Palm Sunday

Are you truly recognizing the King in your life? Join us this Sunday to discover the powerful message in Luke 19 that challenges us to see Jesus for who He really is and to live our lives as acts of worship. Don’t miss this opportunity to encounter the real Jesus and let His presence bring transformation to your life!

Good morning.

Today we’re going to look at the triumphal entry into Jerusalem and what Palm Sunday is all about from Luke 19.


And I want to start by looking at the background of where Jesus has been up to this point in Luke 19 so we can understand the context of this passage.


In Luke 19, Jesus is on a journey from Jericho to Jerusalem.

He’s on his way to celebrate Passover, which is an annual celebration for any devout Jew.

Passover is a celebration that has been going on for thousands of years, since the days of Israel’s captivity in Egypt — when the angel of the Lord told the people of Israel to put the blood of an innocent lamb over the door frame of their house so that their family would not be harmed.

Then the angel of death passed over those houses.

It’s kind of a somber moment in the history of our faith.


Since then, the blood of an innocent lamb would be poured out on the altar to symbolize the forgiveness of sins for individuals and families.


Passover was very significant in the life of a Jewish person.

And in this passage people from all over Israel were traveling to the city of Jerusalem, the holy city, to celebrate.


And Jesus, a rabbi, is also coming to celebrate.

Only this Passover will be very different from any other Passover in history.

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On this road from Jericho to Jerusalem Jesus would have had literally hundreds of thousands of other people traveling with him.

And it was a very narrow road through the desert that at certain points was only about two feet wide with steep cliffs on each side.

Sometimes this long and narrow winding road would be lined up for miles with people going from Jericho to Jerusalem.


So this is where we see Jesus, as he’s heading into the city of Jerusalem.


He has to walk through the Judean desert to get there.

This is also one of the last stretches of the journey to get to Jerusalem which is a very significant location for Jesus.

It’s the same desert where three years earlier there were not thousands and thousands of people; but it was a place where he was alone — by himself for forty days, fasting and being tempted by Satan to choose any way other than his Father’s way.

If you’re familiar with the story of Jesus you know that before he began his public ministry he spent forty days in the wilderness where he was tempted by Satan to choose anything other than God’s way; and he resisted. And God blessed him. And that’s when he began his public ministry.


This is the same desert he’s walking through.

And we have to imagine he’s feeling some of that same temptation as he walks this lonely road — even though thousands and thousands of people are around him.


He has to remember what it was like to endure that once before.


Yet he continues down this road; which leads him to the town of Bethany.


Now, whenever Jesus was in Bethany, he would meet up with his friends Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus.

Yet, this time, he hears that his close friend, Lazarus, has died.


So as Jesus enters the city, Mary and Martha are weeping over the loss of their brother; and even a little ticked that Jesus didn’t get there earlier.

I can imagine Martha saying, “I thought you knew everything, why didn’t you see this coming? Why didn’t you get here before now?”


They were upset with Jesus and weeping over their loss, because these are two women who had given up everything to follow Jesus, and their only real source of provision was their brother, and now he’s dead, and they’re alone.

And we see them clinging to Jesus in mourning.

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There’s a very small but powerful verse in John 11:35 that says, “Jesus wept” with them.

Jesus cries over their pain — over that feeling of loss and emptiness and he joins in their sorrow and we see the heart of God break through the life of Jesus.


This is a very powerful picture that may work against your framework of God — to see God broken and weeping — but that’s exactly what Jesus is doing.


Through his tears he makes his way to the tomb where Lazarus is buried and basically says to Lazarus, “Lazarus, come out!” and literally Lazarus comes forth from the grave.


Now imagine thousands and thousands of people are taking the shortcut through Bethany and they see all this mourning and crying, and there are hundreds and hundreds of people gathered around Jesus. And all of a sudden this man who was once dead starts walking out of the grave.


And Jesus is like, “Lazarus, it’s great to see you!” and Lazarus is like, “Jesus, I didn’t expect to see you here!” and they run toward each other and embrace.

