Scripture reading: Luke 19:29-40
Sermon Title: Who is Jesus?
Sermon Text: Luke 19:29-40
Palm Sunday: Introduction
Jesus the Lord
Jesus the King
Jesus the Teacher
This manuscript is provided as a courtesy. It is not always followed word for word during the message. This document is not developed for publication; there may be grammatical errors throughout. Unfortunately, there is not always time to proof read. I choose to use my available time for studying, finding ways to explain the truths of Scripture while keeping a balance of time for visiting and discipling people in the church. Thanks for understanding.
Today is called Palm Sunday. It receives its name from Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem the week of His crucifixion. As Jesus entered the city, a crowd of people lined the streets and laid their coats and palm branches upon the road, to honor Him as he rode into Jerusalem. The Bible tells us about Palm Sunday in all four gospel accounts. Often there is a heading in the Bible added by the translators saying “Triumphal Entry” as the descriptor for the passage. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday takes place on the Sunday before Jesus died on the cross; exactly a week before His resurrection.
Before we get into the account written by Luke, let’s take a moment to set the stage and understand the situation and the atmosphere taking place on that day. The inhabitants of Jerusalem are entering into one of the most festive times of their religious calendar. It is the week of Passover. The eight-day festival of Passover is celebrated from the 15th through the 22nd of the Hebrew month of Nissan.
It is a time commanded by God for the Israelites to remember and celebrate the Exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. Over a thousand years before Palm Sunday, the Lord God brought ten plagues upon the Egyptians, and the last plague killed all the Egyptian firstborn. During the last plague, God instructed the Israelites to place the blood of a sacrificial lamb upon the doors of their homes, so that God’s angel of death would “pass over” the homes of the Israelites. The blood was a sign to let the angel of death know these were God’s children. The Angel knew not to kill the firstborn in the homes with the blood on the doorpost. The “passing over” of the Israelites’ homes is where the name Passover originates. The Israelites had been celebrating the Passover ever since the time of Moses.
One of the major highlights of the festival takes place on Thursday. On that day, every Israelite gathers to celebrate the Seder meal which is filled with rituals to help bring to remembrance God’s delivery of the Israelites.
It is important for us to know and recognize the importance of the Passover to the Jews. They see the deliverance from slavery in Egypt in the same way we see God’s delivery of us from the slavery of sin. They say, “God loves me because I belong to Abraham.” We say, “God loves me because I belong to Christ.” They gather to celebrate their salvation as a chosen people. They also gather together in the city of Jerusalem if at all possible. In fact, for those not celebrating the Passover in Jerusalem, the last thing said during the Seder meal is, “next year in Jerusalem.”
There is one more important element we need to consider to understand more fully Palm Sunday and the passage we will be looking at this morning, and that is the central character of the day. At this point in His ministry, Jesus is a very popular celebrity. Just a few days earlier, in the town of Bethany, which is only two miles from Jerusalem, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus had been dead for four days. He was not mostly dead; he was very dead. The Gospel of John tells us everybody was wondering if Jesus was going to be in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover feast (John 11:56-57; 12:9). They were asking one another as they stood in the temple courtyard if Jesus was coming to the feast. “What do you think; will Jesus come to the feast? I don’t know, what do you think?” Not only were they looking for Jesus, but they were also hoping to see Lazarus.
The crowd of people lined the street for about a twenty-minute walk outside the city gates. It was like lining the streets before a parade, except with this parade there are no marching bands, festive floats, or fire trucks. There is only one person on a donkey in this parade, and His name is Jesus.
As we look at the passage, let’s keep in mind all of these factors. The people are excited to be coming together to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. All the inns and places to stay are packed full with many people having to stay outside Jerusalem in neighboring villages. And Jesus, the popular religious celebrity, is coming to Jerusalem, perhaps the most popular man in all of Judea because of His three years of miracles and the authority of His teaching which many had heard.
One thing that is good to do when looking at Scripture is to put ourselves in the shoes of the people of that day. Let’s pretend we are one of the many Israelites in the Scripture passage. Let’s ask ourselves, how would I greet Jesus on Palm Sunday? Who is Jesus to me?
The main idea of our message today is: Be sure you know who Jesus is! There are three groups of people mentioned in our passage. Each group has a different view of who Jesus is. Ask yourself, who is this celebrity on a donkey; who is Jesus to me?
