Posted by: lepages | April 2, 2010

Palm Sunday preach…

Here’s my notes from my preach last Sunday, Palm Sunday, grappling with the Old Testament prophecies about the day… hope they inspire you… sorry they’re a bit late as they’re posted on Good Friday!! Will hopefully post my notes from Easter Sunday quicker! Hopefully, the preach should be online to listen to soon as well.
God bless you.

Christ prophesied – Your King comes on a donkey
Zechariah 9:9,10

I don’t know whether any of you would ever think of life like this

– a bit of a puzzle….

There’s all these bits and pieces, but somehow putting them all together seems a bit complicated.

You get some of them together

– but then you’re left wondering where the next bits go…

Some of us find God and the Bible a bit like that…. there’s all these bits…. and figuring out how they all fit together and what they actually means seems a bit complicated…. the interesting thing is, as you begin to put some of the pieces together, you may not have it altogether and see everything or understand everything, but as the pieces start to come together you can see where the puzzle is going….

Sometimes you know where the puzzle is going, the struggle is just figuring out how to order the pieces.

We start our Easter series today – an incredibly puzzling story, because if it is true, it is mind blowing! Today is known as ‘Palm Sunday’ as it remembers what is commonly referred to as ‘The Triumphal Entry’ – and yet in reality it wasn’t a Triumphal entry.

We’ve had the account portrayed to us of the events of that day, but they didn’t fully match the expectations of the people….

Our Easter series this year is entitled ‘Christ prophesied’ and this week is sub-headed ‘Your King comes on a donkey’

Straight away, even in our title there is something that doesn’t make sense, something that’s a bit of a puzzle. If you were doing a puzzle, you hadn’t seen the final image, you knew the title was ‘The Triumphal Entry’ and you knew it was of a King arriving at a city I guess as you sorted through the pieces of the puzzle you might find these pieces that make up this image of a donkey and think, ‘well, I don’t know where they’re supposed to go!’ Perhaps put them to one side until you can figure out where they’re supposed to be. A King riding on a donkey is not most people’s imagery of a Triumphal entry.

When you open the box of a puzzle you find lots of pieces scattered around inside and you have to sort through and put them in the right order. This Easter we are looking at the Old Testament prophecies, words written and spoken some 500 years before the time of Christ, words which we know were written down and held dear before the time of Christ because they have since been found in the Dead Sea Scrolls which are dated to before the time of Christ.

The problem is that like pieces of a puzzle scattered around in a box, the prophecies about Jesus and what was to happen to him are scattered around through the Old Testament writings – which is why after his death & resurrection, Jesus explained to his disciples ‘what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself’. Luke 24:27

So we’re going to pick up some of the pieces of this puzzle, orientate them and see how they all fit together in the most amazing and marvellous ways – in the, at times, most incredibly disarming and shocking ways!

The prophecies which came true some 500 years later on that first Palm Sunday as we call it came from a prophet called Zechariah. (To get the picture on this – imagine finding writings written in the 1500’s which spoke of things that are happening today!!)

They were written to a people who had returned from living under exile from their home country – think about displaced people around our world today – people who have been forced out of their homes and home country and forced to live somewhere else – think about them as they receive permission to return to their homes, but still feel vulnerable as they are surrounded by people whom they fear will oppress them again – this was the situation which the people Zechariah prophesied to were living in.

Turn with me if you would to his message, Zechariah 9

Only two verses relate directly to the events we’re reflecting on today, but I’d like us to read the preceding verses so we get the context they were written into.

READ Zechariah 9:1-10

Zechariah speaks of the surrounding nations from whom God’s people fear oppression, and he speaks of God’s judgement on them… and then he tells the people to rejoice because their King is coming to them – he talks of him being ‘gentle’, of him riding on a colt, the foal of a donkey – not the image you expect of a conquering King! He talks of his people’s military strength being taken away – chariots removed, war-horses removed, the weapons of war being broken – a decommissioning of weapons as we’ve seen in Northern Ireland in recent years – and he speaks of peace being proclaimed to all the nations, not just of God’s people being set free from tyranny.

Lets try and put together some of these pieces about Jesus.
Why should he cause us to rejoice greatly?
Why should he cause us to shout out?

During the events of Palm Sunday they did shout out

‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’
‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’
‘Hosanna in the highest!’

Their word of praise is a fascinating one, because it links back to the prophecy.
In its origins the word ‘Hosanna’ means ‘Save us’!
In Zechariah’s prophecy we have the words:-
‘See your King comes to you, righteous and having salvation…’

The people who now lived under the oppression of the Roman Empire were looking for a king to come and save them from that oppression. Was this king riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, as prophesied 500 years earlier going to come and overthrow the Roman empire? Was this king who was receiving praise and adoration, having people lay out the red carpet for him by throwing cloaks on the ground for him, throwing down branches cut from the trees, was he going to go and confront the Romans?

