Why A Palm Sunday

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Sunday - 9:15 AM Sunday School, 10:30 AM Worship Service

by: Denise Robinson

04/11/2022

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Why a Palm Sunday?

Matthew 21:1-9; Zechariah 9:9-10

How many Palm Sunday sermons do you think you’ve heard by now? For many of you, the number would be one a year for most, if not all of your lives. For some, the number may not be nearly so high. For me, there were the years of growing up in the church, followed by a long absence with none, then one a year ever since. Bottom line, I’ve heard a lot of sermons with donkeys and palm branches and hosannas. But it’s never been explained to me why there was a Palm Sunday at all. I believe it happened and that it happened as the gospels describe. But why? If you were told you had one week to live, what would you do? I’ve joked that I would fill my days with pizza and coconut cream pie, but I know that’s not true. When time gets that short and you’re down to your last week, it’s crunch time, time to focus what’s really important. Spending time with family, setting relationships right where things have gone wrong, making sure your earthly – and spiritual – affairs are in order.   

Going into that Sunday of the palms waving and the shouts, Jesus knew he had less than one week to live – and, as we learned last week, on his way to Jerusalem he was still doing what he had done for three years: teaching, healing, and seeking the lost. But now it’s the last week, Holy Week. Jesus knows he will be betrayed on Thursday. on the cross by Friday morning, and in a tomb by Friday night. So, why in the world would he go through the motions of riding into Jerusalem on a donkey the Sunday before? What is Palm Sunday really about?

First, there’s the obvious answer. It was done to fulfill Old Testament prophecy and to send the message that Jesus really was the Messiah, the King, the Son of God. It’s about Jesus saying to everybody there that day in Jerusalem, “Okay, you all see me. It’s vitally important for you to know who I am.” Why was that so important? If you remember, in Jesus’ ministry, he had addressed that issue multiple times. People watched him and listened to him and were confused. That was even true of his disciples; and he had shared most clearly with them his true identity and his mission. I mean, think of Matthew 16, where Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” People had different theories. Some were saying, “Well, He’s Elijah.” Others said, “He’s John the Baptist, raised from the dead.” Still others speculated he might be another one of the prophets, like Moses or Isaiah or Jeremiah, for example. Then Jesus says to his disciples, “Who do you think I am?” And Peter, remember, is the one who answers, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!” And Jesus lets Peter, and the other disciples, know that is the correct answer. 

What were the Old Testament prophecies? The prophet Zechariah said that the kingdom would come out of Jerusalem and that the king would triumphantly enter riding on a donkey. The palms come from the words of 2 Kings and the shouts of “Hosanna” from Ps. 118. In Jesus, on Palm Sunday, the prophecies were are fulfilled; and there would be more to follow throughout the week in his betrayal, arrest, trial, crucifixion, and resurrection. We need to understand that in Jewish history, going back thousands of years, it was common for kings, rulers, and judges to ride donkeys. In Hollywood, if a great military American hero showed up in Washington, DC riding a donkey, we’d laugh because we’d be expecting our triumphant hero to be riding on a white stallion or maybe a tank. A donkey would just be wrong. But in the Old Testament, a donkey was considered a perfectly appropriate royal animal. And, so, Jesus is making a claim to kingship by riding this donkey. And it’s clear that the crowd gets it. They cry out, “Behold, your king is coming to you, Zion!” “Hosanna – which means save us – to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” It’s clear that the crowds get the message.

By the end of Palm Sunday, no one should have had any doubts about who Jesus was claiming to be – not a great teacher or rabbi, not a healer, not a great moral example, not merely one of many children of God. Jesus was claiming to be the Son of God, the One bringing into the world the kingdom of heaven, the foretold and promised Messiah, fully divine himself and bringing God’s gift of forgiveness and love to a broken world. 

