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Worship Message - Entry Into Jerusalem

Entry Into Jerusalem
Lent 2015 Message #1


When those Jesus-followers began to untie Sarah, our young donkey, they acted just like they owned her. They didn't ask permission. They didn't look around to see if it was alright. They just began to untie her.

Thus begins the account of what happened at the beginning of the last week of Jesus’ earthly ministry. A week that will be considered throughout this year’s Lenten season. A week that included miracles, visits, and teachings, arrest, trials, condemnation, and crucifixion, and what we will celebrate a few weeks from today, which will be Easter - Jesus’ resurrection from the tomb in which He was placed following His death on a cross.

Today, the event that began the week, that being the entry of Jesus into the city of Jerusalem, the story told through the eyes of a young girl named Anna. Her part is based on a story I found online. I will highlight the Biblical parts of the report.

Here is Anna again, the young girl whose father owned a young donkey named Sarah, which was about to be taken.

I had seen the two men before. They were disciples of Jesus, a popular prophet in those days. He was known by reputation and because He often stayed in nearby Bethany, just down the road, with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.

I shouted to my father. “Dad, someone's taking our donkey!”

Dad jumped out of the house like it was on fire. “Hey, what do you think you're doing?” he yelled.

The men stopped. They were startled. More so as my dad got within three inches from the face of the older disciple. “I asked you a question!” he shouted into the man's face.

“Well, we, uh, our Master told us it would be alright to take the animal,”  the disciples stammered. The other disciple added, “Jesus said to tell you He needs it."

Upon hearing the name Jesus, my dad relaxed. He stepped back and put his hand out in welcome. “Jesus.” A smile flickered across his face as he added, “Your Teacher is a great man. I have listened to Him for hours. I love what He says about the Kingdom of God being right now.”

Dad began to untie our older donkey Jacob. “You’ll like this one better,” he said. “He’s used to people and pretty steady. The other one - Sarah - is just a youngster. We haven't broken her yet. She’d be a bit frisky.”

“Jesus specified the younger, unridden donkey,” was the response from the disciples. “We don't know why.”

Well, the disciples may not have known the reason, but there was a reason for the younger donkey. It was so Old Testament prophecy could be fulfilled. You see, way back in Zechariah, it was predicted that when the Messiah - when the Savior of the people of God - would enter Jerusalem, He would arrive riding on a colt. Not an older, well-used animal, such as Jacob, but a young animal, fresh and unbroken, like Sarah.

So yes, there was a reason for the younger donkey. That animal would be part of the proof that Jesus, who was about to enter Jerusalem, was the Savior the people of God had awaited for many, many generations.

Dad untied the colt. As he handed Sarah’s reins to the disciples, he added, “You did right by coming here.”

“Dad,” I blurted out, “can I go along?” He said I would just be in the way, but when I said “please” - and when the disciples said it was OK with them - my dad said I could go with them.

The disciples met Jesus just outside Jerusalem, across the valley on the Mount of Olives. The disciples took the donkey to the Master. In the story, the young girl held the lead rope as Jesus put a small blanket over the donkey’s back and got on her to ride.

As soon as Jesus’ weight settled on Sarah, she raised her front hooves off the ground. She would have bucked Jesus off if He had not patted her and said something low and comforting. She settled down immediately. And even in all the shouting and confusion to follow, she carried Him with a certain quiet majesty.

As Jesus began riding the donkey, a crowd formed. It got bigger and noisier as Jesus rode.

We were used to crowds at Passover. Thousands of pilgrims came for the Feast each year, many of them staying in the towns east of the city or in camp along the road. But this was something different.

There was even more noise and excitement. Just about everyone joined in the shouting.

What was shouted? “Hosanna. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming. Hosanna in the highest.”

“Hosanna.” That was a word of request. A request that Jesus save them. Hosanna. “Save us. Save us now, we beseech You. We beg You.” That is one thing the people shouted to Jesus as He rode toward Jerusalem.

“Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord,” they shouted. That was, for them, a way of calling Jesus Savior. A Savior, they added, who would have “a kingdom.”

“Hosanna in the highest.” Those words mean the people proclaimed that Jesus’ name and Jesus’ kingdom were higher - those things were above - they were more important - than any other name or any other kingdom. That phrase meant their intent was to rely upon Him rather than anyone else.

And the people not only shouted. They also paved Jesus’ path with two things.

