Good morning church family. It’s good to worship with you this morning and glad especially to worship Christ anytime with you, especially this week. This week for us is the pinnacle of what it means to follow after Jesus together. Palm Sunday is really the kickoff to the celebration of this week in which Jesus was “All In” for us. And so we’re going to start a series together beginning today. And this is really the prelude to our series.
Today I’m going to be in Matthew 21 so if you want to grab a Bible, and find Matthew 21 with me. As we go through this passage, we’re going to use this as a lead in for us through our series in the book of 1 Peter. As we see Jesus in this time period all in for us, we want to respond in a way that is all in for him. So this week, next week we’re going to talk about the significance of Easter and then use that as a springboard to dive into 1 Peter in our lives and being all in for Jesus.
And while we look at this passage today, one of the things I want to encourage you in as a church family is just the way that you have responded to this season. I know that there’s churches all across the country that are doing things right now in response to the coronavirus and the way lives are being impacted. And I’ll just say I’m partial to ours, okay? And I love you and I’m just encouraged by the way people are responding to help each other out. Not even having to create a church ministry, official ministry to do this, but out of your love for Jesus and in that love for Jesus, your love for others. The way that you respond has been an encouragement.
We’ve had donations dropped off to help families in need. We’ve asked for nonperishable food items, over the counter medications, wipes, formula. Things that we can help out with families during this time. And even we started a corona relief fund and seeing the response to that. And in the way that people have even jumped on board and doing things like creating masks to help people on the front lines. Just appreciate the serving attitude that you’ve carried because it’s a reflection of Jesus. And I think it really culminates in seeing that in the picture of what this week represents for us.
This is Palm Sunday, today is Palm Sunday. And that has huge implications for us as God’s people as it leads to the cross of Christ. But maybe you’ve asked, maybe all of us asked why in the world Palm Sunday? That is such an odd name. You think about any title that you could give today. Why is today Palm Sunday? What does it mean for us and why does it matter? That’s what I want to talk about as we look at this passage in Matthew 21 what does it mean for us and why does it matter?
And I want to look at this from a historical perspective and then relate it to us today and how we can apply this day as a place for our hearts to worship and what it means despite any circumstance that we’re in. And so when you look at Palm Sunday this week, and let me just encourage you as you consider what today means as it goes throughout this week. This is the final period of Jesus’s life, the last week of his life on earth as he’s getting ready to go to the cross. The gospels really hone in on this section of scripture.
And so this week if you want to read this Passover as it takes place, we’re going to jump into Matthew 21. But as you go further into Matthew 21 those are the final weeks of Jesus’s life, all the way to chapter 28 you can read a chapter a day as it relates to the last days of Jesus’s life. Those chapters don’t necessarily sequentially follow each day, but you do have seven chapters in seven days that you could read. It also carries the same idea in the gospel of Mark 11 all the way to Mark 16. Or in the gospel of Luke, I think it starts in chapter 19. You can read along in Jesus’s final moments of his life. Or even on Thursday when Jesus went in the upper room with his disciples, John 13 to John 17. Those are the final moments with his disciples in the upper room on Thursday night. You could read that just on Thursday. Great passages to read.
And if I kind of set the tone leading into this week, the disciples were anticipating what was about to take place in the life of Jesus. He couldn’t hide anymore. The attention that was just brought around Christ had attracted the masses. And when you get to the gospel of Mark, if you read in chapter eight, chapter nine, and chapter 10 all three of those chapters. Each chapter, Jesus starts to tell his disciples he’s about to die. And when you get to chapter 10 he even tells us where he’s about to die. And then in chapter 10 verse 32 he tells us it’s going to be in Jerusalem, and even the hands of the Gentiles will play a part in his death. And then in those moments when he’s describing his death, he then looks to his disciples and say, let’s go to Jerusalem.
And in verse 32 of chapter 10 you see their response. So this sorta sets the tone of how the disciples were perceiving these moments. And in verse 32 it says they were now on the way up to Jerusalem and Jesus was walking ahead of them. The disciples were filled with awe and the people following behind were overwhelmed with fear. You can imagine a guy that’s pronouncing his death saying it’s going to happen in Jerusalem, now on his way to Jerusalem. And he’s leading the pack and everyone else kind of following behind them thinking, why? Why are we doing this? He knows he’s going to die there and yet he’s walking into Jerusalem.
