This Sunday is Palm Sunday, the day we remember Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem. We remember the colt, the palm branches, the shouts of hosanna. But have you ever really thought about why He went?
This message is based on Luke 19:28-41.
This week is Palm Sunday, and of course it’s a week we’re all familiar with. The story I read is not a new story, most know it really well. It’s the story that happens the Sunday before Easter. Jesus arrives in Jerusalem. He came to Jerusalem for the Passover, but He knew there was more going on. He knows there is a risk being here. He knows there is a possibility, actually a probability, that He would die here. I think He knew exactly what was going to happen. But I want to look at this from a different angle. I want to suggest that maybe He didn’t go to Jerusalem to die.
Maybe He went to Jerusalem as one final attempt to save people. You know, that’s what the word “hosanna” really means – It literally means “save.” In Mark’s account of Palm Sunday, he says that the crowds were shouting hosanna – save – save us. So, I want to look at the story this morning from that angle. I want to explore the possibility that even though Jesus knew He was going to die, He freely came anyway, because it was worth it to have that last chance to try to save the people of Jerusalem. He came, knowing He was going to die, but He came to save. To give one more chance.
And I think that’s why Jesus spends so much time that last week talking to the Pharisees and Sadducees. In Mark’s gospel, Jesus seems to spend an inordinate amount of time teaching the Pharisees and Sadducees and Priests. Now you could argue that they were just curious, or concerned over what He might have been teaching, so they were always around, always listening, always watching.
But He knew their hearts had been hardened. He knew their vision was lacking. Their long-awaited Messiah was standing in front of them, and a lot of the people in the crowds seem to get it, but they couldn’t see it. And by the end of the week, a hatred developed between them and Jesus. At the end of the week, their shouts of “crucify Him” were shouted in anger. They didn’t understand God at work. They didn’t understand who Jesus was. And so they responded emotionally – out of hatred.
It’s easy for this to happen. We’re going through some serious issues in the church right now. And I readily admit I’ve made mistakes, I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I’ll own up to that, and I’m sorry. I promise to work on improving that. But it seems emotions might be running the show, and decisions are being made out of anger, and that anger keeps us from hearing one another.
Whatever comes of this, I just encourage you to keep the dialogue open, keep the emotions in check, and make sure your response is biblical. It doesn’t matter what side of the issue you might be on. Just keep the dialogue open, keep your emotions in check, and respond biblically. And the church will get through this. Nothing is ever easy, and whatever comes out of this might be challenging. But we need to love each other, to serve God, and to reach out and try to save people. If we can get our focus back to the mission of the church, we’ll find common ground.
Our mission as Christians, our mission as the church, should be to love each other, serve God, and reach out to the lost. That’s why Jesus went into Jerusalem. Knowing He would die there, His desire was for them to live. He wanted to give them one more chance. He was willing to face the power of Satan because He wanted to save the people. He wanted to throw His arms around the people of Jerusalem and love them.
That is the idea I want to look at this morning. This idea that Jesus just wanted to put His arms around people and love them. And we saw in our reading, in verse 41, “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it.” He was filled with compassion to the point of tears. His heart went out the people. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to think He wanted to just put His arms around them and love them. Why did Jesus want to do this? What did He hope to accomplish? Let’s look at three possibilities…
1. Jesus puts His arms around people to give them comfort. I think comfort is one of the reasons He did this. He wanted to comfort the people of Jerusalem. They needed to feel comfort. They needed to know it was going to be okay. They needed to be comforted.
Sometimes putting your arms around somebody is what they need the most. I know I’ve talked to people in the office, and they tell me their story, and I’m so moved I just want to hold them. I want to reach out across the desk and taken their hand, I’m trying to comfort them anyway I can. I’ve talked to people on the phone, and in texts, and I’ve heard their story of pain and angst, and I wished I was there, so I could just hold them.
I’m sure you’ve had time when you were moved to the point you just wanted to extend some touch, to show your support, to be there for them, to try to somehow bring comfort. A single mom with a young child; a man so engrossed by trying to make a living that he loses everything that’s really important to him; someone who has just lost a loved one, beside themselves with grief and worry; someone who has just received a bad diagnosis and has no idea where to go, or what to do; young people who aren’t sure of their identities, not even sure who they are, trying to make decisions that will affect the rest of their lives, while wearing masks so others never really see them for who they are. Often not even knowing themselves who they are.
The pain and loneliness in each of these situations can be overwhelming. Sometimes all you can do is put your arms around that person and love them and try to bring some small level of comfort. And I think that’s at least part of the reason why Jesus went to Jerusalem.
Trying to bring comfort to others is at least a part of what we need to be about if we’re going to be about the work of Jesus. In 2 Corinthians we see a lot about comforting others, and certainly about the source of our comfort, who is Jesus Christ. Verses 3-4 really build on this theme, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” Sometimes we go through stuff so we can bring comfort to other people who are going through stuff.
