J. Gordon Duncan

Culture, Business, Fitness, Etc.

Family Devotion and Sermon Notes for Palm Sunday 2012

Big Picture Question:  What would it look like for you, your family, this church, and this city to unreservedly serve and glorify Jesus Christ?

John 12:1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. 3 Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. 7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. 8 For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”

  • How did Mary serve Jesus?
  • What was Judas’ problem with Mary’s act of service?
  • Why does Jesus receive Mary’s gift?

 9 When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, 11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.

  • Why were the crowds looking for Jesus?
  • Why did the Chief Priests want to put Jesus to death?

 12 The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” 14 And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, 15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!”

  • How did the people worship Jesus?
  • How did this moment fulfill a promise of scripture?
  • What do the crowds and Mary have in common?

 16 His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. 17 The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. 18 The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”

  • Why did the people glorify Jesus?
  • How did the Pharisees react?
  • How do these verses demonstrate the deferent responses people have to Jesus?
  • Have you ever worshiped Jesus?  If so, why and how?

20 Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21 So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

 

Palm Sunday is celebrated each year one week before we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We don’t have too much of a religious calendar here in America, but we do have a few tried and true celebrations.  I mean, we know Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th, but we take that time each year to celebrate Jesus’ birth.  We know Jesus wasn’t resurrected on April 8th, but we take that time each year, somewhere around there to celebrate the resurrection.  Some churches celebrate Palm Sunday and others don’t.  We do and for this reason.  Palm Sunday gives us a chance to see one of the few times that Jesus was glorified and praised here on earth.  You see Jesus spent most of His ministry being rejected, lied about, and even spat upon.

Palm Sunday shows Jesus being glorified – not just by His disciples but by an entire city.  And if we pay attention, we will see a call to our hearts to glorify Jesus and we will also see a vision that our entire city might do the same.  So this is not going to be a typical sermon with 5 verses and then an explanation.  I want to walk us through an entire chapter of the book of John so that we can see both the context of Palm Sunday and the application of Palm Sunday.  Towards that end, let’s shoot for this

Big Picture Question:  What would it look like for you, your family, this church, and this city to unreservedly serve and glorify Jesus Christ?

To understand what happens in John that would move an entire city to stop and give praise to Jesus while He rode into town on a donkey, we have to see what happened just prior to all of that.  At the beginning of John 12, Jesus came to a town called Bethany.  That was the city where Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead, so Jesus is famous there.  The city knows that He performs miracles.  They were at Lazarus’ funeral and were at His tomb.  Lazarus was smelly and dead.  His friends still mourned but the city had moved on, and Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.

So Jesus returns to that city, and of course has a meal with His friends.  Mary, Martha and Lazarus provide an oasis for Jesus in the midst of world where people are either violent hostile to Him or violently curious about Him.  While Jesus is chilling at their table, something interesting happens.  Listen to this:

John 12:1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. 3 Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

What we see here is an act of mercy, service, and glory to Jesus.  Mary shows mercy to Jesus by anointing His hard, dirty, tired feet.  Remember, Jesus travels with no luxuries.  We get mad if the AC breaks.  Jesus had nothing, so Mary anointing His feet is an act of mercy.  Washing Jesus’ feet is an act of stark, honest worship.  Women didn’t unbind their hair public and they certainly didn’t give away expensive perfume, but Mary reserves nothing in her worship.  She will give everything away to worship Jesus:  her dignity, her appearance, and her money.It is an act of service because there are so few who appear to want to serve Jesus.  Everyone wants something from Jesus.  Mary wants to give to Jesus.  And it is also an act of giving Jesus glory.  He alone is worthy of praise, and Mary demonstrates that by worshiping Jesus in the humble act.

This is a supreme example of our Big Picture Question.  How do we give glory to Jesus?  We serve Him.  He is our master.  We are His servants.  We submit ourselves to Him.  We offer praise and glory to Him alone.  Now, you would think that Jesus disciples and followers would like what’s going on here.  But another lesson to be learned is that anytime you boldly serve Jesus, someone is going to be boldy offended.  This time, it is from one of Jesus’ disciples.

4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. 7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. 8 For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”

Judas doesn’t see what Mary is doing as worship.  He doesn’t see the reckless abandoning heart cry that is Mary’s anointing of Jesus.  No, he sees fiscal responsibility.  He says, “Are you kidding me?  That perfume is worth 300 denarii, that’s a year’s worth of money.”  What would Dave Ramsey say about that?  Then he gets pious probably when he realizes that he should have kept his mouth shut.

