Please read Luke 19: 28-44 and then pray; Lord as Holy Week begins, may your Word speak to me in fresh and vital ways, and may Christ the humble King who rode triumphantly into Jerusalem, reign in me. Amen.

We now come to a momentous point in our journey through the season of Lent – Jesus’ journey into Jerusalem on what we refer to as Palm Sunday. This journey began quite some time ago after Jesus had been transfigured before three of his disciples. The same disciples who were with Jesus at the top of a high mountain which was covered with the Glory of God, will be with him in an olive grove garden at the foot of the Mount of Olives later in this final week of his life. In Luke 9:51, the “turning point verse” in Luke’s gospel, we are informed about the beginning of this epic journey that took Jesus and his disciples to this point of descent into the capital from the from the top of the Mount of Olives:

As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.

Jerusalem and a cross were Jesus’ destiny – the fixed point in the divine plan for the salvation of the world. Jesus is in complete control. He abides and walks in the Sovereign will of God. He knows what will happen in the coming days. Today, for example, there is already an unridden colt waiting and ready to be used, because the Lord needs it. The Scriptures and words of prophecy that course through the heart and mind of Jesus are set to be fulfilled, snowballing one after the other through all the key events which will occur during this fateful week.

Luke is to detail three things here, three acts of Jesus that speak Messianic volumes. They are:

  • His triumphant approach to Jerusalem. (19:28-40)
  • His weeping over Jerusalem. (19: 41-44)
  • His cleansing of the temple. (19:45-48)

Today, on this Palm Sunday, I want us to think about the first two of those acts which I am going to refer to as the cheers and the tears. You may have thought much about those cheers and praises that greeted Jesus on that great day, but have you spent as much time considering the tears he shed even as he rode the donkey nearing one of the entry points into the city of peace? Luke is the gospel writer that presents us with the tears and well as the cheers on this day of contrasting emotions.

First, we consider the loud cheers of praise and adulation. The use of a young unridden colt has been secured. Two disciples will find this animal exactly as Jesus indicates. All is ready. All is in place. The same will be true later in the week when two disciples will be told to go into the city of Jerusalem where they will find a man carrying a jar of water. He will lead them to the place, a large upper room, where they can make preparations for the Passover. (Luke 22:7-13). On this Sunday, two disciples will find a colt. On the following Thursday two of them will find a room – just as Jesus has told them. (v32)

Centuries ago, it had been prophesied by one of God’s anointed prophets, Zechariah, that the Messiah King, Zion’s King, would one day ride gently on a donkey in a victory parade as a messenger and bringer of peace. (Zechariah 9: 9-10). The same prophet also spoke about the prophetic significance of the Mount of Olives. (Zechariah 14:4) This prophecy will now be fulfilled by Jesus as he humbly and gently rides the little donkey toward the capital down the slopes of Olivet. He is going to be loudly cheered, praised and exalted all the way down. One of the things we can glean from this historic episode, is understanding about the nature of worship. What is Christian worship? Do we truly worship?

This was a question we explored at LYCIG 6 when a number of us discussed and thought about the following:

Our Worship: the heartbeat of our Church, the inspiration for our Church growth and life.

The first thing we can say about worship is that it is primarily about the lifting up of Jesus. Did you notice that Jesus was lifted up on to the donkey by his disciples? He did not just get on the donkey himself. He was lifted up and seated upon it by others – his followers. (v35) This was similar to the way the scorer of a winning goal might be lifted up by team mates immediately after the final whistle has been blown. Worship is about the lifting up of Jesus. Worship involves disciples like you and I raising up the name of our Saviour and Lord in jubilant praise. Lifting up language is a big thing on Holy Week. Jesus told his followers that he would be lifted up – but he was speaking about being lifted up on to a cross.  John uses lifting up language a lot in his gospel.

But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself. (John 12:32) See also John 12:34, 3: 14-15, 8:28)

When we come to worship, our primary concern is not to “get something from it”. Our hope should not be “that we want to come away feeling better”. Our main aim should be to lift up Jesus with our prayers and praises. We come to worship in order to lift up the One who was lifted up upon a cross, the One who died for us, in our place. We worship the One who was later lifted up back into heaven as he ascended on high. We lift up the One who is forever being lifted up in glorious worship by the whole company of heaven – angels and redeemed humanity in one chorus of unending adoring praise. Do you come to worship today to lift high the name of Jesus?

