Pilate ordered a strike on Galilean Jews who were in the midst of offering sacrifices at the Temple).
Pilate had no patience for the Jewish subjects he ruled over—Judea was considered a backwater province with no chance of promotion to higher office within the Roman Empire, and the rising civil unrest in the region was not endearing him to Caesar either! As the highest Roman authority in Judea, Pilate had custody of the priestly vestments, and had granted the High Priesthood to Caiaphas (a wealthy member of the Sadducee sect, who presided over the Sanhedrin trial of Jesus). Pilate had given the Sadducees control of the Temple complex in Jerusalem, and they had steadily liberalized and “modernized” its rites (much to the consternation and protests of the more conservative Pharisee sect.) And beyond that were the Essenes outside of Jerusalem who would preach fiery sermons against both Pharisee and Sadducee, calling down the wrath of YHWH on all who had profaned His holiness by their compromised worship.
All this to say that the Jerusalem that Jesus rode into that afternoon was a powder keg waiting to be set off—tensions over taxation, political wrangling for power, wealthy elites openly redefining religious practices and beliefs, government officials ordering bloody reprisals against demonstrations. It was into this context that we see Jesus’ followers breaking out in worship: “Blessed is the King who comes in the Name of YHWH!”
On this Palm Sunday, we are reading this account at a time when there is a great deal of upheaval and uncertainty. A time when we are beginning to see attempts to silence anyone who does not fall into line with the social and cultural elites of our day, a time when the government itself is prohibiting religious expression—even up to the point of imprisoning pastors like James Coates in Alberta, Canada, who refuses to resign his pastorate in exchange for a release from prison.
The great temptation at times like this is to keep our heads down, to “go along to get along”, to stay below the radar. Surely it would be better to just quietly follow along behind Jesus as He rides into the powder keg of Jerusalem, quietly making eye contact with one another with a few silent fist pumps and happy nods to one another? Surely we don’t want to draw the attention of the Romans or the Sadducees or the Zealots; we don’t want to borrow trouble. Let’s just worship Jesus way down deep in our hearts—after all, that won’t get us into trouble with anyone!
But what did they do, as Jesus entered the city? “The whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen...” They were not quiet about their praise, they didn’t try to hide their worship, they weren’t trying to “stay under the radar”—they were public, they were loud and they were insistent on declaring their praise of Jesus Christ!
Like the multitude of disciples described in this account today,
The POTENCY of our WORSHIP comes from our proclamation of the REIGN of Christ
—the kind of worship that makes the authorities nervous, the kind of worship that “destroys arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:5), the kind of worship that batters the gates of Hell itself, the kind of worship that turns the world upside down. This is not the hour for watered-down, half-hearted worship that focuses on entertainment and making people feel good about themselves. This is no time to try to court friendship with the world in order to avoid conflict. This is not the time to be timid or halfhearted—this is the time to “rejoice and praise God with a loud voice” in the powder keg of 2021 America.
And so what does potent worship look like? What did these disciples say that so unnerved the Pharisees that they wanted Jesus to silence them? What must our worship look like if we want to turn this world upside down for Jesus Christ?
The first and foundational aspect of potent worship is that it is

