A Palm Sunday Message
Today is the day in Christianity where we celebrate when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, people laid down their coats and palm branches, and shouts of praise echoed in the streets of the city where the Temple of God resided. In Christian tradition, the observance of this celebration, a teaching and then – reflecting on this part of history precedes the most amazing gift God has ever given to mankind. Himself as a sacrifice for sin. And the greatest display of power ever witnessed by mankind: God’s son raised from the dead. The reality of God’s power over sin and death displayed in the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
But of course, I’m getting ahead of myself. That message is for next week. Please join us for worship on April 17th. We will have Sunday School at 9:45 AM and Worship service at 11 AM. Please come, invite your family, friends and neighbors, (even if they’ve turned you down time and time again.)
Today we are of course looking at the triumphal entry of Jesus. It’s recorded in all the gospels and the reading from the book of Luke will take center stage of our message today. I, however, want to focus our message on a very important reason for this procession to occur: The Identity of Jesus. In the following moments here today, I hope to show and encourage you that, even if you don’t consider yourself a “Theologian” you can still answer the straightforward question, “Who is Jesus?”
The Disciples’ Profession: Luke 19:28-40 NIV
The first passage we will look at is the Triumphal Entry from Luke 19:28-40.
28 After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30 “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’”
32 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”
34 They replied, “The Lord needs it.”
35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.
37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
When faced with the question…(that no one was asking, by the way) the disciples shouted out the answer.
And there is another affirmation of who Jesus is. Luke gives it to us in the context of the verses. Who is this Jesus? He’s not only the King coming in the name of the Lord. He is God. Where did I get that? Verse 37 where they “joyfully praised God…” then the next verse talks about the blessedness of the King. Jesus is the Lord, He’s the King, He is God.
That’s a powerful affirmation. He was paraded into Jerusalem to this noisy ruckus.
Sometimes I wonder if we forget what a noisy ruckus sounds like…
Here at our church, it’s been a while since we had a large group in children’s ministry. I know from my experience, kids can get quite noisy and it’s hard to even think over it. That’s the kind of noise that happened in this parade. The shouts of praise to God, on behalf of Jesus. Well that didn’t sit well with the religious folks. If we keep on reading, we find out the Pharisees objected to this high praise of Jesus.
In verse 39 they said to Jesus:
“Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” 40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
Jesus knew they were finally getting a chance to answer the question publicly. To confess what they knew in their heart was true: Jesus is Lord, King, and God.
It wasn’t always smooth sailing for the disciples in their affirmation of who Jesus was. But thankfully, Peter helped step it up and put all his hope in Jesus.
Disciples’ observation and Peter’s Profession: Matthew 16:13-16 NIV
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
As I did some study on this passage, I found out something about the location Jesus brought his disciples to. Caesarea Philippi originally was called Paneas. It was named by Herod’s son, Phillipp II in honor of Caesar Augustus. It became a seat of power to the roman world as “…Herod made it the administrative capital for [that] region.” It’s old name, Paneas or “Panion” was dedicated to the Greek god “Pan.” The Faithlife study bible says, “A temple to Pan was built in the midst of the city at the mouth of this cave, where people would make sacrifices to him. According to a narrative at his temple, Pan was one of the few gods who could cross into Hades and return to earth.” This could have been seen and known as the “gates of Hell” as it was a place of worship of the Greek god Pan, a place where he could travel to and from Hades.
So Jesus and his disciples are in a really weird place. No known people to minister to, it seems just a place where Jesus wanted to make a very strong point and see who would stand with him even as they beat down the doors of evil.
Peter proclaims, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus Responds, possibly while even standing on the very place that would be thought of as the “gates of hell” and he says “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
In a place saturated with paganism and even earthly governmental authority, Peter verbalizes what he knows in his heart.
Peter wasn’t a Pharisee, a priest, a scribe…he wasn’t any of those Jobs who ought to have recognized the savior. Yet he knew His savior when he
Interestingly enough, the ones that could give the best spiritual “first hand” knowledge of who Jesus was were actually stifled by Jesus himself. Let’s look at Mark 1:32-34
Demon’s Knowledge Mark 1:32-34 NIV
32 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered at the door, 34 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.
Mark, who is known for his gospel being the briefest of all 4 gospels as well as considered the earliest written account of the ministry of Jesus on earth, if he includes a tiny little contextual detail like this, we need to sit up in our pews and take notice.
The demons knew who he was. In other accounts of Jesus confronting demons possessing people,
Matthew 8:28, two demon possessed men call Jesus the Son of God. It’s not a word of worship on their part, but rather a word of terror.
Why wouldn’t Jesus want demons to say these things? Because even though they could not help but speak their fears and rightfully attribute Sonship to Jesus, they are known as untrustworthy. Why not believe untrustworthy people?
The perfect illustration of this comes to us from Aesop’s Fables in “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.”
“There was once a young Shepherd Boy who tended his sheep at the foot of a mountain near a dark forest. It was rather lonely for him all day, so he thought upon a plan by which he could get a little company and some excitement. He rushed down towards the village calling out “Wolf, Wolf,” and the villagers came out to meet him, and some of them stopped with him for a considerable time. This pleased the boy so much that a few days afterwards he tried the same trick, and again the villagers came to his help. But shortly after this a Wolf actually did come out from the forest, and began to worry the sheep, and the boy of course cried out “Wolf, Wolf,” still louder than before. But this time the villagers, who had been fooled twice before, thought the boy was again deceiving them, and nobody stirred to come to his help. So the Wolf made a good meal off the boy’s flock, and when the boy complained, the wise man of the village said:
“A liar will not be believed, even when he speaks the truth.”https://etc.usf.edu/lit2go/35/aesops-fables/375/the-boy-who-cried-wolf/
Why not believe these other worldly, spiritual beings? Why would Jesus not hire them as his press secretaries? Because, “A liar will not be believed, even when he speaks the truth.”
