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Day of Decision

Day of Decision

Sermon Transcript

On Palm Sunday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem. It was the start of Holy Week, a week that would leave him to the cross and to the grave. For us, like the crowd that day, it's a day of decision. Will you respond with belief or unbelief? Join Dr. Marty Baker as he takes us through Luke 19:28-44 and the triumphal entry of Jesus Christ.

Palm Sunday’s message is clear:  What will you do with Jesus Christ? Will you receive Him as Lord and Savior or reject Him?  As we move through Luke’s historical account of Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem in March of 33 A.D., we see this question naturally arise in the various responses to His arrival at the Temple.  Some were convinced that He was the prophesied Messiah. For others, they showed up for the excitement of the emotional moment, but they were not yet convinced of His person and redemptive work. We find the Pharisees, the nation's religious leaders, mingling menacingly among the crowd of worshippers. They should have joined in the jubilation but didn’t because they loved their power and position more than anything else, and He threatened both.  Hence, they wrapped themselves in cloaks of unbelief while seeking to undermine Christ’s mission with their barbed verbiage. I wonder. Which group are you in?

By the end of this fateful week of Passover, Christ’s failure to erect the Davidic empire if He were the Messiah served to quickly weed out the fickle and ferocious from His faithful followers.  But at the beginning of the week, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a new donkey to give His people an authentic glimpse of the Messiah and lovingly call them one more time to be saved by placing their complete faith in Him.

Now it is your turn.  What will you do? Perhaps a brief analysis of Christ’s triumphal entry, as recounted by Dr. Luke, will move you to deal with this question you’ve put off for far too long.  And if you are a faithful follower of Jesus today, this passage will put some much-needed wind in your sails as you reconsider why you decided to be called His child.

We will move through the passage's five chronological panels to appreciate Luke’s record of this exciting day in Christ’s life. As we do this, please ask yourself: What will I do with Jesus?

The Rule (Luke 19:28-31)

Writing as a historical narrator, Luke opens this part of the story about Christ’s last week on earth with these words:

28 And after He had said these things, He was going on ahead, ascending to Jerusalem. 29 And it came about that when He approached Bethphage and Bethany, near the mount that is called Olivet, He sent two of the disciples,

 30 saying, "Go into the village opposite you, in which as you enter you will find a colt tied, on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it, and bring it here.

 31 "And if anyone asks you, 'Why are you untying it?' thus shall you speak, 'The Lord has need of it.'"

The first clause causes us to pause and remember the immediate historical context.  As Jesus moved toward Jerusalem by walking south to Jericho, He encountered Zacchaeus, a despised and dreaded tax collector (Luke 19:1-10).  Jews hated these men because they not only collected excessive taxes from Rome but they padded the taxes so they’d become rich off the backs of the people.  Though Zacchaeus had lived a life devoid of God, when he encountered Jesus, he repented of his wicked ways and turned to be saved by Jesus.  If he could be saved, anyone could be.  There is room at Jesus's feet for everyone who comes to Him in faith.

After this, he sought to correct the people's erroneous thinking with a parable. Since they thought the messianic kingdom was about to appear in light of all the miracles and the definitive teaching wrought by Jesus, he told the Parable of the King’s Ten Servants (Luke 19:11-27).  In this fictional story, Jesus was the nobleman who left for a time to receive a kingdom. In His absence, which would occur with His crucifixion, He entrusted each servant with various amounts of wealth.  They were supposed to invest His monies in advancing His empire during His absence.  When the nobleman returned later, he rewarded the faithful with what he had entrusted to them with rulership over cities in His new kingdom.  Those servants who rejected the nobleman were harshly judged and barred from the kingdom.  All of this, of course, served as a picture of what would happen in the future.  Jesus would be delaying the arrival of the Davidic empire prophesied in the OT (Isa. 2:1-5; 9:1-6; Psalm 89) because He was leaving temporarily (through His coming death and resurrection). In the meantime, there are two responses to the King: Faithfully follow and serve Him as you advance His kingdom, or reject Him and suffer the eternal consequences.

With this teaching in mind, we are better positioned to appreciate His triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  Luke develops the narrative with these words:

28 And after He had said these things, He was going on ahead, ascending to Jerusalem. 29 And it came about that when He approached Bethphage and Bethany, near the mount that is called Olivet, He sent two of the disciples, 30 saying, "Go into the village opposite you, in which as you enter you will find a colt tied, on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it, and bring it here. 31 "And if anyone asks you, 'Why are you untying it?' thus shall you speak, 'The Lord has need of it.'"

