The Great Reversal Part 7

Palm Sunday

The Great Reversal

Matt. 21:1 As Jesus and the disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the town of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of them on ahead. 2 “Go into the village over there,” he said. “As soon as you enter it, you will see a donkey tied there, with its colt beside it. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone asks what you are doing, just say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will immediately let you take them.”

Matt. 21:4 This took place to fulfill the prophecy that said,

Matt. 21:5 “Tell the people of Jerusalem,

‘Look, your King is coming to you.

He is humble, riding on a donkey—

riding on a donkey’s colt.’”

Matt. 21:6 The two disciples did as Jesus commanded. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt to him and threw their garments over the colt, and he sat on it.

Matt. 21:8 Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 Jesus was in the centre of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting,

“Praise God for the Son of David!

Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Praise God in highest heaven!”

Matt. 21:10 The entire city of Jerusalem was in an uproar as he entered. “Who is this?” they asked.

Matt. 21:11 And the crowds replied, “It’s Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Matt. 21:12 Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out all the people buying and selling animals for sacrifice. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves. 13 He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!”

Matt. 21:14 The blind and the lame came to him in the Temple, and he healed them. 15 The leading priests and the teachers of religious law saw these wonderful miracles and heard even the children in the Temple shouting, “Praise God for the Son of David.”

But the leaders were indignant.

16 They asked Jesus, “Do you hear what these children are saying?”

“Yes,” Jesus replied. “Haven’t you ever read the Scriptures? For they say, ‘You have taught children and infants to give you praise.’

17 Then he returned to Bethany, where he stayed overnight.

I realized, this week that I had prepared at least 30 Palm Sunday sermons over the years.

Many of us have heard this story so many times, we approach it with a certain amount of ‘Been there, done that, got the Palm Sunday T-shirt.’

When I approach a familiar story like this, I have to ask myself the question: What is surprising about this passage?

It is obvious isn’t it, A king riding a donkey.

Just imagine if we went to the Parliament buildings in Ottawa, or Washington DC, or Buckingham Palace and saw the different leaders, riding into town in the most run down vehicle.

The newspapers would be all over this.

“Look the queen of England is riding in Pastor Paul’s car.”

A king on a donkey?

Not to mention another great surprise, the king is now, going into a church, and starts throwing things around, even, driving some people out.

What kind of loving, welcoming, inclusive saviour do we have here on Palm Sunday?

What is going on?

What we will discover this morning is not only the complete reversal of what a king should be like, sometimes he does shocking unlikely things… but more important, this Messiah, King Jesus is the fulfillment of amazing promises made hundreds of years before his arrival.

We find Jesus entering the city, not on a royal chariot, nor on a mighty warhorse; there are no slaves to serve Him. He arrives, instead, humbly, riding on the colt of a donkey.

The word of explanation from the Old Testament is the key.. in verses 4 and 5.

By the way, sometimes you hear people complain that the God of the old testament, is different from the God of the new testament.

You cannot have one without the other.

Listen to the words of the Old Testament prophet Zechariah, “Rejoice greatly, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your King is coming to you.

He is righteous and victorious, yet He is humble, riding on a donkey – even on a donkey’s colt…

His realm will stretch from sea to sea…

I believe what we are seeing here on Palm Sunday is a dramatic …prophetic… reenactment.

Just as A picture is worth a thousand words.

His action is speaking louder than a thousand words.

When Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, Matthew points out the connection between his action and the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy.

So this word of explanation from the prophet Zechariah is key.

A humble King,-fulfilling prophecy.

Then Jesus goes straight way to the Temple courtyard.

It is a busy place, merchants have arrived with their wares, it is filled with livestock, doves, lambs, and the tables of the money changers .

Passover pilgrims have traveled from all over.

They have come to make a sacrifice and to worship God in remembrance of their liberation from Egypt many centuries before at the Passover.

We pick up the story at verse 12

Matt. 21:12 Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out all the people buying and selling animals for sacrifice. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves. 13 He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!”

Jesus’ mission in Jerusalem was not to begin a holy war against the Romans as some, even His Disciples, may have wanted. They thought that their Messiah King would lead a revolution and get rid of the Heathen Romans from the Land.

But, It was Jesus’ own people, everyone, needed a revolution…a reversal in their hearts and minds.

How could Jesus make them see where they had gone wrong?

Well, the Prophet King, in Jeremiah-like fashion again enacts a judgement that would not easily be forgotten.

Like a shepherd He picks up some rope and drives out sheep and oxen.

What Jesus said, and did, by overturning the tables, was a ‘prophet of old’ rebuke of what the Temple had become.

It was just as provocative as His entrance into the city.

Both were a fulfillment of prophetic Scriptures.

Both were an authoritative, public demonstration of God’s Kingdom breaking through in a way that would grab people’s attention.

