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Palm Sunday Perspective (Part 2 of 3)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
March 29, 2023 4:00 am

Palm Sunday Perspective (Part 2 of 3)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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March 29, 2023 4:00 am

The ignorance and confusion expressed by the apostles might surprise us. After all, they learned directly from Jesus. When would they finally “get it”? Listen to Truth For Life as Alistair Begg points out that we’re actually not so different from them.



Does it ever seem to you like Jesus' disciples were pretty thick-headed? They were with him for three or more years. It would seem like his teaching would have soaked in.

They would have finally gotten it. Today on Truth for Life, we'll find out that we're actually not so different from the crowd that followed Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Alistair Begg is teaching today from chapter 11 in Mark's Gospel. As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethpage and Bethany, Jesus then lets his disciples know that it's going to be a different kind of journey to Jerusalem. And he tells the disciples that he is going to ride into Jerusalem. And when Jesus had the donkey brought to him, they threw their cloaks over it, and he just sat on it. With all the potential risk, presumably, that it would buck and jump or kick, with the thought that twenty minutes later he could still be sitting on the donkey, and he hadn't gone anywhere towards Jerusalem, right?

Apparently not. And he sat on it. It seemed perfectly natural. Christ, the creator of the universe, the Lord of creation, subdues creation. After all the winds and the waves obeyed him, no difficulty to slip onto the back of the unwritten donkey and proceed towards his destiny. Is there not something here that is pointing forward to this kingdom that is going to come when the lion will lie down with the lamb? When Christ, in all of his magnificent and transcendent power, creates a new heaven and a new earth in which we will enjoy all of the beauties and wonders of that which he has created for our enjoyment?

Well, you need to go home and think about these things. It may be. It may not be. But verse 8 tells us that as a result of his having ascended to this position of pomp, albeit lowly pomp, they began to spread their cloaks on the road. This wasn't unfamiliar. Some went and cut branches in the fields, and they spread branches, creating a kind of festival, a great festive pilgrimage for Jesus and the others who are making their way towards Jerusalem. And so, the cloaks and the branches flood the road, and the cries of the crowd fill the air. And these cries of Hosanna and blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord were familiar cries to many of those people. I turn for a moment to Psalm 118, and let me just set this in context for you. After all, what is it that they're shouting? Well, this was the last of the Hallel psalms, psalms that were recited at all the major festivals in Jerusalem.

The presenter would shout one part, and then the crowd would respond in an antiphonal fashion. And you'll notice how much of this psalm you actually know without realizing that you knew it. Verse 22, the stone the builders rejected has become the capstone. The Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. You remember, Peter picks that up and he uses it in his first letter to the scattered Christians, and he says, Jesus is the capstone, he's the cornerstone, and you also are living stones built into a spiritual temple, a house that is not made with hands.

You are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light so that you may declare his praises. That's from Psalm 118. This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

True of every day, true of particular days. And then, O Lord, save us, hosanna, O Lord, grant us success. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, and from the house of the Lord we bless you. And so it would go on. Now it is this that these people choose to chant. And when you look at verse 10, you find a piece that's not in Psalm 118. It is the coming kingdom of our father David. Now that in itself is interesting. And again, you need to try and think of how these events happen.

How does it go with crowds? How is it that these people all of a sudden have begun to do these things and say these things? Where does this come from? Well, it actually comes from a whole jumble of influences—the fact of the celebrations that they have gathered for in Jerusalem. Everybody's there. They're there to rejoice in the past of what God has done and to anticipate what God may yet do. They are there in order to call upon the Lord from his temple. They are there to hear God speak. And as we might imagine, they were there with the hope of liberation—a national, political liberation in many cases—that totally misunderstood the possibilities of spiritual redemption. And so, when they put together all these bits and pieces, it's no surprise that in verse 10 they have determined that perhaps this kingdom of our father David will come, and we can be done with the kingdoms of this world.

Now, the conversation in the crowd would just have tended in that direction. Somebody may have said, you know, Jesus, who is on that donkey, from the very beginning he's been talking about a kingdom. In chapter 1 and verse 15, Jesus said, The time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.

