It was a party, everyone was there, and it was a celebration. The video clip you just watched was from Jesus Christ Super Star 2001, and I love the Palm Sunday scene. It captures the excitement and joy of that day, from the excitement of the crowd to the animosity of the religious leaders and the torment of Judas.

There was a sense of anticipation and expectancy in the air, people knew that something was happening, and they wanted to be a part of it. As Jesus rode into town, the crowd went wild, cheering him on and laying a carpet of their coats before him. He was the one that the prophets had spoken of, and now he was riding into their town.

Paul read the story earlier in the service, how the people welcomed Jesus into their town, how they proclaimed his greatness and their loyalty. And yet it was all short-lived. A week later, instead of crying “Hosanna,” the crowd was yelling, “Crucify him.” Seven days after they yelled, “Bless the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” they hollered, “We have no king but Caesar.”

A few things that we need to note as we look at what happened that day as Jesus rode into Jerusalem.

Remember in the first part of the scripture that was read? Luke 19:28–31 After telling this story, Jesus went on toward Jerusalem, walking ahead of his disciples.  As he came to the towns of Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives, he sent two disciples ahead.  “Go into that village over there,” he told them. “As you enter it, you will see a young donkey tied there that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here.  If anyone asks, ‘Why are you untying that colt?’ just say, ‘The Lord needs it.’”

1) This was planned.

Now we might be tempted to add a whole range of mystical applications here, that maybe this was a miracle or a step of faith on Jesus’ behalf, you know, just do, and it will happen.

But the chances are that Jesus knew the man and had arranged in advance for the donkey to be there. The words “The Lord needs it” were probably a password so the man would know that he was giving the donkey to the right people. I mean, he’d feel kind of silly had the two disciples shown up, and he had to tell them, “Funny story, I gave the donkey to two other guys who were here about an hour ago.”

We know that Jesus had friends in Bethany. That’s where Mary, Martha and Lazarus lived, so it’s not that far of a reach to see that Jesus had already put steps in place for his entrance to Jerusalem.

This would lead me to suspect that if it were all right for Jesus to do the preparation and not always wait until the last minute and then call on God in a panic that there might be a lesson there for us as well.

Luke is always one for details and in his account of what happened, we are told that not only was this the colt of a donkey, but that it was a colt which had never been ridden before. 

There are a few things that we pick up in the story at first glance; first, it was a borrowed animal. Interesting that Jesus started his life in a borrowed manger, preached from a borrowed boat, rode a borrowed donkey, and was buried in a borrowed grave. Interesting how we hold so tight to the things which in reality, are only borrowed. At the end of our life, everything we have will belong to somebody else.

The second thing that jumped out at me was that the donkey had never been ridden. I spent a few years around horses and the like, and if the horse has never been ridden, the first time is always an adventure. There is much activity and excitement, and a lot of times, you end up on the ground looking up. They don’t call that process “Breaking a horse to the saddle” for no reason.

And yet Jesus gets on and rides away as nice as can be, and Luke doesn’t even comment on it. Maybe because most scholars tell us that Luke was a doctor and not a farmer, so he probably didn’t realize how spectacular of an event this was.

But there is something else there that might not mean a whole lot to you and me, but to the people of Jerusalem, it meant a great deal, and just in case they missed it, Matthew reaches back into the Old Testament and pulls out a reference from the prophet Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey— riding on a donkey’s colt.

Jesus knew that the religious leaders were out to get him, and yet instead of slinking into the city under cover of darkness, he rides triumphantly in a manner that is bound to reveal him as messiah.

Those in the know would get it. Those who weren’t in the know would have their curiosity piqued and ask what was going on, but either way, Jesus was making a statement, and he began this last act with a deliberate challenge.

If that is indeed what he was trying to do, he certainly succeeded. But what about the people in the crowd that day? We know that less than a week later, they weren’t shouting hosanna. As a matter of fact, some of the very people who wanted to see him crowned on Palm Sunday wanted to see him crucified on Good Friday.