And Jesus is like, “Woah, Lazarus, you stink!”

It’s a beautiful moment!


So now we have thousands of people who have seen this event, and people are amazed.

And the celebration is so great that some of the Pharisees in the crowd set out to have Lazarus killed because he was a living reminder of the power of God.


This is all happening before Jesus gets to Jerusalem.

It’s one of the last miracles he’ll perform, the raising of his friend Lazarus, the weeping over the loss, and the celebration over bringing him back to life.

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So this brings us to the passage we’re going to look at in Luke 19.

We’ll start at Luke 19, verse 29.

Now they’re leaving Bethany.

As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, ”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. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’”

Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They replied, “The Lord needs it.” (Luke 19:29-31)

By the way, this is the first time in Scripture we see someone steal a donkey.

It’s like Jesus says, “Go steal someone’s donkey.” And they do.


So the disciples take the donkey, bring it back, and lay some of their coats on it for Jesus to ride.


Now, this donkey has never been ridden, and when Jesus climbs on it’s back, it has no idea the weight it’s about to carry.

It is now carrying the greatest burden the world has ever known — the sins of the world.

My sin was on the back of that donkey.

Your sin was carried on the shoulders of Jesus that day.

This is a very important moment.


Jesus deliberately gets on this donkey knowing exactly where it’s going to take him — into the city of Jerusalem, all the way to the cross and ultimately to his death.

The weight of the world is now resting on the back of this donkey.

And this is a very deliberate choice Jesus makes.

At any point in the desert he could have just snapped his fingers and got out of there.

He could have turned around. He hasn’t even gotten to Jerusalem, no one knows he’s there yet.


He could have escaped — but he didn’t.

He knew the road set before him and the wheels were in motion so he continues on his journey; which brings us to the triumphal entry.


I want to look specifically at the day he chose and the way he chose to enter into Jerusalem. It reveals a lot about who the Messiah really is.


Let’s start by looking at the day Jesus chose to enter in.


The day is very interesting. We call it Palm Sunday, but that’s not what it was called back then.

It was actually called lamb selection day.

It was part of the Passover celebration where five days before Passover you would go and pick out a lamb that you and your family would offer as a sacrifice.


I know it may seem foreign to us, and actually kind of sadistic to have the whole family pick out a little lamb that they’re going to sacrifice in a few days. But that’s how it worked.

That was the system they had for thousands of years.

And it was a joyous celebration because the lamb chosen would be the one that would represent the sins of your family.

So it was very exciting to choose this lamb.


So here’s a question: why did Jesus chose lamb selection day to make his triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem?

What might be the spiritual significance of this?

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I think this choice is incredibly deliberate and incredibly specific.

If you remember, after Jesus came out of forty days of fasting in the desert, that same Judean desert that he walked through — his cousin, John the Baptist saw him and recognized him — and do you know what John said?

This is very interesting.

John does not point to Jesus and say, “Behold, the Messiah who will defeat the Romans and set us free from this oppression!”


Instead, John points to Jesus and says:

Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)

There were a lot of people in Jesus’ day who were trying to claim the title “Messiah.”

Guess how many people were trying to claim the title “Lamb of God?”

No one.

Because what happens to the Lamb of God?


It’s a very interesting picture.

We see Jesus declaring himself as the Lamb of God and making himself available for anyone to choose.


It’s like Jesus was saying, “Will you choose me this lamb selection day?”

This is the Passover where one sacrifice can cover every sin.

Jesus says, “Will you choose me? Here I am, behold, the Lamb of God who comes to take away the sins of the world.”


The day Jesus chose to make his entry into Jerusalem is very important.

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Now, the way he chose to make his entrance is also very important.


First of all, Jesus is coming down the Mount of Olives from the east side of the city.

And every devout Jew would know how important this is.

Every messianic prophesy speaks of the King, the Chosen One, entering in from the east.

It’s like the devout Jews would have had one eye fixed to the east, especially at holy days like this, at Passover, hopefully expecting the messiah to make his entrance.