I’d much rather believe the story of a man who was a social outcast because of his demon possession and how in an instant, Jesus The Christ healed him of that and gave him new life. And from Mark chapter 5, you can find this happy ending where a formerly demon possessed man told all about what Jesus had done for him all the way home.
Not to jump the gun too much, because of course like I said earlier, the Resurrection story takes the spotlight of next Sunday’s message, but we need to look at a few other disciples and who they believed Jesus to be. Didn’t we already hear what they thought? Didn’t we get Peter’s press-release on The Son of God? Yeah but there were others who Jesus met with after the crucifixion and resurrection. They certainly tipped their hands when confronted with the idea that their leader was dead.
Emmaus Road Disciples Confusion Luke 24:13-35 NIV
13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.
17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
19 “What things?” he asked.
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
Cleopas gives this depressed shoulder shrug of disappointment. “He was a prophet. “”We had hoped he was going to redeem Israel.” So they believed he was a Prophet, much like the prophets of old: Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, Isaiah… All (except Elijah) had physically died and the people of God went through times of trials and correction over and over again.
There is this idea of someone who would “redeem” Israel. Our daughters are participating in Children’s bible quizzing this year. I’ve been walking with them through Joshua, Judges and this past week we started the last book to study: Ruth. In that story, Ruth and her mother-in-law are shown kindness by a landowner in Naomi’s old hometown. Both Ruth and Naomi are widows and they rely on Ruth foraging for scraps in a harvest field. The kind landowner, Boaz, happens to be a relative of Naomi’s late husband. He was their “guardian- redeemer.” NIV footnotes tell us that…“The Hebrew word for guardian-redeemer is a legal term for one who has the obligation to redeem a relative in serious difficulty.”
How does Boaz do this? By purchasing Naomi’s land and marrying Ruth. He saves the day and we get the sense he is happy to do it.
So when Cleopas says they hoped Jesus would have been the one to redeem Israel, this is the image we think about. Someone who acquires and saves all in one fell swoop.
They hoped that’s what Jesus would do, but alas, in their minds…he just died. He doesn’t redeem Israel. Little did they know that they were walking and talking with Jesus, the blessed redeemer.
King, Song of God, God in the flesh, Prophet, The Christ, and a Guardian Redeemer. The list goes on and on. Who he is can’t be ignored, whether you are a Christian or not.
In the news recently, the U.S. Senate was interviewing a potential judge for a spot on the U.S. Supreme Court. This might not be news to you, but it is nonetheless very relevant to our daily life. The US Supreme Court is the court that looks at the constitution and evaluates whether laws and rulings of lower courts stand or not. One Senator, a woman herself, asked the candidate “Can you give us a definition of a woman? The candidate declined to answer, citing that she was, in fact, “not a biologist.” Like so many in DC: answering without answering.
I bring this up because Christians? We do not get this luxury.
When the question comes up: “who is Jesus?” We don’t get to say “hard pass” and move on to the next question. We won’t be allowed to say “well, I’m not a Theologian.” The truth is, if you study God at all, you are in a sense a theologian. What you learn and then believe about God is your “theology” and if you live out the logical conclusions of those beliefs, you’d be a practitioner of theology. Or to put it another way, a Christian who lives out the faith in their daily life. Who’s life produces God-honoring works in keeping with their beliefs.
Who do you say Jesus is?
- The world can know the answer to this question. They can discover it through your actions that are accompanied by verbal statements of faith. These two things are often separated but, in the long run, don’t stand up on their own.
- No matter the deep belief system you hold about Jesus, no matter how many seminary tours you make – giving instructions on beliefs… you will need to live them out for anyone to take you seriously.
- You may also do many works that keep with your internal beliefs about Jesus: care for the poor, living selflessly, being compassionate and generous…but one day someone is going to take notice of your different way of living and ask the question: “why? Why are you different?”
- Faith, belief & works of that faith can’t be separated.
- Who is Jesus?
- Well, I began to learn who he is when he broke into my life.
- Jesus is my savior. My forgiver. My King. He is the Son of God. He showed himself to me at an altar when I was Just 7 years old. I asked for forgiveness for the first time. He came into my heart and life. He stuck with me, guided me along my life – especially those awkward teenage years and lonely college days. He was and is faithful to me. And I know that he loves me.
- And someone might ask how you know He loves you?
- It’s just like falling in love. “You just know.”
- The funny thing about that is that until you “just know” you don’t “just know.” It is complicated and must be experienced.
- Well, I began to learn who he is when he broke into my life.
So what’s your answer to this question? I do invite you to comment below. If you don’t know, share that as well. Also let me know if you’d like to discuss this outside of the comments section. If you are interested in learning more about Jesus, I’m interested in introducing Him to you.
Viroqua Church of the Nazarene
304 E Broadway St.
Viroqua, WI 54665
Sunday School 9:45 AM
Worship service 11 AM