The last song Smokey Robinson wrote and produced for the singing group “The Temptations” was entitled “Get Ready!” and was pressed with the Motown label in 1966. A few years later, the group “Rare Earth” brought it back in 1970 and nearly topped the charts. It was, by all definitions, a “hit song” from the generation before mine. It had the catchiest of tunes, and I would wager (if I were a betting man) that half the room in most any church today could sing a few lines of if we started the song. At the same time, its intended message was nothing short of a “come on” to pressure a young girl to stop resisting the advances of a young man. In the context of the song, it wasn’t a nice message.
At the same time, the mantra “Get ready!” can be a helpful one in the right context. From hurricane preparedness to SAT test training, organizations use the saying on their websites and campaigns to help people recognize a truth: Important events often require significant preparation. In our story for this lesson, we want to talk about “getting ready” specifically in the context of the arrival of the Savior into Jerusalem. The date was in the early years of the first century, and the place was Jerusalem on what is now referred to as “Palm Sunday”. This won’t be Jesus’ last arrival to Jerusalem if I understand the Bible correctly. Yet, the announcement for that day was given hundreds of years before. The length of time between the announcement and the arrival, seems to have made people forget or doubt, not prepare. Interestingly enough, Jesus has another coming that was also announced long in advance, and I think we are seeing the same problem with the announcement of Jesus’ return! Here is the truth…
Key Principle: We need to get ready to meet the Savior. The people of Palm Sunday long ago were a disappointment to the Lord. If we are not careful, we will be as well.
Before I establish our need to get ready for Jesus’ future coming to reign, let’s take the time to learn a bit from those who went before us and didn’t take heed to God’s warnings to be ready when the King arrived. Let’s face it: History’s record is always given in hope that following generations will be able to respond differently than the failed generation. Yet, as the German philosopher Georg Fredrick Hegel (who lived between America’s War of Independence and The American Civil War) once quipped: “History teaches us that man learns nothing from history!” Let’s soften his words. We can learn from mistakes of the past… but first we must both see them and admit they were mistakes.
A Quick Look at Luke’s Gospel
To that end, let’s go back to a story from Luke 19 and look at the lack of preparation for the coming of Jesus when He arrived there, long ago, on Palm Sunday.
To set the scene, recall that Luke arranged the material in his Gospel three parts – Pre-ministry, Popular Ministry and Parting Ministry:
• Chapters 1-3 are all about the “Pre-ministry” narratives. This section includes seven prophetic fulfillments presented and resolved in Jesus’ arrival in Bethlehem. The long-promised Messiah of Israel came with a long announced mission to save His people and open salvation to the world.
• The second part of the Gospel reflected what scholars call the “Popular” (or Galilee crowd) ministry, which can be found in chapters 4:1-9:56. That section is often broken into two parts:
The Early Galilean Ministry where Jesus focused on showing His identity to the crowd and seven conflicts He faced as He made Himself known. His earliest public ministry directed demons to clear out of His way. At the same time, disciples needed to listen to His directions, and Israel’s leaders needed to hear from God’s heart about what was important to the Holy One! (4:1-6:11).
The Discipleship Ministry of Jesus (found in Luke 6:12-9:56) was more focused on what the disciples learned from Jesus. They needed to see a Gentile who understood faith, a hopeless woman who needed help, a powerful God in their boat, a bleeding woman who knew faith, and how to see a crowd with Jesus’ eyes. The story was about people on the fringe and how needy people will find help in Jesus no matter what their background.
The third stage of the book can be called the “Parting Ministry” of Jesus after 9:57, as the Savior prepared the disciples for His departure, and as the Passion unfolded.
Luke 19:28-48 is set at the beginning of the last week of Jesus’ earth ministry. The early part of the chapter told the story of Zaccheus’ homes stay where Jesus shared the purpose of His coming to “seek and save what was lost” (19:1-10) along with a parable Jesus told in that context (19:11-27).
Palm Sunday Arrival
The story of Jesus’ Palm Sunday journey into the Temple is the text for our lesson (Luke 19:28-48). That Palm Sunday account was layered in three smaller stories that all blend together. Follow the verses through the three events of the sad Sunday arrival of the Savior to the city that was supposed to be ready to receive their King!
First, Jesus reasoned with leaders about His offer to rescue them from themselves – but they wanted none of it (Luke 19:28-40).
Luke 19:28 After He had said these things, He was going on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 When He approached Bethphage and Bethany, near the mount that is called Olivet, He sent two of the disciples, 30 saying, “Go into the village ahead of [you]; there, as you enter, you will find a colt tied on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it and bring it [here]. 31 “If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of it.'” 32 So those who were sent went away and found it just as He had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 They said, “The Lord has need of it.” 35 They brought it to Jesus, and they threw their coats on the colt and put Jesus [on it]. 36 As He was going, they were spreading their coats on the road. 37 As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, 38 shouting: “BLESSED IS THE KING WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” 40 But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!”
