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Palm Sunday Perspective (Part 1 of 3)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
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March 28, 2023 4:00 am

Palm Sunday Perspective (Part 1 of 3)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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March 28, 2023 4:00 am

A triumphal entry sounds like a joyful, victorious celebration. So why were Jesus’ disciples astonished and afraid as they approached Jerusalem? Join us for a closer look at the events of Palm Sunday. That’s our focus on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.


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A triumphal entry sounds like a joyful, victorious celebration.

So why is it Jesus' disciples were astonished, and even afraid, as they approached Jerusalem for his triumphal entry into the city? Today on Truth for Life we begin a short series titled Some Strange Ideas. Alistair Begg gives us a closer look at what happened on Palm Sunday. Our God and our Father, we come to ask that you will speak to us as we study the Bible together.

We're not interested in the monologue. We are deeply concerned that this would be a dialogue, your living Word dialoguing with our hearts and minds, showing us its truth and turning us afresh to Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen. And I invite you to turn to Mark's Gospel and the eleventh chapter. I determined that I would turn to Mark's contribution to the story, simply because so many people will come to worship today with Palm Sunday in their minds, on their minds, bringing to our gathering all kinds of hopes and questions and expectations. It really is very familiar material, at least at a superficial level. And consequently, it presents us in studying it with peculiar difficulties.

Difficulty number one is the difficulty, really, of familiarity. Because we feel that we know what this is about, we may come to the study of the Bible with an absence of investigation or without really seeking any kind of explanation, and certainly with no anticipation of transformation—a kind of transformation that would begin, first of all, in our minds and then would follow in the details of our lives. The other side of the coin is the equal danger, and it is a danger that presents itself particularly, then, to the one who has the privilege of teaching the Bible, and that is the danger of creativity—that the preacher sensing very much that his listeners are familiar with this material, that they have in many cases grown up with it, they have been to many, many services like this—then, in the absence of investigation and so on, the preacher inserts into the process imagination, a kind of creative flair that is usually, if not always, dangerous, along with that exaggeration, often for effect, which in turn leads to exasperation on the part of all who are listening. The kind of thing I'm referring to is the minister who stands up and says, We're going to deal with the Palm Sunday record this morning from the perspective of the donkey. And he then proceeds to try and get inside the mind of the donkey, which, of course, is not too difficult in certain cases, but nevertheless leaves everybody absolutely high and dry. It's a very foolish idea, and yet it is not an unfamiliar approach.

No, we need constantly to come, particularly to portions of the Bible with which we are familiar, with a genuine spirit of agnosticism—not in terms of wholehearted unbelief in the knowability of God beyond the realm of the natural world—I'm not using it in that primary sense of agnosticism—but rather in the sense of investigation, in the spirit of not unbelief but the spirit of, I'm not sure that I have ever fully grasped this story, I'm not sure I understand entirely what it is about. And to the extent that one is prepared to do that, it will yield benefits. But in going to the subject with an open mind and with an investigative mind, I made two immediate observations.

They're not brilliant, but it's just the kind of thing I want to point out to you. First of all, I realized how much I was influenced by the headings in the Bible, particularly in the NIV. And I think in every one of the Gospel writers, the material that is before us this morning comes under the heading The Triumphal Entry.

And I thought about it. Is this really a triumphal entry? And I determined that it isn't a triumphal entry at all. It is the story of a dramatic approach—that the process of going up to Jerusalem these few miles from Bethany and on is dramatic in every respect, but in actual fact, in the Markan account of events, the final entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, as you will see in verse 11, to which we will come, it's really a very quiet ending to the story, isn't it? And he went to the temple, and he looked around at everything, and he said to his friends, It's really quite late.

I think we should go home now. Now, admittedly, that's a personal perspective. There was a public arena in which things were taking place.

But nevertheless, that's the kind of thing I'm talking about. And also, along with that, I realized how influenced one was by the familiar preacher's point on Palm Sunday—namely, the fickleness of the crowd. And there's hardly a Palm Sunday sermon that you don't hear where the person says, And the crowd was going down the road shouting, Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna!

