Four Ways to Prepare for Palm Sunday

palm-sundayPalm Sunday marks the beginning of what we know as Passion Week or Holy Week.  Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  The term “Passion” in Passion Week refers to the inhumane suffering Jesus experienced on the cross to make redemption possible for mankind.  The Passion Week is crowned with Easter or Resurrection Sunday.  Christians make much of the Easter season because the events, Jesus’ death and resurrection, are the two pillars of the Christian good news.  “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, [4] that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, [5] and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve” (1 Corinthians 15:3-5).  The gospel is the sun in the universe of what Christians believe.  In sum, the events we remember during the Easter season display that fundamental truth God did for us in Christ what we could never do for ourselves.  “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3).  Because the Easter season sets before us the most precious and essential truth of the gospel, we should prepare ourselves so that we can spiritually benefit from the Easter season.  In the spirit of preparing ourselves to spiritually profit from the Easter season, here are four ways to prepare for Palm Sunday.

  1. Read the triumphal entry passages in the gospels.  All four gospels record Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem: Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44; John 12:12-19.  All four accounts reveal the significance of the triumphal entry.  It was a profoundly important event in Jesus’ life.
  2. Reflect on the significance of the triumphal entry.  Jesus was introduced as King!  This has major implications for here & now and then & there.  The here & now implication is that we should pay homage to the King and give our lives in service to Him.  The then & there implication is that He will reign as King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 7:9; 17:14; 19:16).
  3. Delight that the King came to deliver you from the kingdom of darkness and that, by grace alone through faith alone, He transferred you into His kingdom.  “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, [14] in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14).  Do this corporately on Sunday.  Gather with other kingdom constituents and worship the King.

O worship the King all-glorious above,
O gratefully sing his power and his love:
Our shield and defender, the Ancient of Days,
Pavilioned in splendor and girded with praise
(Robert Grant, “O Worship the King,” 1833)

  1. Commit or recommit yourself to the King.  There is no better time than Palm Sunday than to yield yourself to the King for the first time or anew.  Is Jesus your King?  If not, why not?  There are are only two ways to live.  If He is, does your life reveal complete allegiance to Him?
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An Outreach Parable

The year is 1621 in Massachusetts.  The English settlers have endured a brutal winter.  Their numbers are fewer; some contracted illness Massachusetts Winterand died.  Others survived.  And now it’s finally Spring.  A man wakes up to the melodious sounds of birds singing.  The man knows that the time has come to prepare the soil and plant the crops.  Supplies are dangerously low and they will last the man and his family until harvest but no longer.  This man contracted a severe illness along with others but as Providence would have it, he survived.  Though he is much improved, his body is still feeling the effects of the illness.  Even so, he knows in spite of his personal discomfort he must labor in the field.  The lives of his wife and children depend on it.  He goes out to the field and labors but before too long he is tired and his health rapidly deteriorates.  Based on his level of discomfort, he leaves the field.  One day passes and then another.  Days turn into weeks.  The field is never prepared and no seeds are ever sown.  The family prays for an abundant harvest because their rations are nearly depleted but they pray in vain because no seeds were ever sown.  Harvest comes.  The family eats their final meager portions.  The man now sees the irrevocable and tragic effects of his decision to consider his own comfort before the well-being of his family.  Their supplies are spent.  The man and his family die.  Unknown to this family, many of the other settlers also experienced severe personal discomfort while laboring in the fields but they persevered because the lives of others depended on them.  They prepared the soil and unsparingly sowed seeds.  They prayed for God to bless their labors.  He rewarded them with a bountiful harvest.

There are two lessons on outreach from this parable.

