Harbor Lights Sermon Mar 28th, 2010

Palm Sunday

The Resurrection of Lazarus

Today is Palm Sunday in which we remember Jesus' entry into Jerusalem which is the beginning of the last week of Jesus' ministry on earth. It will take a number of sessions to touch upon all the events surrounding Jesus' death.

Just prior to Palm Sunday his friend Lazarus who lived about a mile outside of Jerusalem in Bethany died. Jesus visited his grave three days after his death and in John chapter 11 we hear that Jesus said to Martha, one of Lazarus' sisters, "Your brother will rise again." Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" "Yes, Lord," she told him, "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world." John 11:23-27

Jesus went on to raise Lazarus from the dead. Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him. But the religious leadership was very hostile towards Jesus and was concerned that all the miracles he was doing were attracting people to believe in him. Consequently we learn in John 12 the chief priests made plans to kill not only Jesus but Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him.

This is what leads up to Jesus crucifixion. And Jesus predicted that outcome as he said,  "The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise from the dead." Mark 9:31

And what might be an application?
 Lazurus, Jesus' friend, died, was dead for 3 days and then was raised from the dead.
Jesus died, was dead for 3 days and then rose from the dead.
And they both experienced persecution

The Christian identifies with Christ in his death, burial and resurrection. The apostle Paul writes,  "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead." Php 3:10,11 And part of what it means to believe in Jesus is to believe that death is not the end. That there will be a resurrection from the dead. Life is eternal.

But if you identify with Christ, you will face hostility, like Lazarus did. Paul writes, "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." 2Tim 3:12  As we saw, it happened to Jesus, and so it will happen to those who belong to him.  Jesus said, ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. John 15:20

The Entry into Jerusalem

The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. Well by this time Jesus was somewhat of a celebrity.  And you know like at a football game they'll get up and do the "waved". Well. the crowds took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, "Hosanna!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Blessed is the King of Israel!"

Yet barely a week later the crowds would be shouting "Crucify him". Following Jesus as one would follow a celebrity with a sort of fan club faith is not the kind of follower Jesus wanted and it's not the kind of faith acceptable to him for salvation.

There was another time when a crowd wanted to make him King. In John chapter 6 by the sea of Galilee we learn that a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the miraculous signs he had performed on the sick. He miraculously provided a crowd of 5000 people with lunch by multiplying five loaves of bread and two fish. After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, "Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world." Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself and tells his disciples to take a boat across the lake. That night he sneaks down to the lake and walks across it, meeting his disciples in the middle of the lake. They continue on. The next day the crowd goes to find Jesus. But Jesus says to them, "I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill." John 6:26

The crowd demanded more bread and wanted to see more miracles. But instead of doing that Jesus told them something that turned most of the crowd against him. In fact at that time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. What he said caused him to totally lose his celebrity status. And he said it because he's not interested in those kind of followers. I won't share all he said as it is rather lengthy. But part of what he said was the following:

"I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." John 6:35-40

Despite the fact that the crowd had on the previous day wanted to make him king, Jesus said that they didn't really believe in him. Likewise with the crowd in Jerusalem. They knew he could do miracles. Even his enemies knew that.  And yes they believe certain things about him. But neither crowd really believed in him. If a person believes in Jesus they would listen to him, putting their faith in what he says.

When many of his disciples left him in John chapter 6 Jesus asked the Twelve, "You do not want to leave too, do you?"  Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." Also if people believe Jesus is Lord they would seek to do what he said. 2Cor 5:15 "He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." But many follow Jesus just be entertained. And he doesn't measure faith by mere attendance.

And what is the application?
Evaluate why you may be interested in Jesus. Understand that the kind of followers acceptable to him are those who believe what he says and act upon the implications of what he says. They not only accept him as their Savior but  pledge allegiance to his Lordship with the intention of doing what he says. Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." Mt 7:21Count the cost.

Recognizing the King

Luke 19:41-44 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and among the things he said was this, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace— but now it is hidden from your eyes. And said, "you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you."

John 1:10-12 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—

Let us make sure we recognize the time of God's coming to us, or we may miss the peace that he has to offer.

Humiliating the Religious Elite

You know the first thing he does when he enters Jerusalem he goes straight to the temple.

Luke 19:45,46
Then he entered the temple area and began driving out those who were selling. "It is written," he said to them, "’My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’" (Is 56:7)

Criticising the religious establishment was a dangerous thing to do. That's been the case throughout history. Part of the reason Jesus did so at this time was to give the religious establishment incentive to have him put to death. When you come down to it, why was Jesus put to death? It was because he humiliated the proud religious elite of his day. Consequently throughout history just because someone is in a position of relgious authority does not of itself validate all they do and say.

Is 56:10-12  Israel’s watchmen are blind, they all lack knowledge; they are all mute dogs, they cannot bark; they lie around and dream, they love to sleep. They are dogs with mighty appetites; they never have enough. They are shepherds who lack understanding; they all turn to their own way, each seeks his own gain.  "Come," each one cries, "let me get wine! Let us drink our fill of beer! And tomorrow will be like today, or even far better."

Jeremiah 6:13-15  "From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit. They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace. Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush. So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when I punish them," says the LORD

Is 57:1,2 The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.
Is 57:15 this is what the high and lofty One says— he who lives forever, whose name is holy: "I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.

Humility is the most essential of character qualities. For all other virtues depend upon it. Much of what Jesus said was humiiliating as it was intended to be so. Of the religious elite he says:

Mt 23:2-13 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. "Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long;  they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’  "But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers.  And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.  Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant.  For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.

And he continues in that vain. You know if one cooperates with God humiliation can invoke humility in a person. Or if not, of the proud it would invoke bitterness. That's what ended up happening with the religiously proud. They ended up crucifying Christ.

Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a humble donkey. The donkey served him well. Let me finally just mention a little more concerning humility. The apostle Paul was given great revelations from the Lord. He said, "To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me." 2Cor 12:6 Pain can be a common form of humiliation. But even if such pain comes from Satan, God can use it to keep us from becoming conceited, which is the most important thing of all. Because your relationship with God is largely a function of your level of humility.

And what is the application?
Let us appreciate whatever humiliation he may bring or have brought into our life. Let it develop in you humility, that most essential of all character qualities. Be the donkey! Realize that Christ was likewise subjected to humiliation. "He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not." Is 53:3 Let us follow Christ to the cross.

In our next session we'll be covering more of about the events of the Holy week.

Jul 29,2015