I. Worship that PROCLAIMS CHRIST’S REIGN (Luke 19:37-38)

Look with me again at verses 37-38:
Luke 19:37–38 ESV
37 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, 38 saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
We learn from the other Gospel accounts that one of the mightiest works that the people had seen was Jesus’ raising of Lazarus from the dead in Bethany just a short time earlier. We read in John’s Gospel that a large crowd had gathered to see Lazarus after he was raised, and “on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus” (John 12:11).
And so the next day as Jesus rode into the city, a great deal of the praise of the crowds was surely for
His authority over DEATH (cp. John 12:9-14)
Potent worship is worship that does not shy away from the fact that Jesus Christ has all authority over death! That He indeed was raised from the dead, the firstfruits of the resurrection, that death no longer has power over Him, and all who believe in Him for eternal life will never see death (John 8:51). When God’s people loudly praise Him for the death of death itself in the death of Christ, their worship is potent in this world.
Not only so, but we see here in our passage that the people praised Jesus for
His authority over all RULERS (cp. Psalm 118:26)
As the people accompanied Jesus into Jerusalem, they sang a Psalm that foretold of the arrival of the Messiah:
Psalm 118:25–27 ESV
25 Save us, we pray, O Lord! O Lord, we pray, give us success! 26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! We bless you from the house of the Lord. 27 The Lord is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us. Bind the festal sacrifice with cords, up to the horns of the altar!
The long-awaited promised one who would save His people and fulfill all of the promises made to Israel, the One Who would be the “festal sacrifice” who was indeed coming to the place of sacrifice, to be offered up for the sins of His people—though they might not have known all the depths of what they were singing, it was enough for them to claim Him as their King (which was also why He was riding into Jerusalem on a donkey’s foal, a fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9 (which we read earlier)
Zechariah 9:9 ESV
9 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 rest of that passage speaks clearly about the overthrow of the oppressors of God’s people—and remember that this Palm Sunday celebration took place at the beginning of Passover, which was a celebration of YHWH’s overthrow of the tyrannical Pharoah as He delivered His people—that connection was not lost on the Romans (or on the Pharisees, as we will see!)
Potent worship is worship that proclaims clearly and boldly that Jesus Christ is the King over all of the authorities on earth, and that governments and kingdoms and parliaments and congresses are under His rule! That all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him (Matt. 28:18), that He has been given the nations as His heritage and the ends of the earth His possession, and He will break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel, and that the kings of the earth need to wise up and swear fealty to Him, or else they will suddenly perish in His quick-kindled wrath! (Psalm 2:8-12)
Potent worship proclaims Christ’s reign in His authority over death, His authority over the rulers of this world, and
His authority to MAKE PEACE with GOD for us (cp. Luke 2:14)
As the crowd of Jesus’ disciples praised Him with a quotation from a Messianic psalm, they also sang (at the end of verse 38), “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Thirty three years earlier in the sheep fields outside Bethlehem the angels announced Jesus birth by saying
Luke 2:14 ESV
14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
The angels at the beginning of Jesus’ life praised God for the peace Christ brought to earth, and here at the last week of His life the people are praising Him for bringing peace in heaven! Potent worship is worship that praises Christ for the peace He purchased for us with God by His blood!
Romans 5:1 ESV
1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Colossians 2:13–15 ESV
13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
Potent worship does not minimize the Cross of Christ because it is offensive to the world; potent worship boasts in the Cross of Christ!
Galatians 6:14 ESV
14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
The worship and praise of the crowds that accompanied Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday was potent worship because it proclaimed His authority over death, His authority over the kings of this world, and His authority to make peace between us and God.
The potency of our worship comes from our proclamation of the reign of Christ. Potent worship is worship that proclaims His reign, and we see in verses 39-40 that it is

II. Worship that FRIGHTENS TRAITORS (Luke 19:39-40)

Look at how the Pharisees responded to Jesus in verse 39:
Luke 19:39 ESV
39 And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.”
The Pharisees knew exactly what Jesus’ worshippers were saying as He came down the mountain into the city—that He was the Messiah, He was the One who had authority over them (and over Rome!), and they were being called to recognize His authority. But the Pharisees and Sadducees and Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin did not want the Messiah to appear—they already had a cozy power-sharing arrangement with Rome, and this disruptive, potent worship of the people was threatening their power. Potent worship frightens traitors because
It signals their DOWNFALL (cp. John 11:47-48)
The fact is that the religious leaders of Israel—the Sanhedrin, the Pharisees and Sadducees and chief priests of the nation—had been given their authority from God in order to lead His people, to protect them, to guide them into faithfulness to the covenant He had made with them through Abraham, Moses and David. But instead of using that authority to lead and guide and govern His people according to His will, they had turned their backs on Him altogether. When Pilate confronted them with the possibility of crucifying Christ their King, they responded, “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15).
Instead of leading God’s people into covenant faithfulness to Him and receiving Christ as Messiah, they saw the worship of the people on Palm Sunday as threatening their position of power and influence they had stolen for themselves. And they knew that if they let that potent worship of the reign of Christ continue, it would destroy their power:
John 11:47–48 ESV
47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”
Potent worship terrifies traitors because it signals their downfall—and so they want it to be suppressed, silenced, cancelled, erased and shouted down: “Teacher, rebuke your disciples! Shut them up, they can’t say these things about You, that’s hate speech!” They hated and feared the potent worship of the people, but Jesus tells them in the next verse that
It cannot be SILENCED (Luke 19:40)
Luke 19:40 ESV
40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”
No matter how much the terrified tyrants hate potent worship, no matter how much they try to squelch it, silence it, cancel it, outlaw it, potent worship of the proclamation of the reign of Christ cannot be stopped. The praise of God through Jesus Christ will always come out—the Sun has risen, the Resurrection of Christ has broken open the tomb, the Gospel will be proclaimed throughout the whole world (Matthew 24:14), the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14). Jesus tells those poor terrified traitors that there is no way they can stifle this potent worship—the very stones beneath their feet would break out in worship if the voices around them fell silent! And if that were true there on that Palm Sunday before Christ’s resurrection, then how much more is it true today!
Christian, the potency of your worship comes from your proclamation of the reign of Christ—it is worship that proclaims Christ’s reign, worship that frightens traitors, and it is

