Sunday, April 9, 2017

Sunday Sermon - Palm Sunday

Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion)
                                    Diocese of Abuja
                         Cathedral Church of the Advent

Palm Sunday - Sunday 09 April 2017

Today's Sermon

Theme:     "Characters Around The Cross"
Topic:         The Crowd

Today, the Christian world commemorates the triumphal entry of Christ into the city of Jerusalem.

Palm Sunday brings us to exactly a week from the great feast of Easter when we celebrate the glorious resurrection of Christ from the grave.

This was not the first entry of Christ into Jerusalem but His SEVENTH

1.      The first entry was in infancy - Lk. 2: 22
2.      The second was in childhood - Lk. 2:42
3.      The third was during His temptation - Lk. 4: 9
4.      The fourth was the Passover - John 2: 23
5.      The fifth was on the day of Pentecost - John 5: 1
6.      The sixth was at the feast of Tabernacles - John 7: 10
7.      The seventh and the last was at the Triumphal Entry - Matt. 21

By the time we get to this point in the Gospel narrative, we find that Jesus was very clear in His Mind of what lay ahead. He knew those things that would befall Him in the days ahead. He knew that His time had come to lay down His Life for the sins of the world. (Matt. 20: 17 - 19; John 2: 4)

We sang the Hymn 296 earlier in the Service

Ride on, ride on in Majesty
In lowly pomp ride on to die
O Christ, Thy triumphs now begin
O'er captive death and conquered sin

Ride on, ride on in Majesty
The Angel-squadrons of the Sky
Look down with sand and wondering eyes
To see the approaching sacrifice

Henry Hart Milman (1791 - 1868) the author, suggests the following to us:
In verse 2, Milman sees Jesus as riding on to die, but nevertheless beginning His triumph over "captive death and conquered sin"
In verse 3, he describes Jesus as the "approaching sacrifice"

For Jesus, this was the point of no return. He was facing the cross, carrying the sin of the world with Him, being the Lamb of God - yes the triumphal entry into Jerusalem was "The Way of the Cross"; that's why this week in the Church Calendar is called the Week of the Passion - the Holy Week.

The Hosanna Crowd:
The "Hosanna Crowd" was the up-stream crowd - pristine and uncontaminated or manipulated but enlightened by a divine self-disclosure.

Jesus had employed some prophetic gesture which gave Him away as the Messiah.

Ironically the two blind men He healed on His way out of Jericho could perceive by inner sight that He was unmistakably the Son of David - the Messiah.

These blind men were not the real blind men - the real blind men were the Chief Priest and the Elders who doubted who Jesus is and demanded that Jesus quieten the crowd.

Where did the "very large crowd" (Matt. 21: 8) come from? In fact verse 9 divides the very large crowd into two - "The crowds that went ahead of Him and those that followed .."

Some in the crowd may have followed Jesus right from Jericho (Matt. 20: 29). But many more were in Jerusalem and its environs to perform the annual pilgrimage.

The Old Testament law had made it mandatory/obligatory for male adult Jews to visit Jerusalem thrice a year - on the occasion of the feasts of Passover, in-gathering (Pentecost) and Tabernacles.

Scholars have estimated the number of Pilgrims present in Jerusalem at the time to be well over 2 million people.

Recognizing Who Jesus is - not by impulse - but by an unveiling - a revelation - they proclaimed Him King - "He Who comes in the Name of the Lord" (Matt. 21: 9)

And they became the Public Relations Bureau of Jesus. When the inhabitants of the city of Jerusalem asked "Who is this?" The crowd(s) quickly answered, "This is Jesus the Prophet from Nazareth in Galilee" (v. 11)

We can learn some lessons from the Hosanna crowd
1.      they were a believing crowd - they ascribed to Him His due Title of Messiah. Hosanna means 'save now' And how could they call upon Whom they did not believe? (Rom. 10: 13)
2.      they were a worshipping crowd - and their worship was sacrificial - like the owners of the Donkey, they gave to the Lord Jesus - their valuable possessions. They waved palm branches and had their coats and palm branches on the ground before Him
3.      they were a witnessing crowd - they told others who didn't know Jesus Who He was, and they made no apology about it. They proclaimed it with a shout!
4.      they were a prophesy-fulfilling crowd - all the crowd did was a fulfillment of centuries long (some four centuries before Jesus came into this world) prophesies about the Messiah - Matthew took pains to let us know that the drama of the first Palm Sunday was "that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Prophet" (Matt. 21: 4)

'Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your King is coming to you
He is Just and having Salvation
Lowly and riding on a Donkey
A Colt, the foal of a Donkey'  (Zech. 9: 9)

Today's equivalent would be the Church Hymnal 498
All hail the Power of Jesus Name

The Crucifying Crowd

The "Hosanna crowd" could not have metamorphosed to "crucify Him crowd"

There is a School of Thought which suggests that the Palm Sunday crowd had great expectations that Jesus was going to overthrow the Roman occupation and establish the promised Kingdom of God. When it became obvious to them that Jesus was unwilling to dance to that tune, they turned round to shout "crucify Him" on good Friday.

Bear in mind that there were over two million pilgrims in Jerusalem at about that time - the week of the Passover.

The Palm Sunday crowd was most likely to have been decommissioned. Moreover the time of the day the trial of Jesus took place - a "rented crowd" must have been in attendance.

So the first thing about the "crucify Him crowd" is that it was a hired crowd - these were people who were not likely to be at Pilate's Court that early by their free volition

It was a manipulated crowd - the Chief Priests and the Elders were active going back and forth among the crowd to instigate it against Jesus (Matt. 27: 20). The crowd allowed itself to be used to pass unjust verdict on Jesus

It was an impulsive crowd - they didn't think their decision through. Their verdict - release for us Barabbas and crucify Jesus - was not based on sound judgement. They voted without weighing the facts. They went as far as to invoke a curse on themselves and generations after them (Matt. 27: 25)

They and Pilate are guilty of miscarriage of justice - for crucifying the Son of God.

Where Do You Belong?

As we mark Palm Sunday today, each of us needs to ask "To which crowd do I belong? - the Hosanna Crowd or the Crucify Him Crowd???

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