Back to Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, and maybe to take this one step further, Jesus wanted to gather all the people in, gather all the broken bits and pieces. We’re all broken. The people in Jerusalem weren’t any different. Jesus was willing to face the cross to put his arms around people to show his love. A love that brings people together. Jesus doesn’t divide, He desires to bring all people together. He unifies people with a kind of love that is all encompassing.
So many forces were acting in Jerusalem at the time that had the effect of causing divisions among people. The city was split. The Jews were given some freedom, but they had to be careful. Romans were watching them. Soldiers were watching them. Political leaders were watching them. And even among the sort of lay-Jews, the religious leaders were watching. There was a concern to keep the peace, but the peace was just a thin veneer, and under that veneer, the people were broken, and hurting, and desperately needing to feel God’s comfort.
I think we can say the same today. We don’t have soldiers watching, but our society is increasingly secular, and there are always people watching. And honestly, we’re all just as broken, whether we’ll admit it or not. Jesus wants to put his arms around the broken and bring comfort. The love of Jesus brings wholeness, healing, and unity of mind and spirit. We all need to experience His love, His comfort as much as Jerusalem did. And Jesus extends that love to us.
2. Jesus puts his arms around people to give them courage. Courage is another thing that’s desperately needed. Jesus gives us the courage to stand for something good and true and helpful for people. Courage is needed to walk by faith, not by sight.
When Martin Luther King was killed, his widow, Coretta King wrote that in her grief, she went through a time where she was really struggling to find meaning. What did this mean? What was going to happen? Why did this happen? That’s pretty common after the death of a loved one. When we’re in shock, these big questions come.
But Mrs. King, as she was trying to find some sense in her loss, realized that Martin Luther King had been killed during the week leading up to Holy Week. And for her, it was somewhat strange, but somewhat reassuring, that her husband’s death came so close to the day we remember Jesus’ death.
Martin Luther King had a special understanding of the spirit and meaning of Christ’s death, what we might call the mystery of the passion. Maybe it was that understanding that gave him the courage to move forward in his own ministry, a ministry that was certainly controversial in his day, and was the reason for his execution. And maybe knowing of his courage made it a little easier for her to move forward after his death. She found courage in her husband’s example.
In Acts 23, Paul is arrested again and while sitting in prison, the Lord appears to him. Verse 11 says, “the following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, ‘Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify in Rome.’” From there, Paul appeals to Caesar, and is taken to Rome, and because of this, he spends years in prison. Where did he find the courage to continue the fight? The Lord was the source of his courage.
Jesus gives us the courage to obey, the courage to sacrifice, the courage to be unpopular, even the courage to be called un-Christian at times. The courage to be in the minority, the courage to buck the system at times, the courage to stand firm in an illness or adversity, the courage to stand up in overwhelmingly negative situations. He even gives us the courage to face our own deaths when that day comes. Whatever struggles you’re facing, Jesus gives you the courage to ride into your own Jerusalem and the courage to pick up your own crosses.
In the early church, new members were brought in at Easter. They would be baptized Easter morning, just as the sun was coming up, just as dawn was breaking. It was a sunrise baptism service. The symbolism was that, in a sense, faith was beginning to dawn upon you. So you were baptized at dawn.
And just before you were lowered into the water, you were asked, “Do you turn to Christ?” You didn’t answer with words, but instead you turned from facing the dusk to the west, to facing the sunrise in the east. You turned to the light. Very symbolic of the new life that awaits you as a Christian. But the life of a Christian in the early church required courage. The life of a Christian today, if you’re truly living your faith, requires courage too. And in Christ, you can find that courage.
3. Jesus puts his arms around people to give them a challenge. Hundreds of years ago there’s a story that a pope had commissioned a famous artist to do a painting which would show the church living and working in the world. After months and months of hard work, the artist came to the pope to reveal his masterpiece. The painting was beautiful painting, no doubt one of the painters best.
It showed a wild sea with ships sinking amid angry waves and scattered people struggling in the stormy waters. In the middle of the painting was a calm and peaceful area where the sun was shining brightly, and the water was smooth. There a ship sat quietly, and sitting in that ship was the pope and his cardinals.
The pope studied the painting, but wasn’t at all happy with the symbolism. He said, “Your artistry is excellent, but this is not a true picture of the church of Jesus Christ. The church isn’t a place of calm in the middle of a troubled sea. The church is in the middle of the world’s turmoil, it’s living in the midst of trouble and struggle, it’s going through the same ups and downs everyone else is. But the church is always reaching out to others, so we can all get through the troubled waters together. That’s the challenge for the church today. It’s not going to be easy, but we’ll get through it together. We’re challenged to reach out and help others along the way.
Being a Christian today is hard. Our mission is the same as Jesus’ mission, and he was crucified! But our mission includes bringing comfort to the hurting, bringing courage to the fearful, and being challenged to help others through the storms of life.