Introduction: I read a story about a plainly dressed man who went into a church in the Netherlands one Sunday and took a seat near the pulpit. Soon, a woman came along and curtly told the man that he was seated in her seat. She then asked him to leave the seat. The man apologized and apparently moved away to a pew reserved for the poor, from where he took part in the service.
When the service ended, a friend of the woman came over and asked her if she knew whom she had ordered out of her seat. The woman replied casually that she didn’t know who it was. To her great dismay, she was informed, “It was King Oscar of Sweden!” (Taken from a men’s devotional)
Similarly, many people turn what could be a life-changing moment into a possible negative situation because of bad choices. How often do we hear statements such as, “You blew it,” or, “How could you mess it up like that”? At other times, when some special opportunity seems to be opening up for us, someone or something comes along to spoil the party!
We are coming close to Palm Sunday, which signifies the triumphant entry of the Lord Jesus into Jerusalem. It was a day of celebration, and the celebratory spirit was ringing in the air. However, in the midst of the joy and celebration, we notice three tragic situations that arose.
Proposition: Don’t allow a God moment to be turned into a negative (tragic) situation.
I would like to challenge you to consider three tragic situations that arose at the time when Palm Sunday was celebrated as the Lord Jesus came into Jerusalem.
1) It was tragic that there were some people unwilling to praise Jesus (Luke 19:39).
As mentioned before, this was a day of much celebration and joy. As Jesus rode in, a very large crowd had gathered (Matt. 21:8) to give Him a rousing welcome. They were praising Him by shouting, “Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matt. 21:9). Luke 19:38 says, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” Matthew 21:10 adds, “the whole city was stirred!” We see praise arising to the Lord as follows:
“The people joyfully praised God in loud voices for the miracles they had seen” (Luke 19:37).
“The children praised Him in the temple shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ (Matt. 21:15-16).
“Even the stones were waiting to praise Him” (Luke 19:40).
However, in the midst of all this praise, it is indeed tragic to note there was a group of people (religious leaders) who were callously unwilling to praise the Lord (Luke 19:39; Matt. 21:15). Not only were they unwilling to praise Jesus, but they also tried to stop the children from doing so (Matt. 21:15-16)! Talk about being spiritually dead!
Right now, maybe for some reason, possibly some challenge or struggle you are going through at present, you are unable or unwilling to praise the Lord this Palm Sunday. Maybe you anticipate looking around at others in the service who are praising God and wondering why you couldn’t join. Well, I would like to encourage you to open your heart in praise to the Lord, because Palm Sunday is a day of praise! It is the day of the Messiah! The Bible speaks about receiving, “a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” (Isa. 61:3). So, why don’t you raise your voice and sing “Hosanna” right now?
Illustration: There is a story about a pastor who was so discouraged in his ministry that he had decided to quit. However, he felt that it was only right that he go into the church where he had ministered for years, one last time, to give thanks to God for all He had done for and through him. As he knelt down and gave thanks to God, he began to count his blessings through the years. Soon, his heart and voice were rising up in thanks and praise to God so much that after a while he was so full of praise that he began to wonder why he ever thought of quitting. He didn’t quit!
That’s the power of praise! Whatever your circumstances, would you right now allow praise to rise up in your heart to the Lord?
2) It was tragic that the temple had to be cleansed (Luke 19:45).
The temple was the center of Jewish worship. It possibly had a majestic appearance. It should have been the most precious place for God’s people. However, as Jesus walked in and looked around (Mark 11:11), what His keen eyes observed obviously sickened Him. His heart would have broken at what He saw. According to Matthew 21:12 and Mark 11:15-16, the hallowed place of worship had been turned into a marketplace by unscrupulous vendors!
For just a moment, close your eyes and try to imagine the feelings that were going through the heart of Jesus. He knew that He would have to resort to drastic measures to clean up what He called “My house of prayer” (Matt. 21:13). In fact, if we take Mark 11:11 literally, Jesus did not cleanse the temple that day. Instead, He went to Bethany to spend the night there. I can’t help but think the Lord didn’t sleep very well that night, knowing what course of action He had to take the following day. Of course, He did go into the temple the following day and cleaned it inside out! He compared it to a den of robbers (Mark 11:17)!
I would like to make two applications from this part of the story. They are:
a) The need to give proper reverence to the presence of God in the sanctuary or premises where we gather to worship Him. Freedom in worship should not mean that we do anything that is irreverent to God’s beautiful presence.
b) The Bible says our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19). If so, it’s good to ask ourselves prayerfully today whether the temple of the Holy Spirit needs cleansing in any areas. In fact, this might be a good moment to allow the Holy Spirit to search our hearts and reveal anything that needs to be cleansed.
Many times when I come before the Lord in prayer, He reveals areas that need His cleansing touch. While we can use cleansing soaps and creams for our skin, and we can detoxify and cleanse our inner body systems, it’s only the blood of Jesus that can cleanse our sins! “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
3) It was tragic that the people didn’t recognize God’s time (Luke 19:44).
Biblical prophecy was being fulfilled right before their eyes. We can make reference to Isaiah 62:11 which says, “Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your Savior comes!’” and to Zechariah 9:9 which says, “See, your King comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Compare this with Luke 19:35, where it says Jesus rode on a colt. Psalm 118:26 also was quoted by the crowd of disciples as shown in Luke 19:38.
Many things about Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem clearly pointed to Him being the Messiah King! Some of them were:
a) He rode a donkey which symbolized royalty (Refer 1 Kings 1:33).
b) Cloaks were spread out on the ground which was a means of paying homage to royalty (Refer 2 Kings 9:13).
c) Palm branches were waved (John 12:13) and then spread on the road (Matt. 21:8). Refer to these verses with Revelation 7:9, where a great multitude is seen holding palm branches before the Lamb of God.
d) Jesus rode an unused animal (Luke 19:30). Refer 1 Samuel 6:7.
Sadly, with all the signs around them, the people didn’t seem to get it! As a result, in Luke 19:41-44, Jesus wept over Jerusalem and referred prophetically to its future destruction. He also spoke the painful and prophetic words of Luke 19:42-44: “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes…because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”
I wonder whether it’s the same with mankind today. All the signs around us indicate the coming of the Lord is close at hand, but are we seeing it? Are we recognizing God’s timing in the world today? Are we preparing for His coming? Jeremiah 8:7 tells us, “Even the stork in the sky knows her appointed seasons, and the dove, the swift and the thrush observe the time of their migration. But My people do not know the requirements of the Lord.”
Illustration: In 2004, the shoreline of my beloved country, Sri Lanka, was devastated by a horrifying and massive tsunami. The destruction caused in just a few minutes was unimaginable, with close to 40,000 lives lost and thousands of homes wiped out. As the rebuilding process began soon after, one of the strange discoveries was that prior to the tsunami, animals in the wildlife reserves close to the sea instinctsively sensed the danger that was approaching. As a result, they moved to higher ground or further inland and escaped the effects of the killer waves. After the tsunami, the people, too, are now wiser as to what they should do if a similar disaster threatens to strike again!
Unfortunately, when it involves the coming of the Lord and God’s timing in the affairs of the world, most people seem to find it difficult to understand or believe what’s happening! Isn’t it time to look up, for “our redemption draws near”! A quote I read says, “We should be looking for the uppertaker more than the undertaker!”
This Palm Sunday, let’s learn from what happened that day and ensure that:
a) We will give praise to our Messiah;
b) We will allow our temples to be cleansed; and
c) We will know and understand God’s timing today!
God bless you!