So, who was in the crowd that day? Who was it shouting to God in praise? Who was it waving palm branches and laying their coats on the ground in front of Jesus? Would it surprise you to hear they were the same people who make up the church today? Very little has changed about human nature in the past 2000 years. So who was there?

1) Judas was there. I would suspect that we wouldn’t have to look very far in the crowd that day in order to find Judas Iscariot. You remember Judas, don’t you? He was one of the twelve and the treasurer of the group. Ultimately, he would be remembered through history as the one who would betray Christ to the authorities. Now at this point Judas had not even talked to the high priest about a deal. It would be another three or four days before Judas would go to the chief priests and ask what they would be willing to pay if he would betray his friend. But do you really think that the turning point came after the triumphant entry? Do you think that half a week could make a man turn from being a committed follower of Jesus Christ into the one who would turn his friend and teacher over to be executed?

Whatever it was that had turned Judas’ heart had happened before that last week, oh something might have been said or done to trigger the incident, but the wheels were already in motion. On the day that Jesus rode into town being proclaimed Messiah Judas already knew that he had lost the first love that he had for Christ. Judas’ true nature is revealed in a story told by John in his gospel. Jesus has already entered Bethany and is attending a dinner given in his honour. His three friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus, are all there.

Martha is doing what Martha is always doing, preparing the food, and serving it to all the guests. Lazarus is being a typical man in this situation and is doing nothing. Understand, ladies, Lazarus isn’t deliberately doing nothing. He just looks around and doesn’t see anything to do. The third sibling, Mary, comes into the room with a container of perfume which she proceeds to pour over the feet of Christ, and then she wipes it off with her hair.

A little bizarre, but I’m sure that in that cultural and historical setting, it must have been acceptable because no one jumped up and said, “Wow, that was kind of strange.”

But someone does object. This is what we read in John 12:4–6 But Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray him, said, “That perfume was worth a year’s wages. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.”  Not that he cared for the poor—he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples’ money, he often stole some for himself.

And so it would appear that while Judas had all the outward trappings of one of the disciples that in here, where it counts, there had never been a transformation. Oh, people looked at him and said “There’s Judas. He’s a follower of Christ, one of his disciples. He is a Christian.”

But Judas and God knew that was a lie. When he shouted hosanna that day, he didn’t mean it. He did it because it was expected of him. And in churches all over our city today, there are folks who are known as Christians. They sing the songs, pray the prayers and may even be in a position of leadership. But they know, and God knows that it’s a lie.

I would daresay that someone here today is in that very position. And there is a nasty word for people like that. It comes from the Greek word which meant to play a part or an actor, and that word is hypocrite.

And the bible has a little advice for you in the book ofJames 4:8–9 Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.  Let there be tears for what you have done.

Because if you don’t, you might fool Denn, and you might fool the people of the church, and you might even fool your family, but you aren’t fooling God.

2) The Religious Leaders Were There. They weren’t shouting, and they weren’t singing or waving palm branches or laying their coats down. They weren’t in the least bit interested in being identified with Christ. I mean, you have to give them credit; at least they were honest about it. They weren’t pretending.

They had their minds made up; they weren’t going to believe in him, no matter what. It didn’t matter how many miracles they witnessed, how many times they saw lives changed, they had already made a decision not to follow Christ, and we’ll never know what it was that kept them away, pride, sin or the fear of losing control but it was something.

Not all the religious leaders were like that. In the Gospels, we read about men like Nicodemus, the Pharisee and Jairus, the ruler of the Synagogue. But the majority of them, if they had a favourite hymn, it would be “I will not be moved.”

And today, we have people who tell us that Jesus was a great religious teacher or a good man or a prophet, but they draw the line at saying he is God. They resist any effort that people might make to introduce them to Christ, and they’ve hardened their hearts to the spirit.

There are people like that in every church. They are only there because they have to be. Their parents have drug them out, or it’s their spouse or a friend. And they may have to be there, but they’ll be darned if they are going to enjoy it.