Secondly, worship must involve paying homage to Jesus because he is our only King. He is the not the VIP (Very Important Person) but the MIP (Most Important Person) in our lives – and the one we lay down the red carpet for. The red carpet on that sacred Sunday was made up of cloaks and coats and palm branches. Some of the cloaks made a saddle for the Messiah, some made a carpet for the King. Cloaks were often the most expensive and important bit of clothing a person owned. They were therefore, laying down their best before Jesus. They were honouring and welcoming Jesus as their proclaimed King. We must surely do the same. As one of our songs expresses; Jesus, we enthrone you, we proclaim you are King. Worship focuses on this King and his kingdom. One day we will cast our crowns before him; for now, we pay homage as we lay down our lives before him.

Thirdly, worship involves joyful praise as it did on this wonderful occasion. Joy lies at the heart of Christian worship being built upon grace and peace. Jesus brings us joy. We respond by praising him with joy-filled hearts and praises. There is excitement in our worship, but as we were reminded through LYCIG, joy must always be matched by that sense of awe and wonder. There must be joy and awe. The Psalms encourage us to “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness: come before him with joyful songs.” (Psalm 100:1-2). The praise of Palm Sunday was not reserved. It was exuberant and overflowed with joy. Jesus was not just riding on a donkey, but he was being carried by the joyful praises of his people. And they were filled with Scriptural acclamations. Psalm 118 especially burst into life. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. (v 38 and Psalm 118:26). And the volume button was not turned down for Jesus – but the sound of praise was loud. This was one of the things that irritated to Pharisees. (v39) They thought it was a bit excessive as well as misdirected. If I try to shut them up, you’ll have the cope with shouting stones and rocks. Even inanimate creation joyfully praises its Creator and King – rock’s, pool’s, river’s, tree’s etc ….

This Christ-centred worship is built upon and inspired by two wonderful things.

  • Who Jesus really is.
  • What Jesus has done – all the wonderful miracles of grace and power. (v37)

We worship Jesus because He is our God. He is Messiah. He is King. He is Prince of Peace. As we have sang and proclaimed with our voices today:

You are the King of Glory! You are the Prince of Peace! You are the Lord of heaven and earth! You’re the Son of righteousness! Angels bow down before you – worship and adore you. You have the words of eternal life. You are Jesus Christ the Lord. Hosanna to the Son of David. Hosanna to the King of Kings! Glory in the highest heaven – for the Jesus Messiah reigns!

We praise Jesus because of the reality of who He really is. We also praise him because of all that he has done for us. These crowds who praised Jesus, many who had come from Galilee had seen miracle after miracle. May be Bartimaeus was there that day seeing Jerusalem for the first time. I think Lazarus would have been there! Today, we worship Jesus for all the works He’s done in our lives. We especially thank him for the peace and joy he has given us and blessed us with through his death and resurrection. There is no end to the things and works we must give thanks and praise to Jesus for. Miracle after miracle, grace upon grace, life and love in all its fullness and joy.

I think we must also remember that worship involves much more than joy-filled praise and fervent singing. It also involves a life of humble service and the promotion of peace. Jesus approached Jerusalem humbly on a donkey. Later in the week he would kneel and wash dirty feet. Humble service is a major part of worship. Serving must flow out of our singing. Likewise, the promoting of peace, justice and reconciliation. The donkey was also a symbol of peace as well as humility. We must do all in our power to promote, pray for, and encourage peace between people, and peace between humanity and its Creator. (Romans 12:18) Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons and daughters of God. (Matthew 5:9)

Isn’t it interesting that here, as we see Jesus approach Jerusalem and the end of his life, we have the declaration, “Peace in HEAVEN and glory in the highest?” (v38) Where is “glory in the highest and peace” mentioned before in this gospel of Luke? At the birth of Jesus, at the beginning of his life, from the lips of an angelic host who joyfully sang to humble shepherds; Glory to God in the highest and ON EARTH peace to men on whom his favour rests.

At the beginning of his life – Jesus, we are told, will bring peace to the earth. There is peace in heaven, because Jesus, Prince of Peace perfectly fulfils the will of heaven. Jesus established peace between heaven and earth through his death, by the shedding of his blood, by drawing men and women back to God. He is peace. He brings peace. He rides on a donkey in peace. He reigns in peace. He offers his peace to a world at war. (Read Ephesians 2: 13-18).

