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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:The Palm-Strewn Road to Reconciliation
Text:Matthew 21:1-11 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Christ's Kingship

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

The Glorious Gates of Righteousness
All Glory, Laud, and Honor
Hosanna, Loud Hosanna
Lead On, O King Eternal    

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

“The Palm-Strewn Road to Reconciliation”
Matthew 21:1-11
Palm Sunday celebrates a historic event; it celebrates the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem so long ago. But besides the Psalm branches, have you thought about how unique this day is? For instance, have you thought about how unusual it was for Jesus to bask in the adoration of the people?
After all, this triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem was a radical change from someone who often sought secrecy.  Do you remember when Jesus healed the leper, as recorded in Mark 1:44, how he gave the leper a strong warning not to tell anyone who had healed him? Likewise, in Mark 7:36 when Jesus healed a man who had been deaf and mute, he commanded him not to tell anyone.
All four gospel accounts repeatedly describe how Jesus often retreated from the crowds. We read how he often warned those whom he healed not to tell others who had healed them. Jesus did not usually seek out the limelight. It was the people who sought him out.
But now, on this day that we remember as Palm Sunday, Jesus did just the opposite. He told His disciples there in verse 2 where to find a colt on which he would ride. He knew that there would be a great multitude of people praising him. But instead of retreating away as he had so often done before, he accepted and even seemed to bask in their praise. The question could be asked, “Why now was Jesus allowing the people to treat him as a king, and to receive all this publicity and praise that he had shied away from in the past?”
One reason was to fulfill Scripture. Zechariah had prophesied, in Zechariah 9:9: “Rejoice greatly O daughter of Zion! Shout, daughter of Jerusalem! See your King is coming to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle, and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Matthew 21:4-5 points out that the triumphal entry “took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: ‘Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your King comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”
God is always bound by His Word. Since Zechariah 9:9 had prophesied this event, it must take place to fulfill Scripture. During the passion week, we see the fulfillment of Scripture repeatedly. For instance, it was foretold that Christ would be betrayed by a friend, be proven innocent yet judged as guilty, be numbered among transgressors, and be crucified between two criminals. It was prophesied that he would be mocked by the spectators, that none of his bones would be broken, and that his side would be pierced. Even the casting of the lot for his garment was prophesied and foretold. 
The fulfillment of Scripture should be very comforting to you and to me. It reminds us that God will do what he has promised to do. No matter what it is, whether it is riding a donkey into Jerusalem, drinking wine vinegar, sacrificing himself on the cross for your sins and mine, or providing our daily bread, Scripture tells us God will do what he has prophesied and promised, for “No matter how many promises God has made,” 2 Corinthians 1:20 assures us, “they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God.”
King of Kings
By fulfilling Scripture, Jesus revealed himself as the true King of kings which is a second reason for the triumphal entry. In the Old Testament era, rulers often, though not always, rode on donkeys. For instance, Judges 10:4 describes Jair, who led Israel for 22 years. He had thirty sons who ruled thirty towns and they rode on thirty donkeys. Judges 12:14 describes a similar situation as seventy rulers in Israel rode seventy donkeys. In other words, the Jewish people in the great multitude on the road to Jerusalem understood the connection between rulers and donkeys. But that Jesus rode a donkey, and not a stallion, also revealed his true humility and compassion, that "a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench..." (Matt. 12: 20). He is not only the King of kings but also the Prince of peace who brings reconciliation to lost sinners.
The unique kingship of Jesus is seen even in the choice of a donkey that had never been ridden before. We may find it unusual that Jesus would enter Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey that had never been ridden. What is the significance of that? Throughout the Old Testament we read that when an animal was used for sacred purposes, it had to be one that had never been saddled, one that had never been ridden or harnessed to a yoke. (Num. 19:2; Deut. 21:3; 1 Sam. 6:7).  
There is not only kingly significance but also Messianic significance to Jesus riding on the foal of the donkey. We read of that already in Genesis 49:10-11. As Jacob was blessing his sons, he made a clear reference to Jesus as our Messiah – the Christ – as he blessed Judah with these words:
“The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
    nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until tribute comes to him;
    and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.
Binding his foal to the vine
    and his donkey's colt to the choice vine,
he has washed his garments in wine
    and his vesture in the blood of grapes.”
It was a clear Old Testament portrayal of Jesus. In the shadows of the Old Testament we see reference after reference, prophecy after prophecy, pointing us to Christ as our eternal King, our Lord and our Savior.
Just as the foal of a donkey had kingly and messianic significance, so did the Palm branches. Palm branches had been used to hail victorious rulers in the past, especially after the Maccabean revolt. The Maccabees successfully revolted against the rule of Antiochus Epiphanes, and the generals under his charge, who had ransacked and then occupied Jerusalem about 167 years before the birth of Jesus.
When the Maccabees defeated their oppressors, we read: “The Jews entered (Jerusalem) with praise and palm branches, and with harps and cymbals and stringed instruments, and with hymns and songs, because a great enemy had been crushed and removed from Israel.” That quote is from 1 Maccabees 13:51, which is not in the canon of Scripture, but is accurate in its portrayal of palm branches used to praise a victorious leader. The Jewish people waving palm branches and praising Jesus were well aware of the significance of the palm branches. They were used to praise victorious leaders.