He says, “I mean you could have fed the poor with that money.”  But the real reason for his anger was that Judas was a thief.  He used to steal money from the disciples money bag and had he known that Mary had that kind of money, he may very well have tried to steal that too.  Jesus’ response is this:  He says, “Let her worship me and you don’t bother her.   There is going to be plenty of time to do the work of the kingdom which is caring for the poor.  Now is the time to worship me because I am about to leave.”

We should notice a couple of things from the examples of Mary and Judas.  The simplest of which is worship Jesus and not money, right?  But that is not how I want to challenge us today.  As desperately as we need to talk about that as a congregation, I’m not going to do that.  Jesus calls you and me for unreserved, abandoning worship and adoration of Him.  There will always be things that will call our attention away.  Some of those things will be good and will be our responsibility like caring for the poor.  Some of the things that will call our attention away will be sinful like the useless things we do to fill our time.  But in that moment and in that very hour, and in this moment and in this very hour, we are called to worship Jesus.

Let’s follow Mary’s example and abandon all reserve and worship Jesus.  Now right after this, people begin to show up.  Remember Jesus is famous in this city so when they hear that He is near, they show up.  The think, “The Circus is in town.”

9 When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, 11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.

So everyone is running and flocking to Jesus.  The Jews want to see and touch Him and ask questions of Him.  I’m sure some who have heard of this story want also to see and hear Lazarus and make sure that the rumors they have heard are true.  The Chief Priest doesn’t really like it though.  They were the religious leaders of the Jews and they don’t want the Jews running to anybody but them.  They offered a shell of worship, a mockery of what true adoration of God looked like.

All they want to do is re-secure their power base.  So the chief priests plan to kill Jesus AND Lazarus because so many people are leaving them and following Jesus.  How in the world could anyone think this is Godly?  The chief priests are plotting murder.  Gang, one lesson to be learned here is this:  Cold, dead, lifeless religion that doesn’t change the heart will ultimately move to hatred of Jesus Christ.   Oh the form of religion may use His name, but if your worship isn’t like Mary’s abandoning of the soul, you will eventually hate Jesus and anyone else who loves Him.  The Town of Garner littered with the casualties of such hollow worship.

The Chief Priests hated Jesus so much that they were willing to kill Him and willing to kill His living example of power, Lazarus.  On side note:  Have you ever considered how ridiculous their plan was to kill Jesus?   I mean if He can raise the dead…I mean, what do they hope to accomplish?  If Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, why do they think killing him would help?

You see again, in our understanding of what whole-hearted, unreserved worship of Jesus looks like, we need to learn from opposite example.  No, I don’t think any of you conspired to kill Jesus this week, but the question is, “Was your heart drawn to Him as the wellspring of life?”  “Did you see Jesus and Jesus alone as the sole hope for joy or do you see it coming by your own hand, your own efforts, or your own accomplishments?”  Is where Jesus takes you the only place you want to go whether or not you know or even like where He leads you?

Well, let’s found out again what worship should look like.  Jesus leaves Bethany and heads to Jerusalem.  Jesus isn’t running away from His enemies.  Jesus knew all along that Jerusalem was where He was going and this is where He would ultimately be tried and crucified.  So, look at verse 12.

John 12:12 The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” 14 And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, 15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!”

What we are seeing here on Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem is a picture of the work of the church.  We are to worship Jesus.  And we are to play a part in bringing our city to worship Jesus.

Look at how Jesus is worshipped here – Jesus is so rarely worshipped.  This picture is so refreshing.  Here, finally in this moment, Jesus is proclaimed as King and Savior.  The waving of palm branches in that day was a royal coronation that declared Jesus as King.  The crowd is yelling “Hosanna” which is a word that we can so easily know and sing and say but easily miss the emphasis of.

Hosanna is a proclamation of the heart that declares that God has done something.   The opportunities for Hosanna in your life are countless and endless.  You might have to look for them sometimes, but the work of God is at least displayed in the heavens.  It is displayed whenever you sit and eat.  It is displayed right now and you hear the words of grace preached.

For Jerusalem that day?   God was worthy of a Hosanna because He has brought the King of His people, the God of this World, the Savior of sinners and wrapped Him in the humility of a man riding on a donkey.  And not one ounce of beauty, deity, or power has been lost.  We are to say, Hosanna Jesus has come in the name of the Lord.

