And as they approached Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples, 2 and said to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied there, on which no one has ever sat; untie it and bring it here. 3 And if anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it; and immediately He will send it back here.” 4 They went away and found a colt tied at the door, outside in the street; and they untied it. 5 And some of the bystanders were saying to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6 And they told them just as Jesus had said, and they gave them permission. 7 They brought the colt to Jesus and put their cloaks on it; and He sat on it. 8 And many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches which they had cut from the fields. 9 And those who went in front and those who followed were shouting: “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David; Hosanna in the highest!” 11 And Jesus entered Jerusalem and came into the temple area; and after looking around at everything, He left for Bethany with the twelve, since it was already late.
Have you wondered what God’s been doing the past year?
- Through the pandemic
- Now moving into year two
Many who’ve considered the question probably think He’s either been absent or indifferent. God’s to blame and that’s that. Others may be more reflective, I’m certain He’s in this, but I can’t figure out the how’s and why’s of it all. Some who are convinced of God’s sovereignty are confident His plans are not hindered by COVID. While others with a more vigorous understanding of His sovereignty believe God is controlling every detail of the pandemic.
The sovereignty of God means there is absolutely nothing that happens in the universe that’s outside of God’s influence and authority. God is above all things and before all things. He is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end. (Rev. 21:6) He is immortal, and He is present everywhere so that everyone can know Him. God created all things and holds all things together, both in heaven and on earth, both visible and invisible.
Colossians 1:16, For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.
God knows all things past, present, and future. There is no limit to His knowledge, for God knows everything completely before it even happens.
Romans 11:33, Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!
The events of what’s traditionally known as Palm Sunday puts His sovereignty on full display. The title of today’s message is, The Sovereign Celebration. What we will see is how and why Jesus coordinated the events of this passage. I’ll also offer some observations for your consideration. The outline we’ll follow may help you track where we’re going.
- The Instructions, 1-3
- The Inquiry, 4-6
- The Insincerity, 7-10
- The Inspection, 11
The Instructions (1-3)
Let’s start with a brief timeline of events. We know this is the last week of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Most people, however, don’t know the sequence of events.
John 12:1, reads, Therefore, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.
It was six days before Passover Sabbath; Saturday. This means He arrived at the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus the Sunday before. Bethany was just a couple miles from Jerusalem. It’s then that Mary anoints the Lord’s feet with the expensive perfume. Also, according to John 12, when people learned Jesus was there, a large crowd gathered because they’d heard Lazarus had been resurrected.
John 12:12-13 reads, On the next day, when the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 they took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, indeed, the King of Israel!”
So, Jesus actually approached Jerusalem on the next day, the day after arriving in Bethany on Sunday. Palm Sunday is really Palm Monday. Four days before His crucifixion. Monday night Jesus returns to Bethany. On Tuesday, Jesus goes back to Jerusalem, enters the temple, and drives out the money changes. Just as He did during Passover at the beginning of His ministry. Wednesday Jesus returns to the temple where He’s challenged by the chief priests, scribes, and elders.
Mark 12:13, reads, Then they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Him in order to trap Him in a statement.
On Thursday the disciples prepared for the Passover meal. Jesus spent time in the Garden of Gethsemane He’s arrested and tried, which brings us to very early Friday morning. So, back to Monday and Jesus’ instructions to two of His disciples.
And as they approached Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples, 2 and said to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied there, on which no one has ever sat; untie it and bring it here. 3 And if anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it’; and immediately he will send it back here.”
By the way, biblical archeologists don’t know where Bethphage was, but the text indicates they were neighboring communities.
- Bethphage and Bethany
When Jesus says, “Go into the village opposite you…” He was likely sending the disciples into Bethphage. So, how did Jesus know there’d be a colt tied there? Not just any colt, but one on which no one has ever sat. Well, He’s God, the third Person of the Trinity. Jesus has perfect knowledge of everything, all the time, everywhere. What theologians call omniscience. Omniscience is characteristic of Jesus’ sovereignty. Jesus knew about the colt, that His disciples would be asked why they’re untying it, and that the inquirers would give them permission to take it.
Just as He had sovereign knowledge of those details, Jesus has sovereign knowledge of you. Your past, present and future. This offers confidence and comfort when we pursue His will. The pangs of conviction will throb in our heart when we run from His will. The Lord’s instructions to the two disciples were crafted from of His sovereign knowledge of the coming events. As many of the historical moorings that kept our church anchored for 61 years were disconnected last year. We hold on to the knowledge that our sovereign Lord knows where we’re headed. And we must follow Him by faith.
The Inquiry (4-6)
They went away and found a colt tied at the door, outside in the street; and they untied it. 5 And some of the bystanders were saying to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6 And they told them just as Jesus had said, and they gave them permission.
Imagine the rise in the disciple’s confidence of Jesus’ claims about Himself.
- The Son of God
When they see the colt and hear the inquiry just as He foretold. I want to make a couple applications here. Jesus confirms His plans when people follow His word. His confirmations might come soon as in this instance, or be delayed, even through hardship, like Job experienced. I’ll share an example that happens to me every week.
