Good evening! We are starting yet another new series, entitled “The Final Week.” Through the course of the next 2 weeks we are going to be looking at a few stories that happened during Christ’s Final Week before the cross.
It’s that time of the year again, the Jews are celebrating Passover and we just celebrated Palm Sunday. Tonight, I want to take us to the same passage we looked at on Sunday. This passage is most often referred to as the Triumphal Entry of Jesus Christ. Tonight we are going to be looking at the beginning of this Final Week.
This story consists of Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey and everyone spreading Palm branches for Him. Now notice Matthew 21:10, “And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, ‘Who is this?’” This question is going to be theme that ties the next 2 weeks together. Who is Jesus? The question before us is “Why did He do what He did, when He knew what He knew?” That is that the same crowd that welcomed and praised Him on Sunday, would be the same crowd that booed and despised Him on Friday.
Understanding Jesus Here and Now
Did you know that understanding Jesus is an incredibly hard thing to do? Did you know that there have been more books written about Jesus Christ over the years than any other single book written in history?
I mean, Who is this Guy? Do you remember your first impressions of Jesus as a child? I remember my first impressions of Jesus… take a look at this picture that I found yesterday. I think it does a good job summing up my first impression of Jesus.
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My first impression consisted of this superhero kind of guy with a blue cape and big muscles. My first impression was of this dude that could fly, read people’s minds, shoot laser beams from his eyes, was bullet proof, and had the special ability to die on a cross and come back to life 3 days later.
Kind of crazy, huh? I was a kid, what do you expect.
Ok, some of your first impressions may have been a little different. Some of you may have thought of Jesus as this kind of wimpy Gandhi kind of guy who walked around in his underwear and preached about loving your neighbor. Some of you may have thought of Jesus as this mean cop, who was out looking for you to sin. And no matter what you did, how small the sin was, there was the “long arm of the Law” Jesus coming to give you a whipping.
I have some pictures of what some people say Jesus is…
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My point, is most of us, on some level has a presupposition to who we think Jesus is. And to be kind of frank- I don’t what to know who you think Jesus is; and I hope you don’t want to know just who I think Jesus is, but actually Who is Jesus? Is Jesus just some nice guy to you? Is Jesus some Bible teacher to you? Is Jesus your homeboy? Or is Jesus your Savior?
My prayer for us over the next two weeks is to come away with a good understanding of who Jesus is and what He came for. But I don’t want to stop here. My prayer is that through this understanding of who Christ is that we will see some new or refreshed commitments to Christ. My prayer is that you will be willing to devote your life to Jesus. Or as our last series was entitled, I pray that we as a group will be willing to “Go All In” for Christ.
There’s this old phrase: wysi wig –This simply means “What you see is what you get”
Think about it this way. When you are using Microsoft Word at school to type up a paper; when you hit the print button at the top of the screen and the paper prints out. The printed copy looks just like the original on the computer screen. So whatever you type on the screen, you can expect it to look just like you typed it when it prints.
But sometimes in life you don’t always “get what you see.”
I have quick story: Rachel and I got married about a year ago now. May 2 to be precise. Before we got married, we planned this thing called the honeymoon. To do so, we had to visit a travel agent to book the vacation. We met with a lady and she showed us all kinds of magazines of places that we could go. She showed us this Sandals Resort one, for a place called St. Lucia. St. Lucia is an island about 300 miles off the coast of South America. The pictures in the brochure looked beautiful! Crystal clear water, white sandy beaches, and all the amenities of a fancy resort. “This looks like the place for us!” we said. “And it’s in our budget, too!” also concluded. So we booked the vacation of a lifetime.
So May 2 comes, we are married, and we are off first class to St. Lucia. We get to the island, and it looks beautiful! We arrive at the resort an hour later, to be slightly surprised. We get off the mini van and get escorted to our room.
