Palm Sunday Not the Jesus We Want The Jesus We Need

April 9, 2017

Palm Sunday: not the Jesus we want; the Jesus we need.
Matt 21:1-11
Jesus Comes to Jerusalem as King

21 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

5 “Say to Daughter Zion,
    ‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
    and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”[a]
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna[b] to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[c]
“Hosanna[d] in the highest heaven!”
10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Today starts what some call holy week, others call the passion week.
In terms of the celebration it is the reflection of the events of the week that lead up to the crucifixion of Christ. It starts with what we have just read; Jesus’ triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem.
Now what we will be looking at this morning is this reality of day as we see it in Scripture; however, I will be reflecting on the reality of who Jesus was in this procession.
What I want to focus on this morning is the expectation that is wrapped up in this passage and I want to reflect on that reality in light of our own as a lesson to us today.
So let’s look at what is going on this in passage:
1.                 Over 500 years of expectation
This passage cannot be understood outside of the historical reality that it finds itself in; and the primary historical reality is that of Jewish people in the first century.
A people who have been oppressed a little up until this moment. A people who have not only been oppressed but have been promised that salvation is coming (and we will come to what that meant).
The reality is that this century was pregnant with prophetic expectation. The people were expecting that God was going to intervene.
What this intervention was; was the speculative play thing of scholars of the day. The reality is that there are points in history where it almost seems like everyone is expecting something.
Now this is moved along by the prophetic background of this passage; the Jewish people have been told to expect of the “Son of David” the coming Messiah.
Now I want to ignore your 2000 years of perspective; to these people they did not know what the Christ would look like; they had no idea what he would accomplish; and so they had to interpret the coming Christ through the lenses of their own needs.
And as a first point I guess because of our circumstances we all interpret salvation in the light of our immediate need, so we must be careful that our current need does not blind us to our primary need.
So what was their immediate need;
2.                 Desperate political need
This was an occupied people. In 63 BC Rome conquered Jerusalem and so the Jews had been a people who had lost their independence some of their identity.
I’m sure none of us can relate; but imagine having a corrupt government who has no care for the people expect what they can gain financially from them.
Imagine seeing corruption being implemented in broad daylight; imagine seeing laws being enforced by cruel brutality.
I know it’s hard. But this is what the first century Jews were feeling. They were broken by daily challenges. And so an atmosphere of rebellion and resistance was everywhere.
There were revolutionaries everywhere. And in the midst of this turmoil you hear of a young ‘prophet’ who is healing the sick, whose teaching is brilliant and beyond His years. You heart of this teacher who is teaching all the things that confirm your hope in the coming messiah.
In this powerful expectation you see the Zechariah prophetic expectation fulfilled;
5 “Say to Daughter Zion,
    ‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
    and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”[a]
The sense of hope must have been tangible on that day, and in fact; it overflowed into the streets with the city. With the people laying down cloaks in the streets and palm branches around him the streets.
This was a powerful declaration! The people were declaring Jesus as their King and this is further confirmed by the cries behind him.
“Hosanna[b] to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[c]
“Hosanna[d] in the highest heaven!”
Again this cry needs to be understood in the midst of the expectation of the people. This is a cry of the fulfilment of prophecy!
These people were declaring quite clearly; the promised king has come, the One who would sit on the throne of David forever is here!
And so, they cry out Hosanna! So, let’s look at this!
3.                  Understanding Hosanna
This is a deeply loaded word; it literally means save me please! It had theological implication, physical implication and was rooted in God.
Essentially it was God rescue us in all aspects. One writer states that is was God’s love in action.
Now it seems these people got it; they were celebrating Jesus as Messiah. They got it.
But did they?
They were crying God to save them, but we have to go back to the people’s expectation. I want to say today that they didn’t want the salvation that God was offering them, they wanted salvation on their terms.
God save us! Son of David save us; not from the despairing evil in hearts; not from our guilt; not from our tendency to go our own ways and abandon yours! Don’t save us from our alienation from you O Lord!