As I’m writing the message, If I get too cute with a point, our veer from where the Holy Spirit wants me to go, my thoughts on how to proceed shut down. When I erase it, conceding my arrogance, fresh reflections begin to flow. Our shared experience of His delayed confirmation has been the challenge of these past 12 months. We’ve got a way to go before God confirms our direction. All the old standards of measure have been set aside or stalled out.
We must, like Job, remain faithful, fragile but faithful. The second application, there’s’ almost always someone to question; to challenge us when we follow God’s word. I’m not judging the motives of the bystanders who questioned the disciples as they enlisted the colt. In fact, I think an argument can be made from the text they were believers. What did Jesus tell the disciples to say?
- The Lord has need of it; and immediately He will send it back here.
Permission was given when they learned who needed it. Because the Lord was their Lord too perhaps. Regardless of their motives, when people question why we follow the word. Our response should be like the disciple’s, simply based on God’s word. They repeated His words. The blessed Scripture is the word of our sovereign Lord. It is the inerrant infallible truth. The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man. (BF&M 2000) It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. (BF&M 2000)
2 Peter 1:19-21, reads, And 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 becomes a matter of someone’s own interpretation, 21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
When people question why you follow God’s word, use His word to answer them.
[The Instructions, Inquiry]
The Insincerity (7-10)
They brought the colt to Jesus and put their cloaks on it; and He sat on it. 8 And many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches which they had cut from the fields. 9 And those who went in front and those who followed were shouting: “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David; Hosanna in the highest!”
So, why did Jesus send them to fetch a colt? Why not a horse? Even still, why not just walk the 2 miles from Bethany to Jerusalem as He’d done many times before? Jesus was fulfilling prophecy.
Zechariah 9:9, Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is righteous and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
This was not the typical celebration. This was a sovereign celebration. Jesus coordinated events to fulfill prophecy, to honor the Father’s timeline and expose the revealer’s insincerity.
Listen, there’s no doubt their celebration was heartfelt, but it was superficial and fleeting at best. We know this because of the demands for His crucifixion in a few days. No one came to His defense. Jesus sovereignly knew the people would turn on Him. It wasn’t a surprise to the Lord. He knew they would abandon Him, even most of the disciples did. Talk about a cancel culture. When any tolerance for Jesus’ claims to be the Son of God ended, so did His popularity.
Let’s face it, He was only celebrated because of the miracles. People thought that if Jesus could raise Lazarus from the dead, He was certainly capable of throwing off their Roman oppressors. But Jesus came to annihilate the tyranny of sin, not the repression of Rome. He didn’t give the people what they wanted, so, they didn’t want Him. This was a sovereign celebration not a sincere celebration. One day our Lord will have both, a sovereign and sincere celebration. Revelation 19 describes the marriage supper of the Lamb. When Christ gathers together all His people, and His Bride, the church; celebrates their sovereign King.
This is the sovereign celebration Jesus invites you too. Not an impromptu man-made superficial one, but His heavenly celebration. Will you be there? He’s invites you to follow Him there.
[The Instructions, Inquiry, Insincerity]
The Inspection (11)
And Jesus entered Jerusalem and came into the temple area; and after looking around at everything, He left for Bethany with the twelve, since it was already late.
Why did Jesus go to the temple after coming to Jerusalem on Monday? I believe verse 15 gives us the answer. This takes place the next day, Tuesday.
Then they came to Jerusalem. And He entered the temple area and began to drive out those who were selling and buying on the temple grounds, and He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves.
Just as He did at the beginning of His public ministry, Jesus disrupts the businesses attached to the temple during Passover. In verse 11 He’s planning what to do the next day for maximum impact. He wants to be sure temple leaders see His every act of aggression. Because Jesus sovereignly knows their reaction will be to plot His death.
11:18, And the chief priests and the scribes heard this, and they began seeking how to put Him to death; for they were afraid of Him, because all the crowd was astonished at His teaching.
Jesus must be slaughtered as the Lamb of God on Friday in order to resurrect on Sunday. Jesus is now in full control of the events. Nothing will distract Him from fulfilling the Father’s plan of salvation. Do you remember the message from a few weeks back on righteous anger? That was the temple cleansing three years before this. Jesus had a very low profile then. He was just getting started. By this time His reputation as a teacher and performer of miracles was well established. The priests and scribes are aware of what He was capable of doing by now, they were scarred. And as we know, they would stop at nothing to try and destroy Jesus.
I will close with a question. What does Jesus see when He inspects the temple of your heart? Is your heart possessed by earthly concerns? What did He yell out that day?
- “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all thenations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”
This is a word for the church today. Understand, His indictment wasn’t just against temple commerce. I remember hearing silly arguments against church’s having bake sales to raise money for missions, this verse was always cited. I think the Savior had more than bake sales on His mind. He’s slandering every activity that cheapens the Father’s name. That devalues His own name. What’s in the temple of my heart that cheapens the name of Jesus. Do some inspecting of your own. Is there insincerity toward Him? Are you questioning what His word is telling you?
Rationalizing your rebelliousness, are you willing to follow His instructions? “Yes” to any of these brings Him lower than He should be; in the temple of your heart.