Now, there is another way that this Triumphal Entry is a picture of the church.  The church proclaims Jesus as the Savior riding on a Donkey.   The church is to draw in people to worship Jesus.  We are to play a part in gathering in this city, our neighborhoods, and our workplaces to do the same.

And just like in that day, I’m sure some are going to proclaim Jesus as King because He is the answer to their heart’s cry.  Others are going to gather to see the show.  Yet, either way, we are to proclaim Jesus.

In this moment, you should consider ways in which the Kingdom might be advanced by your living out a life of crying “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel”  Renew your heart now.   Remind and rehearse how great God.  Command your heart to praise Jesus and declare Hosannas.  Ask God to give you an infectious desire to praise God that catches with every single person you bump into so that others in this city might do the same.

Now in this moment, this incredible mind-blowing example of an entire city coming out to worship Jesus, you know who doesn’t get it?   The very people who should have gotten it:  the disciples.  Look at verse 16

16 His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. 17 The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. 18 The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”

What the disciples don’t understand here is Jesus being praised for being King.  Oh, they want Him to be king alright.  They still have desires of Jesus being a political king that will overthrow the pagan Roman government that is occupying Israel.

The book of John, being the last Gospel written, explains though that once Jesus died, rose again, and showed Himself glorified, they understand the true nature of Jesus’ kingship.  But at that moment, they didn’t understand the palm waving.  What’s going on here in this passage is larger and greater than any human inauguration the world has ever seen.  The King of Sinners has arrived.  Praise Him.  Overthrowing hostile Romans is too small of a picture for this king.  He is going to overthrow sin and death.

Now verse 17 tells us that the crowd with Jesus and His disciples have been with Him since He raised Lazarus from the dead, and they continue to tell everyone what Jesus has done.  What might they be saying?  Is this the one who was promised?  We know he has the power over death.  Guys, this has got to be the one who we have waited for for so long.  He is the cry of our hearts.

And their testimony is effective.  People are flocking to hear this message.  Gang, what would it look like if your heart valued and treasured Jesus like this?  What if you thought of Jesus as the hope of your heart?  What if you couldn’t help but speak of His majesty and beauty?  I can tell you what would happen and what might happen.  What would happen would be Jesus lifted up, glorified and God praise.  What would happen is that you would have more peace than you could ever imagine.  What might happen would be your home, this church, and this city might just be transformed.

And as always, when Jesus is praised, opposition arises.  So many people are responding that the Pharisees are losing hope.  They say to one another, “Great.  We’ve been fighting this guy for 3 years, and we’ve gained nothing.  It looks like whole world has gone after Him.  You see what is effective here?  People aren’t running around speaking about their subjective experiences that can be argued and disputed.  Though there is a time and place for those types of testimonies, the people of Jesus’ day keep it simple.  They speak about who Jesus Christ is.  They are speaking about what He has done.

They don’t let the conversation change subjects because the subject is Jesus.  They don’t get caught up in political discussion.  They speak about Jesus.  This is powerful testimony.

Gang, if you have wondered why more people don’t come to know Jesus around you.  If you have ever wondered why people disregard your testimony.  If you have ever wondered why you love drama and have to create crisis to feel important.  If you have wondered why you love your sin so much.  If you have ever wondered why this church doesn’t grow faster, I can tell you in least in part.

In the part, the answer is that we aren’t talking about Jesus enough.  Jesus is always the main thing, and we must keep the main thing the main thing.

20 Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21 So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

Obviously, all of this talk about Jesus is attracting attention, and not just from curious Jews looking for a King or Messiah.  The Greeks with their entire pantheon of gods have heard of Jesus.  Even, they want to know who He is.  So they ask Philip, and Philip gets Andrew and they went to tell Jesus that I guess the Pharisees were right.  Maybe the whole world is asking about Jesus because even those pagan Greeks are here.

But Jesus, as always, surprises.  He doesn’t run to tell all the Greeks about Himself.   No, He makes a declaration:  He says, “It is time.  Now is the hour for the Son of man to be glorified.  Jesus uses the title “Son of Man’ here to identify Himself with us.   The Redeemer of fallen men and women, His time has now come to be glorified.

