Palm Sunday, April 2, 2023

Responding to Jesus (Luke 19:28-44)

“In her book, ‘The God Who Hung on the Cross,’ journalist Ellen Vaughn retells a gripping story of how the Gospel came to a small village in Cambodia.   In September 1999 Pastor Tuy Seng (not his real name) traveled to Kampong Thom Province in northern Cambodia.  Throughout that isolated area, most villagers had cast their lot with Buddhism or spiritism.  Christianity was virtually unheard of.

“But much to Seng’s surprise, when he arrived in one small, rural village the people warmly embraced him and his message about Jesus.  When he asked the villagers about their openness to the gospel, an old woman shuffled forward, bowed, and grasped Seng’s hands as she said, “We have been waiting for you for twenty years.”  And then she told him the story of the mysterious God who had hung on the cross.

“In the 1970s the Khmer Rouge, the brutal, Communist-led regime, took over Cambodia, destroying everything in its path.  When the soldiers finally descended on this rural, northern village in 1979, they immediately rounded up the villagers and forced them to start digging their own graves.  After the villagers had finished digging, they prepared themselves to die.  Some screamed to Buddha, others screamed to demon spirits or to their ancestors.

“One of the women started to cry for help based on a childhood memory—a story her mother told her about a God who had hung on a cross.  The woman prayed to that unknown God on a cross.  Surely, if this God had known suffering, he would have compassion on their plight.

“Suddenly, her solitary cry became one great wail as the entire village started praying to the God who had suffered and hung on a cross.  As they continued facing their own graves, the wailing slowly turned to a quiet crying.  There was an eerie silence in the muggy jungle air.  Slowly, as they dared to turn around and face their captors, they discovered that the soldiers were gone.

“As the old woman finished telling this story, she told Pastor Seng that ever since that humid day from 20 years ago the villagers had been waiting, waiting for someone to come and share the rest of the story about the God who had hung on a cross.”  [Source:  Doris I Rosser & Ellen Vaugh, “The God Who Hung on The Cross”]

Just as these villagers waited for a gospel evangelist, the people of Israel were waiting for the Messiah to come and save them.

“The importance of Jesus’ last week before the cross may be seen in the space given to it by the gospel writers.  Matthew and Mark devote about a third of their books to the events of Passion Week and Jesus’ resurrection.  A little less than a quarter of Luke’s Gospel and nearly half of John’s Gospel record this same period.  This emphasis is appropriate, since Jesus’ death and resurrection are the major purposes for His coming into our world.  He triumphantly embarked on the last stage of His mission.” [Source:  “The Life and Ministry of Jesus Christ, Book III,”(NavPress, 1983).  p. 29]

Therefore, as we direct our focus on the Gospel of Luke 19:28-44, Luke reveals two passionate responses of individuals, responses that reveal the presence of saving faith and absence of saving faith. 

First, people with saving faith in Christ will passionately glorify Jesus (Luke 19:28-38).  Why did the multitude shout out praises to Jesus?  Many people had their lives forever changed when Jesus healed their bodies and souls. 

In addition, the multitudes obviously possessed an understanding of the prophecies regarding the Messiah and believed they were witnessing the fulfillment of prophecy before their eyes.  The Messiah was in their midst!  

This Jesus Who caused the blind to see, the dumb to speak, the deaf to hear, the lame to walk, the dead to live again, brought a flood of joyful tears to young and old.  No wonder they cried, Hosanna!

NOTE:  It is no different today.  Jesus continues to be the Hope for the hopeless, the Joy for the joyless.  Can you not hear the children shout, “Jesus!  Jesus!”  Can you not see families, along with sinners guilty of unspeakable sins, wiping their eyes, knowing God’s restoration to their lives and the forgiveness of sins?!  It seems inconceivable that these people would turn on Jesus.  

What a glorious One-Man parade!  This is God’s Day!

These folks whose God-given faith had changed their lives did not possess a fickle faith.  Their voices were not part of the mob’s cries crucify Him six days later; rather their faith was authentic and passionate!

Second, people with no saving faith in Christ will passionately oppose Jesus (Luke 19:39-44).

People without saving faith from God are already at war with God (Ephesians 2:1-3).  It is their nature to oppose and reject God and His Word.  Their hearts are rebellious and refuse to submit to God.  After all, their sin nature controls them.  Opposition, jealousy, envy, hostility, selfishness, self-centeredness, wrath, and rejection of God’s love are just some of the fruits of an unbeliever.  Therefore, unless God intervenes in their lives and brings life to their dead spirit, they will perish in their sins.

Oh, that God would save our family members who do not know Christ but reject Him.  Oh Lord Jesus, have mercy on them, PLEASE!

Scripture reveals only two occasions when Jesus wept; the first occasion occurred when He raised Lazarus from the tomb (John 11:35); the second occasion occurred when He drew near the City of  Jerusalem for the last time (Luke 19:41).  

Like Jeremiah who wept bitterly over the future destruction of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 9; Lamentations), Jesus wept for Jerusalem and its people.  Everywhere Jesus looked, Jesus found cause for weeping because Jesus saw their past and wasted opportunities, their present setting and useless religious activities, and their future – destruction, ruin, and judgment.

Palm Sunday calls us to remember and to respond to Jesus’ willingness to walk to His death.  Jesus rejected any celebrity status.  Jesus was not about winning a popularity contest.  Rather, Jesus calls His disciples to “take up” His cross and follow Him.  If we are to follow Christ, we must die to ourselves every day.  Therefore…

1.  The sinner’s life with Christ begins with our acknowledgment to God that we are sinners and are under condemnation of God. 

2.  Second, each person must believe Jesus died on the cross for his/her sins.  Jesus Christ is our substitutionary Savor.  The Son of God died for you, taking on your unrighteousness and giving you His righteousness (2nd Corinthians 5:21).  Moreover, you must believe that Jesus rose from the dead.  Christ’s resurrection has secured forever salvation for the sinner.

3.  Finally, you must call out to Him to save you (Romans 10:9-13).  I did!  What about you? 


Pastor Phil

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