Remember I said that the place looked amazing in the brochure? Well, it didn’t look so amazing in person…
The room was way smaller and older than was advertised, the beach had dirty brown sand, the water looked like Myrtle Beach, and the service was horrible!
My point is this; we didn’t get what we had originally expected from the vacation.
Tonight we are going to look at a story in the Bible where the people didn’t really get what they expected. In this story the people came and cheered for the One who they thought was going to take the thrown of Rome and be the king to release them from Roman oppression. But sadly the same crowd that cheered for Jesus on Friday was the same crowd that booed him on Sunday.
“Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.’ This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,
‘Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’
The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him 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, the whole city was stirred up saying, ‘Who is this?’ And the crowds said, ‘This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
The week that changed the world
One third of the Gospels is taken to record this Final Week.
Jesus came into Jerusalem during the raging Passover feast. This week would have been booming. The way I imagine it, it would look something like our modern day Spring Break weekend in Florida. Where people were running around partying because they had finally been released from the bondage of school!
Many historians actually suggest that this particular Passover celebration was one of the largest to take place in Jerusalem to this date. I don’t know if they just advertized really well to bring people in- Facebook ads, Myspace ads, commercials, or large road signs. Whatever the reason, there were many more people here this particular week than in years past.
I’d like to think that God brought them there to crucify Jesus, but hey what do I know?
The Passover Explained
Now, of course we all know that the Passover celebration was important to the Jews, but let me explain why it was so important…
This is a story of Israel’s slavery and oppression by Egypt. You’ve heard the story, Moses was called by God to go to the Pharaoh and demand the release of the Israelite people. And when the Pharaoh refused to release the people, God sent plagues one-by-one in order to force the Pharaoh to release His chosen people. After the Pharaoh refused 9 times, God sent one final plague. This plague brought about the death of every first born male in all of Egypt.
Now, in order to protect the Israelite people from this plague. They were commanded by God to sacrifice a lamb on the particular evening and to paint the blood of the lamb around the door frame of their homes. This blood signified that the family of the house had place their faith and trust in God. And when the plague struck, God “passed over” the homes of those who painted the blood of the lamb on their doorways. No blood= no mercy. Blood= mercy.
Now, to the Passover celebration. This celebration was celebrated annually. This would be every year. It was a time for the Jewish people to celebrate their freedom from Egyptian oppression and control, as well as a time for them to remember and honor God.
It is important for us to know that everything that is taking place during this Final Week is all taking place over the course of this Passover celebration. We will come back to the significance and importance of this next week.
The Triumphal Entry
Every year at this time, during the Passover celebration, tensions ran high. And this year was no exception. In fact, this year the tensions were higher. Remember this: the Roman government was in control of Jerusalem. The Jews didn’t like this and the Roman government knew it.
So on this particular day, Jesus comes riding up on a donkey. Fulfilling Old Testament prophecy of the Messiah. The people celebrated Jesus’ arrival to Jerusalem, because they thought he was going to be their new king. They thought that Jesus was going to take over Jerusalem.
Jesus’ arrival would have made the Jewish leaders and the Roman officials very nervous. The people under their rule greatly outnumbered them and could easily take over Jerusalem.
Let’s take a look back at verses 1-3 (stealing a donkey)
“Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.’”
Imagine yourself being one of these two disciples. Jesus is asking you to walk up to some stranger’s house and steal a donkey. We are in the South and people steal animals all the time. Imagine you’re here in the South, better yet- West Lincoln, you walk up to onto someone’s farm and are getting ready to jack their donkey.
I can see the old man in his overalls pointing the shot gun at my head already…
My point is, you don’t walk up onto someone’s property and just take their animals! Cause you will get shot in the face!!! Not a good thing to do…
But of course the disciples do it.
Fulfillment of Prophecy
Let’s look down and see what happened…
“This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,
‘Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’
The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them.”