And then they turn around, and they did a 180 on it, and then they started shouting, Crucify, crucify, crucify! And the point is made, the crowd was fickle then, and you're a fickle crowd today, and I don't even know why you're here, and so on, and everybody goes away feeling rather disgusted with the preacher. Well, the more I studied this week, I said, You know, I'm not sure that at that point is well made. I'm not sure that it can be substantiated to the extent that we find it. And this is not the point of my study this morning, but just an observation in passing. I think what you discover is that there are essentially two crowds being mentioned. One is the crowd that is described here in these events that comes out from Bethany and from the surrounding areas and journeys with Jesus up to Jerusalem. And upon arrival in Jerusalem, you meet with a very different crowd. You meet with a crowd that are totally opposed to Christ, that are, many of them, influenced directly by Pharisaical Judaism. And those, then, become the proponents of the crucify story, thus drowning out the cries that we find here in Mark chapter 11.

So it is important for us to take a fresh look at the subject, and that's what I want to encourage you to do today. If in real estate there are three things that are important—namely location, location, location—then we know that in the study of the Bible there are also three things that are important—context, context, and context. Turn for a moment to the thirty-second verse of chapter 10. The great danger in studying the Bible topically, especially when you follow the church calendar, is that you just simply drop down on a scene, and you're able to do with it all kinds of things, especially if you're not held in check by the controls of the surrounding passages. And what is the context in which this takes place? Well, verse 32 of chapter 10, they were on their way up to Jerusalem with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished while those who followed were afraid. Now, those are two important verbs, aren't they? Because they're telling us not only that there was a crowd that was heading to Jerusalem, that Jesus was leading the charge, if you like, but when we went in and thought about what was happening in the minds of the disciples, we discovered that the disciples were astonished or they were bewildered by what was happening.

And if you had taken a testing amongst the larger company, then you would have found that the overwhelming element that was present in their minds was that of fear. And so, in light of that, Jesus, we're told, takes his disciples aside again, and he makes a clear prediction about what is going to happen in Jerusalem. He says in verse 33, we're going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death, and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him, and three days later he will rise. So the disciples, in their astonishment and in their bewilderment, are given by the Lord Jesus himself another clear prediction as to what is going to take place when they go up to Jerusalem.

Now, you need to keep that in mind, because the scenes that then ensue. How James and John mustered up the courage to then ask the questions that they did, which you can read for your own homework in verse 35 and following, requesting a position of prominence and a position of significance, when finally Jesus establishes his kingdom. And Jesus points out to them this is really a very bad idea on their part, and they need to understand that they should be unlike the Gentiles and the rulers of the Gentiles, who like to exercise authority, who like to lord it over people. And then in verse 43, he provides this vital instruction. I don't want you to be like that.

He says, Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be the slave of all. Now, here again, this important instruction, for even the Son of Man—he's referring to himself—even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. And then into Jericho, and the dramatic events in Jericho involving Bartimaeus shouting from his position as a beggar at the side of the road, Jesus, Son of David, have mercy upon me. And so you have this clear prediction of what's going to happen.

You have this vital instruction as to how they're supposed to live. You have this story of a total transformation in the life of Bartimaeus. And then jump forward to verse 12, and skipping the portion which is ours for a moment and setting the context on the back end. When he reached Jerusalem—go to verse 15—when he reached Jerusalem the following day to the events we're about to describe or have described for us, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there.

He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he says, Isn't it written, My house will be called a house of prayer for all the nations, but you have made it a den of robbers? Now, you see, this is so vitally important, because today, in pulpits all across America, there will be these wonderful little sermonettes from the verses that are before us now in Mark 11 about how Jesus is a very cozy and a peaceful and a very lovely Jesus.

Which, of course, he is. I'm not sure cozy's good, but he certainly is a peace-loving and lovely Christ. But he is also the Christ who, within twenty-four hours of his arrival in Jerusalem as we're about to see, enters the temple and clears the place out. We cannot have a Christ of our own concoction. We cannot have a Christ of our own selective discovery.

