Sermons for Palm Sunday / Passion Sunday
Sixth Sunday in Lent (Palm / Passion): Entry into Jerusalem – Matthew 21:1-11; Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29; Passion – Isaiah 50:4-9a; Psalm 31:9-16; Philippians 2:5-11; Matthew 26:14-27:66 (or Matthew 27:11-54)
Four times, Jesus is called ‘the Son of David’ (Matthew 20:30-31; 21:9,15).
Christ is greater than David. He is David’s ‘Lord’ (Matthew 22:41-46). Christ is not only ‘the Son of David’. He is also the Son of God (Romans 1:3-4).
We rejoice with the Psalms of David. We rejoice even more in the Gospel of Christ.
Our response to Christ is to be marked by discipleship, depth and devotion.
Discipleship - The blind men ‘received their sight and followed Him’ (Matthew 20:34). They did not receive their sight and then forget about Him. Grace is to be followed by gratitude. Those who have received grace are to give themselves to the Lord in gratitude.
Depth - The crowds were enthusiastic (Matthew 21:8-9) but superficial (27:20-23). Pray for depth, a true and lasting response to Christ.
Devotion - Pray that the spirit of praise will overcome the spirit of pride (Matthew 21:15).
‘The Lord is my Strength and my Song. He is my Saviour’ (Psalm 118:14).
Knowing that Jesus Christ is our Saviour gives us a song to sing: ‘Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine... This is my story, this is my song, praising my Saviour all the day long’.
Knowing that Jesus Christ is our Saviour, we sing His song with strength, committing ourselves to His service, earnestly seeking to win others for Him: ‘We’ve a story to tell to the nations, that shall turn their hearts to the right ... We’ve a song to be sung to the nations, that shall lift their hearts to the Lord...We’ve a message to give to the nations, that the Lord, who reigneth above, hath sent us His Son to save us... We’ve a Saviour to show to the nations...’ (Mission Praise, 59, 744).
Don’t keep your Saviour to yourself. Share Him with others. Win others for Him.
‘The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him that is weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught’ (Isaiah 50:4).
We are to listen to God. We are to speak for God.
We cannot speak for God unless we are listening to Him. Before we can speak for God, we must speak to Him.
We must pray, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening’ (1 Samuel 3:9-10). Listening to God comes before speaking for God.
First, we wait on the Lord - ‘I waited patiently for the Lord’.
Then, we witness for the Lord - ‘He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God’.
Waiting on the Lord and witnessing for Him, we will win others for Him - ‘Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord’ (Psalm 40:1-3).
‘Into Thy hand, I commit my spirit’ (Psalm 31:5).
These words were spoken by Christ when, in death, He gave Himself for our sins (Luke 23:46).
For Christ, there was suffering - ‘I am the scorn of all my adversaries’ (31:11).
His suffering was followed by rejoicing, the joy of the resurrection - ‘I will be glad and rejoice in Your love, for You saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul. You have not handed me over to the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place’ (Psalm 31:7-8).
God answered the prayer of His Son - He brought Him into the ‘spacious place’ of the resurrection, the ‘spacious place’ which is, for us, ‘eternal salvation’ (Hebrews 5:7-9). We look to the crucified Christ and we say, ‘Praise be to the Lord, for He showed His wonderful love to me’ (Psalm 31:21). In the risen Christ, we are ‘strong and our hearts take courage’ (Psalm 31:24).
Do you feel like you can`t go on? Do you feel like giving up? Here`s God`s Word of encouragement for you: ‘He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the Day of Jesus Christ’ (Philippians 1:6).
God finishes what He starts - ‘He didn’t bring us this far to leave us. He didn’t teach us to swim to let us drown. He didn’t build His home in us to move away. He didn’t lift us up to let us down’.
In all the changes of life, we must remember this: God is faithful.
His love is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable.
We don`t keep going because we are strong. We are ‘kept by the power of God’(1 Peter 1:5).
In ‘humility’, let us live ‘to the glory and praise of God’ (Philippians 2:3; 1:11). ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’(2:11) – He will give you the strength to keep going when you feel like giving up.
Peter and Judas Iscariot had something in common. They both failed their Lord (Matthew 26:14-16, 34).
Things turned out very differently for them (Matthew 27:3-5; Acts 2:38-42).
When we fail the Lord , we find ourselves at a cross-roads. We can turn to Him. We can turn away from Him.
In view of His great love for us - His ‘blood’ has been ‘poured out for the forgiveness of sins’ (Matthew 26:28) - how can we turn our backs on Him? How can you and I say ‘No’ to such love?
There is no reason why we should say ‘No’to Him - yet we do!
Do we doubt that He is there for us? Do we wonder if He really loves us?
What about you? Do you think that He cannot or will not forgive your sins?
He can and He will. That’s why He died - ‘for the forgiveness of sins’ (Matthew 26:28).