That was right from the very beginning. In chapter 9 and in verse 1, he'd come back to this issue of the kingdom. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power. So the people are putting these snippets of information together, combined with their own hopes and dreams and their expectations. Some who had been present for this dramatic transformation in the life of Bartimaeus will have remembered that he was crying out, Jesus, you're the Son of David!

Have mercy on me! And so they mingle the notion of the Davidic kingdom, the establishing of God's rule with their own earthly expectations and with everything that's going on in the crowd. What you essentially have in this crowd is what you have in any crowd.

You've got a whole mixture of notions, ideas, emotions, expectations, longings, and desires. In recent days there have been all kinds of crowd scenes on television. One gets the impression that sometimes they've actually been mustered up, that the people have been planted in some of the situations in the crowd so that they may be able to give the correct kind of soundbites in answer to the questions asked by journalists. One has the distinct impression that if you were to move beyond the immediate people who are the representatives of the professed statements, you may find all kinds of ideas and notions and confusions.

And of course, that's exactly what we would expect. People are coming down the road, they're going for their shopping, and all of a sudden they see a fire engine. And the fire engine has created a semicircular gathering, and the crowd is gathering, and so they go onto the fringe of the crowd. And they're not on the fringe of the crowd for a minute, before the word has started to come back.

Little snippets of information. You know, there were three people in the building, and one of them fell out of the kitchen window. Oh, then now you're on the outer rim of the crowd.

Yes, I believe one jumped out of the kitchen window. It wasn't jumped, it was fell, and actually it wasn't fell, it had nothing to do with the kitchen window, but it's like the party game, and so the word is going all around. And the great difficulty for the journalist is to get to the heart of the matter and find out exactly what's going on here. Because there's nobody that he asks in the crowd that seems to have the foggiest notion as to what is really transpiring.

That's how you want to view this event here on the dramatic journey to Jerusalem. People are saying, well, I'm actually not sure. I was going to the market, and I saw Levi, and Levi said, this has been fantastic, we've been here for a couple of hours, and there's branches, there's saying, it's a going deal.

What is it? I don't know, but I'm enjoying it. After all, what are you going to do?

You can get your shopping anytime. Let's go, we're going up to Jerusalem. And what about the disciples? Did they know what was going on? No, they didn't know what was going on. Clearly they didn't know what was going on. They're just like a group of men caught up in a dream. This unfolding drama is surprising to them. That's why Mark says they were astonished. They were astonished.

This is just trying to put the material together. Jesus says, we're going up to Jerusalem, and I will be taken at the hands of wicked men, and I will be crucified. They will spit on me, and they will do all these things to me. By the way, could you just go down there and get that donkey for me? What are you doing now, Jesus? Well, I'm going to ride up on Jerusalem.

I see. Not on a horse, Jesus? No, not a horse. We're going up on a donkey.

All right, well then, let's go. And all of a sudden, all this hullabaloo. The disciples looking quizzically at one another, saying, do you understand what's going on here?

No, says Peter, frankly, I haven't a clue. I've told them more than once, if you don't get a hold of this thing, there is no saying what's going to happen to you. The crowd, which had previously, Mark told us in chapter 10, had been marked by fear, the fear has now been replaced with a kind of agitated excitement. But I think we read far too much into the story. It has far more to do with the way we've been taught it in the past, to see this group of individuals as a convinced group. How convinced would this group be if they could be so quickly unconvinced? I mean, how convinced is that? I don't think they're convinced at all. I think they're confused.

Oh, doubtless there are some there, they've got a hold of it, there always will be some within the crowd. But the general gathering, two or three years ago now, Sue and I were in Oxford on this particular day—Oxford, England, that is—and we went to a small Anglican church in the company of friends, and not long after the vicar had begun his sermon, he all of a sudden concluded it, saying that he was taking the rest of it outside. And so we said, fine, it wasn't that good in any case. And so we were now mobilized, and apparently what was happening is that as we went out through the North Ex, they were giving to us palm branches, sort of representative palm branches, about twelve inches in height, with a little circle around the cross. I hadn't a clue what was going on, but I figured we're leaving, so we took the material and went outdoors following the vicar. The vicar then proceeded to make a right-hand turn out of the gate and go up a small avenue where there were homes, with a lot of people who, frankly, on an early Sunday morning were still in their beds. As we went up, following along, the children in front and then the rest of us behind, if anyone had come and said, and exactly what is happening now, we'd have to say, sorry, haven't got a clue, ask the guy at the front. Eventually we got to the end of the avenue, it was a cul-de-sac, and he shouted out, Hosanna! And we had been pre-prompted, at least on the previous Sunday, which I had missed. And the rest of the crowd, and we joined in, shouted, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! And then, after we stood for about a minute or so in silence, then he proceeded to lead us down to a cul-de-sac on the other side of the small area, and we did the same thing. I looked at the children, they were having a lovely time.