It is the same Jesus who rides into Jerusalem as we're about to see, who, having dismounted the following day, goes into the temple and says, You guys are out of here. Hey, where do you think you're going with that stuff? Don't even walk through here.

Get out! And, of course, the people will be saying, Who does he think he is? Oh, we liked him better on the donkey.

We don't like him now with this. And people say that all the time. Well, I like to think of Jesus in this way. Or the kind of Jesus that I believe in is this kind of Jesus. My friends, the only Jesus we have any validity in believing is the Jesus that he is presented to as in the Bible, and we must always allow the Bible to interpret the Bible, so preventing us from creating notions which are absolutely invalid.

So context is vitally important. Well, then, let's come to the verses that are before us. As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethpage and Bethany—and Bethany better known than Bethpage—Bethpage, a tiny little hamlet, as it were, somewhere just on the outskirts of Bethany, on the way certainly to Jerusalem—but when they reach this area, 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. Now, if he had simply said, I want you to know that we're going to ride into Jerusalem, it's perfectly possible that the disciples would have looked at one another with a twinkle in their eyes and said, This is terrific. This is the kind of thing we've been hoping for Jesus. There you go, Jesus, riding into Jerusalem. That is a picture of triumph.

That is a picture of authority and of power. And they would have looked to one another and said, We're now finally going to let these people know exactly who this Jesus is and what it is he's come to do. No such Jesus. Don't let your minds run away with you. Let me tell you, we will be riding in, I will be riding in, and I want you to go now and get the beast that I'll be riding on. You'll find a colt tied there. No one has ever ridden on this particular little donkey, and I want you to go and get the donkey and bring it back.

Well, the air is immediately out of the balloon, is it not? All of a sudden they're inflated with the prospect of a great entry into Jerusalem, only to discover that in point of fact he's going to ride a donkey. A donkey. You can see the two of them heading off.

Two of them were dispatched, one saying to the other. You know, when he said that he was going to ride into Jerusalem, I said to myself, This is going to be fantastic. But I wasn't thinking that he would ride a donkey. And his friends said, Well, you know, at least it isn't a used donkey. No one's been on the donkey, I suppose. There's some encouragement in that. It's not an old flea-bitten donkey or a well-ridden donkey with a bowed back.

At least it's a new donkey. This is the kind of conversation that these fellows would have been having. Don't think of them walking down the road, you know, going towards Jerusalem, the way that religion presents itself.

No, these are ordinary men trying to figure it out, and they can't figure it out. In fact, John tells us in John chapter 12, in his record, that at first the disciples did not understand all this. They could not put the pieces together. This story of death and spitting and creative animosity on the part of his opponents. And now he's going to be riding on a donkey. Now, there are six verses given here to the retrieval of this donkey, and it would be possible for us to give a fair length of time to it. But frankly, I find it wearisome, all of the things about how they went for the donkey and whether it was this or whether it was that or whether it was the next thing, you know.

How did Jesus know the donkey was there? Was it supernatural knowledge? Well, it may have been. It doesn't have to be. There's nothing to say that it has to be. Was it a carefully prepared plan on the part of Jesus? It may have been. It doesn't have to be.

There's nothing to prevent its so being. Indeed, when we come back to Luke's account, we're going to discover that in relationship to the Passover meal, in relationship to the Last Supper, you remember that Jesus gives very similar instructions to this. He says to a couple of the guys, if you go down into the street, you will find a man there who's holding a water jar. You will see him outside such and such a house.

And when you go up and ask him, he'll show you the room that has been prepared for our celebration of the Passover. How did Jesus know? Was it supernatural knowledge? Well, of course, it could have been. But does it need to be? Absolutely not. It could simply have been planning. Takes nothing away from the story, does it? Adds nothing to it. We know that Jesus is capable of all these things.

We don't need to be inserting things when they're not clearly there. And indeed, it would be an understandable reaction on the part of the people who were the owners of this donkey if, as a result of the word coming down the street and spilling into the community, that this prophet from Nazareth was on his way. It would be an understandable reaction if somebody said, And by the way, he wants a loan of your donkey, and he'll bring it back when he's finished. And the people said, The prophet of Nazareth riding my donkey?

