Palm Sunday Sermon
“And Jesus went on with His disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way He asked His disciples, ‘Who do people say that that I am?’ And they told Him, ‘John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.’ And He asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered Him, ‘You are the Christ.’ And He strictly charged them to tell no one about Him. And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. But turning and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.’” (Mark 8:27-33)
Peter’s declaration that Jesus was the Christ was a pivotal moment for Jesus’ disciples. When Peter made this confession we are told by Matthew that Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” (16:17)
There were so many views about who Jesus was. Some thought Jesus was John the Baptist. Some thought that He was Elijah or one of the prophets. But Peter was made to see that Jesus was the Christ. Jesus was the promised King who was to come. In that moment Peter could have quoted Psalm 145:1, “I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever.”
Having confessed that Jesus was the Messiah, the last thing that the disciples could believe was that Jesus would soon suffer and die. That might happen to John the Baptist or one of the prophets but not to the Messiah. The King was supposed to reign forever. The Jews expected Jesus to conquer the Romans and to liberate them from all earthly powers. They could not imagine any scenario in which the Messiah would be beaten, flogged and crucified.
Jesus, however, knew what would happen to Him. This was the purpose for which he had come into the world. In Matthew 23: 37 Jesus looks at the city of Jerusalem and weeps saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!”
From the moment that Peter had confessed that Jesus was the Christ Jesus began to head towards Jerusalem. As they traveled Jesus began to teach His disciples that he would suffer many things at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. He spoke very plainly about these things to His disciples (Mt. 16:21-22; Mark 8:31-32). He would get even more graphic about His suffering saying, “They will mock Him and spit on Him, and flog Him, and kill Him. And after three days He will rise.” (Mark 10:34)
The thought of this was so unconscionable to Peter that he pulls Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him. I cannot recall another moment in which the disciples rebuked Jesus for something He had said or did. They had often been confused and puzzled by some of the things that Jesus taught but they never rebuked Him like Peter does here. Jesus was the Teacher and they were the disciples and it would have seemed inappropriate under any other circumstance to do what Peter does here. Peter could not fathom, comprehend or imagine any scenario in which Jesus was going to suffer. Peter’s rebuke is met with a strong response by Jesus who said to him in front of the other disciples, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
As I contemplate this I wonder how many times I could find myself rebuking Jesus and His teaching? How many times might I say, This doctrine cannot be right? This theology cannot be true? This teaching has to be wrong because no one in our culture believes this way?
As I consider Jesus’ response to Peter, “You are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”, I am soberly aware of just how often Jesus could rebuke me like this every day. Oh, I could weep at the amount of time that I think so naturally like a man and not like God would have me too. It would be a welcomed grace, and a welcomed rebuke, to receive correction from Him for thinking this way.
Paul had to rebuke the churches for the way that they were thinking. Consider 2 Corinthians 11:1-4, “I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one your received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.”
Some of these strongholds are hard to overcome. Therefore Jesus began to teach His disciples often about the suffering that was approaching. Every time that Jesus would mention His suffering and death it seemed to bring to the surface some sins within them.
In Mark 8 Peter rebukes Jesus when Jesus speaks of His suffering (8:32)
In Mark 9 the disciples argued with one another about who was the greatest as Jesus speaks of His suffering (9:34)
In Mark 10 James and John wanted to be allowed to sit in the highest places of honor in Jesus’ Kingdom as Jesus spoke about His suffering. Their request made the other disciples indignant. (10:41)
Despite all of this Jesus made these into teachable moments and He displayed great patience with His disciples.
In Mark 8 Jesus taught them that anyone who would come after Him must deny himself and take up his cross and follow after Him. What would it profit a man to gain the whole world if in the process He forfeited His soul?
In Mark 9 Jesus taught them that whoever would be first, must be last of all and a servant to all.
In Mark 10 Jesus teaches His disciples that they are not to Lord their authority over others as the Gentiles do. Jesus taught them that whoever would be great among them must be a servant. And whoever would be first among them must be a slave to all.
In all of these things Jesus knew that His disciples, except for Judas Iscariot, would reflect the best aspects of these teachings in time. For example, he told James and John that they would one day be able to drink of the same cup that Jesus was going to be drinking. He acknowledged that they would one day be baptized into the same type of suffering that Jesus was walking into. (Mark 10:39)
When Jesus first started speaking of his death and resurrection the disciples did not have a category in their theology for a suffering Messiah. In Peter’s view there was absolutely no scenario in which Jesus would suffer these things. As a result, Peter rebuked Jesus as if He was wrong for saying such a thing.
And yet, you and I would not want to live in a world where our Savior did not suffer and die for us. In doing this, Jesus displays great grace while under the hardest of circumstances.
On Friday I went to spend some time with Jim Moe. He has fought a long hard battle with dementia. As I sat there with Jim I tried to comfort him by reminding him that he can receive grace because Jesus by remembering that Jesus knows what he is going through. Jesus knows what it is like to suffer and to die. Jesus has faced these things and therefore we can have great comfort in the midst of these things as well.