Any chance you get to get outdoors, especially when the vicar's preaching, is a great idea. The parents were all kind of googly-eyed, like, oh, isn't that lovely? Look at Penelope with the palm, isn't this nice? Isn't this the kind of thing that we love, you know?

Some of the teenagers were thoroughly embarrassed, they've already got a cross somewhere, the palm trying to lose it anywhere they can. And the visitors were just caught up in a celebration. And the people are opening their windows, their curtains, and looking out, hey, I'm here!

What's going on down there? Hey, we'd say, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Well, could you just move down the street and bless somebody else? We're trying to sleep here, it's Sunday morning, don't you understand?

Let me tell you something. This congregation this morning is no different from the crowd in Mark chapter 11. If I were to go from pew to pew and work my way right across here, it's no surprise to discover that we're full of all kinds of notions, emotions, expectations, longings, concerns, and confusions. Some of us, frankly, are just caught up in the parade. It's Palm Sunday, we go. We say, well, okay, we go.

If we came to interview you, say, why are you here, say, my wife told me, we go. And it's more than my life's worth. I only do it twice a year, and frankly, I'm not about to make a fuss. So I'm here. Well, what do you think about Jesus of Nazareth and riding on a donkey? I haven't got a clue. I was hoping you would hurry up and tell me what this was about, but apparently your time is running out and you've failed to do so.

I'm thoroughly disgusted with the whole affair. When they ask the people upon their arrival in Jerusalem, who is this, pointing to the individual on the donkey, they do not say, this is the Messiah of God, the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. They say, this is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth.

Well, what insight was there in that? Everybody understood he was Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth. He was notorious.

Sure, his name recognition had built over time. It was at his zenith right now, but there was no great insight to say, this is Jesus, the prophet, the carpenter from Nazareth. And verse 11 concludes the scene for us with Mark. Jesus entered Jerusalem, and he went to the temple, and he looked around at everything.

But since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve. It's really triumphant, isn't it? It's got a real ring to it, doesn't it? No, it doesn't at all.

It almost seems flat. It almost seems anticlimactic. Now, if I had the opportunity to make a movie of this, which I don't, and if my wife was listening, she'd say, judging by your home movies, you shouldn't even talk about making movies. But anyway, somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I got this illusion about how I would know how to do these things. There's no reason.

It's just presumption on my part. But this scene here, this verse 11 scene, is a fantastic scene. There's no dialogue in this.

This is a long shot to begin with, this is a long lens. This is—the music goes to a minor key. The cellos come to the fore. There's a great sweeping panoramic shot that goes through the temple precincts and sees Jesus standing there, and it begins to move forward and picks up at least the fringes of the Mount of Olives. And in my scene now, as I direct it, I don't have Jesus on camera saying anything, but we have the voice of Jesus speaking as the camera angle just continues to pan this rather forlorn and interesting scene with the evening shadows falling. And we hear the voice of Jesus saying, O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who stone the prophets, how often would I have gathered you if, as a hen gathers her chicks, why you would not come to me? And then the words of Jesus, Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days. And again the words of Jesus, This is a wonderful place, but there will not be one stone left upon another. And then, finally, the camera moves in, and you have Jesus speaking directly to the group that have gathered with him, and he says, It's too late for anything this evening.

Let's just go back to Bethany. Now what is here in verse 11? What is Jesus now doing in verse 11? He is surveying the battle scene. He is surveying the battle scene on which he is to suffer and die. He is looking now into the face of the future, and you must, loved ones, understand this. Our picture of Christ towards atonement is such a manufactured picture.