Walking from Jericho to Jerusalem was quite an ascent.  Jericho, located in the Jordan Rift Valley, was 800 feet below sea level, while Jerusalem rested on the mountains to the west at 2,200 feet above sea level.  The steep ascent took some eight hours.

Winding through the rocky, barren landscape, eventually, they approached Bethphage and Bethany, two small neighboring villages located about two miles from Jerusalem on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives (John 11:18). Bethany was the home of Mary, Martha, and their brother Lazarus.  Christ’s resurrection of Lazarus at an earlier date had spread like wildfire in the region. Some became believers because of this particular miracle, while others, like the chief priests and the Pharisees, saw it as a threat to their power base and control of the people. This conclusion moved them to devise a plan to murder Jesus and thereby cancel/silence His influence (John 11:45-54).  It is strange how tenaciously people will hold onto their power even in the face of incontrovertible evidence to walk away from it and embrace a truly powerful One, Jesus.

While in Bethany, Jesus dispatched some of His disciples to retrieve a new donkey for Him to ride into Jerusalem. No one questioned the interesting request (What? You want us to go and take someone else’s donkey?)  because they knew from prior instances that when He requested you to do something, He not only had a well-thought-out plan, but something magnificent was about to happen.

How did Jesus know a new donkey would be tied up in this small village? Because He was omniscient.  How did He have such confidence the owner wouldn’t mind if He borrowed it for a while? In His omniscience, He knew the person would know the Lord wasn’t just any Lord, but the Lord.  I’m sure the person had heard of Christ’s greatness, especially as it related to the raising of Lazarus only a few miles away.  Talk between small towns traveled fast, even without Instagram.

How did Jesus know He could ride a new donkey with no problem? After watching a few videos this week on how to train a donkey for a rider, I’m convinced you don’t just think you’ll stay on a new donkey from the first time you decide to mount it.  Chances are good you will be thrown to the ground. Jesus didn’t have this concern. Why? He was the Lord who created the donkey, and just as the wind of the seas obeyed His voice as the Creator (Mark 4:41), the donkey would be no problem.

Why did He choose a donkey for His triumphal entry into Jerusalem? For one, Jesus desired to fulfill Zechariah’s 500-year-old prophecy concerning the coming Messiah:

9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 10 And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem; and the bow of war will be cut off. 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. (Zech. 9).

Temporal earthly kings come with pomp and pride; however, the messianic King from heaven came riding on a donkey. Why? To show His inner spirit. Unlike earthly kings, who are sold on themselves, love their power, and enjoy the wealth that power brings them, the true King of Kings is all about humility and true servanthood to the people.

The Messiah riding on a donkey, according to verse 10, was also prophesied to be the one who would break the armaments for war, create lasting peace among the warring nations, and establish His Davidic empire from the River Jordan to the entire world.  Knowing this not only positioned Jesus as the Davidic messianic King of Kings, it helps explain why the people so excitedly gathered and worshipped Him as He rode downhill from the Mount of Olives to the Temple. They completely mentally shelved what He taught in the Parable of the Minas and opted to celebrate the arrival of the King, the imminent destruction of the Roman occupying force, and the erection of the final David empire (Isa. 2:1-5; Jer. 23:4; 33:15-17).

We see the response of the people in the next section:

The Response (Luke 19:32-38)

Emotional electricity filled the air as Jesus rode the innocent little donkey into town:

32 And those who were sent went away and found it just as He had told them.

 33 And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, "Why are you untying the colt?" 34 And they said, "The Lord has need of it." 35 And they brought it to Jesus, and they threw their garments on the colt, and put Jesus on it. 36 And as He was going, they were spreading their garments in the road.

 37 And as He was now approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, . . .

Why did the people throw their garments before Jesus as He rode toward them? By doing this, they stated they gave their all to Him, even the clothes off their backs.