The second reason for Palm Sunday is that Jesus was now openly proclaiming that his time has finally come, the time to fulfill what he had come to earth to do. Three years before, at a place called Cana, there was a sign that the time had come for his ministry to begin. If you recall the facts, Jesus was attending a wedding and his mother, Mary, was at that wedding. When the wedding hosts ran out of wine, Jesus’ mother came to him with a request – to provide more wine. She wasn’t asking him, of course, to run down to the closest store and buy some wine. She was asking him to do a God thing, and Jesus knew that. He knew it wasn’t just about wine; that once he did what she was asking it would start the whole chain of events leading to this week. His initial response was to tell his mother that his hour had not yet come. But she knew different. Jesus’ ministry began that day and now another hour has come, the time for it to end. Another sign was needed. Jesus had walked all the way from Galilee to Jerusalem, but now it’s important to make a statement. Jesus knew that by making this bold and symbolic entry into Jerusalem, the capital city, at the start of Passover week when the city was crowded, people would notice. He also knew that the statement he was making, to be the promised Messiah, the One sent by God, would be understood by every Jew who saw or heard and it would certainly provoke an immediate confrontation with the religious authorities, a confrontation that would lead to his arrest and death. Jesus is making a public declaration about things that he has been teaching his disciples for over three years, summing up for them and for us his mission. He came to teach, to heal, and to show us a new way of living; but most important of all, he came to die. 

The third reason Palm Sunday is so important is that it shows that everything that was happening, and was to happen, was under Jesus’ control and at his direction. None of this is done to him or without his consent. Jesus picked the day, the start of Passover festival when he knew the crowds would be present and the Jewish authorities would see and hear. He made prior arrangements for the donkey with its owner. He sent his disciples to retrieve it for him. He told them to identify him as “the Lord.” If we jump just a few chapters over, to Matthew 26, Jesus will say to his disciples, “In two days the Passover is coming and the Son of Man will be crucified.” Now listen to what happens next. The chief priests who were gathered together with Caiaphas and plotting to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him, said, "Not during the feast or there will be an uproar among the people." Now, do you get that? Jesus says, "In two days, I'm going to be arrested. I'm going to be tried. I'm going to be beaten. I'm going to suffer. I'm going to die." And the people who are planning to do it, say, "Oh, we're not going to do it this week." And, in essence, Jesus’ response is, "Yes you are, because I've planned it this way." You think you’re in control, but you’re wrong. Jesus is not the victim of the Romans. He's not the victim of the high priests or of the Sanhedrin or of the Pharisees. He’s not the victim of the crowds. Jesus is in complete control. He's fulfilling Scripture, he’s completing his mission, and he’s dying so that we might live. 

Why a Palm Sunday? It took place to proclaim who Jesus was, to confirm that the time had come for everything to be completed, and to make it clear that it was all done by his consent and under his control. It drew attention to the death on the cross that was to come and to the resurrection that would follow. But, if this answers the question as to why Palm Sunday was important then, we are still left with the question, “Why does Palm Sunday matter to us today?” Is this Sunday, for us, merely a time to look back and think on what happened as some kind of history lesson? The answer to that question is, of course, no. It matters today, because the question of who Jesus is and what the meaning of the events that happened that last week, are eternal questions, questions of life and death. It’s the difference between heaven and hell. 

Jesus’ actions on Palm Sunday were intended to provoke a response then – and the same is true for us today. Jesus is focusing our attention the most important question we will ever be asked: “Who do you say that I am?” He is asking you to sit here today and think, “Who do I really believe that Jesus is? Am I prepared to stake my life on who Jesus claimed, and still claims, to be?” In one of his last conversations with his disciples, just a few nights later, John’s Gospel tells us that one of the disciples will say to Jesus, “Jesus, we love everything you’re telling us about how you’re going to prepare a place for us so that we can be with you forever, but we don’t know where that is or how to get there.” And do you remember how Jesus answers that question? He says, “Sure you do. Let me tell you plainly. I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me. If you know me, you know God. If you’ve seen me, really seen me as I am, then you’ve seen God.” That’s why the "Who am I?" question is so important? Jesus is saying, "Nobody gets to God, to heaven, except by me, by believing in me as Lord, King, Messiah, Savior.” That’s a very personal question for every single of one us today. 

Jesus, on the first Palm Sunday, was not the kind of King that the crowds were expecting. He was not the kind of King they wanted. They wanted somebody who would come in, get rid of the Romans, and establish Israel as a powerful, independent nation just like it had been after King David. Jesus knew what they wanted, but, more importantly, he knew what they needed. What is the point of gaining the world if you lose your soul? And, you know what? Sometimes it’s like that with us. We have no idea what Jesus is doing or how our lives will play out, and we have our own ideas about what we want and what we think is best, but Jesus is the Savior we need. That’s what Palm Sunday is all about.

