Sermon delivered by Rev. Dr. Larry Maley at Dardenne Presbyterian Church on April 9, 2017

“The Tragic Side of a Triumphant Day”

Palm Sunday Scriptures: Luke 19:28-48 and Isaiah 53:1-12

         One Sunday a plainly dressed man walked into church in the Netherlands and took a seat near the pulpit. Soon a woman came along and curtly notified the man that he was seated in “her seat.” She directed him to move to another seat. The man apologized and moved away to a pew in the back of the church.

When the worship service was over, a friend of the woman asked her if she knew whom she had ordered out of “her seat.” The woman admitted that she did not know who he was. To her great dismay, she was told, “It was the King of Sweden.”

Many people have turned a potential life changing moment into a negative situation because of their bad choices. How often have you shamefully confessed, “I blew it!” Or, someone has said to you, “How could you mess up like that?” Then, there have been occasions when everything seemed to be opening up for you, and something or someone unexpectedly came along to spoil the party. What appeared to be your triumph ended in tragedy.

Today is Palm Sunday. It is the day the Christian Church celebrates the triumphal entry of our Lord Jesus Christ into Jerusalem. For Jesus and His disciples it was a day filled with great excitement. A celebration burst forth as Jesus entered the city. However, in the midst of the joy and excitement, the Bible tells us that three tragic situations arose. There was the:

  1. Tragedy of some people who were unwilling to praise Jesus;
  2. Tragedy of the Temple having to be cleansed; and
  3. Tragedy that the people failed to recognize the time of God’s coming.

Let’s briefly examine each of those tragedies.

The first tragedy was the unwillingness of some people to praise Jesus. (Read Luke 19:39) When Jesus arrived in Jerusalem riding the foal of a donkey, a large crowd had gathered to provide a rousing welcome. They praised Him by shouting, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Lk. 19:38, Matt. 21:9). They were praising God “for all the miracles they had seen” (Lk. 19:37, Mt. 21:15).  Jesus said that even “the stones” were waiting to praise Him (Lk. 19:40).

        However, in the midst of all their praise, it was tragic to hear that the religious leaders, the Pharisees, callously refused to praise the Lord. Their indignation went to the point of telling Jesus to “rebuke his disciples” and direct “the children” to stop praising Him (Lk. 19:39, Matt. 21:15-16). The frustration, envy and hostility of the Jewish spiritual leaders had blinded them to what God was doing in Jesus Christ!

There may be some struggle, challenge or frustration in your life right now which is preventing you from praising the Lord on this Palm Sunday. Maybe you were looking around at others while we sang today’s glorious hymns and you wondered why you could not join in? I wholeheartedly encourage you put your resistance and defenses aside and join in praise this Palm Sunday.

A pastor had grown so discouraged in his ministry that he decided to quit. However, he felt that it was only right that he go into the church, one last time, to give thanks to God for all that God had done for his ministry. As he knelt down and gave thanks to God, he started to count his blessings over the years. Soon, his heart and voice were rising up in praise to God. Then he began to wonder why he had even thought of quitting.

That describes the power of praise! Praise lifts us out of our circumstances and into the presence of the Lord. Praise offers us a glimpse of what God is trying to do in our life. Why don’t we all join together this Palm Sunday and shout, ”Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

        The second tragedy that occurred when Jesus entered Jerusalem was the Temple had to be cleansed. (Read Luke 19:45) Jesus went to the Temple the day after His triumphant entry. The Jerusalem Temple was the center of Jewish worship. God intended it to be the most sacred and precious place for God’s people. However, as Jesus walked around the Temple, what He saw broke His heart. The hallowed place of worship had been turned into a market place of unscrupulous vendors (Matt. 21:12-13). Imagine what went through the heart of Jesus as He observed people desecrating God’s house. Ponder the pain Jesus felt as He resorted to the drastic action of “overturning the tables of the moneychangers” in order to clean up what He called “My house of prayer” (Lk 21:13). I imagine Jesus did not sleep very well that evening after His triumphal entry as He weighed the radical action He would take the following day in the Temple courtyard.

        Permit me to make the application of Jesus’ cleansing the Temple to His cleansing of your life. The Bible says that “your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 6:19). Knowing that fact, it is important to ask yourself whether your temple needs cleansing in any area? Just like in our home, sometimes the dirt in our life is plainly obvious. Other times, we need to go into prayer and search deeper before God reveals our foul and nasty areas. Just as we use cleansing soaps for our skin, so we must also cleanse our inner self. It is the only the power of Jesus Christ that can cleanse your sins (1 John 1:9).

The third tragedy that occurred when Jesus entered Jerusalem was a result of people failing to recognize the time of God’s coming. (Read Luke 19:44) Jesus arrival in Jerusalem was the fulfillment of several Biblical prophecies. First from Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion. See your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Compare to Luke 19: 35). The spreading of cloaks on the ground (Lk. 19:35) fulfilled a prophecy from 2 Kings 9:13, which describes the laying cloaks on the ground as a way to pay homage to royalty.

        Sadly, despite all the signs around them, the people failed to understand what Jesus’ messiahship meant. As a result, when Jesus approached Jerusalem “he wept over it” (Lk. 19:41). The people did not realize what God was doing. As a consequence  Jesus prophesied Jerusalem’s future destruction because God’s chosen people had not recognized the “time of God’s coming” (Lk. 19:43-44).

It is the same with humanity today. The signs are all around us indicating that our Lord could return at any moment – just as He had warned (Matt. 24:42-44). But are we seeing God’s timing in the world today? Are we prepared for His coming?

In 2004, a devastating tsunami struck Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand, killing over 280,000 people, and leaving even more homeless. The people on the shoreline were unprepared for such a massive wave. Strangely, the animals living close to the ocean, through their God-given instincts, somehow sensed that danger was approaching and they moved to higher ground, thereby escaping death.

Tragically, when it involves God’s timing in the affairs of the world, many people find it difficult to believe what is happening. Isn’t it time for Christians to declare to the world, “Hosanna! Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” and live in the expectation of Christ’s imminent appearance?