It's such a mechanistic picture. It's such a theologically systematized picture that I think that many of us miss the pathos that is in this. When Jesus awakened on this morning, and his eyes looked up at the ceiling, and in those early moments of consciousness, he said to himself, Now what does this day hold? He realized that he was another twenty-four hours closer to all of the agony and the pain and the vilification which was to be his as the very suffering servant of God. And when he sits on that donkey in a position of ignominy, in the paradoxical pomp of the King of the universe who made the donkey and created the heavens and fashioned the very DNA of everyone who looked at him, as he makes his way up there and dismounts and stands and views the scene, he is looking across the battle of all time. He is looking across the battle of the ages. He is about to wage war for men and women in this congregation this morning, for your souls, for your eternal destiny, so that you may understand what is being cried out of Psalm 118, O Lord, save us! O Lord, grant us success!

Have you ever cried to God to save you, to grant you the kind of success that has nothing to do with your job and nothing to do with how bright your family are and nothing to do with your bank balance but the kind of success that answers the deepest longings and cries of the human heart for meaning and for forgiveness and for freedom from guilt? And he surveyed the scene. That's what this day is about. That's what it's about.

Now that's all of the description. There are two questions that are begged in the description. And one is, what does all this mean? And the other is, why should any of this matter? And if you're a thinking person, you're here this morning, especially if you're dragged along, that's what you're thinking right now. What does it all mean? And why should it even matter?

I thought there'd be some palm branches. I thought maybe we'd go out and up the street, up Pettibone Road, and you, Vicar, you would lead us, and we could just shout for a little, and we'd get out of this, this dreadfully long sermon which we're hoping now is about to stop. You mean to tell me you say this matters? My dear friends, it matters so much, I hate to think of you walking out not knowing how much it matters. But our time is gone, and so this evening we'll answer those two questions. What does all this stuff mean? Why does all this stuff matter?

We certainly need to find out if we're going to tell others what it means and why it matters. You're listening to Truth for Life, that is Alistair Begg with a helpful perspective on what happened on Palm Sunday. Jesus was surveying the greatest battlefield of all time.

Alistair returns in just a moment to close today's program. In the battle that was waged at the cross, it appeared that Jesus had lost, but as we know, that was not the end of the story. His victory was secured for all time when he rose from the grave three days later. That's the subject of a book called With a Mighty Triumph. This is a book that'll help you gain a solid understanding of why the resurrection of Jesus is essential to the Gospel message. This book gives every believer the assurance that we will one day be resurrected with him as well. You can request your copy of the book With a Mighty Triumph when you give a donation online at slash donate, or call us at 888-588-7884. And this book, With a Mighty Triumph, is a great book to give to others for Easter. If you've already requested the book with a donation and you'd like extra copies to share with others, you'll find them in our online store.

They're available for purchase at our cost while supplies last. Simply visit slash store. The Gospel message is at the heart of all we do here at Truth for Life. We consider it a great privilege to teach God's Word to millions of listeners all around the world.

And we often hear from people who have found us online or who have discovered our mobile app, even in areas that are hostile toward Christianity. So if you have partnered with us prayerfully or financially, please know that your support is what makes this global outreach possible. We are grateful for your faithfulness and we want to take this opportunity to extend a sincere thank you.

Now here's Alistair to close with prayer. Father, thank you for the Bible. Thank you for the portion before us this morning, banished from our recollection everything that is unclear or untrue or unhelpful. And do not let us squirm our way out of your insistent gaze upon our lives. Bring clarity into our confused thinking, bring reality into our forlorn religious chanting. Some of us have determined that if we just somehow or another get in the crowd and chant whatever it is they're chanting, that somehow or another, when they finally sweep the group into eternity, we'll be caught up with them on the way.

Nothing could be further from the truth. So then Lord, hear our prayers and let our cry come unto you, for Jesus' sake, Amen. I'm Bob Lapine. We're glad you've joined us today. Tomorrow, we'll revisit Palm Sunday and hear how Alistair answers the two vital questions he ended with today. What does all of this mean and why does it matter? Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-03 01:51:40 / 2023-04-03 02:01:27 / 10

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