Jesus Brings Hope: Palm Sunday Sermon Recap

We know the story of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  Jesus comes into Jerusalem riding on a young donkey with a multitude of people in high celebration…

“And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way.  And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest. And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.” -Matthew 21:8-11

It would be normal to hear about the change of heart this crowd goes under when Good Friday came.  It can be said that there probably were a few that went from shouting, “Hosanna,” to “Crucify him.”  That’s the power of crowd and influence.  Yet, we are also told that that there were positive changes in peoples hearts also.  Mark’s Gospel tells us of such a change in a guard, “And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God” (15:39).  It may be just as well to also believe that some of those who were crying for the crucifixion of the Lord were some of the first to repent at Peters sermon on the day of Pentecost.  So, yes, this narrative of Jesus’ life contains people who had a change of heart.  Some were sad but also some for the good.

Does that mean then that the praise people were giving to Jesus was empty?  Maybe there were some who were just going with the flow of the crowd but many probably had deep gratitude and excitement for Jesus.  Bill Hybels writes, “

“Some were political activists; they’d heard Jesus had supernatural power, and they wanted him to use it to free Israel from Roman rule. Others had loved ones who were sick or dying. They waved branches, hoping for physical healing. Some were onlookers merely looking for something to do, while others were genuine followers who wished Jesus would establish himself as an earthly king. Jesus was the only one in the parade who knew why he was going to Jerusalem – to die.”

Everyone that was waving branches had hope.  Hope that Jesus was going to do something in their life.  That’s what we have in the resurrection.  A lively hope (1 Peter 1:3).

Here is a acrostic for what hope in Jesus means.

H – Heavenly Father

Matthew 7:7-11 reminds us that we have our Heaven Father to take care of our needs.  We can seek him in our troubles and he will answer.  We don’t have to worry about whether He will show up or even be late.  That is because He never leaves us.

O – Ongoing obedience

Hope compels us to continue in serving.  Many times we will become tired of what feels like a burdensome calling.  We are tempted to cut corners and take short cuts.  Thinking all the while that perhaps a little leniency in something we know that is sin is actually not that bad.  No the child that hopes in God continues to seek God in all of their thoughts, words, and actions.

P – Prays Through

We are told by Paul to “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  Many times our prayers are not much more than a mental thought.  No, we must be a prayer warrior doing battle with the devil in an attitude of prayer.  Faith is more than just a mental ascent to God’s existence and provisions.  Faith is having the trust that God hears us when we pray and that He will answer.

E – Enduring Patience

Hope helps us to hold on.  I’ve seen many people who have lost hope and quickly faded to death.  The living hope that is in Jesus pulls us forward through our hardest trials and our longest seasons of waiting.

Bible Study: Psalm 134

“Behold, bless ye the Lord, all ye servants of the Lord, which by night stand in the house of the Lord. Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the Lord. The Lord that made heaven and earth bless thee out of Zion.”

We’ve made it.  We have reached the mountain peak of Christian experience.  Worshipping the Lord and adoring His presence.  Once we were in the tents of Kedar and the land of Mesech (Psalm 120).  Away from God and desperate for a change.  God has proven Himself as our deliverer, our sustainer, and master.  As we look back on the experience we gain a heart of gratitude and praise.  The Lord has been our helper and is well deserved of our praise.

Now we know that this doesn’t last forever in this lifetime.  That is what heaven will be filled with.  Everlasting worship of our God.  But for now we must are like the Israelite pilgrims and return.  Life calls us back to work, school.  Sometimes it calls us to the hospital or the funeral home.   Maybe we are called to the bank or somewhere else where life pulls us back down.  Yes, we don’t have to return to the plains of sin but our heightened experience fades like the glory off of Moses face (2 Cor. 3:7-18).  But don’t fret.  God will call us back to the mountain in another season of life.  Another festive occasion will rise in our hearts that will fill our mouth with praise to the Almighty.

This is true worship.  Not only in those blessed moments in our discipleship where the Lord brings us through a long time of discipline to a mountain of release and praise.  But, also, in every service to which we gather with our brothers and sisters of the faith.  God call us to worship and we come in with thanksgiving.  It’s a conversation with God.  God blesses us or delivers and we respond with praise.  He then speaks a word of admonition, of conviction, of guidance to us and respond again by saying, “Yes, Lord, I will obey.”  Yet, nothing gets done in the world if we remain in the house.  So the Lord sends us back out again with His blessing to do His.