III. Worship that COMPELS a RESPONSE (Luke 19:41-44)

Look at what Jesus goes on to say after His encounter with the treacherous Pharisees:
Luke 19:41–44 ESV
41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
Though these verses do not describe the worship of the people accompanying Jesus into Jerusalem, there is much for us to learn from Jesus’ words and actions here that must inform the kind of worship that we offer. The first thing that we see from Jesus here as He looks over the city that He loved so much is
A TEARFUL warning of JUDGMENT (Luke 19:41)
Over and over throughout the centuries God brought His Word to Jerusalem through the prophets; and over and over again the city murdered the prophets He sent:
Matthew 23:37 ESV
37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!
Jesus wept over the grave of Lazarus the day before, and now He stands weeping over the Graveyard of the Prophets. He weeps because it is too late for them to repent—they refused to recognize the peace with God that He came to offer, they demanded that those who were worshipping Him for the peace He brought in Heaven be silenced, they would go on to reject Him utterly and choose Caesar as their king instead. And it broke His heart.
Christian, may our worship of the mighty deeds of Christ be mingled with tears for those who will not see, that we will plead with them to believe! Matthew Henry observes of this passage that as Jesus stood there overlooking the city where He was to be brutally tortured to death just days later, had no tears to spare for Himself, but wept over what was about to happen to that generation!
Because just forty years later, as the city was being besieged by the Roman General Titus, Josephus records that massive hundred-pound stones were hurled down on the city from catapults that had been deployed in the same spot where Jesus had stood weeping over the city. Everything Jesus said in these verses came true—surrounded by Roman troops, Jerusalem was torn down to the ground, with not one stone left upon another. Josephus goes on to record that a traveller who passed through the city after its destruction in A.D. 70 would not even have known it had ever been inhabited, the destruction was so complete.
And so Jesus weeps that they “did not know the time of their visitation” (v. 44). They refused to recognize that they were being offered salvation, they rejected their last chance to repent and believe. And so we see from this that our worship—if it is to be the kind of potent worship that flows from the reign of Christ in this world must be worship that offers
A TIMELY response for REPENTANCE (2 Corinthians 6:2)
Potent worship is worship that compels a response to Jesus. He says in verse 42, “If only you had recognized the thing that would have brought you peace with God—if only you had not refused to recognize Me!” Worship that is potent in this world is worship that compels people to respond to Jesus—worship that holds Him up as the only source of salvation, worship that exalts Him alone as “The way, the truth, the life, that no one can come to God except through Him!
It is worship that echoes the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:2:
2 Corinthians 6:2 ESV
2 For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
By the time Jesus wept over Jerusalem in Luke 19, it was too late for them to repent—our worship must call people to repentance while there is still time!
Christian, the very last thing that our nation needs right now is lame, emasculated, impotent worship of moralistic, therapeutic deism—the so-called “worship” that says God wants you to feel good about yourself and help you be a better person. The worship that flows from that idea of who God is has all the potency of a cotton ball soaked in flat Mountain Dew.
What is needed this hour—what is required of you here in this sanctuary, Christian—is worship that draws its power and its light from the fact that Jesus Christ now reigns in resurrection power and authority throughout in heaven, on earth, and under the earth! We are being called to proclaim to men like Congressman Jerry Adler, who arrogantly chided Representative Greg Stube’s reading of Deuteronomy 22:5 by declaring, “God’s will is no concern of this Congress”. Representative Nadler, I stand before you as a representative of the People of God assembled here at Bethel Baptist Church to say to you, the will of God is absolutely your greatest concern, and you scoff and ignore His will at your eternal peril.