The first group we will look at are those who call Jesus Lord.
Jesus the Lord
We see at the beginning of the passage that Jesus is outside of Jerusalem and has not yet entered the city. He instructs two of His disciples to go on ahead, and they will find a colt tied on which no one yet has ever sat; they are to untie it and bring it back to Him. Jesus tells them that if anyone asks, “Why are you untying it?” they shall say, “The Lord has need of it.”
So, they go ahead and find a colt just as Jesus told them. Sure enough, as they are untying the colt its owner says to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They say, “The Lord has need of it.” They bring it to Jesus, and they throw their coats on the colt and put Jesus on it.
Before we talk about the disciples who are with Jesus, let’s talk about the colt. Jesus is very self-aware and knows all the prophecy concerning Himself. Even when on the cross, He purposefully fulfilled prophesy when asking for a drink. He said it was finished when the last prophecy was completed. On this day, Jesus knows the prophecy written by the prophet Zechariah. It speaks of the Messiah entering Jerusalem, and states this:
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zechariah 9:9)
This is why Jesus said He had need of the colt. He knew His final entry into Jerusalem would be on a colt, and that the people of Zion, which is Jerusalem, would shout in triumph as their king entered into the city. The Gospel of John tells us His disciples later understood the significance of the colt. John writes:
These things His disciples did not understand at the first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things to Him. (John 12:16)
What we want to focus on this morning is who Jesus is to those disciples. Those disciples called Jesus Lord. This is a very significant term. The word Lord could mean master, but to the Israelites the word Lord was much more than that. The written language of the day was Greek. The Jews studied their Bible, the Old Testament, and it was written in Greek. The Greek Old Testament used in Jesus’ day is referred to as the Septuagint (LXX). The word Lord is written over 6,000 times in the Septuagint, and it is the word used for God. In other words, in the Hebrew translation, God was written as Yahweh. In the Greek translation, the Hebrew word Yahweh was written as Lord. When Jesus told the disciples to tell them the Lord has need of the colt, He was saying to tell them God has need of the colt. In fact, in other passages in the Bible, when Jesus prays, He calls God “Lord.”
When the disciples told the owners of the colt that the Lord has need of the colt, they might as well have been saying that God has need of the colt.
This is a very significant title the disciples gave Jesus. They didn’t hesitate to tell the owners the Lord had need of the colt. Often in Jesus’ ministry, His disciples called Him Lord. We see then, with this first group of people, Jesus is the Lord.
As Jesus enters into Jerusalem on the colt, we encounter the second group of people. They have a different title for Jesus. For the second group of people, Jesus is the King.
Jesus the King
We see in the passage that Jesus entered into the city, and people were spreading their coats on the road. Other accounts tell us the crowd also put palm branches on the road. This is where we get the name for Palm Sunday. I suppose it could also be called coat Sunday, but it doesn’t sound as fancy ;-). They were showing Jesus honor by spreading their coats and the palm branches on the dusty road. It is a welcome fit for a king and is similar to how in today’s day we roll out the red carpet.
Luke describes the crowd met Jesus outside the city gates, near the descent of the Mount of Olives. This means they were waiting expectantly for His arrival. They must have gotten word that Jesus was indeed coming to Jerusalem for the feast, and everyone banded together to give Him a king’s welcome.
The people were shouting in unison and joyfully praising God. They were saying: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
What is interesting is that a king would have ridden a horse when entering a city intending to go to war and when the king rides into a city on a donkey it symbolizes his arrival into the city on a mission for peace. When the people shout, Peace in heaven, they are shouting appropriately, because Jesus is on a donkey.
It is not surprising that the crowd is reciting Scripture. What they are shouting is from Psalm 118. The psalm is part of the Hallel, which consists of six Psalms (113–118) recited during joyous occasions such as the Passover. Think of it like us reciting verses from a traditional Easter passage, or a Christmas passage during the time of Christmas.
Why are the people excited to see Jesus? Luke tells us. They were greeting Him in this way “for all the miracles which they had seen” (Luke 19:37). The Gospel of John tells us they were there for this reason as well. John writes: “For this reason also the people went and met Him because they heard that He had performed this sign” (John 12:18). The sign John refers to is the raising of Lazarus from the dead.