But it is not just when we look back at the Maccabees that we see the significance of palm branches. And it is not just at the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem that we see their significance. In Revelation 7, the Apostle John describes a vision of the glory of the ascended King over all kings, the Lord of lords and Prince of peace.
He describes “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ ‘…Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.’” (Rev. 7:9…12)
On Palm Sunday it may seem as though Jesus was only a king for a day. The tide of popularity would turn against him.  By the end of the week, He would wear a crown. But it would be a painful crown of thorns.  He would be declared a king, but only by a crude sign that Pilate placed on the cross, “The king of the Jews.” 
But on this Palm Sunday we are reminded that his kingship and his sovereign rule over all things is eternal. The same crowd that called for his crucifixion will one day kneel before him. Philippians 2:8-11 describes how “being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
You and I will be among the great multitude who kneel before the Lord, either in joyful adoration for his redeeming grace, or we will kneel before him with a hardened heart, confessing that God in grace gave us every opportunity to repent of our sins and believe in him for salvation, but we never did. Either way, you and I, along with all humanity, will bow before Jesus and confess that he is the true King of kings and Lord of lords.
That is why it is so crucial to confess him now, to “remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them.’” That quote from Ecclesiastes 12:1 teaches children – and people of every age – that now is the time to confess Christ as Lord and Savior and live for him all the remaining days of your life!
The Road to Reconciliation
A third reason for the Lord allowing the people to praise him, as he rode into Jerusalem on this day we know as “Palm Sunday” was to infuriate the Jewish leaders into crucifying him at the time of the Passover. Jesus knew that his appointed time had come. The Passover feast was rapidly approaching. As people came to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast, they brought a Passover lamb – a lamb without spot or defect – to sacrifice. The Jewish historian, Josephus, records how over 256,000 lambs were brought for sacrifice at Passover.  Christ is our Passover Lamb. All those sacrificial lambs were pointing to him. 1 Corinthians 5:7 declares: “Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed.”   
Jesus, realizing that his appointed time had now come, used this event – to enter Jerusalem to the praise of the people – not only to fulfill Scripture and not only to reveal himself as the eternal Messianic King, but also to ensure His own trial, crucifixion, and resurrection at the time of the Passover. By doing so, he changed the plan of the Jewish leaders. They wanted to kill him, but not at the time of the Passover, lest there be riots by the people. In Matthew 26:2 Jesus said to his disciples, “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.”
And the verses that follow, in Matthew 26:3-5, describe how “Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him.  But they said, ‘Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people.’”  
But the Lord over-ruled their plans. The Lord planned his crucifixion at the time of the Passover precisely because he is our Passover Lamb. Many of you recall how when Israel left Egypt they were commanded to sacrifice a lamb without blemish or defect. They were told to put the blood of the lamb on the doorpost of their homes.
Then, when the Lord took the lives of the firstborn in all of Egypt, the Israelites who had the blood of the lamb on the doorposts of their home were passed over for judgment. And in a similar way, when by God’s grace and Holy Spirit’s regenerating power, you believe in Jesus with saving faith, you are passed over for judgment. Through saving faith in Christ, you and I have the blood of the Lamb on the doorposts of our lives. We are passed over for judgment. Christ bore the curse for sin that you and I deserve as he became our substitute on the cross. It was there that he redeemed us by shedding his blood as a propitiation – that is a covering – for our sins, which appeases the righteous and proper wrath of our triune God against sin.
And by that redeeming sacrifice, we are reconciled to God. Reconciliation is described in a dictionary as “the act of becoming friendly again.” As such, it can describe two friends who were separated by a disagreement, but make amends and become friends again. But our reconciliation with God is much deeper than that.
By our nature we are not friends with God, but his enemies. Romans 8:6-8 describes how “…The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.” And, unfortunately, we are all sinners even from the moment of conception.
Yet, in the same letter to the Romans, the Holy Spirit assures us that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8) You see, he is the one who looked down on us with compassion and initiated reconciliation.
Add to that, God never did anything to offend us. Admittedly, many people are offended by God’s Word. But that is because of their sinful rejection of him and his loving kindness. He is the giver of every good and perfect gift. He is the overflowing fountain of all good. He has reached down into our lives with his love. He has not offended us, but we have offended him. 
How many times have you and I broken God’s laws? How many times have we deserted Christ, just as the disciples did? How many times have we denied him as Peter did, if not by words, then by actions and thoughts? And how many times have you and I denied him with our silence when an open door is put before us to witness him to others? 
So you see, we are reconciled to God, not just as a friend who had a disagreement, but as hostile enemies. Because of our sin, apart from saving faith in Christ, we are at enmity with God and in the words of Ephesians 2:3 “objects of his wrath.” Yet, we have been reconciled to him through the sacrificial work of Jesus, our Passover Lamb.
