March 25, 2018
God’s Word is The
Source of Encouragement!
As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’” They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” “Hosanna in the highest!” (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Last Sunday you and I saw how something as “insignificant” as some Gentile believers requesting to see Jesus served as an encouragement to our Lord. That request encouraged Jesus to complete the mission He had been given by His heavenly Father by reminding our Lord that His mission would result in both glory as well as judgment. But, what about us? Where do we receive encouragement, my friends? You may have friends who could use some encouragement when it comes to how they are going to pay their rent or keep up with their mortgage. You may have family members who could use some encouragement because someone they love is ill or is battling with the demons of drugs and alcohol. Perhaps you are the one who could use some encouragement for reasons you don’t want to be made public. Where do we receive encouragement?
As you and I gather together here in God’s house to celebrate Palm Sunday we find an answer to that question! How does Palm Sunday give us encouragement? Let me try to “connect the dots” for you. Many of us are extremely familiar with Scripture’s account of Palm Sunday. In fact, today marks the 32nd time I have preached a Palm Sunday sermon. You may have heard many more Palm Sunday sermons than that. Therefore, I’d like us to look at this Palm Sunday text from a slightly different perspective this morning. Since more and more people are searching for a source of encouragement and since we may need a source of encouragement ourselves, let’s see how Mark’s account of Palm Sunday gives us an opportunity to see that: God’s Word is THE Source of Encouragement! There are two ways that we want to approach this text. First, let’s see how Palm Sunday reminds us that Jesus’ spoken Word is our source of encouragement. Then let’s broaden our view to see how Palm Sunday reminds us that God’s written Word is our source of encouragement.
Our text for today opens by reminding us of how that first Palm Sunday began. Mark writes, “As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, ‘Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, “Why are you doing this?” tell him, “The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.”’ They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, ‘What are you doing, untying that colt?’ They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go.”
If you were asked to pick a key verse here, what verse would you pick? I’d like to suggest verse six, “They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go.” Two of Jesus disciples were simply told to go on ahead into the village and get a colt for Jesus to ride on as He entered into the City of Jerusalem, the beloved City of God. Jesus told them exactly what they would find, exactly what would happen and exactly how they were to respond. Did these two disciples do as Jesus had directed them? They sure did! Did these two disciples find things exactly as Jesus said? Absolutely! Did these two disciples respond as they had been told? Yes! Do you think these two disciples were encouraged when everything happened just as Jesus said it would? I am confident they were!
How does this portion of our text apply to you? In other words, how does Palm Sunday remind you that Jesus’ spoken word is a tremendous source of encouragement for you? Let me help you understand what I am trying to emphasize here by directing you to just some of the words that Jesus spoke during just the last week of His public ministry here on this earth.
Ever since the days that Jesus physically walked here on this earth there have been people who claim that Jesus is “just a man”— a terrific teacher, an excellent example, a powerful prophet— but, still “just as man.” Right here in this text who does Jesus proclaim Himself to be? We find the answer to that question in the answer that Jesus told His disciples to give to the people who would object to them untying the colt. Jesus told them to say, “The Lord needs it….” Jesus is “the LORD”! He is the great “I AM” who spoke to Moses in the burning bush. He is “Jehovah” Himself! (See also John 8:48-59; 10:22-33) These simple words from this Palm Sunday text remind you that Jesus’ spoken word is a tremendous source of encouragement for you! If ever— whenever— someone tries to convince you that Jesus is “just a man”— a teacher, an example, a prophet yes, but still “just a man”— you have the encouragement that comes from the words that Jesus Himself spoke! Jesus is the Lord! Jesus is your Lord!
Fast forward from Palm Sunday to Maundy Thursday. As Jesus gathered with His disciples in the Upper Room to celebrate the Passover He took some of the unleavened bread from the Passover meal, gave thanks, broke it and spoke the words, “Take and eat; this is my body.” (Matthew 26:26) Then He took the cup of grape wine from the Passover meal, blessed it, gave it to His disciples and spoke the words, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28). This is a reminder to you that Jesus’ spoken word is a tremendous source of encouragement for you! Whenever you approach His altar to receive His true body and blood in His holy Supper, the words that Jesus speaks to you give you both the encouragement and the assurance of knowing that through His true body and His true blood given here in bread and wine all of your sins are completely forgiven!
