Palm Sunday is my favorite Sunday of the year! I have only met a few others who feel the same way I do when it comes to Palm Sunday. Typically, when I tell others my love for Palm Sunday, they will chuckle in response or look at me oddly, which is fine. My excitement and joy of Palm Sunday comes from what Christ did for all of us!
You see, I am mindful of what occurred on that Sunday. On what we call Palm Sunday, Jesus fulfilled His purpose and that purpose was something that is a benefit to all of us.
Setting Forth the Foundation
When a house is built, a foundation is set for that house to stand on. Well, for there to be a foundation to be set, the plot for the house has to be cleaned off and dug out. Palm Sunday is what leads to the foundation of our faith being laid out. The foundation of our faith is the cross.
Paul wrote (1 Corinthians 1:18) that “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are saved it is the power of God.” You see, what happened on the cross is of great significance to the genuine believer. What happened? On the cross, Jesus suffered the Lord’s punishment of our sins; He became our sacrifice – our appeasement offering to the Lord – the propitiation of our sins (1 John 2:2).
Jesus’ death on the cross along with His resurrection is what the apostles went out preaching — that is the gospel of Christ. At the cross we gained our salvation! The message of the cross is power to those who believe because at the cross, Jesus overcame the world. At the cross, because Jesus overcame the world, we also, through our faith in Him, have also overcome the world.
However, there was a choice that had to be made before the cross. Jesus had a choice that He could make: stay on the path to the cross or get off the path. This is what I really want to dive into on this Palm Sunday. Let’s look at the choice that Jesus never wavered from.
The Purpose of Christ
Jesus began telling the apostles about Jerusalem well before His final visit to Jerusalem. The synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) are written in a way that follows Jesus’ ministry to His final visit to Jerusalem that ended in His crucifixion. However, when we combine John’s gospel with the synoptic gospels, we find that Jesus visited Jerusalem often.
There was the visit He made right after turning water into wine; this was the first time He cleansed the temple in Jerusalem (John 2:13-16). We find that Jesus was there again when He helped a certain man who was at the pool of Bethesda; this is the man who had an infirmity thirty-eight years (John 5:1-8). You see, the Jews would have their sacred feasts there in Jerusalem, and so Jesus and the apostles went there several times in His lifetime.
Jesus knew His purpose – the reason why He was in the world. He also knew that He would fulfill that purpose with His final visit to Jerusalem. Jesus said to Nicodemus (John 3:14), “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” (This refers to a Sunday School Lesson we had just a few weeks ago, that you might want to listen to.)
Jesus predicts His death
Before His final visit to Jerusalem, we find that Jesus told the apostles on at least three occasions recorded in scripture about what was going to happen to Him there. When Jesus first predicted His death, Peter was not happy about the prediction and rebuked what Jesus said (Matthew 16:21-22). Peter did not understand that there was a purpose behind the death of our Savior.
The second time Jesus tells the apostles about His death, He tells them that He would be betrayed and killed. However, He tells them this time that He, the Son of Man, would be raised up on the third day (Matthew 17:22-23). There was no rebuke from Peter this time around, but the apostles were very sorrowful after hearing Jesus say this.
We can understand why, right? Their teacher who had performed so many miracles and had shown His authority, was telling them He was about to be killed. So, in one way, this was probably hard for them to understand. Then, at the very same time, their teacher was also a friend to them, and so they’re being told that their loved one is about to be killed.
The third time Jesus predicts His death, He tells the apostles that all the things prophesied by the prophets were about to be fulfilled (Luke 18:31). Jesus tells them that He would be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; that they would condemn Him to death (Matthew 20:18). He tells them He would be delivered to the Gentiles, mocked, insulted, spit on, and killed (Luke 18:32-33).
Each time Jesus predicted His death, the disciples did not understand what He was saying. They mostly just responded by being sorrowful, and again, we understand why. There was, however, one response that stood out to that I do want to take a look. I want to take a moment to take a look at Peter’s rebuke of Jesus and then Jesus’ response to Peter – this is the meat of my sermon for today.
Steadfast for the purpose
Peter’s rebuke of Jesus (Matthew 16:22) at first glance seems like a smart, sincere and caring thing to say. A few verses earlier in this same chapter, Peter is the one who recognizes that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:15-16). So, again, this establishes to us that Peter and the other apostles likely thought it was not possible for Jesus to die, let alone die on a cross!
However, to deny the cross is, again, something that goes against the very foundation of the gospel – the foundation of our faith in Christ. Peter was rebuking the very idea of Christ going to the cross! So, the suggestion here is, “Lord, don’t do that! You cannot go and die.” Imagine had Christ chosen to listen to Peter or give in to the sorrowfulness of His friends.
Well, the devil would have certainly been rejoicing. The reason why I say this is because had Jesus not died on the cross, it would show that God did not truly love mankind. Yet, the reason why the Lord gave the world His only begotten Son is because He loved (and still loves) mankind (John 3:16). You see, this is why Jesus says to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God.” This is why Jesus remained steadfast towards going to the cross.
Our Purpose Towards Each Other
Ultimately, the life that Jesus lived was for both you and me. God truly does love the world and He gave His son for all of mankind. His Son, in turn, then gave of Himself for all of us. On Palm Sunday, instead of choosing to deny Himself, He chose to ride into Jerusalem and fulfill His purpose. He once said (John 15:13), “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”
Someone may wonder, “Preacher, am I being asked to die for somebody?” If we were to simply read that scripture out of context, it would certainly seem that way. Jesus did that very thing for us, but in the verse that followed that statement, Jesus says (John 15:14), “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” The things that Jesus commanded of us: to love God with all of our heart and to give of ourselves to one another (Matthew 22:37-39). The question is: Are we fulfilling our purpose towards one another today?
Our effort so far
Now is a time where we should all certainly be living for all of those who are around us. Something I have preached about a great deal is how we treat one another. We have been given an opportunity to fulfill the purpose of mankind: that is to love one another. I have to say that in many ways I am proud of how some of us have been doing during this time.
I am proud and very grateful of all the folks (farmers, warehouse workers, truck drivers, postal workers, grocery store employers, emergency workers, and all of those in the medical field) who have been on the front lines of the crisis. Yes, they may be getting paid/doing a job but they are giving of themselves by waking up each and every day and still going out to their jobs.
Those who are doing as recommended by staying home, I am very grateful and thankful for you. There are many who are finding ways to give of themselves during this time by helping to make masks or share really helpful news. Others may simply call around or text others just to check in and see how others are doing. How often have you checked in with others during this time?
Where would mankind be if all of us chose to give up on our calling and our purpose? I have said it before and I will say it again, God put us in this world for one another! We are to love one another! As Christ fulfilled this purpose towards us, we should strive to fulfill that same purpose towards one another. His purpose is also our purpose as well. In this time of crisis, I would say we certainly should be striving to fulfill our purpose.