According to John’s account, why did some wave palm branches as Jesus passed by (John 12:13)?  Palm branches were associated with Israel's seventh and last religious feast. It’s called the Feast of Tabernacles, and during it, Israel cut down palm branches to build booths to remember their time in the wilderness as God provided for them on their journey to Canaan (Lev. 23:33-44).  All Jews knew this feast would be observed after the Messiah put down all their enemies. Zechariah 14 taught them this much (vv. 16-19). Thus, by waving palm branches, the Jews at this time bypassed past the other six feasts and acted as if the Messiah’s kingdom, indeed, was here.  They failed to realize, however, that the Messiah first had to become sinful man’s Passover lamb, his sinless sacrifice (Feast of Unleavened Bread, Lev. 23:6-8), his firstfruits (Feast of Firstfruits, Lev. 23:9-14) or the first to rise from the dead, and so forth. No, the Jews of Christ’s time emotionally wanted to jump to the end of the feast cycle and get on with the Messiah’s kingdom program.  Yet, before the outer kingdom could come, the humble Lord had first to secure the ability for sinners to be his kingdom subjects by paying the penalty for their sins.

Why were some of these people here anyway? Many of them had witnessed Christ’s miracles and knew He had to be the divine Messiah as prophesied (Isa. 7:14; 9:6; Mic. 5:2).  What is a miracle?  Norman Geisler defines the word well: “A miracle is a divine intervention in the natural world that produces an event that would not have resulted from purely natural causes.”[1] What had they seen? I’m sure some had attended the funeral for Lazarus. They saw his mummified body wrapped in the 120-pound heavy burial shroud. They saw his stiff, lifeless body placed in the tomb. They watched the sealing of the tomb. They knew, beyond doubt, that he had been dead for four long days (John 11:17).  No one could survive in a tomb without food and water. Some were consoling Mary when she left to go and find Christ (John 11:31).  Those women went with her and Martha and were with her when she encountered Christ outside the tomb of their dead brother and Christ’s close friend. They watched in eye-popping amazement as Lazarus walked out of the tomb when Jesus called his name (John 11:43-44).  Who could ever forget the moment Lazarus came out shocked and covered with strips of burial cloth falling off his body? According to John 12:9, a parallel account to Luke 19:28ff, the presence of a living, breathing Lazarus was precisely why they flocked to Jesus.  They wanted to see the dead man who now lived, and they wanted to see and meet the man who had freed him from death’s tenacious grip with three words, “Lazarus, come forth” (John 11:43).

Luke specifically says that the worshippers came to see Jesus because of miracles He had performed, not just one.  I’m sure many either knew the blind beggar Jesus healed as He headed to Jerusalem through Jericho earlier  (Luke 18).  As Jesus passed by, the blind man caught wind it was Jesus of Nazareth, so he pleaded for mercy.  When the Lord paused and compassionately asked the man what he wanted, he replied, “Lord, that I may receive my sight” (Luke 18:40). Again, with one short sentence, Jesus gave the man seeing eyes for the first time in his life: “Receive your sight; your faith has made you well” (John 18:42). Verse 43 informs us the man from that moment followed Christ.  It is highly possible that the same man, whom many knew because of the country's small size, was with Jesus as He rode into town.  People could have easily said, “Say, isn’t that the blind man we used to see begging in the Jericho market when we traveled there to purchase dates? How is it that he is walking with confidence?”

Christ’s miracles moved people because they knew only God could do what He did at will.  Looking back at these miracles caused Peter to make this statement in his first sermon at Pentecost in Jerusalem:

22 "Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know-- (Acts 2).

Miracles validated Jesus' divinity. No wonder people lined the road as Jesus traveled into town on the donkey.  Wouldn’t you have been with them?

No wonder these folks worshipped Jesus, too:

38 saying, "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"

They rhythmically chanted verse 26 of Psalm 118, one of the six Hallel Psalms that express thanksgiving and joy for divine redemption. They were so convinced Jesus was the messianic Davidic king that they changed the wording from “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD” to “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord.”  Christ didn’t stop them either because He was the King who was about to go to the cross to secure the ability for sinners to become saints and subjects of His coming kingdom.

When you understand who Jesus is, it is only natural for you, as His followers, to praise Him for his redemptive provision for you.  Further, when you study His miracles as recorded in the NT by men who paid for their writings with their lives, you know that Jesus was, and is, the divine Lord and Savior.  I’m sure you should look for the opportunity to praise Him, and I’m sure today was one of those exciting times as you worshipped Him through song.

Not all people feel like you do, however.  Not all people encounter the facts of His person and conclude He was the Lord who left glory to go to the cross for each of us (Phil. 2).  Some hold onto their unbelief despite the evidence to the contrary.  The Pharisees are a case in point of those skeptical, agnostic, and frequently combative types.

