Sunday, April 5, 2009



Passion/Palm Sunday
Mark 11:1-11 (NRSV)

Jesus enters Jerusalem

When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, "Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, 'Why are you doing this?' just say this, 'The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.'" They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, "What are you doing, untying the colt?" They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, "Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!"

Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.


Today, I want you to imagine a parade with me. You know about parades don’t you? I can remember the parades that my father took me to as a child. There were always seas and seas of people. There were lots of new smells, sights, people, instruments, animals, vehicles, and floats. Going to a parade once or twice a year was always a fun thing to do!

Well, now I want you to imagine Jerusalem during Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This was a weeklong celebration when tens of thousands of Jews from all over the known world came together in Jerusalem to eternally remember the time when God delivered them out of slavery in Egypt. For the entire week, they visited the Temple, gathered with family, and slaughtered hundred of thousands of Passover Lambs to atone for the sins of the year. They also ate bread with no yeast, to remind them of the special bread eaten by their ancestors in the wilderness as they journeyed toward the Promised Land.

It was at this time—this holiest of times--that Jesus made up his mind to begin his final week of life and to journey to Jerusalem to face certain indignity, anguish, and death. He made up his mind, to become the Passover Lamb for Israel, and indeed for the whole entire world.

Now, we must remember that Jesus had just raised his friend Lazarus from the dead in Bethany. So, perhaps this is why our Lord decided to begin his “parade” from this tiny little suburb, located just a wee bit up on the Mount of Olives, just 2 miles outside of Jerusalem. The people there were still in awe of his resurrection power. They had seen with their own eyes a man who had been dead four days, come out of the tomb living!

Many, many of them had spread the good news about his authority over death all over the surrounding areas. People were excited about Jesus. Some people were talking about his miracles—healing and feeding bodies and raising the dead. Other folks were probably talking about his beef with the religious leaders. It was common information that the Pharisees and Sadducees did not like Jesus and that they were looking for an opportunity to kill him. Can’t you just hear the gossip mill? I’m sure people were wondering, “Will Jesus really have the audacity to come to Jerusalem during Passover and face his enemies?”

As he went, people followed and there were many people in the crowd, for many different reasons. Some were there to hail him as King. Some were there because they were curious to see this man who was alleged to have done such great things. Some were there—like the Pharisees and the Sadducees—to catch a glimpse of their enemy and to make a plan to reestablish their dominance. Some were there simply because Jesus had fed them, healed them, and saved them.

Regardless of their reasons for being there, it must have seemed very, very strange to everyone that Jesus was riding on a donkey. A donkey was known to be a beast of burden, good only for hauling things around, or traveling upon when necessary. A donkey was a ritually unclean animal, unfit to eat. A donkey was an animal ridden by the humble and by the poor. Conquerors were supposed to ride on fast, strong, horses! How strange it must have seemed to them that their Messiah had insisted upon riding slowly and steadily into the city on the back of such a humble and lowly animal…

Can you imagine Jesus sitting upon a little donkey, riding into Jerusalem, with thousands of people lining the streets? Can you imagine people taking off their coats and their cloaks and laying them on the dirt roads as a sign of their joy and of welcome to their new king? Can you imagine people cutting palm branches from the trees and laying them in the road and waving them over their heads?

Can you hear the shouts of Hosanna? Scripture records that the people were chanting, "Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!"

Hosanna literally means, “Lord save us!” It is a word of welcome. It is a word that acknowledged the people’s willingness to welcome and accept Jesus’ coming kingdom. It was a word that meant that they were wishing well his kingdom, that they expected him to enjoy prosperity, success, and victory.

In fact, the people’s praise was so effusive that one of the Pharisees, upon seeing and hearing the accolades of the people said to his colleagues, “What shall we do? We can do nothing. You see? The whole world has gone after him (John 12:19)!”

If only that Pharisee had been correct. But, do you know what happened as Jesus rode that donkey meekly into the city? Instead of smiling, waving, and enjoying his parade, scripture records in the Gospel of Luke that Jesus wept as he looked at the city (19:41).

Why in the world did Jesus weep? Would you weep during your victory lap? Would you be crying while the entire world was praising you? Why in the world did Jesus weep?

Well, I believe that Jesus cried for three reasons.

