The Triumphal Entry
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
April 9, 2006

 

Main Passage: Mark 11:1-10 (NLT)

 

VIDEO CLIP – from “Braveheart” (WIlliam Wallace giving speech before heading into battle. Contains the line, "They may take our lives, but they will never take our freedom!")
 

That’s a scene from the movie “Braveheart”. That was a great movie that was out a decade ago, and I know many of you have seen it. And of course it’s based on a true story. Let me give you some of the historical facts.

William Wallace was a commoner who became a national hero. He was a Scottish patriot who led Scotland from 1297 to 1305 in a revolt against England, who was ruling over Scotland. He rallied the Scots around him and began driving the English out of Scotland. He conquered many English fortresses north of the Forth River, and on September 11, 1297, in the Battle of Stirling Bridge, inflicted a severe defeat on English forces attempting to cross the Forth.

Wallace was knighted, elected to the office of guardian of the kingdom, and for a brief time in 1298 gained control of Scotland.

After this, though, King Edward 1 of England personally led a large army into Scotland, and on July 22, 1298, Edward defeated Wallace in the Battle of Falkirk and Wallace was forced into hiding. He even left the country for a time, but later returned to fight some more. He was then captured, taken to London, tried for treason, and executed.

Now, those are the historical facts I was able to research. I don’t know exactly how much of the movie was based on fact and how much was made up for the story line, but one of the things that I thought was interesting in the movie was the way that the Scots flocked to Wallace, offering to join his army in the resistance against the English. So I thought about it… “Why did those people flock to him the way they did?” Then I realized that it was all summed up in their rallying cry. What was it? It was a single word – “Freedom!” That was what the people wanted. They wanted their freedom.

But it’s interesting that almost 1300 years before these events took place, people flocked to another man with the same rallying cry: “Freedom.”

Derek read about it earlier this morning. He read about how Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey one day, and as He did so people lined the pathway, laying down clothes and palm branches in front of Him – essentially they were laying out the red carpet for Him – and then they chanted…

Mark 11:9-10 (NIV)
“Hosanna!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”
“Hosanna in the highest!”

“Hosanna!” We sang the song, “Hosanna!” earlier in the service, but you may not have realized what you were singing. The New Living Translation translates that word to mean “Praise God”, but that’s not entirely accurate. “Hosanna” is actually a Hebrew term which means “Save us now”. And by the time of Jesus, it had become a nationalistic chant. You see, just as the Scots were under English rule and didn’t like it much, the Jewish people were under the rule of Rome, and they didn’t much care for it either. And so the cry “Hosanna” had become a prayer for political deliverance and had come to mean “Give us our freedom.”

So this morning, on this Palm Sunday when we remember Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, I want us to look a little closer at what took place during on that day. In particular we’re going to look at the message that Jesus brought that day and we’ll look at how the crowd responded. Okay?

 

The Message Jesus Brought:

1. A Message of Peace.

Before the development of all of the vehicles and machinery and explosive weaponry used during war today, soldiers relied heavily on having a good horse. The larger and stronger the horse, the more powerful the warrior. In fact, many of the sculptures and paintings of great warriors of the past picture them on horses. Horses came to symbolize strength in battle.

That was the case in Jewish culture. Warriors rode on horses. But men of peace rode on donkeys. About 500 years earlier, the prophet Zechariah in the Old Testament foretold about this entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem. He wrote…

Zechariah 9:9-10 (CEV)
“Your king… is humble and rides on a donkey; He comes on the colt of a donkey. I, the Lord, will take away war chariots and horses from Israel and Jerusalem. Bows that were made for battle will be broken. I will bring peace to the nations, and your king will rule from sea to sea.”

So Jesus chose to ride into Jerusalem on a colt, a young donkey. He came not to bring war but to bring peace. Not necessarily a political peace like the people were expecting, but a spiritual peace and a personal peace… Peace between us and our Creator and peace with who we are and who we were created to be.

