You have heard me say it before that Palm Sunday is my favorite Sunday of the year. The reason why I love Palm Sunday is because it testifies of God’s grace for each and every one of us. When I think of Jesus entering Jerusalem, I think of John 3:16 – God loved the world and gave His only begotten Son for us. There was a price paid for us and today I ask the question: Do you realize there is a debt we owe?
When you are in debt to someone, a bank, or a business, the idea is that you pay back what you owe. When you don’t pay back what you owe, it can hurt you, and you can find yourself in a world of trouble.
Note: You can watch this sermon! Scroll to the bottom of the sermon text.
Do You Owe a Debt
When we read John 3:16, I want you to realize that we are getting a very clear picture of God’s grace – His unmerited love – towards all of mankind. “For God so loved the world,” is what Jesus says in that scripture so let’s be clear – God’s grace is towards all.
When I quote or read this scripture, I often find myself wondering how could we be so fortunate? I often wonder, what have I done for God to have loved me before I exited my mom’s womb and came to be who I am today? What is it that He saw in me? After all, like everybody else, I turned out to be a sinner, yet God still loved me ahead of time and chose salvation instead of destruction!
Have you ever thought about that? The fact that God loved you before you ever took your first thoughts or your first steps in life? I don’t know about you, but it fills me with great joy that God loved me and gave His only begotten Son for me! Because He loved me, I’m not burdened by anything – especially sins (Matt. 11:28-30). Because God loved me, I am justified of my sins through the shed blood of His only begotten Son (Eph. 1:7). What all of this means is that I don’t have to face the Lord’s wrath because of His love, His only begotten Son, and that because I have genuine faith in what He did for me!
The Debt We Owe
That said, as much as I love Palm Sunday, I must admit that this Palm Sunday comes with a bit of bitterness and sadness for me. No, I’m not bitter or sad about anything personally going on with me in my life. No, my sadness comes from the continued anguish and suffering that takes place in our society all because of anger and hatred.
My heart hurts for the family and friends of the victims of the mass murder that happened here in Georgia a couple weeks ao and the mass murder that happened in Boulder, Colorado. Senseless violence of that kind never seems to go away… unless there is a lock down because of a pandemic. The ridiculous hatred that continues in our society seems to be in a rage and never ending!
We, mankind, were created in the image and likeness of the Lord (Gen. 1:26). Man was meant to dwell with the Lord eternally in righteousness! Yet, we fell to sin in the garden. God’s desire for mankind seemed lost but God planned to give His only begotten Son so that we again can have such an opportunity to dwell with God eternally. In my opinion it just doesn’t seem like we understand the magnitude of how great a debt we owe the Lord because of His grace towards us.
We are debtors
The apostles understood well the magnitude of God’s grace and they did not take it for granted. They spread out sharing the good news; letting others know about the wonderful salvation promised by the Lord. Paul was a man who understood very well the magnitude of God’s saving grace towards him.
As I preached about a month ago, Paul was a man who was headed down a dark path full of his convictions. His convictions were leading him down a path where he would have ended up being cast away from God’s presence for all of eternity. Yet, on the road to Damascus, the Lord revealed Himself to Paul and saved him (Acts 9:1-9). Paul taught, “we are debtors,” he says in my key verse for today. He pointedly says that we are debtors not to the flesh, not to live according to the flesh.”
To the Romans, he wrote that he was debtor both to Greeks and barbarians (that is everybody not Greek or practicing Greek customs) (Rom. 1:14). What would make Paul say these things? Was he saying that we are in debt to each other? What could the Greeks and barbarians have done for Paul to make him say that he owed him anything? What have you done for me, for me to ever say that I am in your debt?
In debt to God
A couple of times in his writings, Paul spoke about a debt we owed, but I want you to notice that it was not a debt we necessarily owed to man. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote, “you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s (1 Cor. 6:20).” In that same letter, he said to the Corinthians, “You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men (1 Cor. 7:23).”
I want you to understand that Paul was a man that understood very well that his life came at a price. The question is why would he say he was a debtor to the Greeks and barbarians? Who was it that paid a price for Paul’s life? The Greeks? The barbarians? Pay attention to what I say next.
