Text: Luke 19: 29-44
Proposition: We need to praise God, it’s an essential expression of the reality of who we are as created beings who need truth, sacrifice and the ability to see what God sees.
Introduction: Palm Sunday, it could just have easily been called Cloak Sunday or Stone Sunday or Colt Sunday. It maybe should have been called The Great Reveal Sunday or Who Would Have Guessed Sunday or even The Sunday No One Knew. It was a Sunday that God used to change the way that people think about Him, He pulled back the curtain of unbelief and for the first time Jesus Christ accepted the public worship of the people as their Messiah. People had worshipped Him before but never had Jesus invited this level of open praise and worship. Unbeknownst by the people there that day it was a picture of what one day will happen, almost on this very spot. As Jesus came towards Jerusalem on that Sunday morning people began to get more and more excited about who this might be. They begin to be more and more bold in their praise. You almost say it was a defiant praise, defiant against Rome, defiant against the Pharisees, defiant perhaps even against their own prevailing unbelief. What I would like to propose to you this morning is that praise that is directed towards God is not just something that spiritual people do. In fact all people need to praise God. We need to praise God in the same way that we need food, in the same way that we need water or even in the same way that we need love. Let me prove that to you because after all, God designed praise. He designed that inanimate objects would praise Him, the trees of the field, the birds of the air, the fish of the sea, let all that has breath praise the Lord. He’s the One who has designed us, if inanimate creation would praise God by His design do you think He would purpose anything less for the creation that was made in His image? So look again with me at a story you already know too well, see what unquenchable praise looks like. Turn with me Luke 19: 29 - 44.
I. In a World of Deception Praise Is What God Uses To Reveal Truth.
So let me begin this section by saying that we need to praise God because in it truth is revealed. There is something deep in this, it’s not just that praise is a reaction to goodness, it’s that praise enables us to speak truth. If you think this is a minor theme in Scripture then think again. More than 234 times ‘truth’ is spoken about. Isaiah said, “Justice is turned back and righteousness stands far away; For truth has stumbled in the street, And uprightness cannot enter.” The Apostle John said, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” In responding to Pilate Jesus said, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” In a world of deception God uses praise to reveal truth and that brings us to our passage this morning. As Jesus prepares to leave Bethany where He has been for the Sabbath, He sends two of His disciples to go and bring a donkey and her colt to Him. We know from Matthews account that this was something Zechariah prophesied 500 years earlier in Zech. 9:9, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” God used praise on that Palm Sunday to speak truth, even when the people who were praising Him hardly knew what they were saying. The truth they proclaimed is that Jesus is King of kings, that He is just, righteous is the word sometimes used. It means sinless and because of that He alone has been endowed with salvation. He is meek, humble and He makes Himself known to you. That’s what the foal of a donkey was all about, a simple yet unmistakable sign that symbolized who He now came as. When you and I praise God we can be used of God to proclaim truth in a world of deception. There is a God, He does know you, He will judge you but He also loves you more than any other ever has. Praise proclaims truth and we need truth in our souls like we need oxygen in our lungs. It isn’t just that we ought to breathe because that’s what good Christian people do. If we don’t breathe we die, we need to breathe! In the same way we need to praise the Lord Jesus Christ, else we die in a thousand other ways.