Jesus’suffering is increasing.
What pain His disciples caused Him. Three times, He ‘found them sleeping’ (Matthew 26:40-45), ‘My betrayer is at hand’ (Matthew 26:46), ‘all the disciples forsook Him and fled’ (Matthew 26:56)!
Was this the end of the road for His disciples? No! With one exception - Judas Iscariot, whom Jesus still called ‘friend’ (Matthew 26:50), the others became men of prayer (Acts 1:13-14). They stood with Peter as he preached the Gospel, as he led many sinners to the Saviour (Acts 2:14, 37-38).
Jesus loved His disciples. He died for them. Then - after Jesus was ‘glorified’- the Spirit was ‘given’to them (John 7:39).
The fleeing disciples became men ‘on fire’ (Acts 2:3). No more ‘fleeing’. Now it was ‘flowing’- ‘rivers of living water’(John 7:38). ‘Blaze, Spirit blaze. Set our hearts on fire. Flow, river, flow. Flood the nations with grace and mercy’(Mission Praise, 445).
‘Peter followed Him at a distance’ (Matthew 26:58). He didn't want to get too close!
Keeping your distance from Jesus leads to trouble!
Trouble was not the end of Peter's story.
Three times Peter denied the Lord (Matthew 26:69-75).
Three times Jesus asked him, ‘Do you love Me?’, three times Peter answered Jesus, ‘I love You’ (John 21:15-17) - for each denial, an opportunity to re-affirm his love for Jesus.
Three thousand souls won for Christ (Acts 2:41) - for each denial, one ‘thousand souls’ brought to Christ.
The contrast between the ‘Peter’ of the Gospels and the ‘Peter’ of Acts is striking. When Jesus first met Peter, He said, ‘You are Simon... You shall be called Peter’ (John 1:42).
‘Peter’means ‘rock’. Peter’s confession of faith - ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’ (Matthew 16:16) - is the Rock on which our faith is built.
With Peter, let us confess Christ.
Jesus went to the Cross for us. Refusing to protest His own innocence, He took our guilt upon Himself.
Observing this, ‘the governor wondered greatly’ (Matthew 27:14).
We also should wonder greatly at this - Christ took our place, receiving the punishment that should have been ours. Barabbas was released, Christ was crucified (Matthew 27:26).
This is the great exchange - the sinless Saviour takes the place of the guilty sinner (2 Corinthians 5:21).
As well as its divine aspect - ‘God so loved...’ (John 3:16) - the Cross has a human dimension - the people, Jews and Gentiles (the whole sinful world), sent Jesus to the Cross.
For Jews and Gentiles (‘the whole world’), Christ has provided salvation (Romans 1:16; 1 John 2:2).
In the release of Barabbas and the crucifixion of Christ, we are invited to ask ourselves, ‘What shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?’ (Matthew 27:22).
The ‘King of the Jews’ wore ‘a crown of thorns’ (Matthew 27:29).
In the Cross, we see the King.
The way of crucifixion - this is the way of the Kingdom.
The prayer, ‘Thy Kingdom come’ (Matthew 6:10), could only be answered by way of the Cross.
From the Cross, we hear the call for decision. It is the call of love. The love of Christ calls for our answer: ‘What shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?’ (Matthew 27:22).
Here, we see different responses to Christ - derision, mocking, reviling (Matthew 27:39-44); misunderstanding (Matthew 27:47-49); believing worship (Matthew 27:54).
How are we brought out of unbelief and into faith, out of derision and into rejoicing? By the mighty working of God in our hearts, we are brought out of darkness and into light (2 Corinthians 4:6).
Salvation comes from above, from God - ‘The curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom’ (Matthew 27:51).
‘Mary the mother of James and Joseph’was also the mother of Jesus (Matthew 27:56; 13:55).
She began by receiving Jesus, not only as her son but also as her Saviour (Luke 1:38). She was still following Jesus - ‘kept by the power of God’(1 Peter 1:5). None of us - not even the mother of Jesus - can walk with the Lord without His grace keeping us in the way of faith.
The unbelieving world still denies Christ - ‘that imposter’ (Matthew 27:63) - and His resurrection - ‘fraud’ (Matthew 27:64).
As believers, we must maintain our testimony: ‘He has risen from the dead’ (Matthew 27:64).
The unbelievers expected a ‘fraud’. They did not expect a resurrection! For them, a resurrection was out of the question. God had a surprise in store for them!
Unbelief says, ‘Resurrection? - Impossible!’. Faith says, ‘it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him’ (Acts 2:24).
He has risen (Matthew 28:6) - Hallelujah!
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year A.
For Palm Sunday, the same reading from the Psalms is suggested for Year B and Year C.
For Passion Sunday, the same readings from Isaiah, Psalms and Philippians are suggested for Year B and Year C.