One were articles of clothing, which was a sign in that culture of being willing to be subject to or subservient to the one riding past. If a person’s garment was touched by the animal - in this case, the donkey ridden by Jesus - there was a feeling of connection with the one riding by.

The other were palm branches, which were, in that culture, symbols of liberty, victory, and joy. That day the people proclaimed Jesus had come to offer them all three of those things.

“Hosanna.” “Blessed.” Pretty soon I was shouting, too, as I led Sarah through the valley and then started up the hill to Jerusalem’s gates.

What a scene it was! A joyous crowd all around, and the glorious city ahead. Including the gold of the Temple glimmering at the highest point of the city.

But then I looked back at Jesus to see how He was taking the outbreak of applause and adulation. He seemed oblivious to it. In fact, He looked kind of sad. That is the word that came to my mind. He seemed all alone in the center of the jubilant multitude.

But the celebration went on as the crowds began to overflow the narrow road. Others were pouring into the area to get near Jesus. They, too, pointed at Him and shouted, “Hosanna.”

I think I heard some of them talking about Lazarus being alive.

By the way, it was shortly before this day that Jesus healed Lazarus, who had been a close friend of Jesus - a man who had died and been buried before Jesus arrived at the scene. Lazarus had been in his tomb for four days when Jesus arrived.

Jesus went to Lazarus’ tomb. He ordered the grave to be opened, after which He called into it, saying, “Lazarus, come out!” Which Lazarus did. He walked out of his grave. He walked out alive!

News of that had spread quickly. That is why some in the crowd around Jesus as He approached Jerusalem talked about it. “Lazarus is alive,” they reminded themselves.

But I also began hearing some other words. Less friendly words. Angry words. When I looked, I noticed they came from some religious leaders who had joined the crowd. What were their words? “Teacher, rebuke the people. Tell them to be quiet.”

Those words might have had a legitimate purpose. Everyone knew that if a riot broke out, the Roman army would be sent to the area to calm the crowd, which would have been done in a very violent way. It might have been that that caused the religious leaders to be concerned about how boisterous the crowd was becoming.

More likely, though, their concern was based on their dislike of Jesus. They disliked Him so much, the last thing they wanted to hear was people praising Him. They wanted to kill Him. Hearing Him being praised had to have grated on them.

The religious leaders in the crowd shouted to Jesus. “Teacher,” they said, rebuke the people. Tell them to be quiet.”

But Jesus refused, explaining that if the people were silent, the stones along the road would cry out .

That would have happened because Jesus deserved to be called Savior. He is the only one who can save anybody. That was going to be proclaimed that day, no matter what.

The leaders fumed at Jesus’ answer, but the crowd continued its excitement as the city walls seemed to rise above us. Then we arrived at one of the gates leading into the glorious city of Jerusalem.

The journey was over. I had to make my way back home. I was the one responsible for getting Sarah back to my dad. But unable to pull myself away, I stayed for just a bit, during which I heard and saw two interesting things.

First, I heard a question being asked. A strange question. The question was, “Who is this?”

I also find that question strange. Great crowds of people had just proclaimed Jesus as the Savior. The Savior who would have a never-ending kingdom. Now they asked, “Who is this?”
    
Had the people not meant what they had said? Or maybe the ones who asked had been in the city rather than on the road. Maybe they were simply curious about what all the uproar was about.
    
But what an interesting question. “Who is this?” Had not everyone been impressed by all Jesus had done the past three years - His healings, His other miracles, His teachings. “Who is this?”

Then, in contrast to the sadness I had seen in Jesus, there was a sudden switch to anger as Jesus got off Sarah and went to the Temple. In the Temple, Jesus shouted and kind of tore the place up.

Two things about that.

First, Jesus was angry. He was angry because the Temple was designed to be a place where prayers to God were to be spoken. Where praying was to be part of the worship of God. But other things were going on. Money was being changed from other currencies to what was needed to pay Temple taxes, and animals were being sold for sacrificing.

Money-changing and selling sacrificial animals? There was nothing inherently wrong with either of those things. Both were needed. But they were being done inside the Temple rather than outside the walls of the place of prayer. And those who changed money and sold animals were doing so, not honestly. They were cheating people who had come to pray and worship.

And others, it seems, were just passing through the Temple, not intending to pray, but simply using the Temple as a short cut to wherever it was they were going.

In His anger, Jesus drove the sellers and buyers out of the Temple. He also overturned the tables of the sellers and the money-changers. As He did that, He shouted, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”

It should be added that Jesus’ actions and words further angered the religious leaders. Remember they were upset when the crowds along the road had called Him Savior and had cried out for His help. Now they were even more upset because of the disruption He caused. Plus, He had called the Temple His house. Who did He think He was?
 