What is the importance of Palm Sunday in this whole picture, this moment leads to Palm Sunday. Why does it matter? What does it mean for us? I want to share with us the significance of this day really just through three images. Because without really saying a whole lot, these images that create an illustration of beauty, and significance to this day for us and why we see it so important in worship.
And those symbols for us in this story, Matthew 21, are a donkey, a song, and a palm branch. A donkey, a song, and a palm branch. What do they mean for us? Beautiful imagery around these pictures. And Matthew 21 starts off in verse one wanting us to see the significance of what these pictures represent beginning with the donkey. Let’s look at the significance of the donkey for a moment. In verse one it says this, when they approached Jerusalem, Jesus sent two disciples saying to them, go into the village, find a donkey tied there and a colt with her, untie them and bring them to me. So this donkey has just delivered this baby and the mother’s going to want to be next to her child. And so they bring both of them together. In verse three if anyone says anything to you, you shall say the Lord has needed them. And immediately he will send them.
And this took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet. Verse five, saying to the daughter of Zion, behold, your King is coming to you, gentle and mounted on a donkey, even a colt, the foal of a beast of burden. The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them. Verse seven, and brought the donkey and the colt and laid their coats on them. And he sat on the coats.
In these moments, what the people of Israel have been longing for is the fulfillment of a promise of a Messiah. A rescuer. That’s what he was, a rescuer. They were a people that were God’s chosen and they knew that a savior was to come and they were longing for the day. In fact, if you were to read the last two books of the Old Testament, you’ll find that the book of Zachariah and Malakai are heavy in its emphasis of the Messiah.
And the very last chapter of the last book, Malakai, talks about the coming of Elijah. And even today the Jews will practice the Passover. And there’s a portion of that celebration, that dinner in which they look for an Elijah. And when you get to the New Testament, the Bible tells us that Elijah figure was John the Baptist and Malika says, and Elijah is going to come, he’s going to proclaim this Messiah. And so they’re looking for this Elijah figure in the proclamation of this Messiah. So these last two books of the Bible are heavily emphasizing this idea of a Redeemer, a rescuer, a Messiah who is to come. And so Israel is longing for this moment. And in Matthew 21 the author is saying to us, look, Jesus is riding on a donkey in verse four, why is this important? Because this is a fulfillment.
And where is the fulfillment? Out of one of the last books of the Old Testament that’s looking forward to this Messiah. And what does this Messiah do in order to fulfill the promise that was declared to him from the prophet? He rides on a donkey. Zechariah 9:9 tells them when their Messiah comes, it will be on the back of a donkey. And so what Matthew is declaring for us is, not only is God a promise maker, but he’s a promise fulfiller. And so he’s riding into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. And you can just picture in your mind this moment what it would look like. Israel, this pilgrimage is taking place among these people into the city of Jerusalem to celebrate one of their most sacred holidays, Passover, the day that God rescued them out of Egypt as a picture of a future rescue of the ultimate Messiah who would come.
The streets are loaded and Jesus comes. On the back of a donkey. Think about this. If you were to become a leader somewhere, maybe this is stretching our imagination a bit, but let’s say you were to become king and you were to make your public appearance before people in that declaration and the masses. How would you want to arrive? What would you ride on? A helicopter? A limo? How about a donkey?
You think in Jesus’s day, if you could have picked anything to ride on, a beautiful carriage? I mean, if you are king, a powerful war horse decked out maybe in armor. Why a donkey? Out of all the things Jesus could have picked for his grand entrance in Jerusalem on his final week, of which he just declared to his disciples, he’s going to die, he picks a donkey. Why a donkey?
He’s a King and he’s coming to take his position. When a King would go to battle, they wouldn’t do it on a donkey. They would do it on a horse. But a donkey has a different purpose. The donkey is considered a serving animal. It’s a humble animal. It’s an animal that’s used not in times of war like a horse, but an animal that represents peace, because you wrote on a donkey during times of peace. Times when you would plow land and harvest. You would ride the horse for war. And Jesus comes in on a donkey.