To the crowd, Jesus is the king; a miracle worker. They are praising God for sending them Jesus.
The last group of people in this passage are the Pharisees.
Jesus the Teacher
The Pharisees are standing among the people. They are not shouting joyfully or praising God. Instead, they are doing just the opposite. The Pharisees say to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples” (Luke 19:39). To them, Jesus is neither Lord nor is He a King. To them Jesus is inferior. He is a lowly teacher. I say “lowly teacher” because they, as teachers, were telling Jesus what to do; they were teaching Jesus. They believe their position as teachers is superior to Jesus’, and Jesus needs to obey their command. They are telling Jesus to stop His disciples from this display of praise, and from calling Jesus king. They place themselves in a position to rebuke Jesus.
They have always seen Jesus in this way. Jesus has been a thorn in their side because He continually called them vipers and hypocrites. They didn’t like the way the crowd was following Jesus because they were losing their following. Normally, during these events, the Pharisees would gather a crowd, and they were the celebrity religious teachers of the day. People wanted to go to a house of an important Pharisee during Passover. They were used to being the in-crowd; the sought after teachers.
The account in John says that some of the people who saw Lazarus raised from the dead went to the Pharisees and told them the things which Jesus had done. Because of this, the Pharisees plotted to kill Jesus and Lazarus. The chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death because, on account of him, many of the Jews were no longer following them, but they believed in Jesus (John 11:10-11). The Pharisees were fighting amongst themselves, and were upset because the world has gone after Jesus, and they were losing followers.
The chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders to some people in the crowd that if anyone knew where Jesus was, they were to report it, so that they might seize Him. Their jealousy of Jesus was so intense that even the Roman ruler was aware of it. When Jesus was on trial on Friday before Pilate, the governor, both Mark and Matthew record in their Gospels that Pilate knew that because of envy the chief priests and Pharisees had handed Jesus over to Him to be crucified (Matthew 27:18; Mark 15:10).
To the Pharisees, Jesus was only a teacher and not a very good one.
So What … Be sure you know who Jesus is
What does this story about Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a Sunday around 2000 years ago have to do with you or with me? Let’s focus on the question “who is Jesus?”
We see that there were three different views of Jesus on Palm Sunday.
Some people today recognize, like the Pharisees, that Jesus is a teacher. To many, Jesus is a religious teacher, but so are Buddha, Mohammed, Hare Krishna, Confucius, and many others. Jesus teaches about the Golden Rule, do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Jesus is kind and good. Many people think we need more teachers like Jesus. Jesus was a good teacher.
Do you see Jesus as a teacher? Is He a teacher, until He teaches something you don’t agree with? Do you find yourself saying, “Jesus is a good teacher, but I shouldn’t have to change my life to follow Him. I will do as I please.”
Jesus is a teacher. If Jesus is a teacher to you, be sure everything He teaches is rightly understood. Everything Jesus taught is truth. There is no part of Jesus’ teaching that may be disregarded. It is right and good to call Jesus a teacher, as long as everything Jesus teaches is viewed as the very word of God.
The crowd called Jesus King because they wanted God to send them prosperity. They were looking for a king who would overthrow the Roman oppression. They were looking for illness to be healed, and to be raised from the dead should they die. Jesus was a great miracle worker.
Palm Sunday was not the only time the crowd followed Jesus seeking to be blessed. Remember when Jesus fed the five thousand? The crowd followed Jesus seeking more miracles. Jesus recognized this. Listen to what the Gospel of John says:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled” (John 6:26).
In other words, Jesus told the crowd, “you are not seeking Me because you saw signs which proved I am the Messiah. You are seeking Me because you want your bellies filled.” In other words, never mind the implications and significance of Jesus multiplying the bread; they only care about getting more bread. They couldn’t see the forest through the trees.
Just as soon as Jesus doesn’t meet the expectations of the crowd, He is no longer of use. We know this because of what happens later in the week. On Sunday, Jesus is the King who comes in the name of the Lord and on Friday, Jesus is the one who they want to be crucified while asking for the release of a criminal named Barabbas (Matthew 27; Mark 15). As soon as the crowd realized Jesus was not the king they expected, they were ready to get rid of Him.