There’s a rabbinic tradition that during the Passover, the priests would leave the curtain in the Temple open, because they thought, “Maybe this time the Messiah will come for Passover.”


Now, look what happens in verse 37:

When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully praising God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: (Luke 19:37)

His followers begin shouting out praises that pour down the Mount of Olives into the city of Jerusalem.


Now, we have to look real specifically at what this praise was like, and who they were really praising.

What was really going on in this moment?

Because it was contagious and it began to overtake everyone.


Now kings had made triumphal entries before, they had all experienced that before.

That was just part of life when you live in a kingdom.

There’s a king, and after a war, or a great battle, or victory — a king would return riding on their war horse.

They would have their horse washed and waxed and shined up and everything is looking pretty. And they would have banners showing how many people they killed. It was this big procession.

The king would have his best armor on, and he would make his way down into the city.


They were used to kings making entrances.


So you can imagine all these people looking and hearing this praise up on the Mount of Olives, the east side of the city.

Hundreds of thousands of people gathered around the city look up and begin to run toward Jesus — “Could this be our king who has come to save us?”


Then they run up and see that Jesus is not on a horse of war but on a donkey.

It had to be a little disarming.


But Jesus specifically chose a donkey, one that had never been ridden before.


Think about the Oscars for a moment — the red carpet.

How weird would it be if in the midst of all those limos and stretched SUVs that are bigger than life, if Brad Pitt rolled up on his BMX bicycle?

Everyone would be like, “What? That’s just weird. That doesn’t make any sense!”

But Jesus had very specifically and deliberately chosen a donkey to make his entrance.

Why? Why not a horse of war like any other king would do?


I think Jesus is saying more about who he is by declaring who he is not.

He’s saying more about his kingdom and his kingship and his way of ruling by saying what he’s not.

They expected a lion of war and he comes as the Lamb of God.
They expected a mighty war horse and he’s on a donkey.

Jesus is saying, quite dramatically, that, “I am not the type of king you think I am. My kingdom is different than any kingdom of this earth.”


This is also the fulfillment of an Old Testament prophesy from Zechariah 9, verse 9, which says:

See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zechariah 9:9)

It’s the up-side-down kingdom.

Jesus didn’t come to be served, but to serve.
The first will be last, and the last will be first.
The proud will be humbled, and the humble will be exalted.


Luke 19:38 reveals the response of the people.

“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:38)

Now, even with a donkey, praise breaks out.

It’s not the king they hoped for, but they’re going to worship him nonetheless.

“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”

That statement is taken from an ancient Psalm and is a chant or cry that had been cried out for hundreds and hundreds of years. It’s taken from Psalm 118.

But originally, it was written:

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the Lord we bless you. (Psalm 118:26)

They had something else in their mind when they said, “Blessed is the… KING who comes in the name of the Lord.”

In John 12:13, we see they took palm branches with them and they began to shout:

“Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the King of Israel!” (John 12:13)

Blessed is what? The KING of Israel.

These people are declaring that Jesus is our King — not Rome, not Caesar.

Blessed is this KING who comes in the name of the Lord.

Not blessed is he, not blessed is the lamb — blessed is the king.


The crowd also shouts “Hosanna!”

Most people think “Hosanna” was a general word meaning “Praise” or “Blessedness.” It wasn’t.

It wasn’t primarily a religious word at that time; it was a political term made from two Hebrew words: Hosha which means “Help; save; deliver” and nah which means “Please” to give it a sense of urgency.

“Hosanna” meant Messiah, help us! Son of David, deliver us! Give us our freedom. Get rid of the Romans! Make it happen! Hosanna!


And we see them taking palm branches and waving them around.


I don’t know if you know the history with palm branches.

A friend of mine was telling me, when he was in a hippie church growing up, they would walk about a mile north of their church campus on the main road in town and in a single file line, they would walk back to the church singing, “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

And they would be dancing and waving palm branches. He was always afraid one of his friends would see him.


And people would be driving by waving things back at them, but they weren’t palm branches.