And He offers you that same message today: You can have peace. If you feel an emptiness and uneasiness and a dissatisfaction with life, you can find peace in Him. If you lack purpose and struggle to find meaning in life, you can find peace in Him. If you feel at war within yourself and struggle with guilt and temptation and evil desires, He can give you the peace you’re looking for. He wants to give it to you. It’s what He came to do.

We as a race had rebelled against God and had severed our relationship with Him. And so we were thrown into a life of despair and frustration and fighting. But Jesus came to restore peace.

So Jesus came with a message of peace. But at the same time, He came with a message of victory.

 

2. A Message of Victory.

I just read to you the prophecy found in the Old Testament about Jesus entering Jerusalem the way He did. Let me read the two sentences immediately preceding what I read earlier… In fact, read them with me…

Zechariah 9:9 (CEV)
“Everyone in Jerusalem, celebrate and shout! Your king has won a victory, and He is coming to you.”

So when the people saw Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey and they remembered this prophecy which many of them would have memorized and which they would have clung to as a source of hope, they remembered that it said, “Your king has won a victory.”

So what did they do? Well, as Jesus was riding into Jerusalem, and as more and more people heard about His arrival and remembered this prophecy, a crowd of people gathered along the roadside. And as they gathered, they began to wave Palm branches at him and to lay clothes on the road before Him.

Seems rather bizarre, so let me explain. The acts of waving palm branches and laying clothes on the road were done when a Jewish conqueror was riding triumphantly back into his capital. You actually see this played out again in Revelation 7 when the apostle John sees a vision of a multitude of people in Heaven holding and waving palm branches in celebration of victory. It was an action that John recognized, because it was normal to see palm branches waved during festive occasions of victory.

So the people in Jerusalem that day did the same thing when Jesus arrived. They recognized that Jesus was bringing a message of victory, and so they celebrated. But it wasn’t a victory over another army or another nation. Although, again, perhaps that’s what the people were expecting and hoping for. No, this was a greater victory… a victory over bondage to sin and death. He brought us freedom and life instead.

Paul tells us in the letter he wrote to the church in Rome…

Romans 6:14 (NLT)
Sin is no longer your master, for you are no longer subject to the law, which enslaves you to sin. Instead, you are free by God's grace.

Underline the words, “you are free.” And then he went on in the next chapter to add…

Romans 7:15, 21, 24-25 (NLT)
I don't understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I don't do it. Instead, I do the very thing I hate…
It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong… Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.

The answer is in Jesus. It’s Jesus who overcomes our sinful nature and enables us to do what is right. Jesus came to set us free and give us victory over our bondage to sin and death. And this isn’t a victory that is fleeting, here today and gone tomorrow. Hebrews 9 teaches that Jesus won a victory over sin and death once and for all.

Hebrews 9:12, 26 (NLT)
He took his own blood, and with it he secured our salvation forever… He came once for all time, at the end of the age, to remove the power of sin forever by his sacrificial death for us.

Jesus won the victory over bondage to sin and death. And no matter what anyone says to us or does to us, we don’t have to give up that victory. As William Wallace said in the movie, “They may take our lives, but they will never take our freedom.” Because even if they do take our lives, we have eternal lives. Our lives will continue beyond the grave in Heaven.

There’s one more facet of the message that Jesus brought that I want you to notice this morning. It was…

 

3. A Message of Royalty.

We talked earlier about how the fact that Jesus rode on a donkey was a message of peace. But there was actually a double message in that act. You see, before horses became more common, royalty would ride on donkeys or mules. King David and King Solomon in the Old Testament both rode on mules.

And going back to that prophecy in Zechariah…

Zechariah 9:9-10 (CEV)
“Your king has won a victory, and he is coming to you. He is humble and rides on a donkey… and your king will rule from sea to sea.”

The prophecy declared that the one riding on the donkey would be the King. Plus, it wasn’t just any old donkey that Jesus chose to ride on. Check out what he told His disciples…

Luke 19:30 (NLT)
“Go into that village over there,” he told them, “and as you enter it, you will see a colt tied there that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here.”