First and foremost, Jesus cried because he realized that our dreams are so small compared to God’s dreams for humanity. Can you imagine? Jesus knew that he had come into the earth to save us from our sins. He had come to deliver us from physical, emotional, and spiritual death and damnation. He had come to be our deliverer, to reconcile us with God, and to invite us to spend eternal life with Him in the heavens.

He had spent three years in public ministry teaching and instructing his disciples—not just the twelve—but the thousands of people who followed him around the countryside listening to his words and observing his miracles. And after three years, they still did not understand him. They still did not comprehend his business upon the earth. They still called him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Of Nazareth! Here was the King of Glory! The King of Kings! The Lord of Lords! Descended from his throne in Heaven, and they were still telling people he was just, “Jesus of Nazareth.”

In addition to that, Jesus knew that his followers had a false hope that day. They were expecting him to ride to the seat of government and lead a revolution—a revolt—to start a war. They were looking for a war-time Messiah. A political Messiah. And he was a spiritual Messiah.

Yet, Jesus, himself had told them, "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed and on the third day be raised." He had also told them, “Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men." He had tried to warn them that he was going to Jerusalem to die, that their hopes were false, and that he had decided to allow himself to be executed…But, they would not hear him. So, he wept.

He wept because they still didn’t understand him. They still didn’t comprehend his plan to save all of humanity. They were still under-estimating his power and his love. They were still dreaming tiny little dreams of personal victory, instead of rejoicing over Jesus’ coming victory over death and the grave.

And isn’t that just like us? We dream such small dreams for ourselves. We want to finish high school; God wants to send us to college. We want to find a good man to pay our bills; God wants to send us a God-fearing Christian husband who will love us. We want to have enough money to keep food on the table; God wants to teach us stewardship principals which will allow us to help build his church. We want to be loved by all people, God wants us to love all people…We want to go to heaven one day, and God wants to use us--and our gifts--to lead all people to heaven one day.

Aren’t our dreams small? Can you see why Jesus wept? He wants to do so much for us, but our faith is so small and our dreams are so puny that we stifle his work.

Secondly, Jesus wept because he realized that human beings are afflicted by a sin-sickness that only he could heal. Jesus must have looked around at the crowd and recognized that many of these same people celebrating him at the parade, would stand before Pontius Pilate five days later yelling, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” Do you understand that on Sunday the people were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed be the one who comes in the Name of the Lord!” and then five days later on Friday, “Crucify Him!”?

If that is not one of the greatest examples of the hypocrisy of humankind, then I don’t know what is. One minute we loved him, the next minute we hated him. One minute we want him to be king, the next minute we want him hung up on a cross. One minute we throw our clothes on the ground for him, the next minute we strip him naked and beat him. One minute we’re throwing him parades, the next minute we’re throwing his corpse in the ground.

It’s shameful actually. But, that is precisely the reason Jesus was willing to die. The Bible says that God remembers our frame, recalls that we are but dust, and knows that we are sinful (Psalm 103:14). That is precisely why Jesus made up his mind to go to Jerusalem. He went because he knew that we are sinful. We are hypocritical. We are double minded. And he chose to die for us, so that his love and his blood could cover-up the multitude of our sins. He chose to die for us, so that our sinfulness would not keep us from being in right relationship with God. He chose to die for us, so that when we come to the seat of judgment, we will be forgiven, and inherit eternal life.

Let’s face it. No one took Jesus’ life. He gave up his life willingly for us. Jesus said, "No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord (John 10:18)." He predicted in the Gospel of Luke, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written of the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon; they will scourge him and kill him (Luke 18:31-33).”

John Piper states in Desiring God, “Jesus was not accidentally entangled in a web of injustice. The saving benefits of his death for sinners were not an afterthought. God planned it all out of infinite love to sinners like us and appointed a time. Jesus, who was the very embodiment of his Father's love for sinners, saw that the time had come and set his face to fulfill his mission: to die in Jerusalem for our sake.”

But, just because Jesus chose to die, doesn’t mean he wanted to. Just because Jesus knows we were sinners, doesn’t mean that our sin does not hurt him. Just because Jesus knew what was going to happen, didn’t make it easier to bare. So, Jesus wept.

He wept because our dreams are too small. He wept because we are afflicted with sin-sickness and finally, he wept because he recognized that only his execution would be enough to save us.