Now, when we hear that, perhaps we think, ‘No longer will Jesus be humiliated or rejected,” but that is exactly the means by which He will be glorified.  To explain that Jesus casts a powerful image.  I can imagine Jesus looking out at a wheat field.  He says, “The only way you get that kind of harvest is if the grain seed falls to the ground…and dies.”

Now before we go any further, Jesus uses the very workings of nature to illustrate that if He is going to truly reign as King, then He must die.  For Jesus ultimately to be glorified, He must die.  But I don’t think Jesus’ point is merely to illustrate the nature of His Rule.  It is also to point out the nature of  how YOU should live.

I mean Jesus tells us that we must pick up our cross and follow Him doesn’t He?  According to Jesus, if you love your life here in this earth?  Then you are going to have to lose it.  But if you hate your life here on this earth?  Then you will have eternal life.

Jesus’ point is so radical I dare say I don’t know very many human beings who come close to living it out.  Your desire to follow Jesus, your affection for Him should be so great, that it should be the central interest of your life.  And the degree to which you follow Him should make it look like you don’t give a damn about your own personal life.

Does that mean you don’t care for yourself or raise your children?  Of course not.  Does that mean you don’t care for yourself?  Of course not.  The thing is, you care for yourself, you raise your children, you do all of these things, but you don’t do those things for personal, selfish reason.  But we aren’t slaves to raising our children, we aren’t slaves to our body…we aren’t slaves to anything or anyone but Jesus.  You raise your kids, take care of yourself, etc, you do those things because you are hopelessly attracted to, devoted to, and in love with the Son of Man, Jesus Christ.

The central frustration of many of your lives though is that God has not made your life what you want it to be.  You want easier, simpler, healthier, richer, and on and on.  That is not what we are called to.  We are called to follow Jesus to such an extent that those worries don’t measure up to the concern we have for proclaiming and giving affection to Jesus Christ.  It should look like we hate this life because we love the next.  It should look like we have died and been reborn.

Have you ever seen the movie “The Shawshank Redemption”?   In that move, the main character Andy Dufrense offers this wise advice to us:  “Either get busy living or get busy dying.”  If you want to follow and serve Jesus, if you want your family and this church to follow and serve Jesus, if you want this city to follow and serve Jesus, then you have to follow and serve His example:  You have to crucify your life for the Glory of God.

Where Jesus would have you go with the message of the Gospel, that is where you go to the sacrifice of every other personal desire.  Home, school, work, neighborhood, city, church.  You say, “Gordon, that is too hard.  Jesus demands too much.”  And sympathetically but honestly I’ll tell you, “Since when did you think that Jesus demanded less, that He didn’t demand everything?”

Here is what I think is going on here at SK right now.  I think most of us are going through the very painful process of our lives falling to the ground and we are painfully watching ourselves die.  Some of you have dreams of greater work and employment.  Some of you have dreams a healthier life.  Some of you have dreams of more children.  Some of you have dreams of a better lifestyle.

And you know what, those dreams are not inherently bad.  In fact, they can be pretty nice.  But here is the thing.  Do you want Jesus more than all of them?  Are you satisfied with Jesus alone?  If you never get a better job, if your health never improves, if you never get married, or never have kids, or your lifestyle never improves, is Jesus alone enough?  If the answer is, “No, He is not enough,” then I imagine you are going through the very painful process of watching those dreams die.

So, you might ask, “Well, what then?  What is the solution?”  I will make very clear for you.  Take every desire you have in this world, good bad or indifferent.  Lay them at the feet of Jesus Christ.  And pray you can say this, “Jesus you are enough for me.  I love you so much that if I never get desire one in this world, I resolve to live happily because I have Jesus Christ as my Savior.  If you bless me with even one of these desires, I’ll say thanks, but if you bless me with none, my heart is satisfied in you.”

Until your heart can pray that prayer, your effectiveness as a child of God in terms of loving Jesus, proclaiming Jesus, and serving in the name of Jesus is going to be diminished.  In fact, I’ll will say until Jesus is ALL you want, you will not be effective.  The beautiful thing is this:  we aren’t giving up anything if we give our earthly desires to Jesus.  He is more than our souls could ever dream of and more beautiful and gracious and wonderful than our hearts desires.  The way up this Palm Sunday is the way down.  The way to life this Palm Sunday is death.  The way to know joy and happiness is to kill the competing idols in your heart that would take Jesus’ place on the throne.

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April 1, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , ,

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