In 1 Kings 1, when Solomon was inaugurated as king, David had Solomon ride on the back of a donkey. As if to declare to the people, here’s a king of peace, a servant of the people. What Jesus, without saying anything to us, is declaring not only does he fulfill promises, but he also comes as a King who is serving to offer peace in our relationship to God.
Why does this donkey matter? Well, for us today it is an incredible demonstration to the character of our Lord. Without ever saying anything it communicates the kind of person he is. He could have picked the most elaborate way of travel, but he chose a humble donkey. As a promise keeper, a promise fulfiller, but also as a humble King that has come to serve and make himself available. Both to the people in Israel during this time and to you today.
When you think about the beauty of what that represents for us, what kind of environment does it take for your children to thrive in? Because the Bible describes for us, God is a father who cares for us as his children. When you think about your home, what kind of home do you want to have for your kids to welcome them in so that they can be strong? So that they can grow and mature? Safe, right? Peaceful, protective, caring, loving, gracious, serving. That’s who Jesus is. He is that place that welcomes us through this posture.
And not only that, it becomes a model for God’s people. A model that I’ve even encouraged you as we started together, that we’ve displayed during this coronavirus. That God, for us is a humble servant, as a demonstration of how our lives should be led. So when you think about the significance of what Palm Sunday is for us, this image of this donkey becomes a massive picture to the character of our God and what he brings into our lives by giving himself in Jerusalem.
And not only does the Bible share the significance of this donkey, but he goes on in verse eight of Matthew 21 it says, in talking about this song, most of the crowds spread their coats on the road as Jesus came. And others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them on the road. And the crowd’s going ahead of him. And those who followed were shouting, Hosanna to the son of David. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the highest. And when he entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred saying, who is this?
You can imagine this massive holiday, Jerusalem just packed and everyone buzzing. And it even tells you the crowds are just in the street and they see Jesus and no doubt in their minds. This Messianic picture of the last two chapters of the Old Testament. When the prophets went silent, they could be on their mind and they think about, okay, and here comes this Jesus that we’ve heard about. And he’s riding on a donkey just like Zachariah 9 says. And what’s their response?
Well, it tells us in verse nine, they sing the song Hosanna. Hosanna. The son of David. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Why does this song manner? Why does Matthew want us to know about this song? Well, when you study this Passover time period, it was common for Israel during the Passover, part of this celebration included a portion of scripture reading and scripture singing, which was called the Hallel, the songs of ascent, which is Psalm 113 to 118. Israel would sing these Psalms during the Passover celebration and most likely just to pass the time in their travel. What these individuals are doing as they walked this road, they’re singing the Hallel, these the song of ascent. And some speculate the reason it’s called the songs of ascent is because to get to Jerusalem, they’re going up.
And so they would sing these songs as they go up. And could you imagine this moment, you see Jesus coming on the back of a donkey and you’re singing these songs and all of a sudden in the middle of these songs, you get to this portion of scripture that cries out this prophetic statement about the Messiah himself. How ironic or maybe of divine circumstance that Jesus would be riding on a donkey as they’re shouting and singing these very words, Hosanna, Hosanna. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. This, this word Hosannah means salvation now. And they’re quoting from Psalm 118:25-26.
Could you imagine being Israel in this moment? That the Passover was an event that took place in Israel’s history as they escaped out of Egypt, that God brought the Passover lamb and said, cover the blood of the lamb over your doorposts. And God will let the death angel go through Egypt and you’ll be able to escape, if you apply the blood of the lamb. And whoever applies the blood, you won’t die or your firstborn will live. And so they apply the blood and and Pharaoh lets them free. And they run in that freedom towards the promised land that God would provide.
And this physical Passover in Egypt became a model throughout the rest of scripture of what God would ultimately do through the true Messiah. And in these moments, they cry out towards the Messiah.