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Why a Palm Sunday?

Matthew 21:1-9; Zechariah 9:9-10

How many Palm Sunday sermons do you think you’ve heard by now? For many of you, the number would be one a year for most, if not all of your lives. For some, the number may not be nearly so high. For me, there were the years of growing up in the church, followed by a long absence with none, then one a year ever since. Bottom line, I’ve heard a lot of sermons with donkeys and palm branches and hosannas. But it’s never been explained to me why there was a Palm Sunday at all. I believe it happened and that it happened as the gospels describe. But why? If you were told you had one week to live, what would you do? I’ve joked that I would fill my days with pizza and coconut cream pie, but I know that’s not true. When time gets that short and you’re down to your last week, it’s crunch time, time to focus what’s really important. Spending time with family, setting relationships right where things have gone wrong, making sure your earthly – and spiritual – affairs are in order.   

Going into that Sunday of the palms waving and the shouts, Jesus knew he had less than one week to live – and, as we learned last week, on his way to Jerusalem he was still doing what he had done for three years: teaching, healing, and seeking the lost. But now it’s the last week, Holy Week. Jesus knows he will be betrayed on Thursday. on the cross by Friday morning, and in a tomb by Friday night. So, why in the world would he go through the motions of riding into Jerusalem on a donkey the Sunday before? What is Palm Sunday really about?

First, there’s the obvious answer. It was done to fulfill Old Testament prophecy and to send the message that Jesus really was the Messiah, the King, the Son of God. It’s about Jesus saying to everybody there that day in Jerusalem, “Okay, you all see me. It’s vitally important for you to know who I am.” Why was that so important? If you remember, in Jesus’ ministry, he had addressed that issue multiple times. People watched him and listened to him and were confused. That was even true of his disciples; and he had shared most clearly with them his true identity and his mission. I mean, think of Matthew 16, where Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” People had different theories. Some were saying, “Well, He’s Elijah.” Others said, “He’s John the Baptist, raised from the dead.” Still others speculated he might be another one of the prophets, like Moses or Isaiah or Jeremiah, for example. Then Jesus says to his disciples, “Who do you think I am?” And Peter, remember, is the one who answers, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!” And Jesus lets Peter, and the other disciples, know that is the correct answer. 

What were the Old Testament prophecies? The prophet Zechariah said that the kingdom would come out of Jerusalem and that the king would triumphantly enter riding on a donkey. The palms come from the words of 2 Kings and the shouts of “Hosanna” from Ps. 118. In Jesus, on Palm Sunday, the prophecies were are fulfilled; and there would be more to follow throughout the week in his betrayal, arrest, trial, crucifixion, and resurrection. We need to understand that in Jewish history, going back thousands of years, it was common for kings, rulers, and judges to ride donkeys. In Hollywood, if a great military American hero showed up in Washington, DC riding a donkey, we’d laugh because we’d be expecting our triumphant hero to be riding on a white stallion or maybe a tank. A donkey would just be wrong. But in the Old Testament, a donkey was considered a perfectly appropriate royal animal. And, so, Jesus is making a claim to kingship by riding this donkey. And it’s clear that the crowd gets it. They cry out, “Behold, your king is coming to you, Zion!” “Hosanna – which means save us – to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” It’s clear that the crowds get the message.

By the end of Palm Sunday, no one should have had any doubts about who Jesus was claiming to be – not a great teacher or rabbi, not a healer, not a great moral example, not merely one of many children of God. Jesus was claiming to be the Son of God, the One bringing into the world the kingdom of heaven, the foretold and promised Messiah, fully divine himself and bringing God’s gift of forgiveness and love to a broken world. 