  1. We are often quick to succumb to our personal discomfort when it comes to being a witness for Christ.  Sadly, this means our discomfort is more important to us than the lost souls of men. So are you willing to move beyond your personal discomfort in being a witness for Christ, especially this Easter season?  Are you willing to labor in the fields of the gospel for the sake of others regardless of the personal cost?
  2. We cannot pray for a gospel harvest if we never sow gospel seeds.  God cannot and will not bless outreach efforts we never carry out.  Are you praying for God to bless your non-efforts?   Conversely, we can and should pray for God to bring forth a harvest of souls when we faithfully and liberally sow gospel seeds.  The gospel is still the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes!

Evolution = Hopelessness to the Sufferer

On suffering and the “why” question, the 6.9 out of 7.0 agnostic Richard Dawkins essentially says don’t bother asking.  In his final chapter of The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution, Dawkins expands on each line in Darwin’s last paragraph of On the Origin of Species.  As Dawkins develops the line “From the war of nature, from famine and death,” he argues that nature has a “serene indifference” to suffering.

Yes there is grandeur in the view of this life, and even a kind of grandeur in nature’s serene indifference to the suffering that inexorably follows in the wake of its guiding principle, survival of the fittest (Richard Dawkins, The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution [New York: Free Press, 2009], 401).

This is the best evolution has to offer to the suffering human race; this is best bedside comfort Darwinism offers a dying person.  Give him credit for consistency.  Nevertheless, indifference to suffering is part of the DNA of natural selection.   What an arid, inhumane worldview.

Contrast this to the Christian worldview in which there is a Creator, who is neither detached nor indifferent to human suffering.  In fact, He entered into it by sending His son, Jesus Christ to live and die among us.  His Son suffered on the cross and rose again on the third day so that suffering brought on by sin would one day be entirely eradicated.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. [4] He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4).

Ideas have consequences, don’t they?  One may argue that on its face evolution is scientifically sophisticated (though this premise is not at all firmly or finally established).  Even if it were, it is absolutely useless for offering hope to a suffering human race.

A Resurrection Text, Hymn, and Image

Every Lord’s Day is a day to worship the risen Christ.  Yet Easter/Resurrection Sunday gives us a special opportunity to highlight this glorious event!  I will be preaching from John 20:1-18 tomorrow.  So the resurrection text I’ll share with you is John’s account of the resurrection, the hymn is Charles Wesley’s, “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today,” which undoubtedly will be sung widely and joyously by Christians all around the world tomorrow, and the image is a depiction of the empty tomb. 

Rejoice my brothers and sisters!  He is Risen! 

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. [2] So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” [3] So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. [4] Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. [5] And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. [6] Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, [7] and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. [8] Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; [9] for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. [10] Then the disciples went back to their homes. [11] But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. [12] And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. [13] They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” [14] Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. [15] Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” [16] Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). [17] Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” [18] Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.

Christ, the Lord, is risen today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens, and earth, reply, Alleluia!

Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Lo! the Sun’s eclipse is over, Alleluia!
Lo! He sets in blood no more, Alleluia!

Vain the stone, the watch, the seal, Alleluia!
Christ hath burst the gates of hell, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids His rise, Alleluia!
Christ hath opened paradise, Alleluia!

Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once He died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!

Soar we now where Christ hath led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!

Hail, the Lord of earth and Heaven, Alleluia!
Praise to Thee by both be given, Alleluia!
Thee we greet triumphant now, Alleluia!
Hail, the resurrection, thou, Alleluia!

King of glory, Soul of bliss, Alleluia!
Everlasting life is this, Alleluia!
Thee to know, Thy power to prove, Alleluia!
Thus to sing and thus to love, Alleluia!

Hymns of praise then let us sing, Alleluia!
Unto Christ, our heavenly King, Alleluia!
Who endured the cross and grave, Alleluia!
Sinners to redeem and save. Alleluia!

But the pains that He endured, Alleluia!
Our salvation have procured, Alleluia!
Now above the sky He’s King, Alleluia!
Where the angels ever sing. Alleluia!

Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!
Our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
Who did once upon the cross, Alleluia!
Suffer to redeem our loss. Alleluia!