Jesus was angry. Second, this may have been the second time Jesus cleansed the Temple. It is reported twice in the Bible. This time shortly after His entry into Jerusalem, once earlier in His ministry.

If this was the second time, isn’t it interesting the religious leaders were so slow to learn? Why had they not reformed their ways after the earlier cleansing of the Temple? Why did Jesus have reason to be angry over that same issue a second time?

Jesus really tore things up. But as quickly as His anger had started, it ended. It was then I saw His love as He healed people who came to Him. I saw blind people approach Him, some on their own, others with help. Many who were lame hobbled to Him or were carried to Him. Each one who came, Jesus healed. What love.

Then I noticed other children. Ones like me had gathered. I joined them in dancing around. We all shouted what I had heard along the road. We cried out, “Hosanna to the Son of David.”

We could tell the religious leaders were upset about us, too, but we couldn’t help ourselves. We were excited as the adults had been. We could not keep our joy quiet. We danced and shouted until I had to return home with Sarah.

*       *       *       *       *

The first day of the last week of Jesus’ earthly ministry. What an interesting day. A day when so many different things happened. A day that saw so many different emotions. A day that for me has a few things to suggest about how I should live, not only during Lent, but all the time. Perhaps these suggestions will apply to you as well.

First, think of the owner of Sarah the donkey, concentrating on His willingness to let Jesus use what He needed.

I mean, the donkey did belong to the owner. Being a young animal, the man no doubt intended to break her so she could be of use on his property. I do not know how much such a donkey cost back then, but she was property. Useful property.

But when the owner learned Jesus needed her, he let her go. And yes, he would get her back. That was the promise. But it was risky. Maybe the promise would not be fulfilled.

It did not matter to the man. Jesus, who the man at least knew about - according to the story, he had heard Jesus preach and teach - Jesus needed the animal. The man was willing to take the risk.

Is there something I have that Jesus needs? Something that, if used, would further His cause? I don’t know. A talent maybe. Perhaps some financial something-or-other. Maybe it will be risky for me to give what Jesus needs. Will I be like Sarah’s owner? Will I take the risk and let Jesus use what He needs? Will you?

Second, if we do take the risk, will we be like the crowd that lined the road Jesus used to get to Jerusalem, thinking specifically of being excited?
And hey, just as there were some who wanted the crowd that day to be quiet, there are people today who want Jesus-followers to be quiet. For instance, some politically-correct-type people in this country and those in groups like ISIS in the Middle East.

Speaking of taking a risk, going against what others say can be scary. But Jesus must be proclaimed. Will I proclaim Him, no matter what? Will you?

Third, I am interested in Jesus’ anger when His house was not used as intended. May I do what I can to make sure we keep this house spiritually intact? May I extend that to my body, which is God’s Temple? I need to keep myself pure. Will you do the same?

Fourth, this comment, which is always mentioned every time we think about the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.

Remember that Jesus seemed sad as He rode on the donkey that day. That may have been because He knew that as happy as the people were that day, just about every one of them would turn on Him a few days later. They would turn to the point of crying out, not to save them, but that He be crucified.

The comment made every time we consider the entry into Jerusalem? Let’s make sure our excitement - our proclaiming of who Jesus is - does not change. That we not turn against Him, but stay true to Him. That needs to be our goal.

Today’s closing song that has been chosen to help us remember all the points of application we just discussed, and to commemorate the event that happened on the first day of the last week. The song is O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing.

O for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of His grace!

My gracious Master and my God,
Assist me to proclaim,
To spread through all the earth abroad
The honors of Thy name.

Jesus! The name that charms our fears,
That bids our sorrows cease,
’Tis music in the sinner’s ears,
’Tis life and health and peace.

He breaks the power of cancelled sin,
He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood availed for me.

Hear Him, ye deaf; His praise, ye dumb,
Your loosened tongues employ;
Ye blind, behold your Savior come;
And leap, ye lame, for joy!

Here’s the young girl Anna one more time, this time leading us in the closing prayer.

Jesus, thank You for letting me be part of Your ministry. Thank You for letting everyone be part of who You are. Help each of us let You use us. Help us to stay excited about You. Help us to keep this place and ourselves as individuals pure. Help us during Lent and always.

Thank You, Lord. Amen.


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