Charles Spurgeon once said, “Spices are the most fragrant when burnt and bruised; so also, saving graces are the most potent in hard times.”
I often sit in my office next to a candle. I forget that it is even there until I light it and in a matter of minutes its fragrance begins to fill the room under the heat of the burning wick. The longer that candle is lit the more it fills the house with its smell. If it is true that suffering and trials make grace more potent, then we are privileged to experience no greater grace than when we consider the sufferings of Christ, His death and burial, and the resurrection of Christ.
Even when Christ was the weakest, grace was powerfully at work. When He approached death He offered forgiveness (Luke 23:34), He entrusted His mother to John (John 19:26-27), saving grace was given to a thief on the cross beside Him(Luke 23:42). In His death a Roman soldier believed upon Him unto eternal life (Matthew 27:54).
Spurgeon goes on to say these words, “Herein lies one of the benefits of affliction, it fetches out latent sweetness and light. Certain herbs yield no smell till they are trodden on, and certain characters do not reveal their excellence till they are tried. The developing power of tribulation is very great: faith, patience, resignation, endurance, and steadfastness are by far best seen when put to the test by adversity, pain, and temptation.”
As we gather this morning to contemplate the suffering of Jesus we can appreciate that we will be able to see more clearly grace in His rejection and suffering.
Jesus gave voice to the suffering of His soul on the day He entered into Jerusalem. He said, “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” (John 12:27-28) Jesus’ soul was troubled by the hour that was upon Him but He knew that it would also bring great glory to the Father. Let me give you five examples of how Jesus was destined to come to this hour of suffering. And how this suffering would bring glory to God.
Christ’s Fate Was Sealed From Before The Creation Of This World In The Eternal Counsel Of God
Consider Revelation 13:8, “... everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.”
Or consider Ephesians 1:3-4, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.”
Christ’s Suffering Was Testified To Throughout The Old Testament
Isaiah 53: 3-11 says, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed Him not. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought upon us peace, and with His wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of My people? And they made His grave with the wicked and with a rich man in His death, although He had done no violence, and there was no deceit in His mouth. Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush Him; he put Him to grief; when His soul makes an offering for guilt, He shall see His offspring; He shall prolong His days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. Out of the anguish of His soul He shall see and be satisfied; by His knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and He shall bear their iniquities.”
Christ’s Suffering Was Testified At Jesus’ Birth
In Luke 2:34-35 Simeon testified about the grace that would be seen in the sufferings of Christ when he prophesied, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
Christ’s Suffering Was Testified To At The Beginning Of His Ministry
John speaks of the grace that can be seen in Christ in the opening words of his gospel. In John 1:14-17 he says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about Him, and cried out, ‘This was He of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks before me, because He was before me.”’) For from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” John the Baptist soon testifies about Jesus to His disciples by saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (1:29) Is it then not true that the grace of God is shining most brightly in the events that we are considering closely over the next two weeks.
This morning we have an opportunity to see this grace and to be reminded of the beauty of Jesus’ life, His words and His actions while He was experiencing such distress.
Having witnessed this grace we will see more clearly how this grace has effected us. For example, Romans 5:8 says, “...but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God. For while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life. More than that, we rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
Suffering Was Characteristic Of Jesus’ Entire Life And It Climaxes During The Events Of This Week
Paul speaks of this in Philippians 2:5-8, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Because of this, “God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (9-11)
Observations / Applications
1. Today we have seen that it is the Father who brings us to recognize His Son. And we have seen that our sanctification and progress in understanding these things takes His help too. The Lord is active in this process and patient in our growth. Our thinking about doctrines and theology will either embrace the things of God or reject them. Pray that God will guide us into truth.
2. Spurgeon reminded believers that in adversity and pain the grace of God has their sweetest smell. The apostle Paul boasts of this very thing when he writes to the Corinthians, “I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”(2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
3. It is a blessing to look to Christ and to consider His sufferings and resurrection.
This week when I went to see Jim Moe a friend of his came in to see him. One of the first things he said was, “I won’t stay long. I lost my mom four years ago so I know what this is like and I don’t want to go through this again.” Suffering and death is painful and unbearable apart from our Savior Jesus Christ. When we experience these things we want to separate ourselves from them. But when we look to Christ and His suffering we find healing, comfort, courage and grace. Does this not testify to the work of grace in Christ that is missing in all other similar events.
4. In Philippians we read, “God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (9-11)
There is not a tongue that is present in this room who ought not be confessing Jesus as LORD as we consider these things. There may be some here who are content to view Jesus as Elijah or a prophet. You need to repent and confess Jesus as the Christ.
Every believer ought to consider Jesus, His sufferings and His resurrection, and proclaim with the psalmist, “I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever.” (Psalm 145:1) And do not be surprise, if like the disciples, your sin is more evident as you begin to hear about the sufferings of Christ. It is the cross that heals us of those very things.