This is a wonderful thing. Take my donkey. And then going out in the street, you know, it was my donkey that he rode. Yes, he just said, he sent a couple of boys down. They said, Can I have the donkey?

I'll bring it back. Oh, you can see, I was glad to let him ride my donkey. In verse 7, the colt arrives.

Colt, donkey, whatever you like. Actually, if you go to the text, donkey's a pretty good translation. When they brought the donkey to Jesus, it didn't have a saddle.

They threw their cloaks over it, you will notice, and he sat on it. Now, I don't want to become guilty of what I've just demeaned—namely, a fertile imagination on the part of the preacher. But is there something here, I wonder?

Those of you who are good with creatures will be able to give me the material that I should have before I start to speak now, and it will come too late, but thank you for it in anticipation. I don't know a great deal about horses or donkeys. In fact, the limit of my interest in them and my involvement with them really goes to the beach at Weston-super-Mare in the south of England, where the sea goes so far out when the tide goes out that, frankly, it's more than a Sabbath day's journey ever to get your feet wet.

And so they have to do all kinds of things to make the tourists not feel as bad about how far away the sea is, having come to spend the summer by the sea—a sea that they need to find by binoculars. But anyway, they have donkeys on the beach at Weston-super-Mare, and down there I, along with my children, making a fool of myself, have sat on the back of the donkey as its bells jangled around its neck, and I went down to whatever pole they had in the ground, and we went around it and came back. Fortunately, none of that is on video, but the memory is locked in mind.

I don't remember much about it. I accept feeling totally foolish. But I was encouraged to realize that these donkeys did their business in terms of the journey without any involvement on my part at all. They just went. Apparently, even the owners of the donkeys didn't have to do anything. The donkeys were pre-programmed simply to go down to the stick and then come around the stick and then come back to the original stick.

That's what they did. Now, I don't know what they do when they break in new donkeys, but I can guarantee you that I was not going on a new donkey. New donkeys would scare me. Unridden donkeys. Again, I don't know a great deal about donkeys and their modus operandi, but I do seem to think that donkeys are capable of two things if they're unwritten. One, trying to get you off their back immediately, and two, so jolly obstinate that they refuse to move at all.

And so you see these people prodding and poking them. Come along, donkey, let's go. 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. Fairest Lord Jesus, ruler of all nature, O thou of God and man the Son. 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. The Bible reveals for us what we need to know about Jesus. We can't pick or choose whatever we want to believe about him. You're listening to Alistair Begg on Truth for Life. We'll hear more from Alistair tomorrow. We are recommending a book to you today that we think is a great supplement to our current series as we look forward to Easter. The book is titled With a Mighty Triumph, Christ's Resurrection and Ours. While Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem may not have been the impressive show of power and victory that his disciples were expecting, his resurrection from the grave was indeed a mighty triumph. And as you read this book, With a Mighty Triumph, you'll learn why Christ's resurrection is the foundation of every believer's hope.

You'll discover why Jesus' resurrection assures us of our citizenship in heaven, why this knowledge gives us courage to stand firm in our faith, even in the midst of trials and persecution. This is the last week we're offering the book With a Mighty Triumph, so be sure to request your copy today when you give a donation to support the teaching ministry of Truth for Life. Visit slash donate or call us at 888-588-7884. Let me ask you a question, how do you listen to Truth for Life? If you're not listening today using our mobile app, that's a quick and easy download to your phone or your tablet, and it's free. The Truth for Life app makes it very convenient for you to hear this daily program on your schedule. When you're in the app, you can also search and listen to thousands of messages from Alistair's sermon library. You can find the daily devotional, a one-year Bible reading plan, articles from Alistair, access to the ESV Bible. Search for the Truth for Life app in the app store or visit slash app. I'm Bob Lapine, thanks for listening today. We may be surprised by some of the ignorance and confusion experienced by Jesus' disciples, but tomorrow we'll find out how we're not so different from the crowd that followed Jesus into Jerusalem. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-03 01:42:01 / 2023-04-03 01:51:40 / 10

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