130324 Luke 19:28-40

Last Updated on Monday, 25 March 2013 Written by Pastor Pagels

Text: Luke 19:28-40
Theme: Praise God For Palm Sunday!

What a day! Maybe you are wondering what I mean by that. For you, the day is just beginning. But in my homeland on the other side of the world, the sun is already setting over the Judean hillside. The day is almost over, and it is a day that I will never forget.

This Sunday began like many others. I woke up after the Sabbath with many things to do. I had to take care of some business in the village. I had to take care of my animals in the yard. And like many others, I had to make final preparations for the Passover now only a few days away.

At least I had it easier than many of my countrymen. Some God-fearing Jews had to travel long distances to reach Jerusalem in time for the Feast. I lived only a few miles away. And especially at this time of year it was common to see a steady stream of pilgrims passing by on their way to the Holy City.

But this particular day was different. There was an excitement in the air, something I could sense but not explain, something I could feel but not fully understand. Maybe it was because the crowds were larger than usual. Maybe it was because the buzz was louder than usual. I wasn't aware of it at the time, but my life was about to change forever.

What I am about to share with you is what that happened to me today, a day when the prophecies of the Old Testament came to life, a day when I saw the Messiah with my own eyes, a day that now shares its name with the branches the people were waving in the air. And at the end of the day I want you to share my joy. I want you to raise your voices with me and...

PRAISE GOD FOR PALM SUNDAY

As the sun peaked over the horizon, I loaded up my donkey to go into the village. There was a chance that I would be taking home more than one pack animal could carry, so I brought along her colt just in case. This foal hadn't been ridden yet, but it was strong enough to carry a few things in its saddle bags.

After the short trip into town, I tied up my animals and left. It was a good thing my business didn't take long because when I came back I found two men untying them. At first I thought they were trying to steal the animals, but these men were not acting like thieves. They were working slowly and deliberately, as if they were the rightful owners.

As I approached, I didn't really know what to do so I said: "Why are you untying the colt" (Luke 19:33)? They weren't startled. They weren't surprised. It was as if they knew my question before I even asked it. They simply replied: "The Lord needs it" (Luke 19:34), and they gave me their word that they would return the animals shortly (see Mark 11:3).

Even though these men were complete strangers to me, even though I didn't know where they had come from or where they were going, even though losing these animals would set me back quite a bit of money, I let them go. But I decided to follow at a distance, partly to make sure that my animals were safe, partly because I wanted to catch a glimpse of this "Lord" who needed them.

The two men led the donkey and her colt to a larger group of men. Some put their cloaks on the animals, and then one of them sat on the colt. That was strange, I thought to myself. He did it with such ease. He sat on that colt like he was its master, like he was the master of much more than this animal.

It reminded me of an Old Testament prophecy I had learned as a boy: "Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey" (Zechariah 9:9). As the group made its way down the road leading to Jerusalem, I wondered to myself: "Is this some kind of great coincidence, or am I in the presence of greatness?"

I had much work to do back at home, especially with the Passover only days away, but I couldn't let this man out of my sight. I decided to keep following at a distance, not knowing exactly what to expect. And because there were many others on the road heading in the same direction, I was able to blend right in.

That was until one of the travelers almost ran me over. He grabbed onto me to keep me from falling and exclaimed: "It's good to see you." Since I had never met this man before, I had no idea what he was talking about. "My name is Bartimaeus," he said as he brushed himself off. "I am from the city of Jericho, and until just a few days ago I was blind. I was sitting by the roadside begging for money one day when I heard this noise. It sounded like a crowd of people was heading in my direction, so I asked a passerby what was going on."

"It's Jesus," he told me, "the prophet from Nazareth." I had heard about this man before. I had even heard that he had the power to perform miracles. Since I had nothing to lose, I began shouting at the top of my lungs: 'Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me' (Mark 10:47)."

"Some people were embarrassed by me. Others tried to silence me. But Jesus listened to me. He stopped, called me over to him and asked: 'What do you want me to do for you' (Mark 10:51)? Without hesitation, I replied: 'Rabbi, I want to see' (Mark 10:51). And then he uttered those precious words: 'Go. Your faith has healed you' (Mark 10:52). Immediately my eyes were opened, and I have been following Jesus ever since."