So, I encourage and urge you all to be reconciled to God, through Jesus and his blood, to know peace which is both rooted on the earth and in heaven – the most precious peace of all – true peace with God. And act upon this now, while it is on offer, for today is the day of salvation, (2 Corinthians 6:2) and the day of God’s gracious approach and visitation to you. (Luke 19:44)

Now this brings us on to the tears part of this message. “As he approached Jerusalem (City of Peace) and saw the city, he wept over it ….” (41). At some point on this journey, as Jesus got nearer to the city, as he saw the city, his mood changed. The Prince of Peace began to weep even as the donkey trundled on. Why? Why did the One who had wept with Martha and Mary before the tomb of Lazarus, suddenly burst into tears again? Perhaps those near him thought these were tears of joy. Was Jesus simply moved to tears by the emotion of the day? Could it all have been simply too much for him? Why did Jesus start to weep? This is such a significant question. Jesus wept because he knew, even in the midst of an excited praising crowd, that he was soon to be rejected and killed. He wept because God’s love, God’s peace, God’s presence, God’s Son, God’s visit to this city and this people would ultimately and defiantly, and with cries of “Crucify” – be rejected. The theme of rejection is everywhere in this section of the gospel story.  Jesus’ weeping is in synchronisation with His Father’s heart in heaven.  Jesus only did what he saw his Father doing. The One who could have given this city and indeed this world peace was going to be rejected and murdered. If you, even you (with all your history of God’s power and grace), had only known on this day what would bring you peace – but now it is hidden from you.

Jesus with prophetic eyes sees the stubborn, wilful, arrogant, murderous rejection of God’s offer of peace and weeps profusely. The big opportunity for peace is gone. It’s too late. And Jesus also weeps because he prophetically sees and knows that judgement is coming to Jerusalem and all who reject him. He speaks with deep sorrow and detail about the destruction of Jerusalem and its great Temple which would take place 37 years later in AD 70. God, Jesus, does not take pleasure in the destruction of anyone or anything. He weeps with a heart full of sorrow as he sees judgement decisively falling in the future.

We cannot pretend (as some do) that Jesus never speaks about judgement. We would be deceiving ourselves and twisting the message of the bible. Jesus speaks of judgement here and on many occasions, and it is often in connection with rejection – the way people reject him, reject God’s laws of love, reject his call to repentance. Friends, if people did not reject God and his gracious laws of love, we would all live in a very different world. If we embraced and practiced Jesus’s sermon on the mount our nation would be unrecognisable. We would live in a society dominated by the fragrance of love, forgiveness, peace, kindness, sacrificial service and care. There would no greed, hunger, injustice, family breakdown, betrayal, lawlessness or crime. If we lived according to teaching of the Jesus, peace would take hold of us by the hand, peace would reign – and darkness and bondage would dissipate.

The new heavens and earth which are coming in the future with Jesus, will be like this because Jesus, the Prince of Peace, will reign from the epicentre of them. If you want to know why our present world and age is in the condition that it is today, you need look no further than the rejection of its Creator and His beloved Son, who came into it, and died for it upon a cross which he was brutally nailed to.

God still offers His gracious, forgiving and restoring love to us in Jesus his Son. He still reaches out and does so from a cross and empty tomb. There is still a period of grace. But will people actually receive this gift of grace, or will they spurn and reject him? Jesus weeps over a disobedient Britain for he can see the depth of moral and social disintegration and destruction, and the pain coming our way. The words of the apostle Peter remain key:

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

And if God’s own heart breaks and weeps over the condition of this world and over the rejection of His Son, should not our hearts also break even as we agonise in prayer for it? Should there not also be lamentation in our worship. Is our worship only to be praise and joyful singing? Are there not Psalms of concern and lamentation as well as Psalms of joyful shouts and praise? The Psalmist once exclaimed, “Stream of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed.” (Psalm 119:136) If Jesus wept over Jerusalem, should not disciples today weep over cities and towns and nations who have slammed the door shut in God’s face and spurned his incarnate love?

May God graciously guide us through this Holy Week. May God give us an understanding of worship that is fully in line with His will and Word. May we remember both the cheers and the tears of Palm Sunday. And may we resolutely follow Jesus, never forgetting the pain and power of the cross, but with resurrection joy and hope in our hearts, pursue humility. peace and love.  Amen!

Revd Peter J Clarkson April 10th 2022