As a minister of the Gospel I declare to you the word of the Lord God, maker of Heaven and Earth and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: You are hereby summoned to repent of your arrogance, and you must publicly retract your treasonous statement against the King of Kings, Jesus Christ, who has given you the authority that you are now using to slander Him. He has given it, and He will take it away. Swear fealty to your Sovereign, lest His anger flare against you and you are suddenly broken to pieces by His wrath! And this warning does not stop with you, but is extended to all of our representatives, senators, Executive branch and Judiciary—Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way!
And do not suppose that you can silence this word—this word of the authority of Jesus Christ has gone out over all the earth, it was established in power when He was raised from the dead, never to die again. Death has no power over Him, nor has it any power over those who have repented of their sins and come to Him in faith. You may try to “cancel” this worship, you may try to slander it and silence it and sanction it with scorn and fines and imprisonment, but this worship cannot and will not be stopped. The rulers of this world thought that they could stop this kind of potent worship at Grace Life Church in Alberta, Canada by imprisoning their pastor, James Coates—they were wrong! The very stones that make up the cells of the servants of God imprisoned for their faith will cry out at the Last Day in worship of the reigning King, Jesus Christ—you cannot stop this praise.
And as one who has been tasked to speak as it were the oracles of God this morning, I am authorized to speak one more word to you who are standing in high rebellion against your King—not just politicians, but everyone who stands apart from Jesus Christ. You who refuse to acknowledge Him, who say that His laws do not apply to you, who say that His will is of no concern to you. The final word for you this morning from Jesus Christ is this: Know the time of your visitation! Recognize the things which make for peace between you and your King. Because the Cross of Jesus Christ stands before you today, the Cross on which He poured out His life’s-blood so that you may be forgiven for all your treachery against Him.
And if you come to Him in repentance and faith, if you lay down your arms and sue for peace with Him He will hear you. He will forgive you utterly, He will wash you thoroughly from your sin, He will rejoice over you with gladness and delight over you with loud singing—come to Him today, and He will surely not cast you out!
But we plead with you—do not turn a blind eye to this, your time of visitation. Through the proclamation of His Word in worship the Sovereign King, Jesus Christ, is calling to you today. You do not know whether this may be the last time you ever hear His voice; you do not know whether you will live out this day in the land of the living. Oh, that you would not look back on this moment someday from your place of eternal torment under the everlasting wrath of God in Hell and mourn that you did not recognize the things that made for your peace with God this day!
Your King has providentially arranged for you to hear this invitation today—you know not whether it is your last. Now is the accepted time—now is the day of your salvation! So lay down your treason and your rebellion once and for all, turn away from your pride and arrogance and sin, call on Him in faith and receive the forgiveness purchased by His blood. Your King calls you today to come—and welcome!—to Jesus Christ!
BENEDICTION
Jude 24–25 ESV
24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION:

Of the three types of authority that Jesus is worshipped for in this passage, which one is most meaningful for where you are in your life right now? How does His authority over death, over all rulers, His authority to make peace with God for you influence the way you worshipped Him today?
Why were the Pharisees so insistent that Jesus stop His disciples from saying these things about His authority? What do these verses show you when the world around you wants to “cancel” your worship declaring the authority of Christ over this world?
What does “worship that compels a response to Jesus” look like? How should we approach worship knowing that there may be people in our midst who do not believe in Christ? How should we feel about “offending” non-believers with our exalting the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ?
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