The man disappeared into the crowds as quickly as he had appeared. I didn't know if I should believe him, but I did know that I couldn't turn back. I needed to keep following this man, wherever he was going. I needed to learn more, so I stopped to ask a woman standing on the side of the road: "Do you know this man, the one they call Jesus?" And she answered with a smile: "Yes, I do."

Her name was Martha, and Jesus had been staying with her and her sister Mary in Bethany. She informed me that the two women had a brother named Lazarus who had died. I was beginning to express my sympathy for her loss when she stopped me. And I could tell by the look in her eyes that there was more to this story.

Martha told me that she loved Jesus, that she believed Jesus had the power to heal her sick brother. But when Lazarus died she thought it was too late. She knew that she would see him again in heaven, but the sting of his death was still very real. She told me that Jesus himself wept when he saw the tomb, but he wasn't ready to accept it. And that is when her story got even more interesting:

"Even though Lazarus had been dead for four days," Martha told me, "Jesus asked that the stone be moved from the entrance of the tomb. And then in a clear, commanding voice he said: 'Lazarus, come out' (John 10:43)! And he did, linen strips, burial cloth and all. Lazarus walked out of the tomb alive!"

That explained the excitement of the people who had come from all over to celebrate the Passover. They had heard other amazing stories about Jesus, but now they had proof. Lazarus was a living, breathing illustration of this man's power. Jesus was different. Jesus was special. And he was on his way to Jerusalem.

My unplanned journey brought me to the edge of the Mount of Olives overlooking the Holy City. As Jesus began his final descent into the valley, the crowds grew larger and louder. They treated this man like a king. They threw their cloaks on the road. They waved palm branches in the air. And they declared: "Hosanna to the Son of David (Matthew 21:9)! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord (Mark 11:9)! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest" (Luke 19:38)!

Maybe it was the power of the moment. Maybe it was the testimony of Bartimaeus and Martha. Maybe it was a combination of things, but before I knew it I was a part of this grand procession. Inside the gates of the city the prevailing mood of the people was one of unbridled joy. Children were singing about him. Pilgrims were praising him.

But not everyone was happy. The Pharisees were visibly upset. They came up to Jesus and demanded: "Teacher, rebuke your disciples" (Luke 19:39). I didn't know why they were so angry. I don't know why they wanted the people to stop. Personally, I didn't want this day to ever come to an end. And Jesus wasn't ready to put an end to the celebration either. He replied: "I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out" (Luke 19:40).

The stones didn't have to make any noise that day, but eventually the crowds dispersed and the people went home. As I retraced the route I had walked only a few hours earlier, I was able to think about all the things I had seen and heard. I knew that something special had happened, but I wasn't sure what it was. I knew that this prophet from Nazareth was special, but I wasn't sure who he was.

A short time later, I heard a knock at the door. It was the two disciples returning the animals they had borrowed that morning. I invited them in and immediately began to ask them questions. "Who is the one you call 'Lord'? Why has he come? What do these events mean?"

The disciples admitted that they didn't have all the answers. They had been with Jesus for three years, and they still had some questions. But one of them did share with me something Jesus had shared with them when they started out on their journey:

"We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life" (Matthew 20:18,19)!

That didn't sound like anything I had witnessed, but then again on this day nothing was exactly as it appeared. Jesus was hailed as a king, yet he rode on a common beast of burden. Jesus was treated like a conquering hero, but he led no army. Jesus accepted the praises of the adoring crowds, but he knew that those praises would not last.

And there was something else that bothered me, something I couldn't get out of my mind. Jesus knew exactly where my donkey was. Jesus knew exactly what I would say. That means he knows the future. That means he knew what is waiting for him in Jerusalem. But if he knew about the betrayal, if he knew about the condemnation, if he knew about the mocking and flogging and crucifixion, then why did he come?

He did it for me. He did it for all those times when I selfishly refuse to share my possessions to support the Lord's work. He did it for those times when I am not so quick to follow him. He did it for those times when I am content to let the stones sing his praises.

Jesus knew that without Palm Sunday there could be no Easter Sunday. And so he knowingly, willingly, lovingly entered Jerusalem to complete his Father's saving work, to suffer and die and rise again to take away my sins.

This is my story, but it isn't exclusive to me. This is your story too. Everything Jesus did on this day he did for you. Today Christians all over the world wave palm branches in the air. Today we worship our King. Today we sing, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" Today we proclaim, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord," and as we do we realize that we are the ones who are blessed.

Praise God for Palm Sunday! Amen.

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