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Apr 10, 2022 | John Talcott


It is so good to have all of you with us today as we celebrate Palm Sunday at Christ’s Community Church. It was about 2000 years ago, around this time of year in Jerusalem, that the Jews were preparing to celebrate the Passover. This was a special time of year when God would cover up the sins of the faithful as they converged on the holy city to offer a sacrifice. And so, it was on this day that has become known as Palm Sunday, beginning this particularly holy time on the Jewish calendar, that thousands upon thousands of pilgrims made their approach to Jerusalem.

As we open the Scriptures to this final scene in the drama of Jesus life, we discover that Jesus and his disciples were on their way to Jerusalem as well. And so, we are going to walk together with them through this event that began this last week of Jesus’ ministry on earth. Many of you were given a little cross made out of palm branches when you arrived today as a visual reminder that Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of lords was on his way to the cross. But as we go back 2000 years to that day in time, we will discover that Jesus’ identity was still shrouded in ambiguity, not because he didn’t know who he was, but because everyone else had different interpretations of who he was.

If you’d like to follow along in your Bible, we are going to look at Luke chapter 19, beginning at verse 28, and we’re going to read a text that is normally used on this day, but we’re going to come to it from a different perspective. Jesus had now been preaching, teaching, and healing people for three years, he is at the peak of his popularity, and wherever he went crowds gathered. As we come to verse 28, Jesus and his disciples were approaching Jerusalem, and the Bible says that “Jesus went on ahead” of the crowd, going up to Jerusalem.

“As he approached (the villages of) Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, "Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, 'Why are you untying it?' tell him, 'The Lord needs it” (Luke 19:28-31).

Now, I want to stop right there for a moment, because normally on Palm Sunday there is a lot of emphasis on the donkey, or the crowd, the Palm branches, and their praises, and even on the enemies of Jesus, however I don’t want us to get distracted from the focus of this day.

This morning, we’re not going to talk about how stubborn the Pharisees were, how many believers there were, or even untying the colt and letting him go. But we’re going to come at this text from a different perspective, with a different emphasis, because I didn’t come today to preach about the donkey, the people, their praise, the hecklers or even the rocks. I came to preach about the Lord Jesus Christ, as the apostle Paul said,

“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).

And so, here we are at the beginning of the greatest week of Jesus life, the ultimate purpose for which he came, the greatest expression of the love of God toward us, and this is what is unfolding before us right now. And so, I don’t want us to get distracted by the donkey Jesus rode on, the crowds or their praises, when I can tell you about the Christ.

The title of today’s message is Identity, because there was a lot of misunderstanding of who Jesus was, but he knew who he was, he knew why he had come, and he knew where he was going. In fact, as we continue in the text, I want to remind you that they didn’t have cell phones in those days. And so, Jesus didn’t call ahead, they hadn’t even made it to the village yet, but Luke tells us in verse 32,

“Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, "Why are you untying the colt?" They replied, "The Lord needs it” (Luke 19:32-34).

In other words, Jesus already knew what was ahead.

It’s important that we know this in our lives today, because whatever you are dealing with right now, it may have surprised you, but Jesus was not surprised. He knew this was going to happen, he knew this was going to happen in your life, he knew there was going to be a pandemic, he knew they were going to get sick; he knew they were going to downsize, and he says, "My grace is sufficient for you…” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Whatever you are facing today, Jesus already knew and he says my grace is sufficient for you. In other words, he’s going to help you, he’s going to empower you, he’s going to strengthen you, and walk with you through that difficulty or that complication. You see, Jesus knew where the colt was, he knew the owner, and he knew where they would find the donkey.

Jesus already knew, and so a few days later when Jesus was eating with his disciples in the upper room, he said to them, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.” They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, "Surely not I, Lord?" One by one they said, “Surely, not I,” because they didn’t know, but Jesus knew, he already knew. And so, without hesitation he replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me” (Matthew 26:21-23).

You see, Jesus already knew how this week would end. Jesus knew who he was, he knew his identity, he knew why he’d come, and he knew what he was about to do. And so, Luke tells us, “They brought (the colt) to Jesus, threw their cloaks on (it) and put Jesus on it. As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road” (Luke 19:35-36).

Not only did Jesus know what they were doing, but he knew what they were getting ready to do, because he knew he was fulfilling prophecy. And so, he knew they were expecting him to rise up as a political savior, a mighty deliverer who would overthrow the Roman government, and so he knew the people were not following him for who he is but they were following him because they had an agenda. In other words, they had an expectation, they had something they wanted him to do.