So the text says in John that they took palm branches and began to wave them at Jesus.

Why? Was it because they couldn’t find anything else to wave at him?


This is a very specific and deliberate statement that they’re making. “Blessed is our king, the king of Israel,” and they’re waving palm branches.

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When I was growing up, we always used to have palm branches in the church on Palm Sunday.

The little kids would whack each other with them, and we thought they were just about peace and love.

They were not!

In the previous century — the century before Jesus arrived — Israel had been oppressed under a branch of the Greek Empire.

The Temple in Jerusalem was taken over and dedicated to the Olympian god Zeus.

They were not allowed to offer lambs — prescribed sacrifices — on the altar.

Instead, these foreigners sacrificed pigs to the Greek god Zeus on the altar in the Temple in Jerusalem. This was an unspeakable atrocity.

Scrolls of the Torah for which a devout Jew would die — scrolls of the Torah were burned.

This was intolerable!

A man rose up, not related to David and not claiming to be the Messiah, named Judas the Maccabeean. Some of you will have heard of the Maccabeean Revolt. He led a revolt that left Israel relatively free.

Someone from the Maccabeean family served as the High Priest. The symbol of Judas’s revolt was a palm branch.

That’s what his followers would wave in Jerusalem.


For a while then, as a result of this revolution, Israel could mint its own money.

They wouldn’t put a human face on it, because that would have been considered a graven image. They put the image of a palm branch on their money.

If you want to know how Romans would have felt when an Israelite waved a palm branch around, just imagine how a war veteran would feel if someone walked into a VFW meeting and burned an American flag.

It was a political statement.

Palm branches were a symbol for the nation of Israel of their freedom and independence.

In this case it was a symbol of rebellion. — “This is our king. He will bring our freedom. He will bring our independence.”

So we see now that they’re praising and worshiping this king, their savior, but not specifically the kind of savior that Jesus came to be.


Now, look at the rest of the passage.

The Pharisees are concerned with what’s happening.

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” (Luke 19:39)

They were getting nervous.

I mean, we’re talking thousands and thousands of people, shouting “Hosanna, Hosanna! Please save us, save us now.”

This is a messianic demonstration gone out of control.

And the Romans are watching. The Romans have extra soldiers. This is why some of the Pharisees, the religious leaders, say, Teacher, rebuke your disciples. Jesus, shut these people up! The Romans are all over us. They’re watching us. They’re going to come down on this city like a sledgehammer!


The crowds are singing and shouting, dancing and cheering for Jesus, but only because they think He’s going to give them what they want.


Jesus responds to their request, and it’s one of the most powerful and poetic statements about who you and I were created to be; and what our lives were meant to be about.

Look at this. Verse 40:

“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:40)

Jesus is saying, “You want me to shut them up, fine, but get ready for all of creation to bust out into cheers and worship over the true king.”


Jesus is saying something very specific about all of creation including you and me.


We are created to recognize and worship Jesus as the king he is.


Scripture speaks all throughout the Bible of how creation — the wind, and the waves, and the grass, and the stones recognize its creator.

Paul writes in Romans that creation is in the middle of birth pains waiting for the revelation of God.

It knows and recognizes its creator and if you and I don’t speak up — if our lives don’t become acts of worship to Jesus, then we will be shown up by the wind and the waves and the flowers, and even the rocks.


Jesus is saying, “You don’t get it. The true king is revealing himself right before your eyes and you can’t even see it.”


So we have this sort of revolutionary parade now making its way down into Jerusalem, fueled by the stories of people who have heard, fueled by the miracles that they have seen, fueled by a desire for a messiah that they had waited for.

But they didn’t want the Lamb of God. They wanted the lion of war on his horse to free them, to force their freedom from the hand of their oppressors.

And in the middle of this misguided moment, in the middle of all this incredible wailing and worship and Hosannas and palm branches, we get a glimpse into the true nature of this king.

Look at verse 41:

As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it. (Luke 19:41)

This is the moment everyone had been waiting for — worship, praise, singing, dancing, thousands of people, and in the middle of it Jesus is weeping.