There are many people today with the same view of Jesus. As soon as Jesus doesn’t answer their prayers, they no longer follow or believe in Christianity. Jesus is to them like a vending machine in the sky; that should dispense blessings at their whim. When popular opinion changes and Christianity is no longer meeting their expectations, they turn on Jesus and drop Him like a hot potato.
It is right and good to see Jesus as king, provided He is your King of kings. Jesus is the King of kings and always will be, regardless of whether or not He fulfills our every request, or regardless of whether He heals our parent or child of illness, or whether or not He grants us the job we seek. The right relationship to have with a king is not to demand that the king obeys and fulfills our commands and wishes, but for us to honor the king, and for us to fulfill His commands and wishes.
Lastly, we may see Jesus as the Lord. His disciples called Him Lord. They obeyed His commands. I cannot say for certain that all the disciples with Jesus knew He was the Lord of lords; that He was God. Not everyone who was part of Jesus closest followers knew who He was; after all, we know Judas Iscariot was among their number. But, we do know that many of Jesus closest followers rightly called Him Lord.
It is right and good to call Jesus Lord provided we fully understand all of what that means. If Jesus is our Lord, if Jesus truly is God, then He must be obeyed. Jesus said: “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? (Luke 6:46). Under every circumstance, Jesus is to be obeyed as Lord.
All three titles are correct. It is what is implied in the title by the person that counts.
There was present that day a group that I know for certain knew who Jesus was. Look at the last verse in the passage. After the Pharisees told Jesus to rebuke the people and tell them to stop,
40 But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!” (Luke 19:40)
The rocks know who Jesus is. The rocks know they should cry out for their Creator and for the One who came to redeem creation from the curse of sin. The rocks rightly understand who Jesus is. Ever hear the expression, “that guy is as dumb as a rock”? In light of this passage, perhaps we shouldn’t say that again.
Now, before you think that I think that rocks can talk and praise, let me say that I believe Jesus was using a metaphor: a figure of speech in which He applies the ability to speak to rocks. Of course, if Jesus wants to make rocks talk, He is most certainly capable. After all, He formed Adam from the dust of the earth and Adam talked. In this passage, rocks praising is not literally applicable; instead, Jesus is communicating to the Pharisees that He is worthy of praise. He is so worthy of praise that it is impossible to hold it back. There is a day coming that every knee shall bow, and every tongue will confess Jesus is Lord.
Those who know Jesus and have experienced His love, forgiveness, grace, and mercy cannot help themselves and cannot hold back their praise. To those who know Jesus, they know Him as Lord of Lords, King of Kings, and supreme teacher, and they know Him as God incarnate.
Jesus is our Teacher. Jesus has the words of life; He speaks truth. He knows all things and is the source of all knowledge and wisdom. He has no equal.
Jesus is our King. We live in His kingdom, and His kingdom has no end. We have been rescued from the domain of darkness, and we have been brought into His kingdom of light and peace.
Jesus is our Lord. We are to obey His commands, not because we think He is a dictator who must be obeyed, but we obey His commands because He lovingly cares for us and has only our best in mind. We know our obedience brings blessing.
Jesus is Lord, King, and Teacher, and so much more. There are many titles for Jesus. He is Christ, Messiah, Anointed One, Son of Man, Alpha and Omega, Balm of Gilead, Rose of Sharon, Savior, and many more. Jesus is the only one able to satisfy our every desire and meet our every need.
It doesn’t matter a great deal what you think about anyone else. Your view of a political candidate or your view of a Hollywood celebrity or a sports athlete doesn’t make much difference in the scheme of life. In fact, with all of history, we can have an inaccurate view or opinion of any person who has ever lived or will live, except one. Our view of the person of Jesus, who Jesus is to us, is of supreme importance. Our view of Jesus has tremendous consequences.
Jesus said that who we believe He determines if we will spend our lives eternally in His kingdom or if we will spend eternity under His condemnation. He leaves no room for middle ground. If anybody else said such a thing, we would think they were a lunatic. Is Jesus a lunatic? Was He lying when He said to believe in Him means we inherit eternal life? I believe Jesus told the truth. His closest followers did as well. They went to their death holding their confession that Jesus is God, and He gives eternal life to those who believe Him.
If you are in any way uncertain of who Jesus is, do not leave here today without knowing. Your eternity depends upon your thoughtful and careful consideration. Who is Jesus to you?