As Jesus stood before the Sanhedrin the high priest said to Him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God” (Matthew 26:63). Under oath Jesus answered the high priest by speaking the words, “Yes, it is as you say” (Matthew 26:64). Again, Jesus’ spoken words are a tremendous source of encouragement to you! When people try to convince you that Jesus never claimed to be “the Christ,” the Promised Messiah, this world’s only Savior from sin, whenever people try to tell you that Jesus never claimed to be the true Son of God you have the encouragement that comes from the words that Jesus Himself spoke! Jesus is the true Son of God! Jesus is “the Christ,” your only Savior from sin!
As Jesus was suffering the unspeakable agony of being nailed to a cross to pay the debt of our sin one of the thieves who had been crucified alongside of Jesus turned to Him with a humble request. He said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus responded by speaking the beautiful words, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:42, 43). These words spoken by our Lord are a tremendous source of encouragement for you! Whenever you are contemplating what happens to a child of God when their journey here on this earth comes to an end, whenever you are contemplating what will happen to you when you die, you can go back the words that Jesus Himself spoke and receive the encouragement that comes from knowing that the instant a child of God dies, they are welcomed into the “paradise” of God!
Shortly after Jesus spoke those words to the thief on the cross, Jesus spoke the words, “It is finished,” or that can be translated, “I have reached My goal!” (John 19:30). These glorious words spoken by our Lord and Savior are a tremendous source of encouragement for you! If ever you are feeling overwhelmed by your sin and the guilt that comes with sin, if ever Satan tries to convince you that God could never love and forgive someone like you, you can go back to the words that Jesus Himself spoke and receive the encouragement that comes from knowing that right there on the cross Jesus paid the debt of your sin! Right there on the cross Jesus secured your eternal salvation!
And, of course, we cannot overlook, we could never over emphasize the words that the risen Christ spoke to His fear-filled disciples on that first Easter Sunday, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19). We cannot put a price tag on the words of Easter peace that our crucified and risen Savior speaks to us, my friends. These words are a tremendous source of encouragement in so many ways! Whenever we are facing difficulties of any sort in our life, whenever we are feeling afraid, whenever we are feeling alone, whenever we are feeling unloved, and most especially, when we come face to face with death itself we can go back to the words that the risen Christ has spoken to us and receive the encouragement that comes from knowing that through faith in what Jesus has done for us (pointing to the cross) we are at peace with the one and only living God!
These six examples are just a very small part of why we can say that Jesus’ spoken words are a tremendous source of encouragement for us today. At the same time, those six examples also make it extremely easy for us to see why God’s written Word is our ultimate source of encouragement. The second portion of our text for today is, of course, the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecy that was recorded in our Old Testament lesson from the book of Zechariah. (Zechariah 9:9, 10) Some five hundred years before Palm Sunday took place the Lord God revealed to His people exactly Who was riding into Jerusalem, exactly why He was riding into Jerusalem and exactly what He would accomplish on a hill outside of Jerusalem.
The application here is quite simple, my friends. When our God says He is going to do something— He does it! When our God makes a promise— He keeps it! When our God tells us, “Trust me, I have everything under control”— He means it! This book that you and I call the Bible is not just a collection of stories that have been written and edited by mere mortal men down through the ages. This book that you and I call the Bible is the holy, inspired, inerrant, written Word of God. This book that you and I call the Bible is our ultimate source of encouragement— for both this life as well as for our life beyond the grave. Just as the good Lord faithfully fulfilled every single one of the prophecies concerning the Person and the work of the Messiah, the Christ, the Savior whom God promised to send into this world, so also the good Lord will faithfully fulfill every single one of the promises that He has made to you right here in His holy Word. The more we read and study our Bibles, the deeper our knowledge and understanding of Scripture becomes the easier it will be for us to see and to experience that God’s Word is the ultimate source of encouragement.
It is no secret that people today are searching for a source of encouragement. It is no secret that sometimes even we could use a source of encouragement. My prayer this morning is that as we once again celebrate Holy Week these very familiar words from the Gospel of Mark will lead us to see how Palm Sunday reminds us and assures us that our source of encouragement is found in the spoken and written Word of our God.
To God be the glory!