This morning, we come together to celebrate Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday is a traditional celebration observed the Sunday before Easter which serves to remind us of the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, which is an event recorded in all four of the gospel accounts. Not by coincidence, Jesus rode into Jerusalem a week before His resurrection.
This morning, we’ll read one of these accounts from Matthew chapter 21.
1 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage (Baith Fa Gay) 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.”
This was a very significant event, which is why the whole city was buzzing about this arrival! The crowds were proclaiming and honoring Jesus as their king. Riding into Jerusalem on a donkey symbolized that Jesus was coming in peace. The palm branches that were laid on the path before Him, as recorded in the gospel of John, symbolized that He was arriving in triumph and victory.
These crowds had Jesus figured out exactly right, however, at the same time, they were completely missing it!
This frequently occurred with Jesus – He was very misunderstood. One of the first times that this misunderstanding occurred was at His very birth. In Matthew chapter 2, we find the account when the Magi came to King Herod and asked him for the location of the king of the Jews who had just been born. After visiting Jesus and worshiping Him, the Magi went home a different route and did not keep their word to return to Herod to report the location of Jesus. King Herod was enraged and had all boys in the vicinity of Bethlehem two years old and under murdered as to maintain his position of authority.
This gives us a clear indication of what the world was like in which the Jewish people were living when Jesus came onto the scene. They were ruled by the Roman Empire. Judea was a client kingdom of the Roman Empire that was ruled by King Herod. There was a constant struggle and friction between the Jewish people and the Romans to maintain their own identity as a nation along with their culture, political leadership structure, moral values, and traditions. The Roman empire had become so great not only by military force, but also by converting the territories that they conquered into their culture and ways of life and thinking.
The crowds were rejoicing at the coming of Jesus because they had great hope that Jesus had come to be their king and to re-establish Israel as a nation and to overthrow the Roman rule over them. This is what the crowds had in mind as they were crying out, “Hosanna!”, which is an exhortation to save and deliver them.
Indeed, Jesus did come as their king. He did come to serve, save, and deliver His people. He did come to establish His kingdom on earth. He did come to conquer and gain victory over the enemy of His people. It just wasn’t at all in the way which the crowds and even His disciples had in mind… In fact, Luke’s account of the triumphal entry of Jesus includes this:
41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”
Jesus never once denied the fact that He was the king of the Jews. In fact, all four of the gospels include the trial of Jesus before the governor Pilate where Jesus acknowledged this fact. The accusation against Jesus, which lead to His crucifixion, was simply that Jesus was the king of the Jews.
Let’s listen in to this short video to learn a little bit more about King Jesus:
That’s My King Video
The crowds one praised Jesus as their king, however, a change occurred. Let’s read together the account of how this same honor, praise, and adoration that Jesus was King changed into an accusation worthy of death on the cross.
28 Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”
30 “If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.”
31 Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”
“But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected. 32 This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die.
33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”
35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”
36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. 39 But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?”
40 They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.
1 Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. 2 The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe 3 and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face.
4 Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews gathered there, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.” 5 When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!”
6 As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!”
But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.”
7 The Jewish leaders insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”
8 When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, 9 and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10 “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”
11 Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”
12 From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”
13 When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). 14 It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon.
“Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.
15 But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”
“Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked.
“We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered.
16 Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.
So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. 17 Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.
19 Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: jesus of nazareth, the king of the jews. 20 Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. 21 The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.”
22 Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”
This morning, I felt that the Lord wanted to challenge us. Jesus is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. One day, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. Until that day, we each are given a choice – that same choice that every person in those crowds had two centuries ago. Both the believers in Jesus and the mockers of Jesus said that Jesus was a king. The meaning behind their statement is revealed by their hearts. Just as Jesus said, those people acknowledge Him with their lips, but their hearts were far from Him. Our hearts are revealed by the words that we speak and the choices that we make.
Do the choices that we make shout, “Hosanna”, or do they shout, “Crucify”?
Do they declare that Jesus is our King, or do they declare that Jesus is a mockery worthy of death?
Do they lay down palm leaves to prepare the way for our King, or do they lay a dirt path to the cross?
Do they release through our lives Jesus Barabbas or Jesus Christ?
Do they break down barriers and build bridges or do they build up barriers and burn bridges?
The choice is ours. This week, with fullness of sincerity, let us proclaim with our words and with our lives that Jesus is our King!