Furthermore, our reconciliation with God is initiated, not by us, but by him. Often when we as humans are reconciled to one another, there is a mutual effort toward that reconciliation. For example, there might be a rift in a family. And both parties are saddened by it. Eventually, because they are both equally grieved, they seek mutual reconciliation.
But because we are by nature at enmity with God, we never sought reconciliation with him. We are, by nature, just like Adam and Eve. When they heard God calling them, they ran away; they tried to hide from God. But God the Father initiated reconciliation with us by sending his Son into our world, even though it cost him his life. Isaiah 53:5 explains how Jesus would reconcile us: “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
This Friday we remember one of the most cruel and humiliating deaths ever inflicted on a man. We remember how Jesus, being innocent was yet declared guilty, stripped, beaten, humiliated, mocked, and crucified between two thieves. And yet what do we call that day of remembrance?  “Good Friday.” We call it “Good Friday” because the suffering of our Savior was for the greatest good imaginable – the salvation of sinners for the glory of God. Through his suffering and death Jesus brought peace with God to his people. He reconciled us to himself – and to the Father and the Holy Spirit – as he bore the curse we deserve, and as he imputes to us his record of perfect obedience.
If you have ever experienced reconciliation with another person – maybe a family member, a husband, a wife a child, or parents, or siblings – siblings can squabble and disagree! If you have ever been in that rift – and I am sure all of us have – you know the peace, the joy, the relief, the comfort when there is reconciliation.
And the same is true with the reconciliation we have through saving faith in Christ. In Romans 5:1, after the reconciling work of Christ has been described in the previous chapters,  the apostle begins chapter 5 by assuring us, “Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ...” ­You see, in that way, the path of Jesus into Jerusalem to the praises of the people on the day we call Palm Sunday is the path – the road – to reconciliation.
And it is the only road to reconciliation. It is the only road to salvation from sin and eternal life in the glory yet to be revealed. In our culture, it is often taught that many roads lead to heaven. It doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you are “sincere in your faith.” God will accept you. But that is not the message of the Bible.  As Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” And Acts 4:12 assures us that “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
Christ is not only the King of kings; he is also – through the road of reconciliation – the Prince of Peace. Through saving faith in Christ we are reconciled to God and have peace with the God whom we have sinned against innumerable times. And then, when we have that vertical peace with God, we can also have a “horizontal peace” – that is, peace with others. We can be reconciled and have peace with others, even when hostility has separated us from each other.
The Bible describes that reconciliation in many passages, including Ephesians 2. The background of the chapter focuses on the hostility between the Jews and Gentiles. Jews and Gentiles harbored hostility toward one another that was deep and divisive.  It is hard for us to comprehend how much hatred they had for one another. Yet Christ brought peace between Jews and Gentiles.
In the words of Ephesians 2:14, “He himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.” That is also why in heaven there will be people from every race and tribe. And in the true church here below, there must be that same peace and reconciliation, regardless of the color of skin or ancestry.
Also, because Jesus truly is King, since he controls all things, we can have peace with our circumstances no matter how hard they may be. In that way, he also is our Prince of Peace – peace with God – peace with others, and peace with our circumstances.
Consider the apostle Paul, writing from prison, writing with a thorn in his flesh, writing to a small, persecuted church in Philippi. He wrote, “The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:6-7). In that same fourth chapter of Philippians, Paul writes: “I have learned to be content in any and every situation whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:12, 13)
Palm Sunday celebrates a historic event; it celebrates the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem so long ago. But in reality, it is celebrating the Road to Reconciliation.
May you and I see beyond the palm branches to see with the eye of ever-increasing faith, Jesus Christ, who came to fulfill Scripture, who allowed the crowds to hail him as King to infuriate the Jewish leaders who would call for his crucifixion at the time of the Passover feast.
On the cross he reconciled all those who have saving faith in him so that sinners like us would have peace with God, peace with each other, and peace with our circumstances, even a peace that surpasses and transcends all understanding!
May that peace, found only through saving faith in Jesus Christ, truly be yours and mine, today and always! Amen.
bulletin outline:
                         “Say to the Daughter of Zion,
                              'See, your king comes to you,
                           gentle and riding on a donkey,
                              on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’” – Matthew 21:5
                “The Palm-Strewn Road to Reconciliation”
                                        Matthew 21:1-11
I.  The triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem represented a change from
     the secrecy Jesus had often sought (John 11:54; Mark 1:44, 7:36) as it: 
     1) Fulfilled Scripture (Matthew 21:4-5; Zechariah 9:9; 2 Corinthians 1:20)
      2) Revealed the kingship of Jesus (5) and pointed to its eternal character
          (Revelation 7:9,10)
     3) Infuriated the Jews into crucifying Jesus, “our Passover Lamb” (1 Corinthians 5:7),
          at the appointed time of the Passover (Luke 22:1, 7)
II. Application: When we are reconciled to God through saving faith in Christ alone,
    then we have peace with God (Isaiah 53:5; Romans 5:1), peace with others
    (Ephesians 2:14-18), and peace with our circumstances (Philippians 4:12-13, 19)




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Ted Gray

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