Underline “never been ridden”. Jesus said that it would be a donkey that had never been ridden. It had never been put to any form of secular, menial use. Why is that significant? Because this was the kind of animal that was used for royal and religious purposes. In riding in on a donkey that had never been ridden before, Jesus knew exactly what He was doing. He was letting the people know that He was royalty – not of an earthy royalty but of a heavenly royalty. He was God.

You know, here in Canada we used to be known as the “Dominion of Canada”, though you don’t see that term used a whole lot anymore. The term actually finds its origins right here in Charlottetown during the Charlottetown Conference of 1864. There was a lot of debate about what to call this potential new country. They didn’t really want to call it a kingdom or an empire or a republic, and so Sir Samuel Tilley suggested the use of the term Dominion. Where did he come up with that term? Well, he found it in the Bible, in this very prophecy in Zechariah we’re looking at this morning where it says in the King James Version…

Zechariah 9:10 (KJV)
“And his dominion shall be from sea even to sea…”

As well as from Psalm 72:8 which says…

Psalm 72:8 (KJV)
He shall have dominion also from sea to sea…

He thought the “sea to sea” part was particularly applicable to Canada, and so we became known as the Dominion of Canada with the motto “from sea to sea”. How’s that for a little history lesson?

Well, forget about the “sea to sea” part. The real question for you today is, does He have dominion in your life? Is He your King? Have you recognized Him as your Lord? If not, why not? Why not do it today? Simply decide that you are going to follow Him from this moment on and then do it.

 

Well, let’s move on. So Jesus brought a message of peace, victory, and royalty. How did the people respond to this? Well, we know how they responded. We can see them waving the Palm branches in celebration. We can picture them laying their clothes on the road in front of Jesus in honour of Him. And we can hear them calling out, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! … Hosanna in the highest!”

Let me just make a few observations about their response.

 

The Response of the People:

1. They recognized Jesus.

They may not have fully understood who Jesus was—the Gospel of John says that not even the disciples, those closest to Jesus, fully understood who He was at this point—but they were starting to grasp it. They had seen the evidence.

You know, you can tell a lot about a person by the evidence… the way they live, the things they say, the things they do. The National Enquirer even came out with a list that explains how the evidence can reveal that your co-worker could be a space alien. Now you’re curious, aren’t you? Let me read for you this article from this most respected of all periodicals…
 

Many Americans work side by side with space aliens who look human -- but you can spot these visitors by looking for certain tip-offs, say experts. They listed 10 signs to watch for:

1. Odd or mismatched clothes.
"Often space aliens don't fully understand the different styles, so they wear combinations that are in bad taste, such as checked pants with a striped shirt or a tuxedo jacket with blue jeans or sneakers," noted Brad Steiger, a renowned UFO investigator and author.

[So go ahead and check out what the person next to you is wearing. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?]

2. Strange diet or unusual eating habits. Space aliens might eat French fries with a spoon or gobble down large amounts of pills, the experts say.

3. Bizarre sense of humor. [Oh-oh.] Space aliens who don't understand earthly humor may laugh during a company training film or tell jokes that no one understands, said Steiger.

4. Takes frequent sick days. A space alien might need extra time off to "rejuvenate its energy," said Dr. Thomas Easton, a theoretical biologist and futurist.

5. Keeps a written or tape-recorded diary. "Aliens are constantly gathering information," said Steiger.

6. Misuses everyday items. "A space alien may use correction fluid to paint its nails," said Steiger.

[Or he might use a wrench as a hammer, not realizing which is the right tool for the job.]

7. Constant questioning about customs of co-workers. Space aliens who are trying to learn about earth culture might ask questions that seem stupid, Easton said. "For example, a co-worker may ask why so many Americans picnic on the Fourth of July," noted Steiger.

8. Secretive about personal life-style and home. "An alien won't discuss details or talk about what it does at night or on weekends," said Steiger.

9. Frequently talks to himself. "A space alien may not be used to speaking the way we do, so an alien may practice speaking," Steiger noted.

[I don’t do that, do I? Well, maybe I do. No, I don’t.]

10. Displays a change of mood or physical reaction when near certain high-tech hardware. "An alien may experience a mood change when a microwave oven is turned on," said Steiger.