No, he went to the temple and turned it upside down because it was supposed to be a house of prayer for all nations.

The Christian faith, the Easter story is one of the most upside down, inside out, unexpected mix of twists and turns that goes against everything we would expect as human beings.

The King comes to bring his salvation, to rescue his people and the first thing he does is turn the temple courts upside down and say that they should be a place of prayer for all nations… not what was probably being expected! He came proclaiming peace to all nations, not just delivery for his own people.

So why ‘rejoice’??!!

We know now that the salvation he was bringing wasn’t a political salvation – it wasn’t the physical delivery of a nation from oppression, it was a spiritual delivery from oppression made available to all people who would receive it from him – over the next week we reflect on how he obtained it – on Good Friday we think of his sacrificial giving of his life as he was crucified with a sign hung on his cross, saying ‘This is Jesus, the King of the Jews’, next Sunday, Easter Day we celebrate his resurrection – one of the most amazing facts of history, not just someone being brought back from the gates of death – like me – but of someone who was not only dead, but also buried – but now raised to life again.

None of these images are what you would expect of a conquering King. But they are what it means to bring salvation to people – to deliver them from the things that tie them up in this life, from the things that hold them back and bring to them a new dimension to life, a new hope, a new joy – to bring to them something to rejoice about, no matter what goes on around them.

So why rejoice because the King comes into town on a donkey? – because he is bringing salvation to rescue us from ourselves. That’s something worth rejoicing in – salvation, deliverance, hope, that’s not brought about through war to defeat the enemy – imagine if it had been possible to bring down Sadam Hussein’s regime without going to war, but instead by bringing a change of thinking, a change of lifestyle to individual after individual so that the society became a righteous society? This is what happens when God’s salvation is poured out.

In the pages of history, at times of revival when many are brought to salvation in Christ, there is a huge fall in the crime rate, why? Because the justice system is working harder or better? No, because salvation has come to individuals and delivered them from their past habits which drove their lives.

Another piece of the puzzle in answer to the question ‘Why rejoice?’ is because he is gentle

The prophecy says that he is ‘gentle’.
Why would that be a cause for rejoicing?
Surely what was needed was for him to do the same as he did in the Temple courts, but this time do it to the Roman oppressors?
But he didn’t do that.
A short time later he was arrested and stood trial. He didn’t protest, he didn’t fight for his rights, he stood gently before his accusers and received everything that was thrown against him.

Why is that worth rejoicing in?
Because Jesus is gentle in the way he deals with everyone – as we read the gospels, we see the gentle way in which he responded to people in need – he does the same today – he doesn’t come and force himself upon our lives – he gently approaches us and says ‘this is what I want to do in your life – I want to give you a new life, I want to give you hope and joy, I want to bring to you wholeness of being – I’ve done all that’s necessary for you – will you receive it from me and come and learn more from me.’

You see, he may be gently speaking to you today saying ‘Come and receive all I have for you’ – that may be deliverance from your past life, from the things that bind you up and hold you back from all that you can be – it may be receiving afresh from his Spirit to enable you to grow in him and live life to the full. He doesn’t force himself upon you, he comes and he says gently to you ‘Come to me…’ So will you come…..

The third bit of the puzzle giving the answer to ‘Why rejoice?’ over someone who does everything in ways that are different to what we as human beings might expect is because he brings peace

– the world cries out for peace, I’ve said it before and will probably say it again – peace is something the world longs for – go out on to the street and ask about peoples’ hopes and longings and again and again people say ‘world peace’.

Zechariah said in his prophecy of the king who was to come

“He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.”

Peace, Shalom, is not the absence of war, its not the effect of having so called ‘peace-keeping’ forces present to prevent conflict – the peace Jesus brings, that he proclaims is a new state of being, a new state of mind, what he calls a new creation, where we are at peace with God, where we are at peace with ourselves because we have been put right, made righteous, put in right relationship with God, and as a consequence we can be put right with others and know his peace in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in because we know that we are secure and safe in him. As he proclaims this peace, as it enters lives one at a time, so his rule spreads over the whole earth bringing hope to person after person, to people after people, transforming lives, transforming communities.

This King who comes gently, riding on a donkey, turning our worlds values upside down and inside out is someone worth rejoicing in, because he comes to bring salvation, he comes to us gently, he comes to bring peace – not in the way we human beings think, but in a way which is way above anything we can come up with.

As we come to this Easter period, lets pick up the pieces of the puzzle again, lets reflect on them and see how they fit together, lets be transformed by this transforming message, this incredibly disarming and shocking message that lies at the heart of Easter.

These are the things that are worth shouting about, the things that are worth rejoicing greatly in – See, your King comes to you, righteous and having salvation

Lets put the pieces of the puzzle together

this Easter time and get a fresh perspective on our Crucified King.


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