Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These are the four Gospels. They record important events from the life of Jesus in order to show their readers that He is the Son of God and the Savior of sinners.
About one third of their pages are devoted to the events that took place in the last week of Jesus’ ministry, including His crucifixion and His resurrection from the dead.
During the next six Sundays, the Sundays of Lent, we’ll focus our meditation on this last week of Jesus’ ministry.
Today we consider the events that took place on the first Palm Sunday, the Sunday just five days previous to Jesus’ death on the Cross.
In Paris, France, there stands a stone doorway that is so huge that a man once flew a bi-plane through its opening. This “doorway” is called the “Arc de Triomphe”.
This free-standing archway is about 50 yards tall, 50 yards wide and 24 yards deep. As you can imagine, it took many years to build. In fact, the foundations alone took two years to complete.
Now, why in world would anyone build an archway this big? Well, the Arc de Triomphe is a memorial meant to honor those who fought for France, especially during the Napoleonic wars.
Ever since the days of ancient Rome impressive stone archways have been built to honor important people. Since they take a lot to build, the person or persons whom they are built for better be worthy of the honor!
This thought leads us to our sermon theme for today. Why honor Jesus?
Our text answers this question for us in three ways. We honor Jesus because…
1. He is the King of Peace
2. He is the King from God
3. He is the King of Love
Luke 19:37-44 (NIV)
37When 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:
38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
39Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
40“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
41As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44They 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.”
“He is the King of Peace”
Carved inside the Arc de Triomphe there is a list of 558 generals who served France. Those who died in their service are underlined.
Memorial archways often commemorate wars, and the soldiers who have fought in them. Wars are fought for a variety of reasons. But the noblest reason, and some would say the only just reason, has always been to restore peace.
That’s the reason why Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday: to restore peace. But He would not win this peace with generals and soldiers and drawn out battles. He was the one general. He was the one combatant. His one death would secure the peace He sought to obtain.
Jesus didn’t ride into Jerusalem to broker a ceasefire between countries, or settle a squabble to between tribes. Jesus rode into Jerusalem to establish peace between the God and man.
There was war between God and man because of man’s sin. God is perfect and holy, mankind, sinful and evil. Mankind’s sin put him in God’s cross-hairs. Jesus would end the conflict by stepping in and taking the bullet meant for us. He would suffer the punishment we deserved.
This is the first and primary reason why we honor Jesus. He has restored peace between us and God by suffering and dying for our sins.
“He is the King from God”
When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday, He didn’t ride through an archway that had been built in His honor. But that was okay. The disciples surrounding Him honored Him with their words and actions.
When Jesus crested the Mount of Olives, the city of Jerusalem and Great Temple of God burst into view. The disciples began praise God because they believed that Jesus was the Prophet and King that God had promised to send them.
They had seen so many miracles done by Him. There was no doubt that God’s approval and power were with Him. So they praised God for Jesus.
That’s when the Pharisees got mad. You see, the disciples were using Psalm verses to sing their praises. But they added one thing. If you look at Psalm 118:25-26 you’ll see that it says,
“25 Save now, I pray, O LORD;
O LORD, I pray, send now prosperity.
26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!
We have blessed you from the house of the LORD” (Psalm 118:25-26 NKJV).
The thing the disciples added was the word King. They said, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the LORD!” With these words they were saying that Jesus was the King and Savior sent from God! Jesus was coming with the authority of God!
But the Pharisees did not believe Jesus was the Savior, and they did not want the kind of King that He was. The disciples’ words made them angry enough to lash out at Jesus, demanding that He shut His disciples up!
But Jesus replied,
“40“I tell you… if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out” (Luke 19:40 NIV).
In other words, Jesus said, “They’re right. I am the King sent from God. And if my disciples don’t sing my praises, my creation will. For I WILL be praised on this day.”
Archways are stones piles up in order to remember something important. On page seven of the bulletin there is a picture of the Arc de Triomphe. This grand archway commemorates the patriot sons of France, but it’s structure was inspired by another an earlier archway that has a more direct connection to our text. The Arc de Triomphe was inspired by the Arc of Titus.
The Arc of Titus was built in the first centurym, not to commemorate fallen patriots, but to commemorate the destruction of Jerusalem which Titus accomplished in 70 AD. This was the very leveling of Jerusalem which Jesus predicted as He rode into Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday.