They sit and stand with their arms folded (and if their arms aren’t actually crossed, they are crossed on the inside) and never sing a word, their minds are made up, and the preacher certainly won’t be the one to change it.

King David made a statement in Psalm 14:1 it was there he wrote Psalm 14:1 Only fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”

A few years back, I saw a picture. Someone had written the words “God is Dead” on a wall and then signed Frederick Nietzsche’s name to it. Under it, someone had added the words “Nietzsche is dead” and signed God, hah, hah.

Listen up, just because you’ve made up your mind that there is no God or that Jesus Christ isn’t God doesn’t make it less so. Or maybe you are kind of like the person that George Orwell described in Animal Farm when he wrote He was an embittered atheist (the sort of atheist who does not so much disbelieve in God as personally dislike Him).

It really doesn’t matter because the Bible says in Philippians 2:10-11 that there will come a time Philippians 2:10–11 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

3) The Curious Were There    Call them what you like, the undecided, pre-Christians, or seekers. They heard the noise and wanted to find out what it was all about. They probably got caught up in the excitement and began to sing and shout and wave palm branches, but they still weren’t a hundred percent convinced that Jesus was the Messiah. Perhaps they hadn’t heard him speak, or maybe they didn’t know anyone whose life had been changed or who had been healed.

So, they were there to find out for themselves.

Most of us don’t come to know Jesus as Lord the first time we hear the message, as a matter of fact, most of us don’t come the first half dozen times we hear the message. It often takes time and multiple hearings before we come to the place where we are ready to surrender our lives to him. For some, it is fairly quick. For others, it takes a little longer. The secret is that you remain open to God and to his message.

Jeremiah 29:11–13 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.  In those days when you pray, I will listen.  If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.

We do know that less than two months later, after Jesus had been crucified, after Jesus had risen from the dead, after Jesus had taught for another forty days and ascended into heaven, after the Holy Spirit fell upon the small group of believers in Jerusalem and after Peter preached on the streets of Jerusalem, perhaps to many who had been there on Palm Sunday that this is recorded in Acts 2:41 Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all.

That would be a good day at church, one would think.

And so if you are here today, but you have never made a decision to follow Christ continue to seek him, but here is a warning, don’t take too long. 2 Corinthians 6:2 For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation.

Why today? Because you don’t know what might happen tomorrow. And friends listen up you say, “I’m almost convinced.” But 90% found is still lost. I would hate to think that any one of you might slip into eternity. By the way, that’s just a pastoral way of saying kick the bucket without having the assurance of your salvation.

4) The Committed Were There. Along with Judas I’m sure the other eleven disciples were there. Probably Mary, Martha and Lazarus were there, no doubt Mary Magdalene, maybe Zacchaeus, Simon the leper and others whose lives and bodies Jesus had touched.

For many that day Jesus was not just an abstract or an ideal he had changed their lives and they were there to express their thanks and their adoration to him. Psalm 135:1 was a reality to them and they were going to follow those words that said Psalm 135:1 Praise the LORD! Praise the name of the LORD! Praise him, you who serve the LORD,

I don’t think that I’d be far off in saying that most of you folks fall into that last category; Jesus is a real part of your lives. Through his power and his grace your sins have been forgiven. And when you come on Sunday mornings your praise is genuine, and to you I leave the words of the book of Hebrews 13:15 Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name.

If you are in one of the other categories today, I would encourage you to move into a right relationship with God.

The scriptures tell us that he doesn’t want anyone to die without knowing him, and that means you. Whatever it is that has been holding you back, let it go. If you have never asked Christ to be Lord of your life, then you need to right now, and it is as simple as acknowledging that he is God and that you are a sinner and asking him to forgive your sins and turn from them. You say, “Denn, it can’t be that simple.” Oh yes, it is. Just that simple. If you’ve made a commitment to Christ but you aren’t living for him, or if there is an unforgiven sin in your life, then you need to ask for forgiveness.

Let’s pause for a minute of silent prayer. You might be thanking him for all he’s done for you, or you might be asking him to forgive you. Right now, only two people need to know your prayers, you and God.

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