This morning, we continue our message series entitled, “Follow Me”, as we learn what it means to follow Jesus and be His disciple.
So far, we learned more fully in context what it meant to be a disciple and to follow someone. We were challenged to be fishers of men, to reach out to people who don’t know Jesus where they are at and to genuinely have compassion toward them just as Jesus did. We were challenged not to be like Levi’s critics, but to celebrate and encourage people who follow Jesus into God’s plans and purposes for their own lives.
This week, we celebrate Palm Sunday. The event that we celebrate today was recorded in three of the four gospel accounts and was a fulfillment of one of Zechariah’s prophecies.
9 Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
10 I will take away the chariots from Ephraim
and the warhorses from Jerusalem,
and the battle bow will be broken.
He will proclaim peace to the nations.
His rule will extend from sea to sea
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
11 As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you,
I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit.
12 Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope;
even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.
16 The Lord their God will save his people on that day
as a shepherd saves his flock.
They will sparkle in his land
like jewels in a crown.
Jesus fulfilled this prophetic word as recorded here:
1 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”
4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
5 “Say to Daughter Zion,
‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”
11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
The palm branches laid before Jesus on the road symbolize victory and Jesus choosing to ride into Jerusalem on a donkey conveyed the message that He was a king, but His intentions were peaceful. Hosanna meant, “save us now.” There is no doubt that Jesus was riding into Jerusalem with the plan and intent of saving those people along with you and I. He was planning to establish His kingdom that would extend to the ends of the earth and whose rule would never end.
As is often the case, we understand what God is going to do, but not how He is going to do it or what it will look like. We receive a victory, but it comes through tragedy. We receive joy, but it comes after a season of mourning. We receive the free gift of salvation, but it comes at a cost. The people crying, “Hosanna!” weren’t expecting Jesus to die in order to make all of this happen. They were expecting Him to overthrow the Roman rule and establish Himself as Israel’s king to save them from their oppression. That is why this same crowd that was shouting, “Hosanna!, Save us!” began to shout, “Crucify!” just a few days later.
When we choose to follow Jesus, we must lay down our thoughts and opinions and pre-conceived notions about who God is and how He works. After all, we don’t want to pray for a move of God and then scream, “Crucify!” when it happens. All of us are susceptible to this as we follow Jesus and we must all be cautious of it. The truth rings out that His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. God rarely acts as we expect Him to.
The crowds lay down their cloaks and branches, but only because they expected Jesus to make their lives easier by establishing an earthly kingdom that would rise up against their enemies. It’s easy to give up something of little value if we will receive something grand in return, right?
It’s easy for us to look back and be confused by such an obvious 180 in their attitude and behavior from “Hosanna!” to “Crucify!”. If we’re honest with each other, though, how many times do our own lives reflect the behavior of these crowds? We hit rock bottom and we cry out to Jesus, “Save me!”, but when things start going well for us, we slip right back into our old ways that cry out, “Crucify!”
To follow Jesus is to repent, to turn toward Jesus and away from our old ways. To repent is to allow Jesus to transform and renew our minds so that we see by faith as He sees and respond in faith as He responds. To repent is to lay down our lives and to take up the new life that Jesus offers us. This Palm Sunday, we are reminded of this truth. We lay down our palm leaves as an act of worship. We lay our lives down and pick up the new life that Jesus gave us, lifting high the name of Jesus.
This reality is clearly revealed from cover to cover of the Bible in every life of any great person of God. The person who perhaps made it clearest to us, however, was Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist. In John chapter three, we read that Jesus began to baptize people on the other side of the Jordan river from John the Baptist. John’s disciples were getting concerned because everyone began going to Jesus instead of to John.
27 To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. 28 You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ 29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. 30 He must become greater; I must become less.”
Jesus must become greater, I must become less. This statement of John the Baptist is the essence of discipleship and the choice of following Jesus. Jesus must become greater, I must become less. We lay down our palm leaves today as a prophetic declaration of that commitment in our lives. Jesus taught what authentic discipleship looks and acts like; what it truly means to follow Him.