In the world and in ourselves the Lord has a work to be done.  He will continue to mold us in the pilgrimage to those mountain top experiences.  Those are the rewards for allowing the Lord to labor in our life to bring about change.

Bible Study: Psalm 133

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!  It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;  As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.”

When Christ saves us we are born into a family.  This family is called the church and it is has a universal scope to as it consists of all those that have been called out by the Lord.  There’s no hermits with the Lord.  No lone rangers.  No christian is an island.  To be separate from the church but claim to know Christ is to cut the head from the body.  Yes, Christ alone is sufficient for salvation but salvation places us into the community of Christ.

Community is a combination of the words “common” and “unity.”  Community then is a group that displays unity through a common focus.  Simple right?  The Christian community is a group of people who are brought together by the grace of God around a common focus which is Christ.  Yet, unity isn’t always easy.  That is why the psalmist writes how pleasant it is when “brethren dwell together in unity!”

Ointment and water have always been a symbol of the Holy Spirit.  In order for the church to have unity we must have the Spirit.  We are all to seek to keep the unity of the Spirit according to Ephesians 4:1-6.  The Holy Spirit of God is able to help of over any boundaries that we have erected between us and other believers.  No hinderance to our fellowship is able to keep true brethren from dwelling together in unity.  God showed that even on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 that language barriers could be broken by Spirit.  Lord, we need your Holy Spirit to run between the family members of God like precious oil.  Saturate our hearts with peace like the morning dew.

Bible Study: Psalm 132

“Lord, remember David, and all his afflictions: How he sware unto the Lord, and vowed unto the mighty God of Jacob; Surely I will not come into the tabernacle of my house, nor go up into my bed; I will not give sleep to mine eyes, or slumber to mine eyelids, Until I find out a place for the Lord, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob. Lo, we heard of it at Ephratah: we found it in the fields of the wood. We will go into his tabernacles: we will worship at his footstool. Arise, O Lord, into thy rest; thou, and the ark of thy strength. Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness; and let thy saints shout for joy. For thy servant David’s sake turn not away the face of thine anointed. The Lord hath sworn in truth unto David; he will not turn from it; Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne.  If thy children will keep my covenant and my testimony that I shall teach them, their children shall also sit upon thy throne for evermore.  For the Lord hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation.  This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.  I will abundantly bless her provision: I will satisfy her poor with bread.  I will also clothe her priests with salvation: and her saints shall shout aloud for joy. There will I make the horn of David to bud: I have ordained a lamp for mine anointed. His enemies will I clothe with shame: but upon himself shall his crown flourish.

This is by far the longest psalm of this group.  That should through up a flag on this psalm that there most be something important here.  Is it deliverance?  Is it praise?  What is it?  It is a psalm about obedience.  What is one of the largest focal points about our spiritual growth?  It is obedience to the Lord.  Psalm 123 a psalm that has already introduced us to serving the Lord by following his simple motions but the greatest step in our faith is obedience to seek God wherever He is moving.

Solomon is perhaps the writer of this psalm.  He remembered the desire of his father, David, was to build the temple for God.  It wasn’t God’s will for David to do this but it was for Solomon.  So, the act of obedience here was dedication to have a place of worship for God.  What God calls us to do may be a different work but nevertheless we are called to obey.  This psalm reminds us of David’s tireless and relentless work to obey God and serve him.  At the heart of our discipleship is our obedience.  It’s not in the quality in the obedience its the simple fact that we are seeking to obey God with our whole body, mind, and spirit.  As the song says,

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
But His smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey.

Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
But our toil He doth richly repay;
Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,
But is blessed if we trust and obey.

But we never can prove the delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.

Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet.
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way.
What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.

Bible Study: Psalm 131

Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me. Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child. Let Israel hope in the Lord from henceforth and for ever.”

I remember hearing a sermon on four pictures about a fence post.  In two of the pictures the post represented grace. The third represented standards and the fourth represented man’s advancement.  The first of the two was a turtle on top of post and the caption said, “Somebody had to help him up there.”  That’s the grace that lifts us up.  The second of the two was a picture of a boat in a stormy tied to a post on the shore with a simple caption, “The anchor holds.”  That is also a picture of grace that keeps us through life’s trials.  The third picture was a broken fence post and fence that was in a sheep field with the caption that said, “When the fence is broken the sheep will get out.”  The last picture though feels the heart of Psalm 131.  It was a picture of a well-dressed man with his nose in the air standing on top of the fence post.  The caption read, “A step in any direction will lead to a great fall.”