So the disciples did as they were told and came back with a donkey. Wow! But there is something that stands out in this passage, and that would be the OT quote: “‘Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”
You see, the Jewish people were waiting on this to happen. They were waiting on their Messiah to come riding on a young colt. So when the crowd gathered to see Jesus riding in, they were waiting for the Messiah to come. The Rabbi’s and teachers had been teaching about the coming of the Messiah for years, so everyone that was a Jew, knew just how the Messiah would come.
One very Important Thing
But in all of this excitement, the excitement of the Passover celebration, the excitement of a guy on a donkey, they seemed to miss one very important thing.
The OT Prophet Zechariah 9:9 says, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation, humble and mounted on a donkey…”
The people seemed to miss the one key detail. That their king is coming- righteous and having salvation! This little fact was completely overlooked, because they expected their king to come riding into town to declare freedom and victory over Rome and to establish a new thrown. But you don’t get that on a donkey…
The donkey symbolizes what Jesus came for. He came humble not in robes of glory. He came not to destroy the wicked and to overpower the strong, but to save the sick and love the weak.
The people didn’t expect this…
Zechariah 9:10 says this about the coming kings mission, “I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.”
Jesus came for all people; his love is available for everyone! Jesus came to rule from sea to sea, from the River to the ends of the earth. This means that Jesus came to rule over everything, not simply Jerusalem or Rome. Jesus came loving everyone, bringing peace to everyone, and to rule over the entire earth.
There is so much more in this passage, but I’m going to stop here for your sake. What can we learn from this?
For the Jewish people of the day, their expectations of the Messiah were not met. They did not “see what they got.” They missed it.
For the Jewish people of the day, their expectation of freedom, their expectation of the Messiah’s reign was an external or surface level expectation. All they saw was the outer problems in their world, in their life.
In verse 9 we see them praising and shouting out to Jesus, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
Do you know what hosanna means? It means “save now!” or “save us please!”
The Jews knew that they needed saving, but all they could see was the surface level problems. All they could see was their oppression from Rome.
Jesus however came not to release them from Roman oppression, but to free them from bondage to sin! This is why the same crowd that cheered him on Friday was the same crowd to boo him on Sunday. They missed it. They missed Jesus’ mission. They overlooked the fact that Jesus, the coming king, came to bring righteousness and salvation.
There’s some irony to this story. Do you know what it is? The irony is that they were right in the beginning, they had the right man, and they had the right guy. Jesus was the Messiah!
But the question on the table is “Would He be the sort of King they wanted?” Jesus knew that He wouldn’t. Jesus knew that he would enter Jerusalem not to be praised and worshipped, but to be killed. The people wanted a king, they wanted a war hero, and the same crowd that welcomed Him on this day was the same crowd yelling “crucify Him!” only a few days later. For them and for us as well, sometimes things don’t turn out as expected.
I believe that history has proven that when we have an immediate need in our lives, we call out to God for help. Only when everything comes crashing down. 30 minutes before the exam, when we know we should have just studied. When tragedy strikes our country, church attendance goes up. When life is hard, we start looking for answers to our questions. Then suddenly everyone wants Jesus, but we want Jesus to ride into our lives and be the sort of king the crowd was looking for in Jerusalem. “Give us peace, take away this stress, give me the money I need, heal this sickness, find me a job, and give me a good grade,… the list goes on and on and on.
When times are hard we plead to God for help, and when He doesn’t give us what we want, we do the same as what the crowd in Jerusalem did- “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”
The problem is this, Jesus came to save us from sin. To be truthful, He’s still saving us from sin. He knows that sin will destroy us. He knows that sin separates us from Him, and He so desperately desires to be with us.
But so many times we miss it, just like the Jews missed it. We focus on the temporal, the surface level, the external- when the internal is wicked and will destroy us!
Who is Jesus? King, Ruler, Master, Savior, Friend, Rescuer… from sin or from the cares of this world?
N.T. Wright says this, “Because Jesus says yes to their desires at the deepest levels, He will have to say no or wait to the desires they are conscious of and have expressed.”
Is this you? Let’s pray…