THE BEGINNING OF THE BEGINNING
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
February 3, 2019
28 And when he had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, 30 saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’” 32 So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. 33 And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” 35 And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36 And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. 37 As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, 38 saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39 And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”
— Luke 19:28-40, ESV
There are no endings with God, only beginnings. Therefore, it does not seem appropriate to consider this first day of the last week of Jesus’ life as the beginning of the end. For Christ’s life has no end, and neither will yours if you repent and believe the gospel.
We have traditional Christian names for this particular day and event. We call it “Palm Sunday,” a commemoration of “The Triumphal Entry” of the Messiah into Jerusalem. Triumphal it was, that first Sunday of “Holy Week.” Triumphal it would be, on the next Sunday, because of an empty tomb. In between, however, there would be controversy, conflict, betrayal, denial, suffering, and death.
But today let us focus on the beginning of the beginning, this mostly positive and moving picture of a parade featuring the Lord as He enters into the holy city for the holy week. Let us look to Jesus, as always we should, and catch a glimpse of His glory.
While we’re looking, let us cast a glance at the people surrounding him, men prophesied in the previous parable as “good servants,” “wicked servants,” and “enemies.” In this narrative they will be known by different names, “disciples” and “multitude” and “Pharisees.” But a rose or rotten egg by any other name smells as sweet or foul.
No one smells, looks, or sounds as great at the Rose of Sharon and the Lilly of the Valley, the Lord Jesus Christ. After laying low for most of the last year of His public ministry, He now makes a public spectacle of Himself with this much publicized parade into Jerusalem. Jesus is accompanied by His close disciples and a multitude of Passover pilgrims who embrace His momentary popularity. The way in which Jesus enters the city reveals a great deal about His divinity and humanity.
Christ’s deity is plainly seen in His omniscience, His foreordained knowledge of the precise location, owner, and animal that would serve as His float for the Passover parade. Furthermore, He allowed Himself to be the object of worship, as people cushioned His saddle and lined the roadway with the clothes off their backs (and as John’s Gospel tell us, leaves from palm trees). They praised Him and called Him King. Such praise and worship would have been blasphemy, with Jesus as the instigator, if He were not and still is Almighty God.
Not to overstate the obvious, but Jesus’ humanity is on display as well. Plainly He was a man, albeit the God-man, with body, soul, and spirit. He could be seen, He could be heard, and like the rest of us He loved a good parade. He was someone you could talk to, someone you could know, someone you could believe in, someone you could love, or hate. He still is today.
Do you love Jesus, like His disciples? Do you hate Jesus, like the Pharisees? Or, are you somewhere in the mushy middle with the multitude?
Most of us would like to think we love the Lord. We confess Him as our Christ and call ourselves Christians. But while “Christian” is a word found only three times in the New Testament, some form of the word “disciple” is used 261 times, including three times in this story.
If you want assurance of your salvation, do not ask yourself whether or not you are a Christian, for the name has virtually lost its meaning in modern times, but ask yourself whether or not you are a disciple.
Disciples do what the Lord tells them to do, even if it is difficult or risky, like potentially stealing a colt and suffering the wrath of the owner. Disciples are willing to give all that they have for the Lord’s use, even the very shirts on their backs. Disciples are not ashamed to worship and praise the Lord in public, and do so regularly, in good times and bad.
Disciples are duplicated or copied, depending on the presence or absence of a changed heart. I think it was the original eleven out of twelve who first gave their clothing for Jesus’ saddle and ride. I think they were the first to praise Him as King and Lord. I think a lot of other people saw them do it and joined in, some for sincere and others for superficial reasons.
We are not given the exact number of the multitude who joined with the disciples in accompanying Jesus into Jerusalem on that day. Since Jews did not travel on the Sabbath and this Sunday was the first opportunity to get the good lodging and camping spots for Passover, I suspect it was thousands upon thousands of people who packed in with the parade.
For the most part, they joined in with the disciples, pulling off their outer garments to cushion Jesus’ ride, shouting praises to the top of their lungs, and waving hands and palm fronds high in the air. I’m sure the scene would have resembled some of today’s modern or so-called celebration worship services (as compared to historical and reflective worship services).
Admittedly, a few of those who joined the fury became fully devoted followers of Christ, or true Christians. Most, however, got going when the going got tough. How can I make such a judgement? As many as a million people were packed into Jerusalem for that holy week, a great number of whom would profess faith in Jesus Christ. At the end of the week, however, after the arrest and the cross and the tomb, only 120 could be counted on as true followers.
Multitudes today want excitement, entertaining music, motivational speaking and other worldly amusements in their church experience. Disciples just want word and sacrament, love and obedience, the realty of true worship and the responsibility of true service.
Finally, there is the last group mentioned in the text, the Pharisees. Boo!
You have to hand this to them, however, they did not try to hide their guile. Hypocrites though they were, as labeled by the Lord Himself, they did not put their dark cynicism under a basket. They let it out for all the world to see and hear, and they would not stop until Jesus was crucified in the court of public opinion and Roman injustice.
They would not call Jesus King or Lord, only teacher, and they claimed He was a false one at that. They were anti-disciples and anti-Christs. They would not praise Him and worship Him, for they did not believe in Him. They would not give Him their clothing, nor a penny from their prosperous pockets, for they loved themselves far more than they could ever love the Lord.
The Pharisees were nothing but a bunch of hound dogs, there to doggedly pursue the Lord Jesus Christ unto His death. Stalk Him they did, all the way to the cross. But hounds, like donkeys, are simply animals the Lord uses to accomplish His work. And on this day, the first Palm Sunday, Jesus triumphantly entered Jerusalem to do His most endearing and enduring endeavor.
Remember, the colt that Jesus rode to the cross was not a young horse, but a young donkey. All the Jews knew that a horse would have been a symbol of war, which is what most of them wanted. A donkey, on the other hand, was a symbol of peace.
Remember the parable before the parade, that the Messiah enters the holy city not once, but twice. At His second coming, He will be riding a white horse, and He will destroy all of His enemies like the Pharisees, as well as the superficial multitudes who really do not believe in Him.
This was the beginning of the end of His first coming. He ended His public ministry by riding on a donkey to make an offer of peace to the world. But it was not the end. It was just the beginning of the beginning.
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Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org