Three Responses

Lord's Supper  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
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One thing that I have come to understand through the course of the past 56 years or so is that not everybody gets me.
As much as I might like to think that I am cute, lovable and funny, there are those who just don’t see me that way, and some of them have never even had to live with me.
I experienced this in a weird way while I was serving as a missionary in Haiti.
During my six months in the little seaside town of Montrouis, I lived upstairs from our ministry’s Haitian director and his family in their home around the corner and a couple of hundred yards away from the compound where we housed mission teams that had come to serve.
Much of my job there entailed working as a liaison between those short-term missionaries and the elderly ladies we served at yet another site on the other side of town. Some days, I would walk back and forth between the three locations two or three times. One day, I recall clocking 26,000 steps by the time I went to bed.
So with all that walking, I got to know a lot of people in Montrouis, and many of them got to know me, too — at least by sight and by name. And it was always interesting to me to note how different were the responses that different people had to me.
For example, there was a young woman who would set up shop each day to sell various items — soap and combs and toothpaste and the like — in a booth made of sticks and corrugated steel on the corner near our house.
She had a daughter, Brianne, who was about 3 years old at the time. Brianne accompanied her mother to the little shop every day, where she’d play in the dirt by the road or fall asleep in a big pot that her mother used for washing clothes.
Now, it was my habit to say, “Bonjou, komen ou ye?” to just about everyone I met as I made my morning rounds. I wanted to be sure that I’d left that crusty old newspaper editor back in the States and that everyone I met in Haiti knew I was there as a friend and as someone who loved them in the Lord.
So, the first time I passed that booth and saw little Brianne hiding behind her mother, I told them both good morning, and I asked her name. And it took only a couple of trips by that little shop before I was sitting there in the dirt road with Brianne, playing with a doll she had probably rescued from a trash pile.
By the end of my first week there, she would look for me in the morning as I walked down that road, and when she saw me, she would shriek, “Pasté RES! Pasté RES!” and she would run just as fast as her little, bare feet would propel her and leap into my arms.
Brianne loved me, and I loved her, and I miss her terribly.
But just across the narrow and rutted dirt road from the shop Brianne’s mother ran lived a stooped old woman whose “yard” was an immaculately swept patch of dirt leading into the ramshackle hut where she lived.
She, too, would be outside many of the mornings that I would pass by on my way to the short-term missionary compound. As I approached the corner, I would see her with her palm-husk broom, busily sweeping the dirt of her property, and I would shout out, “Bonjou! Komen ou ye?”
During my entire six months in Haiti, I never got a response from her. Never a “good morning.” Never once did I hear, “I’m fine; how are you.”
The most I ever heard in response to my greeting was muttering. For whatever reason, this old lady just didn’t like me. She just didn’t get me.
Maybe she didn’t sense the sincerity behind my greetings. Maybe she’d had bad past experiences with the “blan,” the foreign missionaries who had visited her town. Maybe she just didn’t like my hat. I don’t know.
But I do know that whenever she saw me and then disappeared into her little house without speaking, my heart hurt — not for myself, but for her. She was clearly an unhappy old woman, and I really wanted the chance to share with her the joy I have in Christ. Sadly, it was never to happen.
Today, as we celebrate Palm Sunday, we will take a break from our study of the Book of 1 John and take a look at the familiar story of that first Palm Sunday, when Jesus Christ rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, and what we will see is three different responses to Him — two proper ones and one that was not.
And what I expect we will see as we delve into the text in Luke, chapter 19, is that the three responses to Jesus on that first Palm Sunday are the same responses we see to Him today.
If you haven’t done so already, go ahead and turn to Luke 19:28.
While you are doing so, let me give you the context of this event in the ministry of Jesus Christ, as it appears in Luke’s Gospel.
At the beginning of this chapter, we see Jesus entering Jericho, on His way to Jerusalem, and He meets Zaccheus, the wee little tax collector.
Luke gives us this account to show us that Jesus is the Savior who seeks the lost. Jesus says as much in verses 9 and 10.
Luke 19:9–10 NASB95
And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
Now, remember that Jesus had many followers at this time. They were all called disciples, which simply means “follower.” Some of those disciples understood more about Jesus, the Son of God, than did others.