Salvation. Hosanna, save now God. This picture is now being fulfilled of this physical Passover in the one who would ultimately come and rescue them.
And what this Psalm reminds us of, is that Christ gives us a song to sing. As true as it was for the children of Israel in singing this song, as true as it is for us today. That in his salvation guys, he gives us a song to sing. This week is your week in that reflection to sing that song of praise. To allow your heart to embrace not only the gift historically of this moment, but what it represents to you today. That Jesus would be this rescuer for you and your heart can rejoice in the coming of this Messiah, that he’s given your soul a reason to sing his praise.
And if you can’t find a reason to sing that praise, can I just say to you this morning, you’re not looking close enough. Because the characteristic of this King, this King who serves in peace is one who came for your soul. And not only that, not only do we see the picture of the donkey and we see the picture of song, but we also see in this story the picture of Palm branch. And in verse eight it describes it for us, right as he’s going down the street, these people in this moment, they see the Christ that that others have talked about throughout the land and here they are in this this moment. They happen to see this Jesus riding on this donkey. And the people start to respond by laying down coats and they lay down palm branches. What do these palms are present?
Well, in the time of Jesus, it was a way to celebrate the victory of a King. It was one of power and symbolically and won a victory. Palm leaves were used as a part of a celebration when in Roman athletics, when the competitors would win, they would be awarded with palm branches as a symbol of strength. And now in this moment and the recognition of celebration and victory and power and strength of the coming of Jesus, they lay it down before their King as if to acknowledge that Jesus, we want you to take your rightful place.
Here’s the problem. Honestly, they missed them. Palm Sunday came and they are responding in these moments, but truthfully they missed them. When you read about this same interaction that happens in the gospel of Luke, in Luke 19:41, this verse is right off the backdrop, the very previous verse, is Jesus riding in on a donkey into Jerusalem. And they’re waving these palm branches before Christ and crying out Hosanna. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. But in verse 41 it gives us Jesus’s reaction to this moment.
You picture in your mind, it tells you the crowds, Matthew 21, the crowds are everywhere. And how does Jesus respond? It says this in verse 41 as he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, Jesus wept over it and said, if you even you, had only known on this day, what would bring you peace? But now it’s hidden from your eyes. Jesus even acknowledging in this moment right on the back of a donkey, that he a King that’s come for peace, and yet he weeps in recognizing that while the people outwardly display this affection towards him, inwardly their hearts do not belong to him. And Jesus weeps.
You know what’s incredible in this story if you read in Matthew 21 and you go throughout this week, if you read a chapter a week, what you’re going to find is that Jesus goes on some of the boldest responses that he gives in all of the scriptures to his identity. He goes into the temple right after this, he cleanses the temple where he drives people out of the temple. The religious leaders come to him at the very end of chapter 21 and chapter 22, and they ask him questions to try to trap him and Jesus answers their questions masterfully and give some parables in between all of it.
And then in chapter 23 comes before the religious leaders and he delivers the seven woes in the declaration against them and calling them whitewashed tombs that on the outside they look beautiful, but on the inside full of dead man’s bones. And then in chapter 24 the disciples know that this has been a very tense time. And they looked to Jesus on the end of chapter 24 as he’s walking out of Jerusalem and they just say, but Jesus doesn’t the temple look good? And in chapter 24 and 25 this is where Jesus says to him, it doesn’t matter. It’s all going to be destroyed. The days of the temple are done.
And by the time you get to chapter 27, the same crowd that cried out, Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Verse 22 of chapter 27 they become the same people that chant, “crucify, crucify.” Pilate even asks in verse 11 of chapter 27, “Are you a King?” And Jesus even has to teach them in those moments, I am a King, but my kingdom is not of this world. If it were so would told my servants to fight. The irony of the people as they lift up their voices and singing Psalm 118 to Jesus and they lower their palm branches. The irony of this story is the very same Psalm 118 that says Hosanna. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Just a few verses before that. Verse 22 it tells us that he is the cornerstone, the stone which the builders rejected.
