The following is a sermon I preached three years ago on Palm Sunday. it came to mind this morning as I was walking and praying. I trust it will bless you this Easter!
In the 5th century BC, the Greeks started some games at Mount Olympus. An olive branch was twisted as a crown, and onlookers waved palms for the victor. Palm branches were a symbol of victory. Olympic medals still have palms on them today!
There was excitement in the city. Jesus was coming. They had heard of his miracles, of people healed, of demons cast out, of his run-ins with the Pharisees. The discussion about the coin with Caesars image on it and whether we should pay taxes or not. The story of the Good Samaritan and the prodigal son. Lazarus had been raised from the dead just days prior. And now he was coming to Jerusalem!
He was really coming. He was the King, the Messiah, in their minds. They believed he was coming as a victor to bring His kingdom to reality. They saw victory over the Romans coming to pass so they gave Him a victor’s welcome. They waved the palm branches and laid them down at His feet in victory. They even laid their overcoats down in homage to Him. They praised the one who came riding in on a donkey, just as the prophecies said He would. Of course, the religious leaders were aghast! They derided Him for accepting the praise of the people. But He told them the rocks would cry out if the people did not. They were incredulous, I am sure
Then he walked into the temple and saw the money changers there, cheating the people and lying to them. They would take a lamb from one family, saying it was not clean enough, and they would sell that same family a lamb that had been taken from another family, supposedly because it was not clean enough. There weights were not accurate and they cheated the people one after another. Jesus came in, and as He had done before, he started dumping the tables over, causing a huge commotion in the entry of the temple. Once again, the religious leaders were furious and said this man has got to go.
The next two days he spent time in Jerusalem, teaching the people with stories about ten virgins and ten talents. He pronounced woes on the Pharisees in a tone none had seen from Him before. He told of the end times, and what they would be seeing at the end of the age. He talked about the value of a widow’s mite, and His feet were anointed with very costly oil by Mary. He told Peter he would betray Him three times. A lot happened on those two days that we rarely read about.
But then Thursday came. He sent His disciples into the city to prepare for the Passover, telling them to take someone’s donkey and tell them the Master had need of it. The disciples went and prepared the feast, and as soon as they were all there, Jesus washed their feet. The Master washing His followers’ feet – quite a sign of servanthood. He told them one of them would betray Him, and sent Judas away on His mission. He told them the bread was His broken body, and the cup was His blood spilled for them. They were trying to figure out what he was talking about. I am sure the atmosphere was solemn and sobering. Not a typical Passover fest, which were usually joyous and celebratory.
Around midnight, they took a walk to the Garden of Gethsemane. He told them he was going to prepare a place for them, that he was giving them His peace and would send the comforter to teach them. He told them he was the vine and they were the branches, and they were to be fruitful. He said the Holy Spirit would convict people of sin, righteousness and judgment. He told them to pray in His name, and he pronounced a blessing on the disciples, all during that short walk. Those words can be talked about forever.
When they got to the Garden, He took Peter, James and John a little further in and asked them to pray with Him as he went aside. But they fell asleep, not once, not twice, but three times. He told His Father that he was ready to do the Fathers will, and not His own. He would face the cross. Judas came and betrayed Him with a kiss and the soldiers took Him away in the middle of the night. A mock court awaited Him. It didn’t take long for them to convict Him as peter was outside betraying Him. Pilate listened to the case and washed His hands of the whole thing after the crowd cried crucify Him. He was beaten, bruised, spit on, scourged, given a crown of thorns and made to carry His cross. He fell under the weight, weakened by the loss of blood. A man helped Him carry the cross the rest of the way. They laid Him on it and put the nails through His hands and feet. Then they raised the cross and dropped it in the hole with a thud. The pain in His body must have been immense, the sight of Him almost grotesque.
Then He asked the Father to forgive them, for they did not know what they were doing. He put John in His place to care for His mother. He asked for a drink and got vinegar. Then he cried it is finished and His life left Him at three in the afternoon. He gave it up, they did not take it. All of a sudden there was an earthquake. The veil of the temple ripped from top to bottom. People came up out of their graves and walked in the streets of Jerusalem. It was an incredible series of events. They took His body down and laid it in a borrowed tomb, wrapped in a cloth. They out a huge stone at the entry of the tomb, sealed it with a Roman seal and placed a guard at the door so no one would steal the body.
Saturday was quiet. The people mourned His death. They seemed hopeless because they had such high hopes. Now He was gone, and their dreams of a Messiah were gone with them. The disciples were in hiding, afraid of the Romans, who thought they might steal the body so they could claim he rose again as He said He would. I can’t imagine the tears that were shed that day.
Then Sunday came. Mary came to the tomb to anoint the body, but when she got there the Roman guard was asleep and the stone was rolled away! She went into the tomb and Jesus was gone. She wondered where he was, and Jesus appeared to her, telling her He had risen just like He said He would. Se ran to tell the disciples. Peter and John ran to the tomb to see for themselves. They were amazed, and suddenly Jesus came into the room and talked with them. The victory had been won.
You see, the cross was necessary. Jesus had to win the victory by going through the cross. And we win the victory by going through the cross as well. We don’t ant to stay on the front side of the cross, and see the agone and defeat that is there. We need to get to the back side of the cross and see the victory that Christ won for us.
On the front of the cross is agony on the back of the cross is peace
On the front of the cross is sorrow on the back of the cross is joy
On the front of the cross is weakness on the back of the cross is strength
On the front of the cross is doubt on the back of the cross is faith
On the front of the cross is pain on the back of the cross is healing
On the front of the cross is deceit on the back of the cross is honesty
On the front of the cross are lies on the back of the cross is truth
On the front of the cross is bondage on the back of the cross is freedom
On the front of the cross is darkness on the back of the cross is light
On the back of the cross we are lost on the back of the cross we find the way
On the front of the cross is sin on the back of the cross is forgiveness
On the front of the cross we are stained with sin
on the back of the cross we are white as snow
On the front of the cross is defeat on the back of the cross is victory
On the front of the cross is death on the back of the cross is eternal life
If we stay on the front of the cross, hell will be our destination
When we go through the cross, and come to the back, our destination is heaven
All is only achieved if we go through the cross. Have you seen Him on the front of the cross, blood stained, nailed, in agony? Have you accepted Him as your sacrifice for your sin? If you have, then come through the Cross for victory. Come to the back of the cross and realize all God has for you.