But none of them really GOT Jesus. None of them had completely understood His ministry here on earth — that He had come offering salvation, reconciliation between a holy and righteous God and sinful, fallen mankind.
Most of Jesus’ followers at this time were hoping He had come as the messiah who would save them from oppression by the Roman occupiers of what had been the nation of Israel.
Very few had come to understand that He had come as the Messiah who would save them from the just penalty for their sins.
He would deliver Israel from its oppression, and He would establish His Kingdom here on earth, but those events would be in the future. Indeed, they are still in the future today.
So Jesus, after meeting with Zaccheus, told a parable about a master and his faithful and unfaithful servants. And the point of this parable is to establish Jesus as the Master who rewards the faithful, those who value the things that He values and invest His resources into things that honor and glorify Him.
And now, in the passage we will consider today, Luke presents Jesus as the King who offers peace. Let’s pick up in verse 28.
Luke 19:28–40 NASB95
After He had said these things, He was going on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When He approached Bethphage and Bethany, near the mount that is called Olivet, He sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you; there, as you enter, you will find a colt tied on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it and bring it here. “If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of it.’ ” So those who were sent went away and found it just as He had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They said, “The Lord has need of it.” They brought it to Jesus, and they threw their coats on the colt and put Jesus on it. As He was going, they were spreading their coats on the road. As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, shouting: Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!”
What I want you to notice this morning is that there are three responses to Jesus within this text: There is sacred submission, there is respectful recognition, and there is outraged opposition.
Let’s look first at the response of sacred submission.
Jesus sent two of His disciples into the village of Bethpage with the mission of securing a donkey’s colt. In fact, from the parallel passage in Matthew, we know they were sent to find a mother donkey and her colt and bring them both back.
This would be the foal that Jesus would ride into Jerusalem, and in doing so, He would fulfill the prophecy of Zechariah, who wrote:
Zechariah 9:9 NASB95
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
Up until this point in Jesus’ ministry, He had mostly discouraged His followers from proclaiming Him Messiah and King. But His time had now come, and this entry into Jerusalem was to be His own, very public proclamation that He alone is Israel’s eternal King and promised Messiah.
And so, He chose to ride a donkey into the city, just as Solomon and Jehu — and, perhaps, other kings of Israel — had done so many years before.
But this donkey — this young foal — was different in that it had never been ridden before. It was sacred to the task that it had been given. It was set apart for service to God.
Here’s the thing about donkeys and horses: They generally don’t respond well when someone first sits on their backs. They have to be broken, and in the process they often throw their riders.
But we don’t see anything about that here when Jesus takes His place on the young donkey’s back. We don’t read that the donkey reared back or that it kicked or that it fought against its new and unexpected load in any way.
What we see in the donkey is submission to its Creator. This donkey that had been set apart for this pivotal event in history did just what it had been created to do. This was sacred submission.
And now, we see Jesus on the back of this young foal, riding toward Jerusalem down the western slope of the Mount of Olives toward Jerusalem.
This would be the last time Jesus entered Jerusalem before His death, but it will not be the last time He comes there, and when He returns — this time on a white war horse, bringing God’s judgment upon the earth — He will return again from the Mount of Olives.
The Old Testament prophet Zechariah describes for us how that will look:
Zechariah 14:4 NASB95
In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south.
But on that first Palm Sunday, Jesus did not come to bring judgment. He came to bring salvation. On that first Palm Sunday, He did not come to bring war. He came to bring peace — peace between sinful mankind and his righteous God.
And as He rode toward Jerusalem along the King’s Highway, “the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen,
Luke 19:38 NASB95
shouting: Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
The crowd of disciples — and there may have been hundreds or thousands of them by this time — responded to Jesus with respectful recognition.
They recognized Him as the rightful King.
Verse 38 comes out of Psalm 118, which we call a messianic psalm, because it was written about the promised messiah who would come with salvation in His hands. This is the psalm I quoted earlier in my call to worship, the one that speaks of the messiah as “the stone which the builders rejected” becoming “the chief corner stone.”