To the Greek elders, it is recorded in the book of Acts that Paul told them to take heed to themselves and to all of their flock and that God purchased their flocks with “His own blood (Acts 20:28).” You see, God gave up His only begotten Son, out of love for mankind, to shed His blood for our sins! As we have seen in our recent Sunday School lessons and bible studies, Jesus is the propitiation of our sins (1 John 2:2)!
Think about this: If someone saved you from a great tragedy, would you not feel indebted to them? Would you not feel like you owed them? The Lord saved us from a very great tragedy – the tragedy of being cast away from Him for all of eternity. God saved us from having to live with the guilt of our sins for all of eternity. He saved us from great suffering that we would not be able to lean on Him with or cast on to Him. Do you now understand the magnitude of what Jesus did for us when He entered into Jerusalem, suffered, and then died for our sins?
Moved as Paul
You see, Paul was a debtor to the Greeks and barbarians solely based on the magnitude of God’s saving grace! The Greeks and barbarians didn’t save Paul, it was God!
In our hearts (our spirits), we should be moved just as Paul was moved towards those around him. We should consider ourselves debtors to the Lord and to each other. I should be a debtor to every man, woman, boy, and girl regardless of race, wealth, religion, or creed. You should be a debtor to every man, woman, boy, and girl regardless of race, wealth, religion, or creed! We should all be debtors to each other because this is the debt we owe to God!
Someone may ask, why do you feel this way and why did Paul feel that way? I want you to understand the moral philosophy of Jesus Christ, so let’s take a quick look at it here. We know that Jesus commanded that His gospel be ministered to all nations (Matt. 28:19-20); this we have heard and read. Yet, His philosophy in how He lived was that of being servants – debtors – of one another. He said to the disciples in His teaching of this philosophy, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet (John 13:14).”
We are to serve each other, freely and not as slaves, but as a humble debt we owe to God. Jesus said, “a new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another (John 13:34).” This is how we can pay back the debt we owe to God — love!
We move otherwise it seems
Sadly, on this Palm Sunday, It feels to me that we are not moved in our spirits as Paul was in his. The mass killings in recent weeks seem to echo that point to me. Somebody will say, “well pastor, we haven’t purchased a gun and killed anybody.” Yet, I say to you today, many of us are seemingly becoming more selfish and hate-filled in our ways. Hatred, in my opinion, is consuming mankind and it is running rampant in our society – from politics down to the point to where just last year, many refused to simply wear a mask for their neighbor!
Time and time again, it seems to me, the Lord gives us opportunity after opportunity to love each other but what do we do? Man continues to scheme against his neighbor behind locked doors. Man continues to plan out how he can further suppress and oppress his neighbor instead of finding a way to make things fair and just for all.
Just imagine how Jesus would feel if He was physically here in the world today to witness the hatred we display to each other over our race and beliefs. Let us remember, Jesus sat down with sinners! Jesus didn’t piously go sit in the synagogue every Sabbath with His nose stuck up in the air! Just imagine how Jesus would react if He was physically in the world today to witness how we still segregate ourselves over race and over our subjective truths. Is this how we repay the debt we owe to God for saving us?
Repaying the Debt
Again, Paul said that we are debtors—not to the flesh, not to live according to the flesh.” What do we owe our flesh – our lusts, passions, and selfish ambitions? You see, some of us live our life in such a manner that we feel we owe our life to our lusts, passions, and selfish ambitions. Some of us take it so far as to become a slave to our lusts, passions, and selfish ambitions. Many of us do this and not realize that we have made ourselves a slave to sin when Jesus came to set us free from such bondage!
I tell you today that we owe our lives to the Lord, not to the flesh – not to sin, the world, or the devil! I feel the best way that we can “pay back our debt” to God is by paying forward our love to one another. Yes, I preach about loving each other often because this is the great debt we owe to the Lord. This Palm Sunday, any anger or hatred that may be in your hearts, I pray it is removed. I pray the Lord opens us up to love and that love will enter into the hearts of man! We cannot let hatred consume and defeat us.