Save us from our oppressors; save us from the system of oppression. Save us from the Romans.
You see the reality is that Jesus although on the surface looked like what they wanted He was not this He was who they needed.
Which is the central focus of the message this morning; Jesus is always more than we want; He is who we truly need.
And often that need is uncomfortable and humiliating. It is easy to gather behind a political cause, to try and overthrow an evil enemy out there than to seek to overthrow your own personal tendency towards hatred, darkness and evil.
You see Church it is far easier to say that all the problems are out there; it is those people who have harmed me, it is those people who are the problem. It is impossible (without Christ) to truly identify yourself as the problem.
And therefore, I want to challenge us today; we often don’t see Jesus as we need Him to be; we see Him as we want him to be.
And don’t hear what I am not saying; this is not a call to unbelievers; it is to all of us here.
When we miss who Jesus is; it is generally not on intellectual reasons, it is on moral reasons.
What do I mean by this; well generally when people cant see who Jesus really is; it is not because He doesn’t make sense to them intellectually, it is because He doesn’t fit into their own view of what they want for their life.
Now if you are sitting here and thinking ja those unbelievers, their crooked morals always getting in the way of seeing Jesus; you might be the furthers away from Him.
Because the religious and the irreligious are in the same danger here; we both are in great danger of making Jesus for us!
We can see this when we get upset because He is not getting us out of our mess or not saving us from our battles.
Well who’s to say that your battles are his to fight; maybe your mess is your own doing maybe your battles are a result of your sin, and Him fighting them would make Him an accomplice of your sin. Maybe by fighting your battle He’ll make you worse.
It is like the story of Joshua (in chapter 5) when he is about to conquer Jericho the Angel of the Lord appears before him and Joshua askes Him are you for us or against us; and the Angel of the Lord says simply “Neither, I command God’s armies.”
Jesus doesn’t have to be on our team, He doesn’t have to do what we want; Jesus does what is needed.
The Jews wanted a political savior; but it would have never solved their problem. Their real problem. They like us need a suffering savior; a savior who would live the life we could never, to die the death that we deserved so that we could attain the righteousness we could never achieve.
So let’s bring this back home; when we cry out in our desperation; God save me – God save us – are we wanting the real true salvation that he desires? Or are we wanting a God who does what we want when we want it?
Let me warn you, in love, today; if you have a god who never disagrees with your plans, and never questions your heart, who always is on your side and always pushes your causes; you might not be worshiping the God of scripture, and if so you will be constantly disappointed by Him.
Church, I hope you get this; but our motives are not as pure as we think they are; we are crippled by self-interest.
Our plans are never as ultraistic as we think they are.
The Jews of the day knew that they were right in demanding freedom from their occupation; and they knew that that had to happen politically or militarily. And so, they celebrated the promised King, only to see Him captured by the end of the week by their enemies; and there you see their true hearts come out. As they cry out Crucify Him!
One final reality; we know something is a false hope when it is threatened and we become violent about it.
So let’s ask; was political emancipation what the people needed? No! It was what they wanted; but it only would have set them up to be invaded again, or worse it would have made them more on an oppressor than those who were oppressing them now.
So God, in Jesus, gave them what they truly needed; spiritual emancipation; freedom from their sin, and from their self-righteousness. In this He gave them real power!
In fact so powerful was the reality of what God gave then that not 200 years later Rome the great, Rome who the Jews had hated would be overthrown religiously by this movement.
Not only that 2000 years later no movement, nor government, nor people has been able to stop its spread! And every opposition has only caused it to become more powerful!
So I encourage you church, especially in light of the week that we have just had as a country, let’s not ask God for what we want, let us trust Him for what we truly need. I would encourage you in your own life to stop trying to get God to fit into your thinking and agenda, rather let’s get on his agenda and trust Him.
Church, Jesus always breaks our mold of who we think He should be, He always challenges us more deeply than we are comfortable with, He always challenges our preconceptions of what He should be, because He is always what we need, and seldom what we want!
So may you embrace the Jesus you need, rather than try and create the Jesus you want!
Lets pray…
 

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