The Bible says, “When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen” (Luke 19:36-37).

And so, now in their minds, the status of Jesus has escalated beyond being a great miracle worker, a prophet, or even a priest because they shouted,

"Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" (Luke 19:38).

In other words, they understood that he was a prophet sent from God because they said, "No one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him" (John 3:2). But now they’re calling him king, now they’re declaring his true identity, but Jesus wasn’t going to be king the way they thought he was going to be king.

And so, Jesus finds himself in this situation where the pressure of the crowd was increasing with their false expectations. And in spite of their praise and their lofty expectations, Jesus had to keep his wits about him, he had to keep his focus, because it’s easy to get caught up in the accolades and join in with the crowd. For many of us, this is where we live day in and day out because we are living in noisy times, there are voices all around us, voices on the inside and the outside, and it can become so confusing and chaotic.

We’ve got this pressure to conform on the outside in the community, through the news, politics, and social media. And then there are other voices on the inside, and I don’t know about yours, but my family gets noisy. There’s always something going on, responsibilities on your job, bills to be paid, and when is your appointment with the dentist. And so, there is all this crowding on the outside and on the inside, the crescendo of all of these voices, and somehow, you’ve got to be able to function and keep your focus. You’ve got to be able to work in the chaos, taking care of the kids, cooking dinner, keeping your appointments, meanwhile the crowd is getting louder and louder.

"Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" (Luke 19:38).

And Jesus had to keep his focus in all that noise, as they’re calling him king because they’ve seen his miracles, they’ve seen his power, and they’ve heard him call himself the Son of David. But Jesus knew it was just a distraction, he knew their praise would be short-lived, because they didn’t know he had a crown of thorns. Jesus knew they weren’t shouting because they saw him going to the cross and dying for their sins. He knew they were shouting, calling him king, because they thought he was going to set them free from the oppressive power of Rome. And it was at that point that some of the Pharisees added their voices to that of the crowd. They said to Jesus,

“Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” (Luke 19:39).

Suddenly, Jesus finds himself caught in the eye of the storm, sandwiched in the middle, caught between two opposing voices, living in between the voice of the crowd shouting “Hosanna” and another crowd wanting to silence them, to censor their opinions, to quiet their voice on Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

Jesus is caught in the middle of this crescendo of voices, he knows that he’s appreciated by his fans, but on the other hand there is this other group waiting, they’re just mumbling right now, but soon they will be shouting, “Crucify him.” And Jesus is aware of all of this as he’s coming down from the Mount of Olives, he knows this as he is in the middle of the Kidron Valley, and as he’s preparing to ascend the hill to Jerusalem where he must die, he replies to the Pharisees,

"If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out” (Luke 19:40).

Jesus knows what it’s like to be stuck in the middle, existing between two opinions, and in just a few days he will be eating dinner between John and Judas. John who loved him on one side and Judas who would betray him with a kiss on the other. In other words, Jesus knew firsthand what it means to say,

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies” (Psalms 23:5).

And in spite of all the confusion, the voices, and the differences of opinion Jesus was able to remain focused. He was able to function in the chaos, pushing through the crowd, standing firm between two opinions, existing in the middle, even though he was unable to enjoy the accolades of his admirers or deal with his critics. And before the week is over, they would crucify him between two criminals, “one on each side and Jesus in the middle” (John 19:18).

Jesus was able to function in the middle between two opposing voices, two opinions, because he knew who he was. He pressed through the crowds, walked between the disciples and the Pharisees, stood between Caiaphas and Pilate, and was hung between two criminals, because he knew his identity. Jesus knew he was the man in the middle. The Bible says it this way in first Timothy chapter 2, verse five,

“There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).

You see, Jesus knew he was that one who could be the mediator between God and man. And so, he became an example for us, teaching us how to stand in the middle.

This is so important for us today, because many of us find ourselves in the middle of something. Some of us are in the middle of parenting, in the middle of a crisis, in the middle of trying to figure out retirement, in the middle of going back to school, and I don’t know about you but sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and I can’t go back to sleep, because I’m in the middle of it. And I believe that Jesus wants to teach us how to do life in the middle, to function in the middle, because being in the middle is difficult. Every step forward can seem like two steps back. You are afraid to go up because you might come down, and so you’re stuck in the middle.