The same Psalm that gives the declaration of the identity of Jesus, acknowledges that people will reject him and not recognize him for who he is. And so when you look at the Palm branches that are used in these moments to declare the goodness of who Christ is, the unfortunate part of this story is that even though people are outwardly praising the name of God, they missed him. How did they miss him?
I think the answer is simple in their lives, their expectation of who Jesus would be for them wasn’t who he really was. See what they wanted was one who would come physically to preserve the things that they owned in this world. But Jesus knows this world is passing away and what he came as is a rescue for us and to spiritually make us new in him. And so they placed an expectation on Jesus that wasn’t what Jesus came to achieve for us. He came to set us free by paying for our sins on the cross. And when Jesus went to the cross, they rejected him and chanted crucify. And I think we can fall into the same mistake of Jesus today that we set this idea of Jesus or this idea of God, but it isn’t who God is.
Look, we say it like this as a church family, if the picture of your God agrees with everything that you say about him, it’s probably not God. Most likely it’s an idol that you’ve set up of God. Because the truth is sometimes following God isn’t easy, and some areas of our lives that requires us to die to the flesh, I should say, all areas that requires us to die to the flesh, to live for him. To let go of things that we might hold onto in order to hold onto what is greater, which is Jesus. And the people in Jesus’s day didn’t want to do that. They preferred to hold onto their own kingdoms and the glory in which they established for themselves than to embrace this King.
Our expectations of Jesus can cause us to miss the significance of Jesus. That’s why it’s so important for us when we pick up the scriptures to read it like a child and just say, Jesus, teach me who you are. God isn’t who you say he is. He isn’t who others say he is. He is who he says he is. And so what are these palm branches mean for us? These palm branches are a representation of your heart and your surrender. As you think about the significance of this week, Palm Sunday. Jesus goes all in for you and this is the question for you is, are you all in for him?
Have you surrendered to this King who comes peacefully for the rescuing of your soul? Palm Sunday is so important for us because this is the week of the Anthem of God’s people. He didn’t just come to us. He overcame for us. Why does it matter? What does it mean? You have a peace loving, caring King who came for your rescue. That’s why it matters. He invites your soul to belong and grow in his strength. So what does it mean? What it means for us is really, it poses this question, have you surrendered and bowed to him in the truthfulness of your own heart? Not just this outward conformity, but inwardly have you laid your life down for him as he has laid his life down for you?
Really today we call it Palm Sunday because it’s your palm branch day. And it’s really not just today, it’s every day of answering the question, what will your life be surrendered to? And you look at this circumstance and you read this story and you realize the magnitude of all the people that are, I mean this is this kind of moment. If you could have been a part of it would have probably caused the hair on your arms to stand up. How incredible would have been on the song of ascent, going into Jerusalem with all of these crowds and the hustle and bustle to see Jesus come in and people heralding him and praising his name. And they got it wrong. They got it wrong to the point that chanted, crucify.
But guys, let me encourage you this morning because today you can be the day you get it right. And not only can today be the day that we get it right, in eternity, God gives us a do over. And I’m going to show you what we mean because in Revelation, John repaints the story. In Revelation 7:9, listen to what John says about God’s people before him in eternity, it says this, John records this. He says, after these things, I looked and behold a great multitude, which no one could count from every nation and all tribes and tongues and people standing before the throne and before the lamb clothed in white robes. And listened to this, palm branches were in their hands and they cry out with a loud voice, saying salvation to our God who sits on the throne and to the lamb. And all of the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worship God saying amen. Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen.
What it’s saying to us is this is why Palm Sunday is important. Because it’s not only something that they celebrated in the first century when Jesus walked into Jerusalem, it will be the celebration of God’s people throughout eternity. That one day we’ll get to do it again and our hearts will be in the right place when we see the Messiah. And not only will it be in the right place then, it happens then because your heart can be in the right place now.
Our hearts need something unchangeable, something reliable. Something that welcomes us in and nurtures us from the inside out, and gives us reason to celebrate in a song of rejoicing. And what it’s saying to us in this story is that song is Jesus. And your opportunity to do that is now. And that praise continues forever. Why does it matter? What does it mean for God’s people? It means everything. It matters for us because this is the salvation song of our heart.