And when, in parallel accounts in the other gospels, we hear the people shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Hosanna in the highest,” they are quoting from verse 25 of that psalm, which is translated in English:
Psalm 118:25 NASB95
O Lord, do save, we beseech You; O Lord, we beseech You, do send prosperity!
These disciples of Jesus may not have fully understood the implications of what was happening before them on that first Palm Sunday, but it seems clear that they recognized Jesus as the promised Messiah and King.
And from the parallel accounts of this event, we see that their recognition included a humble respect. Matthew tells us that they spread their coats in the road, and John tells us they laid the branches of palm trees before Him. These were signs of respect for a King.
And so, we have seen two proper ways of responding to Jesus in the events of that first Palm Sunday: sacred submission and respectful recognition.
But not everyone responds to Jesus properly today, and not everyone did then, even as He was being proclaimed Messiah and King.
Verse 39:
Luke 19:39 NASB95
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.”
Note first that the Pharisees did not recognize Jesus as King or Messiah. Whereas Jesus’ followers called Him King here and quoted from a messianic psalm, the Pharisees recognized Jesus as merely a teacher, much like the other rabbis who taught the Jewish religion.
And not only did they not submit to Him as their Lord and King, they ordered Him to rebuke His disciples — to condemn them — for doing so.
They were outraged that the people would use such sacred language to praise Jesus, that they would refer to Jesus in messianic terms, that they would honor Him as King.
They could live with a Jesus who taught nice moral lessons, but they were absolutely opposed to the Jesus who had said to them:
Matthew 23:27–28 NASB95
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. “So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
They were absolutely opposed to the gospel message that Jesus had preached, the message that said, “No one comes to the Father, but by me.”
The Pharisees believed they would enter heaven on the basis of their own righteousness. They were very good at keeping the law of Moses — at least outwardly.
But Jesus had told them that even though they appeared righteous — even though they appeared good on the outside — their hearts were desperately wicked. Inside, they were like tombs full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.
Jesus told them that they could only go to heaven by putting their trust in Him as their Redeemer.
This is the message of the gospel that Jesus preached and that He passed down through His apostles and through Scripture to us today.
Even though we were made in the image of God, no matter how good we might be, every one of us is a sinner. Every one of us has failed, in small ways and in great ways, to live up to His standard of perfect righteousness.
And none of us could ever do enough good to make up for even the smallest part of our rebellion against the righteous King who sits on heaven’s throne.
Our sins represent insurrection against Him, and as with all subjects who are guilty of insurrection, the penalty for our sins is death.
But God loves us and is patient toward us, not wishing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance.
And so, he sent His unique and eternal Son, Jesus Christ, to live a sinless life as a man and to offer Himself as a sacrifice on a cross at Calvary, taking on the punishment for all our sins, so that all who put their faith in Him as their Redeemer can be saved and have eternal life with the Father and the Son in heaven.
The Pharisees thought that, by demanding Jesus’ crucifixion, they were done with Him. But Jesus went to Jerusalem knowing that He was headed for the cross, knowing that the only way God’s just wrath over sin could be satisfied was for God to take the just punishment Himself in the person of His Son.
The Pharisees thought the cross was the answer to their problem of a popular teacher telling people that anybody could get into heaven.
But Jesus knew the cross was the answer to the problem of all of mankind — the fact that sin meant that no one could experience eternal life in heaven without the intervention of God Himself.
On Friday, we will remember that pivotal day in history when God laid the sins of mankind upon His beloved Son, who hung upon that cross and died, taking the penalty that each of us deserves for our rebellion against Him.
But on Sunday, we will celebrate Jesus’ victory over sin and death itself, as we recall His resurrection. Death could not hold Him, and the grave could not keep Him.
Indeed, the gospel message is not complete without the resurrection.
But this message demands a response. Will you accept it and follow Jesus Christ in faith? Or will you reject it, as the Pharisees did on that first Palm Sunday.
Will you respond in sacred submission to your Lord and respectful recognition of your Savior and King? Will you recognize Him as the Savior who seeks the lost, as the Master who rewards the faithful, and as the King who offers peace between rebellious man and his Creator?
Or will you respond in outraged opposition, refusing to believe that Jesus is who He said He is and that He will do what He said He will do?
There is no middle ground. There is no more important choice than this.
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