This morning, you will want to learn from Jesus, watching Jesus, because he keeps his head in the middle. There is something that Jesus knows in the middle that keeps him from tipping, that stabilizes him, something that keeps him in balance when everybody else is going to extremes. Jesus had the wisdom to know who he is without their palm branches, without all the shouting, because they weren’t saying anything that he didn’t already know about himself. In fact, he said to the Pharisees,

“Unless you believe that I AM who I claim to be, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24, NLT).

In other words, he knew independently from his admirers and his critics, independent of John or Judas, independent of Caiaphas or Pilate, he knew exactly who he was. And so, he would not be swayed by the complements of his admirers or the criticism of his enemies, because he didn’t need their opinion to be confident in who he was. He told the Pharisees, “Before Abraham was born, I am!" (John 8:58).

And so, it didn’t matter what they were saying on the right or on the left, because he knew who he was. He said, I am the true vine, the bread of life, the light of the world, the good Shepherd, the door of the sheep, the resurrection and the life. Jesus constantly alludes to his identity, claims his identity, and declares his identity saying, I am the way, the truth, and the life. He says, I know that I know, that I know, that I know because,

"I am the Alpha and the Omega… who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty" (Revelation 1:8).

This is what Jesus is teaching us today, he is an example for us, it’s not just that he knows who he is, but we need to know who we are in him.

You need to know who you are in Christ, that you’re loved by God, you’re a child of God, you are the righteousness of God, you are a new creation created in Christ Jesus for good works, his own special possession, and I don’t need anyone to tell me. In the same way, you don’t need anyone to tell you, you don’t need the crowd to tell you, you don’t need a coach, but you need to know for yourself. In other words, you better know who you are in Christ, what you have got in Christ, what you can do in Christ, and what God has called you to do in Christ. You need to know your identity in Christ, he already knows, but do you know who you are?

Jesus approached Jerusalem with confidence, riding on a colt, because he knew who he was, and he knew he was fulfilling prophecy. The prophet Zechariah said, “See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9). Jesus knew who he was, but do you know who you are? Do you know what you’ve got, what God did in your life, and what God brought you out of? Even though you haven’t got there yet, you’ve got to know it.

I’ve told you before that I know, because when I was 14 years old, I was baptized in the Holy Spirit and God told me very clearly that I would pastor the church. And I’ll be honest with you, it scared me, I didn’t have the faith for that, and it took me 20 years of wandering in the wilderness to accept his call, but I worked it out, I know who I am in Christ. And in the same way, you’ve got to know who you are so that you can stand in the middle victorious when you’ve got voices on the left and voices on the right. You’ve got to know who you are in Christ Jesus.

Jesus knew who he was and the Bible says, “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace — but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you” (Luke 19:41-44).

Jesus wept, weeping over Jerusalem, not because of what they said, but because of what he knew. Jesus wept because he knew that their enemies would tear down the walls, and that they would cry and wail in terror. He knew their children would suffer because they have rejected the revelation of who he is. He wept because he knew they did not recognize the time of their visitation. They didn’t know what he brought them, they couldn’t decide who he was, but Jesus knew who he was.

There are some of you right now, in the pressure you are facing right now, in the noise that you are experiencing right now, the only way you will be able to endure it is to know who you are and whose you are. You’ve got to know where God brought you from, you’ve got to know what God has done in your life, you’ve got to know that he didn’t bring you this far to abandon you, you’ve got to know that the same God who brought you through yesterday will take you through today and tomorrow. And you’ve got to know that what you’re experiencing right now, what surprised you, didn’t surprise God, because he already knew. He knew what was going to happen, he already prepared you for that, and his grace is sufficient for what you are dealing with right now (2 Corinthians 12:9).

You’ve got to know that; you’ve got to believe that, because if God knows where a colt is tied in the next village, if he knows the owner, then there is nothing that you are facing right now that God doesn’t know. If you can just trust that he knows, that it hasn’t come as a surprise to him, and that he has prepared you for that which you are dealing with right now. It may be noisy in the crowd, but you’ve got to know that you can handle it, you can deal with it, and even though you’re weeping right now, his grace is sufficient for you.

Before the week was over, Jesus was right where he was supposed to be. The Bible says, he gave himself a ransom for all men, the testimony given in its proper time (1 Timothy 2.6). And so, the voices of the crowd, the accolades of his disciples didn’t push him ahead, and the criticism of his critics didn’t slow him down. Because it’s not what they say about you, even what they know about you, but it’s what you know about yourself. It’s your identity, and so today I dare you to believe it.

Graphics, notes, and commentary from LifeChurch, Ministry Pass, PC Study Bible, Preaching Library, and Sermon Central. Scripture from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

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