Jesus was a God-man. He was fully God and fully man. The man part of him dreaded the certain death, pain, brutality, torture, humiliation, and blood-letting that he knew was coming. He knew the prophesy. He knew the plan. He knew he was going to be betrayed by one of his own disciples. He knew that he was going to be captured—like a common criminal—by an armed militia. He knew that he was going to be stripped naked and beaten with a lead tipped whip. He knew that he was going to have a crown of thorns wrapped around his head while simultaneously being punched and spit upon. He knew that he was going to have to carry his cross to Golgotha hill. He knew that nails—big, sharp, painful nails—were going to be driven threw the flesh of his hands and feet. He knew that while hanging on the cross fluid would fill his lungs and he would eventually suffocate. He knew he’d be pierced in the side with a spear. And he knew that as he died he’d have to suffer the taunts and jeers of his enemies.

It must have been awful to know exactly how he was going to die. To be anticipating physical, emotional, and spiritual pain.

Now, you might say, well, if he knew he was going to die, he knew he was going to live again. This may be true, but that doesn’t make the journey any easier. If I were to tell you that I was going to drive a nail through your hand today in service, but don’t worry, it’ll heal, would you be willing to sign up? I don’t think so…

Same for Jesus, so he wept…He wept because he knew that he was going to have to die to redeem us. He had been with humanity three long years and we still didn’t get it. So, he decided to die…but in so doing…he needed to weep.

Aren’t you glad that Jesus wept for us? Aren’t you glad that although he understood that our dreams are small and our behavior is sinful, he was still willing to die for us? Aren’t you amazed by a love so big, so vast, and so determined that Jesus was willing to be put in harms way to redeem us? And aren’t you glad that the way to salvation has been so simply demarcated for our benefit?

The Bible says it is simple to inherit eternal life. All we must do is, “Confess with our mouths the Lord Jesus and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead, and we shall be saved.”

This is as good as it gets my Brothers and Sisters. Aren’t you glad that God made salvation so easy to receive? All we have to do is believe that God loves us and Jesus died for us and we shall be saved!

Praise the Lord!

Jesus wept on the first Palm Sunday, but we rejoice with him today and we will rejoice with him forever.

I am so glad that first Palm Sunday was only a preview of a greater day to come. Because Jesus did not stay dead, but was resurrected just as he promised, we will all experience the eternal Palm Sunday—which will be a day of only pure joy—when we ascend into the heavens to be with Christ.

John the Revelator, records in the Book of Revelation,

I looked and behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, 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 upon the throne, and to the Lamb!" (7:9-10)

The entry into Jerusalem with waving palms was but a short-lived preview of the eternal Palm Sunday to come.

On that first Palm Sunday the disciples, the followers, and the children were right to praise Jesus! The Bible says that if they hadn’t praised him the rocks would have cried out…

But, today, we must praise him as well. We will praise him now--upon the Earth--and then again in glory. And I don’t want anyone to miss out on these great days to come. If you haven’t put all of your hope in Jesus as the Lord of your life, I want to invite you to do so today.

Turn your weeping into joy this day…God loves, God gave, God saves. You are beloved, by God Most High. Are your dreams too small? Are you afflicted with sin? Do you believe that God loves you and Jesus died to prove it? If so, will you please accept God’s free gift of salvation today?

Won’t you pray with me?

Dear God, I know you love me and I love you too. I believe that Jesus died on the cross and that you raised him from the dead! Please forgive all of my sins and fill me with your Holy Spirit. I want my whole life to declare your praise and glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


If you just prayed that prayer for the first time, today, you are saved! I would be so honored if you would let me know about your decision by clicking “Yes” in the poll located at the top/right of today’s devotional! I am so happy for you! Happy Spiritual Re-Birth-Day!

Next steps: In response to what God did for you just now, let me suggest that you consider telling another Christian so that they can celebrate with you! Ask them to help you find a Bible that is easy for you to understand so that you can learn more about your new-found faith! Ask them to help you find a good Bible believing church where you can make new friends who will walk with you on your new journey! You are already saved; now let God mature you by faith! Congratulations!


If you have additional questions about how to become a friend and follower of Jesus, please see the devotion entitled, "Come to Jesus" found at

We are celebrating with the 8 people who have recently put all their hope in Jesus! Happy Re-birthday!

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