Notice the three groups highlighted in the verses:
First, there were the disciples, who were called upon to go and get a donkey and tell the owner the Lord needed it. They did what they were told without understanding what was happening.
Second, there was the crowd that was excited, but wholly uncommitted to following Jesus. They came for the benefits of a relationship with Jesus, but they weren’t committed to following Him any further than they could GET something from Him. There are people in every church service you will ever go to that are just like that. They are all about the songs, the “worship” and the LOVE of God – but they have little time to hear about surrender and holiness. That is a bridge too far.
Finally, there were the Pharisees and leaders that seemed interested in one thing: maintaining control of the crowd on Palm Sunday. The text reveals that they complained about the overt acceptance of the crowd of their King. When they saw their King coming on a donkey, their minds raced to Zechariah 9:9 and they saw Him openly taking the position of the Servant-king. These men knew and studied the prophets. They didn’t miss the symbolism of the servant king. The Pharisees rejected Jesus’ overt claim, and the crowd’s adulation of Him. They wanted it stopped! They wanted CONTROL. Jesus cautioned them that Roman control would be exerted if a riot broke out, because of the hurling of the stones! They weren’t in CONTROL, and that wasn’t HIS doing – that was Rome’s doing. They knew it, and it made them seethe inside. The rescuer was there to save them – and they were effectively fighting Him off from completing His task. He stopped and cried because of it.
Next, Jesus wept over Jerusalem in the face of leaders who would not bow to their King (Luke 19:41-44). The writer continued:
Luke 19:41 When He approached [Jerusalem], He saw the city and wept over it, 42 saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. 43 “For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, 44 and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”
Jesus was clear that destruction would come to the people if they didn’t receive their King, after God went to such trouble to warn them ahead of time. You see, the Hebrew “Prime Minister” prophet in exile, Daniel, took the Word of God seriously as he read Jeremiah – according to Daniel 9:1-2. He knew that the return of the Jewish people was supposed to be in seventy years after they were brought into Babylon, because God’s Word said so. He prayed, because he was so distressed that the time was coming and the Jewish people were not preparing to leave. God answered his prayer of faith, and told him that NOT ONLY would the people be going back to the land, but that Messiah would come to them. He would come 483 years of 360 days (a Biblical calendar year) from the time Jerusalem was commanded to rebuild its wall and moat… or 173,880 days from the restoration of the moat, gate and wall system around the city. Later, the Hebrew Bible includes the story of Nehemiah 1, where the restoration was begun, starting the clock.
By the time of Jesus’ arrival, the announcement of timing of His coming was already nearly five hundred years old – but the leadership that studied these things ever so closely was not willing to open their hearts.
WHY? Because they were living under the illusion of control – and Jesus shattered that illusion with a single sentence. We hate to admit that we don’t have control of things. That is what makes people so afraid of the doctor’s office and the funeral home. We push off our Savior and Rescuer because we don’t want to be embarrassed – as if DEAD would be better. We live under one illusion after another:
A young woman stands in front of a mirror and dressed to attract a man of substance and character by getting him to look at her exterior and want her body:
• As if that would attract the right kind of man.
• As if she can keep him by keeping her exterior looking like that.
• She paints it, brushes it, cares and maintains it.
The truth is that a man of character is interested in a woman of character – and she needs to give much time to developing that in order to attract the right man. She cannot get the right man solely on the exterior, and even more to the point SHE CANNOT KEEP THE EXTERIOR LOOKING LIKE THAT because she doesn’t control it.
• Think of the businessman who operates with a solid sense of control – but market forces pull his business as the sea pulls on a tiny fishing boat.
• The young athlete sculpts his body as if he can, through sheer force of will, stop the years from changing his ability to endure.
• The man who walks into his doctor’s office to get a diagnosis on the pain or problem, somehow convinces himself there is a surgery or a pill that can control anything that his body may throw at him.
CONTROL IS AN ILLUSION.
The sooner you understand that, the sooner you will want a relationship with the One Who is in control of what is happening. Fighting the rescuer to keep control of your life is a futile and perilous response that will only be shattered when the illusion of control has been stripped away.
The last part of the chapter tells of Jesus cleaning up the Temple’s corruption (Luke 19:45-48).
The final story of the passage places Jesus in the south porch of the Temple complex, overturning the money changers and corban (sacrificial items) salesman. This was a provocative action, but it was also revealing:
Luke 19:45 Jesus entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling, 46 saying to them, “It is written, AND MY HOUSE SHALL BE A HOUSE OF PRAYER,’ but you have made it a ROBBERS’ DEN.” 47 And He was teaching daily in the temple; but the chief priests and the scribes and the leading men among the people were trying to destroy Him, 48 and they could not find anything that they might do, for all the people were hanging on to every word He said.
Did you see it? Some people rejected the rescuer, because they had an ECONOMIC MOTIVE. Surrender to Jesus would mean RESCUE – but it would also pull the cloak off of their GREED and SELFISH lifestyle that was so nurtured by them.
Others were quietly looking pious but seeking a way to STOP the Rescuer, because His FAME would rob them of THEIR FAME. They liked a world centered on THEM. The stories of that day are conclusive… Israel wasn’t ready for their King on that day. Why?