By His sad prophesy, Jesus offered another proof that He was from God. Jerusalem would be surrounded and leveled in the not so distant future, because its citizens rejected the King and Savior that God sent for them.
At the thought of the horrible siege of Jerusalem that was to come, Jesus wept bitterly. He hadn’t come to destroy the people of Jerusalem, He had come to save them. He said it Himself,
“God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17 NIV).
But when a rescuer is pushed away, tragedy must follow.
Throughout His ministry, Jesus’ miracles of healing had shown that He loved the people. Now His tears over Jerusalem showed again that He is a loving King.
Imagine the scene once more. Here Jesus is, riding along on the little donkey. The road ahead is covered with palm branches and people’s clothing that has respectfully been spread out before Him like a giant red carpet.
Around Him His disciples are bustling and jostling for position at His side. Running back and forth to carpet the road ahead with more palms.
Then the Mount of Olives looms up ahead and they know the city is near. Just over the rise. As they begin to descend down the hill the city comes into view. The sun is gleaming off the golden Temple spires and the city is alive with pilgrim worshippers.
The disciples erupt in joyful praise to God! The disciples erupt in joyful praise of Jesus!
Jesus takes it all in. But, as Jesus sees the city He is filled not with joy like the crowd around Him. Instead Jesus is filled with deepest sorrow. His ragged sobs of grieve clash with the sounds of the happy crowd.
We might pass over the English translation at this point. It simply says,
“41As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it” (Luke 19:41 NIV).
But that word for “weeping” means more than tears. It is the Greek word for sobbing, or wailing aloud.
Jesus knew that Jerusalem did not love Him. But He was not crying because His feelings were hurt. He was crying because He knew the tragic consequences of this insult to God. Jesus could see past the events of this day, to the day when the city would be surrounded with soldiers instead of gathering worshipers.
Jesus knew why Jerusalem would be destroyed again. For the same reason that it had been destroyed in years past: Its people had turned away from God. They did not look in gratitude to the God of the Bible, nor did they look in hope for the Savior He would send.
All this Jesus saw as He looked at the city, now still whole. Still looking vibrant and alive, but for the most part, spiritually dead.
And yet, Jesus kept riding. Through the days of holy week. All the way to Good Friday and to the cross. For people who hated Him, He suffered and died. For many that would go to the grave still hating Him, never to receive the life and forgiveness that He offered them.
The King of Love, the God of Love, would do everything possible to bring faith and forgiveness to sinners who would be condemned to Hell without Him.
The stones of the Arc of Titus remind us of God’s judgment on faithless Jerusalem. But perhaps more striking is the tombstone which now stands where the Temple did in Jesus’ day.
If you walk the road that Jesus did. Up over the Mount of Olives, you will not see the Temple of God gleaming in the sun. Its every stone was thrown down to the ground by the forces of Titus. What you’d see today would be the gleaming golden roof of the Dome on the Rock. The Muslim shrine that now stands where the Temple once did. And on that shrine, rising up like a golden tombstone, is carved a passage from the Koran which clearly says that Jesus is not the Son of God.
The Dome of the Rock is a tombstone with the saddest of epitaphs: “Here lies dead Jerusalem, who did not know when God came to it.”
Our text ends on this same sad not. But we can’t end here. I’ve got to tell you about one more stone monument. If you ever go to Jerusalem, make sure you see this one.
To the north and west of the city is a little garden. And in that garden is a monument that is not significant because of its grand scale, but because of its simplicity. It’s just a hole carved in the sandstone hillside. It was once a tomb, but now it’s an arc of triumph. Through it stepped the King of Peace, raised back from the dead. Through it stepped the King sent from God, the King who came to love sinners until they loved Him back. This is the empty tomb of Jesus of Nazareth. It would be more accurate to call it a “life-stone” instead of a “tomb-stone”.
We started with the question: “Why Honor Jesus?”
Here we see one more reason.
He IS the King of Peace.
He IS the King from God.
He IS the King of Love.
And He lives. Though once crucified for you and me, now, He lives.
As the song writer says,
He lives, my kind, wise, heavenly Friend,
He lives and loves me to the end;
He lives, and while He lives, I'll sing;
He lives, my Prophet, Priest, and King. Amen.
SERMON HYMN – TLH 200:6-8