WHO DO YOU SEE 4-14-19

Who do you see?

April 14, 2019

In our three Scripture readings (Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, and Luke 19:28-40) you heard how Matthew, Mark, and Luke reported the historic entry of Jesus into Jerusalem five days before his crucifixion, an event we commonly call “Palm Sunday”.  And now I am also going to read you John’s account as well:

 The next day, the news that Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem swept through the city. A large crowd of Passover visitors took palm branches and went down the road to meet him. They shouted, “Praise God! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the LORD! Hail to the King of Israel!” Jesus found a young donkey and rode on it, fulfilling the prophecy that said: “Don’t be afraid, people of Jerusalem. Look, your King is coming, riding on a donkey’s colt.” His disciples didn’t understand at the time that this was a fulfillment of prophecy. But after Jesus entered into his glory, they remembered what had happened and realized that these things had been written about him. Many in the crowd had seen Jesus call Lazarus from the tomb, raising him from the dead, and they were telling others about it. That was the reason so many went out to meet him - because they had heard about this miraculous sign. Then the Pharisees said to each other, “There’s nothing we can do. Look, everyone has gone after him!” (John 12:12-19)

So why did I have you listen to (and hopefully not bore you with) four Gospel accounts of the same event? Because each account notes something that the others do not.  This does not mean they contradict each other in any way.  For example, let’s say you and I go for a walk through the woods together.  You might notice a certain type of bird sitting on a tree branch.  I, on the other hand, might notice a particular wildflower growing under that tree.  The local weather guy might be more apt to notice the clouds moving in, while someone with hay fever cares only about the pollen count.  And the guy flying overhead notices the size and shape of the entire forest.  You get the idea…  So by comparing the Gospel accounts we can get a fuller picture of what happened on the first ‘Palm Sunday’.

Let’s start with something Matthew, Mark, and Luke all mention.  Each of them records that Jesus sent two of them into the village, telling them what to get, and what to say to get it.  Do you notice anything unusual about that?  (Other than the fact that Jesus knew exactly where the colt was and how the owner would respond?)  Do you think it a bit odd that in none of these accounts the two disciples are mentioned by name?  What could possibly be the reason for that?  Perhaps when the Holy Spirit inspired the writing of these verses, He wanted to show us that God could call any one of us to go into the village for whatever reason He might send us there.  It might be to bring someone to church, or to take supplies to someone in need.  But for whatever reason He sends us, we should be willing to go and do whatever it is He asks of us.

Then I noticed something that Matthew mentioned that the other two didn’t.  Matthew says that Jesus instructed the two disciples to bring both the donkey and the colt.  Mark and Luke only mention a young donkey that no one has ever ridden.  Jesus rides the colt, but why does Matthew also mention the donkey?  I did a bit of research and found that D.L. Moody had an interesting thought on this.  He said, “I believe that the donkey represents the old religious system, that donkey had been ridden long and hard.  Jesus was here to ride the new colt, to release us from the requirements of the law and bring in the age of grace.”  And this coincides very well with the fact that Matthew is also the one that mentions that by riding into Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt he is fulfilling the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9, just as Jesus fulfilled the law for us.  John also mentions the prophecy, but doesn’t mention Jesus sending the two disciples to get it.  John simply says, “Jesus found a young donkey and rode on it, fulfilling the prophecy” (John 12:14).  But since Jesus did instruct the two exactly where to find the young donkey, he is the one that actually ‘found’ it.  Just as He found us and saved us through grace.  We didn’t find Him and save ourselves.  And you thought the donkey only represented humility.  It does, but when we look deeper we see so much more.

One of the reasons the gospel of John is my favorite is because John focuses more on the deeper spiritual meaning in everything Jesus said and did.  He also reflects on the prophetic, the end result, and not just the here and now.  For example, Luke mentions the Pharisees’ reaction as being one of telling Jesus to quiet the crowd, because they should not be treating him as a king.  However, John wrote that the Pharisees said to each other, “There’s nothing we can do. Look, everyone has gone after him!”  (John 12:19).  John already knew that the love of Jesus and the grace of God would be victorious over the harsh, hypocritical rule of the Pharisees.  Just as the unridden colt portrayed grace and the old donkey the law. 

And only John specifies that the branches people spread on the road were “palm branches” (John 12:13), which is interesting given what he wrote in Revelation 7:9-10, “After this I looked and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’”  In ancient times, palm branches symbolized victory.  It was common practice to welcome home a king or war hero by laying out a path of branches for him to ride/walk on - similar to rolling out the red carpet today.  The people using palm branches to hail Jesus as king on Palm Sunday were not looking for a spiritual Messiah who would take away the sins of the world, but as a potential political leader who would overthrow the Romans. They shouted "Hosanna” which means "save now”.  They didn’t want salvation of their souls, but rather salvation from the Roman government.  However, the great multitude John mentions in Revelation were Christian martyrs, hailing the King of Kings who brought them victory over sin, death, and the devil. 

So when we held up palm branches this morning, were you hailing the King of Kings, for whom you would also be willing to give up your earthly life?  Or were you like the crowd in Matthew’s account that when asked “who is this?” answered “It’s Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee” (Matthew 21:11).  Is he just a prophet, or is he God almighty in the flesh, who died for your sins and rose again?  Were you hailing him as an ancestor of David, ust another in Israel’s royal lineage, the “son of David” whom they were looking to give them peace and prosperity on this earth?  Or as the Son of God, who brings you peace amidst the trials of this life, and eternal life in heaven?  Who do you see?  Amen.

VIDEOS:

"Triumphal Entry"  (from the "Son of God" movie)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lj7QAdOR5h4

"Hosanna"  (Hillson Worship)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=huwB3Ja_oJ4