The experts pointed out that a co-worker would have to display most if not all of these traits before you can positively identify him as a space alien.
 

 

According to that list, on any given day I could be a space alien! Probably 6 or 7 of them describe me most days, and the rest on other days. I’m not sure that list is particularly reliable. That may not be trustworthy evidence. On the other hand, there are times when the evidence is very trustworthy. Often, the evidence can help you recognize a person for who they really are. As was the case with Jesus. The people who had gathered that day recognized Jesus for who He is. But how? How did the people recognize Jesus?
 

a. They had seen his miracles.

Jesus had been going all around the countryside healing people, driving out demons, calming storms, multiplying food, and even raising people from the dead. In fact, it had only been a short time since Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. And the primary reason the crowd grew so large was because of that miracle. People had heard that Jesus could raise the dead back to live again, and they wanted to come out and see this man who could do such wondrous things.
 

b. They had heard His teachings.

Jesus spoke like no one they had ever heard before. Everything He said seemed to be full of meaning. He had an incredible knowledge of the Scriptures. Even when the religious leaders challenged Him, He always came out on top. And the people really liked the way He could put those religious snobs in their place.
 

c. News about him was spreading.

The things that Jesus had said and done were no secret. Jesus obviously had great wisdom and power, and that’s what the people thought they needed in a national hero.
 

So the people were beginning to recognize Jesus for who He really was. They even called out “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” But their understanding was not complete. They still thought Jesus had come to free them from the Romans and set up an earthly kingdom. But Jesus had in fact come to free them from sin and death and to establish His heavenly Kingdom. So they recognized Him, though not fully.

A second response we see in the crowd that day is this…

 

2. They praised Jesus.

John 12:13 (NLT)
“Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hail to the King of Israel!”

That’s what they shouted toward Jesus. They were shouting praise to Him. The people who were present on that first Palm Sunday knew where their praise was directed. They had seen miracles, but they weren’t praising the miracles. They had heard the teachings, but they weren’t praising the teachings. They were praising the source: Jesus.

You know, one of the trappings of religion is that it offers substitutes for Jesus. People can get so wrapped up in religious rituals and traditions and symbolism that they replace Jesus with those things. Or they might replace Him with saints from the past. Or with religious objects or statues or icons.

Don’t allow that to happen to you. Don’t praise the Church, don’t praise the saints, don’t praise the Creeds, don’t praise Creation, don’t praise the Cross, don’t even praise the Bible. Praise the One who is revealed through all of those. Praise Jesus only. Anything else is second best.

This is in your notes:
 

We do not praise Jesus only for the good gifts He gives us.

We do not praise Jesus only for the miracles He works.

We do not praise Jesus only for the Church He built.

We praise Jesus for who He is, the Lord Almighty who has come to us full of love and mercy!

 

Number three. The third observation about the response of the people is that…

 

3. Not everyone accepted Jesus.

There were four different writers in the Bible who wrote about this event. It’s found in all four Gospels… Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The passage Derek read from earlier was taken from the book of Mark. Mark doesn’t show us that there were people who didn’t welcome Jesus that day. But if you were to look at a couple of the other passages—in Luke 19 and John 12—you would see that not everyone was happy with what was taking place.

In particular, the Pharisees - who were the religious leaders of the society - were very upset. They had been witness to the same things that everyone else had been, but they refused to accept Him.

John 12:19 (NLT)
Then the Pharisees said to each other, “We’ve lost. Look, the whole world has gone after him!”

They were scared, they were jealous, and they were angry. And so they continued to scheme against Jesus and became even more aggressive about it. And by the end of that week, they successfully had Jesus executed.

They rejected Jesus. They rejected His message. They rejected His salvation. That was their choice, and it’s a choice that we’re all free to make. What choice do you make? To accept Jesus and everything He offers, or to reject Him? To be in the crowd that day shouting “Hosanna” and praising Jesus, or in the crowd five days later shouting, “Crucify Him”?

You can’t follow Him part way. You can’t seat Him on the throne of your life while you’re still sitting there. Palm Sunday remembers and celebrates the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Have you celebrated His triumphal entry into your life?

 

 

 

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