Proverbs 16:18 reads, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”  David had quickly ascended from a shepherd boy to the king of Israel.  There wasn’t a any political ladders to climb.  God anointed him to the position and he went.  Overwhelming?  Yes!  Trained?  No!  This psalm is a reflection of David in this sudden whirlwind of events that lead him to the throne.  Did he become prideful that he was now king?  No, instead, he was humbled.  This psalm is not David’s resume.  He didn’t list his credentials and make the people sing about them.  David rather focused on his humble beginnings and the lack of study in kingly matters.  He was a quiet child and teenager that didn’t try to act arrogant.  Now he was king and he didn’t want his attitude to change so in humble admission of his lack he wanted Israel to know they should trust in the Lord more than him.

What we find in our own discipleship (going up the mountain towards God with Christ), that we lack the ability in ourselves.  The spiritual formation of the believer is the work of God in us as one commentator put it, “The disciplined life was not a natural endowment” (Paschall, 1972).  We can plant and water but it is God that gives the increase.  When we begin to think highly of our own achievements we become prideful and after that there will be a fall.  We must continually humble ourselves before God and seek to lift Him up as our only source of strength.

References

Paschall, F. H., & Hobbs, H. H. (Eds.). (1972). The teacher’s Bible commentary. Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers.

Bible Study: Psalm 130

“Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning. Let Israel hope in the Lord: for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.”

This is truly a beautiful psalm for when we are in the “depths.”  Have you ever been in deep trouble?  Deep in debt?  Deep in anger?  Deep in guilt?  Deep in failure?  Deep in despair?  Deep in defeat? Deep in sin?  The Lord is speaking your answer through the psalmist.  He was well acquainted with grief.  He had seen death.  He had tasted defeat.  He know what it was to be attacked by enemies.  But he had hope.

We can cry out to the Lord according to the first two verses.  Pray is invaluable to the believer.  It is the very breath of our soul and many times we forget to breathe.  The Lord wants to hear from His children.  Even though God already knows what we are going through it is in His divine plan that we talk with Him.  He wants a relationship with us.  Many times we treat God as we do family.  I have seen many parents in the nursing home that are so proud of their children, their accomplishments, and love them with every ounce of strength that they have but the don’t understand why their children won’t call and won’t visit.  Many times we neglect God in the same way.  He loves us and desires for a close relationship but we won’t take the time to visit with Him.

Do you hope in God?  Do you have faith in Him?  People that have faith in God not only believe in Him but also trust His word enough to call out to Him in prayer.  When we pray we are to wait on the Lord.  This is not a just a, “Okay, now we have done this and we will see what happens,” and then go about our business like we just entered for some prize contest.  No, the word wait here in the Hebrew means an active expectation.  It means I prayed and I know an answer is on the way.

My children get so excited when mommy is home from teaching at school.  They know when daddy says that mommy is on her way home that it won’t be long.  They stand by the door and look out.  They keep asking daddy if mommy is home yet.  They are actively expecting.  They it will happen and they are ready to receive her with open arms.  Does you wait for the Lord?  Do you hope in His word?

Bible Study: Psalm 129

“Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth, may Israel now say: Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth: yet they have not prevailed against me. The plowers plowed upon my back: they made long their furrows. The Lord is righteous: he hath cut asunder the cords of the wicked. Let them all be confounded and turned back that hate Zion. Let them be as the grass upon the housetops, which withereth afore it groweth up: Wherewith the mower filleth not his hand; nor he that bindeth sheaves his bosom. Neither do they which go by say, The blessing of the Lord be upon you: we bless you in the name of the Lord.”

Is there something in your life that just won’t go away.  Are there people who are constantly attacking you as a person of Faith, or really just because they like to be mean to anyone?  The psalmist knows what you are going through.  He says that the afflictions that Israel as a nation went through have been there since their youth.  That the pains they go through are equivalent to a farmer forces his plow through the ground to break it open.  They continually fight against us and try to restrict our forward progress.

“YET THEY HAVE NOT PREVAILED AGAINST ME!”  This reminds me of the prayer of Paul to remove a thorn in his side.  We don’t know what his issue was but he shares he prayed for it three times to be removed but it never left.  Instead, God reminded him, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).  It also reminds me of another passage from Paul found earlier in the same letter, “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).  God gives grace to creation to persevere through all kinds of hardship.  The call to the believer is to endure using the strength of the Lord!  He will see us through.