II. In a World That Seeks Safety Praise Invites Me To Sacrifice.
Look at what happens when the disciples bring the colt to Jesus. It immediately becomes apparent that they should create some kind of saddle or covering. So they use what they have, in some cases it was all that they had, that’s usually where sacrifice begins. They took off their cloaks and laid them on the back of the donkey. First one, then another, maybe two more and in a moment the young animal was draped with their cloaks. One moment it was simply being obedient to Jesus, the next it was a call to sacrifice their own clothing. Every cloak laid upon the animal was an act of praise, it said He is at least worthy of this! It’s like God sometimes opens up a door for us to sacrifice, it might be time, ability or wealth, but He will make an opportunity for you to give, to sacrifice. That action comes partly from the desire to care for others but also from the higher purposes of glorifying God. Your sacrifice becomes a vehicle by which you praise God. Why is that a good thing, why is sacrifice something we need to do? It’s because otherwise we will want to always play it safe. When you always play it safe it means you stay within the boundary of your own capability, your own self created safety zone. Praise will invite you to sacrifice. How do I know that is true? Well when we worship everything inside us wants to keep things under control, we are hesitant to pull out the stops and praise God they way our soul is imploring us to. In a word we stay safe. If I follow the lead of what praise is inviting me to I offer sacrifice, the sacrifice of lips that exclaims thanksgiving, petition, faith and adoration. Look at our Scripture again because an incredible thing happens when praise draws us to sacrifice. It catches on like wild fire. People see what the disciples did and then they start taking off their cloaks and lay them in the road for the colt to walk on. In fact this is an even greater sacrifice than the former, these cloaks will be trampled, torn, ripped, words that remind us of the sacrifice of the cross. We need to praise because praise in itself calls us to sacrifice ourselves and in that sacrifice we affirm the glory of God, we transfer our dependence for safety from ourselves to the living God of glory. Sacrifice will reveal Christ, it will open doors, it will meet the needs with the resources of the One who owns the cattle on a thousand hills. Praise invites sacrifice, we need that.
III. Praise Enables Us To See What God Sees.
The crowds had come from Bethany following Jesus and then another crowd came out from Jerusalem to meet them. Many came to see this Lazarus who had been raised from the dead, others came to see if Jesus was the Messiah who would overthrow the Romans. They didn’t see what God saw, they didn’t see the One who was coming to save them, the Suffering Servant Isaiah had written about. The crowd gets more and more bold in what they cry out, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the LORD!' Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” They are saying Jesus is the Messiah, and they were right except what God saw as Messiah met a need far, far, deeper than political freedom. So the Pharisees cry out to Jesus telling Him to subdue the crowds, partly because of what they considered religious blasphemy and partly because of their fear that Romans forbade such Jewish outpourings. All this came about because of the praise of the people, the great cries of Hosanna! Look for a moment at how Jesus responds to this request from the Pharisees, “I tell you that if these (the people) should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.” In the most obvious sense this is hyperbole, an exaggeration to make a point. But look at where they are, on the Mount of Olives. Do you know what lays between the Mount of Olives and Jerusalem as you go down the Kidron Valley? Graveyards, all up the slopes of the Mount of Olives are graves, (see slides 1-3) even right up to the edges of the walls of Jerusalem. Because the Jews would not bury anyone inside the walls, the nearest places were the Mount of Olives and other spots around there. Is it possible that Jesus was referring to these stones that marked the burial sites of all who had lived before them? If so what might that have inferred? I think the answer is simple, if you won’t praise the Lord, if you keep silent, God will raise up the testimony from those who have gone before us. What God saw was that praise sees from a wider plane of time than just the circumstances of my life today. It sees way into the past and it sees us here today and it enables us to see what God has done. He is the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow. Not only does praise invite us to see what God has done, it invites us to see what He will do. On the slopes of the Mount of Olives Jesus stops the procession and then He begins to weep. In the midst of all this Jesus weeps because He sees what God the Father sees, Jerusalem 40 years from that day, in ruins, destroyed. His words are intense, “For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
It was the occasion of praise that led to this statement from Jesus, a statement that if the people were willing to hear it would enable them to see what God sees. We need that, we need to see what God sees when He looks at our lives for this is our day of visitation. The Third Person of Trinity is here on earth with us today, the Holy Spirit. This is the day of our visitation. Praise is what God uses to enable us to see Him and to see our sin, to receive His forgiveness, to know redemption, to be reconciled to Him. We need to praise God, to reveal truth, to be stirred to sacrifice and to be enabled to see what He sees. Come and see what He sees this Friday, Good Friday and praise Him.