The second reason for Palm Sunday is that Jesus was now openly proclaiming that his time has finally come, the time to fulfill what he had come to earth to do. Three years before, at a place called Cana, there was a sign that the time had come for his ministry to begin. If you recall the facts, Jesus was attending a wedding and his mother, Mary, was at that wedding. When the wedding hosts ran out of wine, Jesus’ mother came to him with a request – to provide more wine. She wasn’t asking him, of course, to run down to the closest store and buy some wine. She was asking him to do a God thing, and Jesus knew that. He knew it wasn’t just about wine; that once he did what she was asking it would start the whole chain of events leading to this week. His initial response was to tell his mother that his hour had not yet come. But she knew different. Jesus’ ministry began that day and now another hour has come, the time for it to end. Another sign was needed. Jesus had walked all the way from Galilee to Jerusalem, but now it’s important to make a statement. Jesus knew that by making this bold and symbolic entry into Jerusalem, the capital city, at the start of Passover week when the city was crowded, people would notice. He also knew that the statement he was making, to be the promised Messiah, the One sent by God, would be understood by every Jew who saw or heard and it would certainly provoke an immediate confrontation with the religious authorities, a confrontation that would lead to his arrest and death. Jesus is making a public declaration about things that he has been teaching his disciples for over three years, summing up for them and for us his mission. He came to teach, to heal, and to show us a new way of living; but most important of all, he came to die. 

The third reason Palm Sunday is so important is that it shows that everything that was happening, and was to happen, was under Jesus’ control and at his direction. None of this is done to him or without his consent. Jesus picked the day, the start of Passover festival when he knew the crowds would be present and the Jewish authorities would see and hear. He made prior arrangements for the donkey with its owner. He sent his disciples to retrieve it for him. He told them to identify him as “the Lord.” If we jump just a few chapters over, to Matthew 26, Jesus will say to his disciples, “In two days the Passover is coming and the Son of Man will be crucified.” Now listen to what happens next. The chief priests who were gathered together with Caiaphas and plotting to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him, said, "Not during the feast or there will be an uproar among the people." Now, do you get that? Jesus says, "In two days, I'm going to be arrested. I'm going to be tried. I'm going to be beaten. I'm going to suffer. I'm going to die." And the people who are planning to do it, say, "Oh, we're not going to do it this week." And, in essence, Jesus’ response is, "Yes you are, because I've planned it this way." You think you’re in control, but you’re wrong. Jesus is not the victim of the Romans. He's not the victim of the high priests or of the Sanhedrin or of the Pharisees. He’s not the victim of the crowds. Jesus is in complete control. He's fulfilling Scripture, he’s completing his mission, and he’s dying so that we might live. 

Why a Palm Sunday? It took place to proclaim who Jesus was, to confirm that the time had come for everything to be completed, and to make it clear that it was all done by his consent and under his control. It drew attention to the death on the cross that was to come and to the resurrection that would follow. But, if this answers the question as to why Palm Sunday was important then, we are still left with the question, “Why does Palm Sunday matter to us today?” Is this Sunday, for us, merely a time to look back and think on what happened as some kind of history lesson? The answer to that question is, of course, no. It matters today, because the question of who Jesus is and what the meaning of the events that happened that last week, are eternal questions, questions of life and death. It’s the difference between heaven and hell. 

Jesus’ actions on Palm Sunday were intended to provoke a response then – and the same is true for us today. Jesus is focusing our attention the most important question we will ever be asked: “Who do you say that I am?” He is asking you to sit here today and think, “Who do I really believe that Jesus is? Am I prepared to stake my life on who Jesus claimed, and still claims, to be?” In one of his last conversations with his disciples, just a few nights later, John’s Gospel tells us that one of the disciples will say to Jesus, “Jesus, we love everything you’re telling us about how you’re going to prepare a place for us so that we can be with you forever, but we don’t know where that is or how to get there.” And do you remember how Jesus answers that question? He says, “Sure you do. Let me tell you plainly. I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me. If you know me, you know God. If you’ve seen me, really seen me as I am, then you’ve seen God.” That’s why the "Who am I?" question is so important? Jesus is saying, "Nobody gets to God, to heaven, except by me, by believing in me as Lord, King, Messiah, Savior.” That’s a very personal question for every single of one us today. 

Jesus, on the first Palm Sunday, was not the kind of King that the crowds were expecting. He was not the kind of King they wanted. They wanted somebody who would come in, get rid of the Romans, and establish Israel as a powerful, independent nation just like it had been after King David. Jesus knew what they wanted, but, more importantly, he knew what they needed. What is the point of gaining the world if you lose your soul? And, you know what? Sometimes it’s like that with us. We have no idea what Jesus is doing or how our lives will play out, and we have our own ideas about what we want and what we think is best, but Jesus is the Savior we need. That’s what Palm Sunday is all about.

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