Monday, April 18, 2011

Palm Sunday: A Time for Contrasts

As I'm sure most everyone is aware, yesterday was the day we celebrate as "Palm Sunday" in the Christian Church. This is the day we take time to remember the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem for the final time before His crucifixion. Each of the four Gospel accounts includes a narrative of this event. This alone should alert us to the fact that this was an important occasion for us to remember. For our discussion this morning I would like us to focus primarily on Luke's account of the events of Palm Sunday. In looking at it there are three major contrasts that I would like to point out that lead to very important lessons for us as believers.

1. The first and most obvious contrast is that between the Triumphal Entry and the events of Good Friday. In Luke 19:38 we find that the crowd that had gathered to welcome the Messiah into the Holy City was shouting, Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest! While the same people are certainly not responsible for Good Friday, the shouts and sentiments could still not be any more different. Of course, we know that the cries of the city went from "Blessed is the King" to "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" When I think about that I can't help but wonder how often we do the same thing. Do we find ourselves praising God with one breath and then cursing Him with the next? Do we bless God one day and then ask Him to get out of our lives the following? Look at our nation and how great a change there has been between 9/11 and 2011.

2. The second contrast that I see comes from the same portion of the passage but we do need to read just a little further. In verse 39 it says, Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, "Teacher, rebuke Your disciples." The contrast may not be immediately evident so let me put it this way, Blessed is the King...vs. Teacher, rebuke Your disciples. One group is calling Jesus "King" and the other group is calling Him "teacher." There is a vast difference between calling Christ our King or calling Him our teacher. I believe that we, even good, church going, Christians, often only allow Jesus to be our teacher. We read the Bible to see what God can teach us about living a "good life," etc., etc. and never see that He wants to teach us somethings but the most important lesson is that He wants to be our Lord and King. You see there is a different relationship between teacher and student and Lord and servant. When we have a teacher we get things from them. We receive instruction and knowledge and the overall relationship is that we take from them. In contrast, with a Lord or a King it becomes what we give to them. We give a king our allegiance and service and with the King of Kings, we give Him our lives. It seems to me that our view of Christ in the Western Church is, "what can I get from God." We believe that if we accept Christ then we will get all kinds of blessings like prosperity and health and well-being and this becomes the basis for our theology. There is no doubt that when we accept Christ we do get salvation for eternity and a new life now. However, the Biblical relationship is that we give our lives over to God and become slaves to His righteousness (see Ephesians 6). We see this contrast played out just one chapter earlier in Luke between the rich young ruler and then Bartimaeus. The rich ruler came to Jesus calling Him "teacher" and wondering how he could receive eternal life. Bartimaeus, on the other hand, identified Jesus as "Son of David" which is a clear claim that He is the King. Both got the answers they were looking for but only Bartimaeus continued to follow Jesus as a servant. The important question for us today is this, "what are we calling Christ? King or teacher?"

3. The final contrast that I want to point out in this passage is found in verse 42 where Jesus says, If you had only known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! Jesus knows something that the crowd does not know at this point, that the peace that He has come to give will come through the violence of the cross. Indeed, our eternal and spiritual peace with God comes through the horrific violence and bloodshed of Calvary. Colossians 1:19-20 has this to say on the subject, For it was the Father's good pleasure for all fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. You may be thinking, "Hey, I don't need peace. I'm not at war with God. We get along just fine." Well, according to the next verse this is not so, And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds. If you are in Christ then there was a time when you were hostile to God. If you are not in Christ then you are at war with God, you are an enemy with Him. Ephesians 2:3 tells us that before we come to Christ we are "children of wrath" by nature. If we are to have eternal life then peace had to be made between sinful humanity and a holy God. This peace could only come through the bloodshed of a perfect sacrifice. That perfect sacrifice was made in the person of Jesus Christ on the cross. There is the contrast and the paradox, our peace comes through violence. The truly mind-blowing part is that the violence took place at our own hands. Whatever you think about the movie The Passion of the Christ there is profound truth in the fact that Mel Gibson's hands were the ones that are seen nailing Jesus to the cross. Why? It is said that he wanted to do it because we all had a part in the crucifixion on the Savior. Our sins are what demanded His death and even though we tried to kill the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, He gives us new life through that death. Peace comes from violence and life comes from death. This is the beauty and the gruesomeness of the cross.

I hope and pray that today's post has given you some serious questions to answer in your own life. Do you call Jesus King or teacher? Are you at peace with God or are you still hostile towards Him? These are ultimate questions of ultimate importance. There will come a day when, the Bible tells us, every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Will you take the opportunity that is offered to you and confess now, or will you wait until it is too late? Jesus closes this passage with these words to Jerusalem, they will not leave one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation. I plead with you today, recognize the time of your visitation. If the Holy Spirit is speaking to you now then confess that Jesus is your Lord and accept the salvation of life that He offers today, a life that came through death and a peace that came through violence.

Godspeed,
Christian

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