The Rejection (Luke 19:39)

Despite the presence of Lazarus as a living testimony to the divine nature of Jesus, these blind religious leaders looked for an opportunity to silence Jesus:

39 And some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to Him, "Teacher, rebuke Your disciples."

They should have said, “Teacher, commend Your disciples for they speak truth.” But they didn’t because no amount of miracles would break through the hard soil of their unbelieving hearts. No amount of miracles would change their flimsy presupposition that Jesus could not be the divine Messiah. From their perspective, Jesus had to be silenced and canceled because He was a complete threat to their power over the people and to their source of wealth.  And so it always is with those who love power, prestige, ideology, and money more than God.  They always work overtime to sideline the purveyor of truth so they can retain their tenuous hold on their temporal kingdom.

Is this a portrait of you? Have you for years laughed at believers, attacked the Word of God, mocked pastors, belittled Christians in class or at work while possibly holding tightly to a works-based religion so you can at least feel good about yourself? If so, you are a Pharisee, and you are also far from God.  Know this day, the humble Lord who rode that simple, sweet donkey into Jerusalem still reaches out to you to be saved.  What will you do with Him is the question.

The Retort (Luke 19:40)

Jesus heard these godless, power-hungry men as He rode by.  Stopping, he gave them a quick rebuke:

40 And He answered and said, "I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!"

What stones was Jesus talking about? Since the Mount of Olives was a massive graveyard covered with stones, Jesus probably references all the graves everyone can see.  If so, then His statement is most powerful: If the living don’t praise the Lord of life, then I will resurrect all the dead on this hillside, and they will praise me.”  Wow.  The point is well-taken: Praising Jesus for being the King of Kings is always appropriate, and no one should ever tell you likewise.

Turning from the rebuke, Jesus offers some prophetic reality:

The Reality (Luke 19:41-44)

Because Jesus was a divine prophet, He knew the nation's collective unbelief would lead to its downfall in a mere thirty-seven years (70 A.D.). He knew that the same ones who praised Him because they wrongly thought He was about to usher in the Davidic Kingdom would be the first in line to scream “Crucify Him” at the end of the Passover week. That response, however, was not His heart as we read here:

41 And when He approached, 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. 43 "For the days shall come upon you when your enemies will throw up a bank before you, and surround you, and hem you in on every side,

 44 and will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another (Lk. 19). 

Instead of being freed from Roman domination by Jesus that week, He was all about going to the cross to enable sinners to be freed from the domination of sin.  And because the nation, by and large, rejected their Messiah, He prophesied with precision their downfall at the hands of the Romans.

In 66 A.D., the Jews started their revolt against Rome in Ceasarea, and by 67 A.D., the Romans dispatched General Vespasian and his son, Titus, to direct the war. In 70 A.D., Titus attacked Jerusalem with four Legions. Ironically, the attack started at the time of Passover. This is interesting because Jesus died at Passover. Further, ironically, Titus positioned two legions, the Fifth and the Eleventh, on the hillside from which Jesus rode the donkey.  The fifteen legion campes on the city's north side, and the Tenth camped along the lower slopes of the Mount of Olives, again right where Jesus had rode into Jerusalem earlier.  A massive ramp was built to breach the third outer protective wall of the city. It took only fifteen days. Once the Romans broke through this, they broke through the second wall in only four days.  After this,  the Romans built another ramp to destroy the massive Antonia fortress near the Temple's northern wall. The Jews retreated to the Temple complex, but after four battles, the Temple fell along with the people and the nation in August of 70 A.D.

All of this occurred exactly as Jesus prophesied it would.  This somber prophetic word is a warning to those who reject Him. There is always a price to pay for rejecting His redemption, which can come in the here and now and most certainly in the hereafter.  These prophetic words are another reason to consider how you will answer the question before us:  What will you do with Jesus Christ? Will you receive Him as Lord and Savior or reject Him?

Last Sunday, Pastor Matt presented the gospel, the good news about the salvation Christ secured for sinners through His sacrificial death and resurrection, to several third and fourth-graders during Sunday School. When asked how many children would like to make Jesus their Lord and Savior, fifty-two raised their hands.  You read that right.  Fifty-two.  Fifty-two traded spiritual death for spiritual life. We praise the Lord for each one of these who, like some did on Christ’s triumphal entry, answered the question we’ve posed today with an affirmation of faith.

How will you answer this question? Will you consider the evidence of Christ’s divine person and work, come to Him in faith, and become His child? Or will you retreat into your unbelief? The humble, compassionate Lord waits now for you to make a move.

[1] Norman Geisler, Introduction to Apologetics, unpublished doctoral notes, Southern Evangelical Seminary.