In this instance, Jesus quotes partly from Isaiah 56:6-7 “I will also bless the Gentiles who commit themselves to the Lord and serve Him and love His Name, who worship Him and do not desecrate the Sabbath…because my Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”

Isaiah’s vision spoke of a time when all the nations, the Gentiles of all people, would join themselves to the one true God … the outcasts, outsiders, the least, the last, and the lost would be gathered …with ….His chosen people.

What does that say to us today?

What is our mission?

Jesus also quotes partly from Jeremiah 7:9-11, the full quote is:

“ Do you really think you can steal, murder, commit adultery, lie, and worship Baal and all those other new gods of yours, and then come here in my Temple and chant, ‘We are safe!’ – only to go right back to all those evils again?

Do you think this Temple, which honours my Name, is a den of thieves?”

The Temple had been so corrupted by the pursuit of economic gain that it had become an obstacle to true worship and prayer.

It was meant to be the very centre of Holy Spiritual life.

To Jesus it looked more like a place where robbers and anti-Roman thugs and revolutionaries hung out.

The Jewish laws demanded that people needed to exchange their various currencies, mostly Roman imperial money which had graven images of Caesar on them, into a special kind of “temple money” before they could buy the animals that were needed for the atonement sacrifice and Passover meal.

But the money changers were cheating the people, taking this Holy occasion as an opportunity to gouge the worshipers.

Doves or pigeons were what the poor people, especially women, would buy as they couldn’t afford grander sacrifices.

And that was the area of the worst corruption.

The whole scene was an offence to the piercing eyes of Jesus and totally dishonouring to God.

The Temple layout had several courtyards of increasing Holiness. The money changers set up shop in what was the outermost court of the Gentiles where anyone could enter. These outsiders, who believed in and worshiped the Hebrew God were considered to be unclean so they were not allowed into the inner court where the Chosen People of God worshipped.

How ironic!

The outsiders, were the ones who were thought to be unclean!

As mentioned earlier, The old testament prophets would sometimes dramatically enact a message of warning or prophesy in order to get their point across and make it memorable. You can imagine the fuss after Jesus turned over the tables.

What cleansing would Jesus have to do today were he to come to His church in North America?

What gods would He find us worshiping?

One greater than the temple had come and Jesus has enacted God’s righteous judgement on it and its shallow worship.

No amount of external piety practised in the temple could make up for not only cheating others but of cheating God out of true repentance, true worship, and a truly changed heart.

Money wasn’t the problem but the commerce of worship was… but that wasn’t the only problem, or even the main problem.

verse 14

Matt. 21:14 The blind and the lame came to him in the Temple, and Jesus healed them. 15 The leading priests and the teachers of religious law saw these wonderful miracles and heard even the children in the Temple shouting, “Praise God for the Son of David.” But the leaders were angry.

They asked Jesus, “Do you hear what these children are saying?” “Yes,” Jesus replied. “Haven’t you ever read the Scriptures? For they say, ‘You have taught children and infants to give you praise.’”

At the time, anyone with a physical defect was not permitted in the temple with the rest of the community. They too, were the outsiders, the unclean, but Jesus healed them. Once healed they would report to the priests and then they would be allowed back into the community and into the main temple worship.

The people who had been rejected were now healed. The people who had been kept out were now welcomed in.

These healings of the blind and the lame were another prophetic enactment, but this time, of God’s mercy.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for He has appointed me to preach Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see…” Isaiah 61.

If the temple worship didn’t meet God’s approval neither did its leaders.

How ironic, that it is the blind and lame, considered outcasts, the little children, considered to some as a nuisance that recognize the Lord.

Earlier Jesus expressed thankfulness that truth was hidden from the wise and learned but had been revealed to babes. And so, Jesus is happy to hear the children praising in the way they had heard everyone do as he entered the city; ‘Hosanna to the son of David.’

What did the Temple leaders think of all this attention Jesus was getting? They were angry that Jesus was allowing this irreverent display within the temple.

Another irony; they didn’t seem to mind the money changers and all that corruption, commotion and disruption in the Temple as if that was not irreverent!

But Jesus, relying on the word of God, points out from the book of the Psalms 8:2, that God has ordained that children and even infants would praise him.

It is another fulfillment of Scripture.

So, For the observant, all this proof-texting of the Old Testament Scriptures was an admission and confirmation of Jesus’ Messiahship.

It summed up everything Jesus was doing, His mission, but the Temple leaders were indignant and jealous, which ultimately led to Jesus’ death.

Palm Sunday reminds us of this….

But it also reminds us that worship sometimes stirs things up.

Jesus saw the false worship and the sacrificial system as something that had it’s days numbered.

A greater sacrifice, once and for all, is just days away.

Within a week Jesus would be crucified.

We hold our breath for the greatest prophetic re-enactment a week today.

So…. we have seen that the truly surprising and almost shocking point of the story is that Jesus was and is the fulfilment of all that God was and is doing now.

If Jesus were to arrive today, what would he have to do to grab the church’s attention?

What would he say?

Is there a table, as it were, that would need to be overturned?

Now ask yourself ……the same the questions.