22 And Jesus said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”
23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? 26 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
Daily taking up our cross, daily laying down our lives, this is being a disciple of Jesus, this is what it means to follow Jesus. It is not the laying down of simple cloaks and branches for our own benefit. It is laying down our entire selves all for the cause of Christ. Not everyone is willing to accept this invitation to follow Jesus, however.
16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”
18 “Which ones?” he inquired.
Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”
20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
This young man just heard those two little words from Jesus, “Follow me.” These two little words caused for Andrew, Peter, James, John, and Levi overwhelming joy. They immediately left everything and began to follow Jesus. The response of this young man was anything but joyous. The call of Jesus to lay down everything and to follow Him caused this young man sorrow and to walk away from Jesus.
Now before we’re quick to judge this young man because he was unwilling to lay down his wealth for Jesus, let us look at our own lives. Are there things in our own lives that we value more than following Jesus? Are there things that we refuse to lay down before Jesus and trust Him with them?
We may not be rich, but we all have things that we refuse to let go of. It could be an opinion or belief. It could be a relationship. It could be unforgiveness or bitterness. It could be absolutely anything that we value as much or more than Jesus. It is that thing that causes us to bow our heads and walk away from Jesus anytime that He asks us to lay it down. It is that thing that is more important to us than coming to church or reading our Bible or praying or worshipping or serving or giving or sharing or anything else that Jesus calls us to do.
If we were to see ourselves from Jesus’ perspective, we would probably look a little foolish like these people: “LetGo Commercials”
This morning, Jesus isn’t asking us to simply lay down our palm leaves before Him. For us to truly experience peace and healing and restoration in our lives, we must be willing to let go of everything and follow Jesus. After all, He can’t heal us if we continue to cling to our hurt. He can’t deliver us if we refuse to step out of the trap that captured us. He can’t restore us if we continue offering ourselves to the thing stealing from us.
Not every person is willing to accept the call to discipleship. Not everyone is willing to follow Jesus. We so often overwhelmingly become fearful when think of extending this invitation to others. We fear that they will reject not only our invitation, but that they will reject us as well. Don’t feel bad, there were plenty that rejected Jesus in person just like this rich young man. Not everyone who heard the call of Jesus to follow Him accepted it. It isn’t you who they are rejecting, it is Jesus and more painful than that, it is all of His benefits and plans for their lives that they are rejecting.
57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
59 He said to another man, “Follow me.”
But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”
62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’
31 “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.
Jesus speaks truth and it is not always easy to hear. Never did Jesus bring a worship team around Him to play soft music that tugged at the emotions of our heart strings and then call gently people forward to pray a prayer. Jesus made the choice to follow Him not an emotional one, but a choice of the will. Jesus laid it all out there and said, “First, co0unt the cost.” Jesus made the choice to follow Him not a choice to lay down only our burdens and the things that we don’t like in our lives, it was a choice to lay down everything.
In the same way that Jesus extended the invitation to follow Him as His disciple a few thousand years ago, He extends that same invitation to you and I this morning. This choice is one where we lay down everything and put Jesus first in our lives. When anyone or anything tries to become more important than Jesus in our lives, we put it back in its place. We choose to follow Jesus and trust Him with every aspect of our lives. We leave it all in His hands and do our best to live according to His leading.
Our focus is not on what we are giving up, but rather, on the glorious riches that we’re freely receiving! Greater than we can think, ask, or imagine are God’s plans for us. God has plans to ultimately prosper us and not to harm us, to give us a hope and a future. All of creation is God’s and He’ll move heaven and earth on our behalf. Over and over again, Jesus reminds us of His rich reward for those who choose to follow Him. Life as a disciple of Jesus may not always be easy, but it is a promise of Jesus that it will always be worth it!
We have a tendency to focus on the negative, what we are losing. However, in comparison to what we are gaining, there simply is no loss! The King of Kings and Lord of Lords calls out to you and I to Follow Him on a glorious adventure. Jesus calls out to you and I daily, “Follow me!”