In case you didn't know, today is Sunday. I say that because during this shutdown I have to remind myself what day it is.
So much of what was once "normal" is turned on its head for everyone. Some of you still get to go to work. Some are forced or blessed to work from home. Others aren't able to work at all. Schools are empty. Grocery store shelves are empty. Streets are empty. There's no sports on TV.
Some of us are struggling with anxiety, fear, stress, cabin fever, news overload, boredom.
This is unprecedented for our age. Yet the world has seen harder times.
Not only is today, Sunday, but it is Palm Sunday.
In Jesus' day, Israel was facing one of those harder times. Their nation was occupied by Rome—under the Roman Empire. Roman soldiers were brutish. Life was cruel.
Jesus was ministering at this time. Because of fulfilled promises, His claims, His character, and His miracles, a lot of people put their hope for a better world in Christ.
Yet for weeks He hs been making His way north to Jerusalem where He says He will suffer, be rejected, and be killed and then be raised from the dead on the third day.
Today is the start of Passover week! 1000s and 1000s of Jews have made their annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem for this holy day feast. This year, the people were doubly excited, because the would-be king, Jesus of Nazareth, is approaching to enter the city.
John 12:12 On the next day the large crowd who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel."
These people were familiar with the biblical significance of this day. They quote Psalm 118, which is a "Messianic" Psalm that foretells God's King coming to save. "Hosanna!" Which means, "Save us now!" And which came to mean, "Yea, salvation is here!" "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD, the King of Israel."
They were essentially saying, "Our world is a mess! Life is too painful. Lord God, save us. Come and reign as King!"
That's the people's chant. That's their LONGING, because life was hard.
When everything is fine, we don't always long for God to intervene. While everybody experiences life differently, things are generally so good in America that we don't always long for God to rock our world or shake things up. We like things to stay the same. Most people want God to stay out of it.
Today, however, coronavirus dominates the news. It's brought the world to its knees, the global economy to a halt. It exposes how so many of our idols (sports, education, stock market, restaurants, health, work, workouts, etc.) are unable to protect, entertain us, distract or fulfill us.
Most of the people I talk to want things to get back to normal. That's understandable; count me in. We don't want to be cooped up in our homes, afraid for our loved ones. We want the kids go be back in school, our jobs to go back to normal, to be able to go out for dinner, and for the economy back on track.
We're human. We like things normal.
But Palm Sunday reminds us that going back to normal isn't our truest longing. We tend to forget, but normal wasn't all so great. Some of us didn't like our jobs, some of us were lonely back then, worried, sad, bored, or stressed.
What happened on Palm Sunday highlights that our hearts long for more than a return to normal.
We long for God. We long for Jesus Christ to make God's glory abound on this fallen planet. We long for the good that God intends to bring about under Jesus, where sin cannot mess it up. Our new hearts long for Jesus to renew this world. For His kingdom to come, and for all things to be brought under Jesus and made new.
Our new hearts really long for the same thing the people did on that first Palm Sunday,
"Hosanna." Save us now. Jesus, come and reign! "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of kings."
Back to the scene in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Jesus heading up to the very city that God said He'd enter, on the exact date God said He'd come—and every hope for this fallen world is on Him.
The people are ready. Jesus is about to make His grand entrance. Customarily the Triumphant Hero or King would ride in on a handsome war stallion, but,
John 12:14 Jesus, finding a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written, 15 "Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your King is coming, seated on a donkey's colt."
If people in the crowd didn't really know the Bible's predictions about this day, I think seeing Jesus ride up on a little donkey colt would've been pretty disappointing.
But John's Gospel says Jesus did this "as is is written." In other words, this is a sign! This is how God's Savior King would enter—on this specific day in history. And then he quotes Zechariah 9:9's prophecy written ceturies earlier about the future king riding in on a donkey colt.
What's interesting is what was not quoted. For Zechariah's promise of a King coming to Jerusalem on a donkey colt is the first half of a greater promise.
Zechariah 9:10 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the horse from Jerusalem; and the bow of war will be cut off [He will come and protect Israel from her enemies]; and He will speak peace to the nations; and His dominion will be from sea to sea and from the river to the ends of the earth.
In this second part of the prophecy, after God's king comes, He will bring peace to the nations and reign to the ends of the earth. But John didn't apply this to Jesus' first coming, because Jesus only fulfilled the first half of Zechariah's prophecy on this day.
See, although this crowd celebrates Jesus, the nation as a whole rejects Him. By Thursday He'll be betrayed and arrested. By Friday, He's dead.
Jesus must give His life before He takes the throne.
Jesus shall be the world's sin Savior crowned with thorns before He is crowned as our King.
So He enters Jerusalem riding a "beast of burden" (for He shall bear our sins on the cross) not a war stallion.
This is what Zechariah predicted centuries earlier. But the nation refused to accept Him.
Luke 19:39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, rebuke Your disciples." [Tell them to shut up. You're not the King.] 40 But Jesus answered, "I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!"
On this day, this shall happen. This is the day all of creation awaits the king, so if the people don't declare my praise, creation will.
Yet people still don't want to hear about Jesus, let alone Jesus ruling. But the the real truth is our friends and coworkers need our faith in Jesus and our love for them to be bold. They need us to firmly believe that Jesus is the only way for them to know God and that Jesus' death and resurrection are their only hope to be forgiven their sin and granted eternal life with God forever.
Unfortunately, that generation of people made their choice. Jesus knew it.
Luke 19:41 When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it 42 saying, "If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes... 44… Because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.
Jesus rode into Jerusalem to cheers reserved for a king, yet He knew He's not going into the city to sit on a throne, but to be nailed to a cross. Not to be made King on Palm Sunday but to be made Sin on Good Friday. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Colossians 1:13 He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Colossians 1:19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross…
For those who feel far from God, you can trust Jesus today to bring you to the Father—that's what the cross is all about. Jesus paid for your salvation! He brokered peace between you and God. He broke the power of sin and darkness. He gave His life that you may live without fear of death, that you might live for the One who loves you and whose glory outshines the sun.
But that's looking to Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
The hope that Palm Sunday promises is that Jesus will come again to rule with justice and bring peace to the nations, and make all things right in the world! This is still God's promise. And this is still our heart's true longing.
Our true longing is in the joyous and glorious return of Jesus Christ as King! In the book of Revelation "Hallelujah!" seems to be the oft-repeated refrain of Heaven and Earth,
Revelation 19:1 Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God…
Revelation 19:4 The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sits on the throne saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!”
For every believer, Jesus' return will be a day salvation and glory and joy,
Revelation 19:6 … Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. 7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him…
O and here's the promise of that great white stallion that replaces the young beast of burden,
Revelation 19:11 And behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True…
It's Palm Sunday. The days are warming. Grass is greening. Buds are blooming. Creation is giving us a glimpse of the Hope to come. As much as we want spring and a return to normal (I know I do), yet our souls have a deeper and truer longing for Jesus Christ and to His kingdom shattering, world changing, hallelujah-inspiring return.
Even though the world is not as it should be, more than longing for normalcy to return, Jesus Christ shall return and every longing you've ever had will be fulfilled on that day,
Revelation 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away… 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle [the physical dwelling, the visible presence] of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, 4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things [what we consider the normal things] have passed away.” 5 And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”