Stones that shout for joy

Today is Palm Sunday, and the day where we remember Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey. It is called Palm Sunday because of the crowds who lay palm branches and their own coats on the ground for Jesus to ride on as He entered the city. Think of this as a sort of “red carpet!”

In the village where we live, a usual Palm Sunday would see a group from the church walking from the town hall through to the church – led by a locally sourced donkey! It is quite a sight to be seen, and the children love it.

This year, due to the COVID-19 situation, this won’t be going ahead. Instead, many churches around the country and the world will celebrate online via live streaming. I hope, if nothing else, this reminds us how fortunate we are to be able to meet in person.

Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem is recorded in Luke’s Gospel.

After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30 ‘Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?” say, “The Lord needs it.”’

32 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’

34 They replied, ‘The Lord needs it.’

35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.

37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:

38 ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!’

‘Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’

39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples!’

40 ‘I tell you,’ he replied, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.’

Luke 19:28-40 (NIVUK)

As mentioned above, our church are not able to meet this Palm Sunday. Our family had agreed to lead the prayers that day, so made a little video instead. My daughters danced in the background, waving homemade palm branches while I talked a little about Jesus’ entry into the city.

I pointed out that if we are ever in danger of missing an important point from the Gospels, then often the Pharisees come to our aid. In the video at least, I’m not sure I fully explained why – so will try to do a better job here!

As Jesus enters the city, the crowds begin to praise Him. They cut branches from the trees and lay out their jackets for Him to ride over. Verse 38 records the words they began to shout: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” This is a direct quote from Psalm 118.

When the crowds do this, the Pharisees immediately stand to attention and tell Jesus to rebuke His disciples. Why? Because they knew, as well as Jesus did, that Psalm 118 and these words in particular are Messianic. They know that the crowds are acknowledging Jesus as the King who was to come.

The Pharisees do not want anyone to recognise this. They don’t believe it themselves, and essentially consider it blasphemy. They are saying, “Jesus! These people are proclaiming you as the Messiah! Stop them!”

How does Jesus respond? By telling them that if the people refused to cry out, then the very stones themselves would begin to praise.

Palm Sunday is the fulfilment of a very specific prophecy from the Old Testament book of Daniel. In that, the angel Gabriel declares the exact day in which the Messiah would be presented to Jerusalem as King, and that day was this Palm Sunday when Jesus rode into the city. You can hear more about this in my message – Prophecy and Palm Branches which I will put at the bottom of this post. You can hear more of my talks in the Audio section.

While I was in Jerusalem a few years ago, I was fortunate enough to be able to walk the road that Jesus went down that first Palm Sunday. As we walked, I picked up a small stone from the ground which I have kept as a keepsake. Of course the stone itself was not there the day Jesus was, although that would have been nice, but it is a little reminder to me. If I do not praise God, then maybe that little stone might cry out.

When you are next out, doing your daily exercise, or the next time you take a turn around the garden, why don’t you also pick up a stone. You can put it somewhere that you’ll see it, and every time you do, take a moment to praise and thank God for His Son. Otherwise that stone might shout for joy instead of you!

Jesus rode that donkey into Jerusalem knowing full well where it would lead. Less than a week later, He would be nailed to a wooden cross and bearing the punishment for us all. That crowd which praised Him on the way in, would soon change their tune and shout “Crucify him!”

Remember why Jesus did it. It was for you and for me. I see Palm Sunday as the peak at the top of a roller-coaster – that moment where all seems to freeze before it races downwards the other side. Jesus is being rightly praised, but would soon plummet into the shame of a sinner’s death – undeserved. He did it for you.

Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ this Holy week.


Palm Branches and Prophecy


 

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