Deep within the heart is a root of resistance to rescue.
Some reject rescue because they want CONTROL – but they don’t have it – because it is an illusion. Some reject rescue because they want POWER, MONEY or FAME – they don’t want to share the stage of their lives with a rescuer. Only those who overcome the impulse to try and save themselves will make it through to life – the others will perish. The people of Palm Sunday largely failed to be ready. We can do NOTHING about that. What we can do, what we MUST do is ask ourselves what we have learned from their example…
Let me ask you frankly: “Isn’t it time you stop pushing away the RESCUER and let Him rescue you?” Put another less aggressive way…
We need to get ready to meet the Savior.
We saw the lack of preparation for the coming of Jesus when He arrived on Palm Sunday, let’s consider what the Bible said about His next coming, and see if we have gotten ourselves ready.
• Do you KNOW the One Who is coming soon? Make a choice, and don’t put it off…We need to recognize there is nothing that need happen before the return of the Savior to get His church. This is called the imminent return of Jesus Christ, and we believe that reflects what the Scripture teaches. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 speak of the coming of the Lord for His Church to remove her to her wedding day. Jesus will take those who are “in Christ” with Him. Here is the clear and penetrating question: Are you IN CHRIST? Some will put it off and think they can make a judgment later… but they are wrong.
Pilate listened to Jesus and tried to bargain a way from making a decision that would determine more than his life… it determined his eternity. He considered truth unknowable and Jesus was far too certain of truth for his taste. He was in front of Jesus and could hear His voice. He was SO CLOSE. He had the King standing before him and “almost” could hear the truth. Some of us have played that game, too. “Preacher, I almost made the decision today, I almost accepted Christ today.” “I almost said, ‘Here I am, Lord, use me.'” What a tragedy!
• If you have chosen Christ, are you a prepared servant? 1 Peter 4:7 says: “The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober [spirit] for the purpose of prayer. 8 Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Be hospitable to one another without complaint. 10 As each one has received a [special] gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God….
Note the preparations for the servant Peter mentioned. The ready servant:
…Stopped playing games in their faith.
…Prays fervently anticipating the Lord’s soon inspection.
…They aren’t withdrawn into a monastery; but LOVE people.
…They are hospitable toward others.
…They are good stewards of God’s gifts – the spiritual enablement given to them to empower their work.
• Are you a GROWING servant? 2 Peter 1: 19 offers this word: “[So] we have the prophetic word [made] more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. 20 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is [a matter] of one’s own interpretation, 21for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”
Is the Word doing a work in your life to change your daily behaviors?
How have you grown in the last year in your study and knowledge of the Word of God?
What difference has it made in your testimony before men?
• Are you a DISCERNING servant? 2 Peter 2:1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. 2 Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; 3 and in [their] greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
Are you listening to voices concerning truth from God without a knowledge of the source of the words? Are you evaluating what you hear against your own careful study of God’s Word? Remember, the more you depend solely on the study of others in the Word, the more dangerous your faith will be.
Consider one last thought about preparation. Many will not be ready. It is a fact the Apostle Peter was fixated on in his lifetime.
Toward the end of his writing of the Second Epistle, he wrote:
He began with those not ready in the world:
2 Peter 3:3 Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with [their] mocking, following after their own lusts, 4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? … 7 But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. 8 But do not let this one [fact] escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. 9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
Then came the question that motivated the message of this lesson…
2 Peter 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, …11 Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness?…
Ponder that question. What sort of people should believers be who want to be different than the Palm Sunday crowd of long ago?
2 Peter 3:14 Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless… 17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him [be] the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
We need to get ready to meet the Savior. What if the King arrived today! Are you ready?
On Palm Sunday, the people weren’t ready for only one reason: They didn’t value the KING more than they valued their OWN. There are two short stories from history that may help us understand how to see if we value the King as we should.
First, there is the true story from 1193 CE, when the English King Richard I (also known as Richard the Lionhearted) was returning from leading a Crusade to the Holy Land. As he returned through Europe, Leopold V captured him in Austria. The Holy Roman Emperor demanded a ransom for Richard’s release. The price was to be 150,000 marks, equal to three tons of silver. This was an enormous ransom demand. But the people of England so loved their king they submitted to extra taxation, and many nobles donated their fortunes for Richard’s release. After many months, the money was raised and King Richard returned to England. That’s where we get the expression, “a king’s ransom.” When Richard returned, the people received him and were prepared, because they valued HIM more than themselves, their wealth and their comforts.
In a second story that came from the Crusades, Norman Lord Grimbald de Pauncefort was captured by the Saracens. When asked the ransom price for his release the Turkish prince demanded the severed right hand of de Pauncefort’s young bride, Eleanor. In a tremendous act of courage and sacrifice, Lady Eleanor complied, and had her left hand amputated and sent to ransom her husband.
In both cases, love of the King required sacrifice. Readiness is all about what you value more – your comfort or your surrender.