“Behold your weeping king, unlike anything you’ve ever expected.”


And the words the Apostle John uses in his Gospel would imply that it wasn’t just a little cry. It was a weeping and wailing.

Jesus couldn’t get over what was happening in that moment.


Does anyone even notice?
Does anyone even notice that the heart of God is being broken right in front of them?
Are people so caught up in their worship of Jesus that they don’t even see what breaks his heart?
Are they so caught up in their songs and their words that they don’t see exactly what’s going on right in their midst… and what’s happening to Jesus?

Listen to what Jesus says in verses 41 and following:

As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 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.

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.

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.” (Luke 19:41-44)

In the middle of all this worship they had rejected the true king.


Jesus was seeing into the future about forty years from then when Rome would come and absolutely overtake the city of Jerusalem.

Almost everyone in the city was either killed or taken into captivity.


We see this king — weeping for a people who even in their worship still miss it.


So the question for us is: what do our lives say about the real Jesus?

Do we recognize him over two thousand years later?

If Jesus were to make an entry into this room right now, right now where we are, would we even recognize him?

If he were sitting right next to you would you know?


How would you know?


Is he what you had been looking for or could he be so much more?


I wonder if Jesus is so much more than the image we have of him?

I know my image and preconceived notions of Jesus have been shattered by the truth of who he really is.

The more I read about him, the more I trust him, the more I follow him, I realize he doesn’t fit into my box, not even close.

Would you recognize the real Jesus? Would I?


I think we like the Jesus who forgives our sins. And that’s a good thing, and it’s easy to follow that Jesus, especially after a Friday or Saturday night that had gotten out of hand.

We like that Jesus on Sunday.


But what about the Jesus that says, “Take up your cross and follow me”?

What about the Jesus that said, “Abandon everything. The last will actually be first”?

Do we recognize that Jesus?


Do we recognize the Jesus who comes to us, as Mother Theresa says, “In the distressing disguise of the poor, the sick and the overlooked”?

Do we recognize that Jesus?


Do we recognize the Jesus who doesn’t work like a genie in a bottle and just gives us all the wishes we want, but maybe is moving in a different way in our lives?


It’s easy to recognize Jesus when things are going great.

But do you recognize Jesus when you’re at the bottom or when it’s tough or when you’re not getting what you want?

When all your circumstances and surroundings point you in every other direction, would you recognize and would you follow Jesus?


Think about this image of Jesus weeping.

He weeps over his friend Lazarus — and the loss and the pain in his life.

But we also see Jesus weeping over a city who doesn’t even recognize him, a people who don’t even recognize him.


What do you think Jesus is weeping over in your life right now?


Is he joining with you in some pain, or loss, or disappointment, or just a tough reality of life?

Could it be that Jesus is weeping over your hard heart?

Is he weeping over the parts of your life and my life where we’ve refused to let him enter in?

Is he weeping over a relationship or a pattern in your life where you refuse to let him be king because you are on the throne?

He weeps over that, and he wants nothing more than for you to open the gates and let him in.


Jesus told the Pharisees, the ones who he wept over, that if you and I don’t live our lives as an act of worship to God in our choices, in our relationships, in the times when people see us and the times when they don’t, when we are here at Blue Oaks, when we’re not here — that if we don’t live our lives as an act of worship to God, we will be outdone by rocks.

Jesus is saying that in a rock — in this dead thing, there is more life than you could possibly imagine because it recognizes its creator and king.


I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be outdone by a rock. I want people to recognize the king I worship by how I live.

And I want it to be loud… and I want it to be real… and I want it outside of these walls.

So you and I have a choice.


I’m going to ask that you take a moment to really choose if you’re willing to let your life be louder than a rock — to let your life be what it was created to be, an every day act of worship to God — that’s louder than the grass, and the trees, and the flowers and the sunsets.

I want you to just take a moment to think about that.


And Christian and the team are going to come and lead us in an opportunity to be a whole lot louder than rocks.