We are fast approaching the Easter season which commemorates the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus as the Sacrificial Lamb during Passover week in Jerusalem near the year AD 30. Our calendar puts this year’s celebration of that resurrection on Sunday, March 27th.
Exactly one week prior to Easter is Palm Sunday, which we celebrate this Sunday, March 20th. Palm Sunday marks the day Jesus entered into Jerusalem only one week before Passover. He was accompanied by a crowd of supporters who laid palm branches along the path; children cried “Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna to the King of Kings”. This event fulfilled the prophecy of Messiah foretold by the prophet Zechariah:
Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.
Here we are today, just 10 days prior to the date which has been set aside to celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus. This evening I want us to begin our study of this event by tracing some of the steps Jesus took on His historical journey from the Galilee to the cross and ultimately to His resurrection.
More time is dedicated in the combined Gospels to these few last days in Jesus’ earthly life and ministry than to any period. Almost half of the Gospel of John is written about these few days … from chapter 11 through chapter 21. (Matthew 19-28; Mark 10-16; Luke 18-24; & John 11-21 --- 35 Chapters in all detail this Journey to the Resurrection. This equals 40% of the 89 Gospel chapters total)
What a great time it was for Jesus then, and what a great season it is for the church now and for all believers today … Such a powerful time of the year. The Journey Begins – Palm Sunday – Resurrection Day!
God believes and is invested in helping people. He also wants us to help people. We do not serve a God who does not care or who prefers us to stay out of His way. God is not angry with us when we reach out and help others in need. We do not serve a God of karma or a God of vindictive judgment. When we help, we show the love and heart of God, the same heart and help God showed through Jesus, His Son. The story of the cross is a story of God’s love.
Our Gospel is Jesus specific and the Resurrection seals our claim. Without the resurrection Jesus would be just another martyr who died standing up for good and right religious & moral issues. The resurrection is God’s seal on the finished work of Messiah.
Tonight we begin our Easter sermon series following the journey of our Lord, from his home in the Galilee to Gethsemane, from Golgotha to the Garden Tomb, and then the Resurrection. Here we are only ten days prior to this year’s resurrection celebration … but where was Jesus when He stood just days away from that first resurrection celebration? Let’s follow as The Journey Begins
Turn with me to the book of Luke 19
While you turn let me add Matthew 19, in parallel commentary. Matthew 19 tells us that Jesus left the Galilee with His disciples on His way to Jerusalem. As was sometimes the case, He crossed over to the East side of the Jordan River and journeyed down through the land then claimed by Judaea. Once at or near the place where He had been baptized by John over three years earlier, (also the same place where Elijah and Elisha had crossed over the Jordan right before Elijah was taken by a whirlwind into heaven, just about the same place that Joshua led the Children of Israel across the Jordan into their promised land), Jesus and His disciples crossed over to the West bank of the Jordan River and soon they entered into the city of Jericho.
Many parables and teachings are recorded in the Gospels from this leg of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. The week before Palm Sunday we find Jesus in Luke 19 ministering in the city of Jericho.
Many Jews were making their commanded yearly pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover at this time, just as Jesus had done in years past when a boy with His parents. Multitudes walked along together stopping and lodging at convenient places, like Jericho, which was not only on the road to Jerusalem, but was also preferred for its seven cool water springs and date palm groves.
The plains surrounding Jericho were the last staging area for most pilgrims on their way to keep the feasts in the Holy City of Jerusalem. Much excitement would have filled the air along with anxious conversation as people drew near once again to the temple of the Lord and the feast of Passover.
One of the main topics of conversation this year was Jesus of Nazareth. Is He a prophet; a teacher of the law? Is He a heretic or Messiah? Each had their own points of view. And, of course, we have ours.
This was to be Jesus’ last time to make this journey, His last time in this city of Jericho and the last time a sacrifice would be required or accepted by God on the coming high holy day.
Jesus was on His way to be that Sacrifice.
He was the spotless Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world … He would be One Sacrifice for all sin forever.
But, He still had 10 days, and there was work yet to be done. With His busy moment, His evident popularity and the pressing crowd, He nonetheless took time to stop and minister to many and especially to one person in particular.
We begin this evening with verse 1 of Luke 19 reading from the NLT.
1 Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town.
2 There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was one of the most influential Jews in the Roman tax-collecting business, and he had become very rich.
3 He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowds.
4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree beside the road, so he could watch from there.
5 When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. "Zacchaeus!" he said. "Quick, come down! For I must be a guest in your home today."
6 Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy.
7 But the crowds were displeased. "He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner," they grumbled.
8 Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, "I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have overcharged people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!"
9 Jesus responded, "Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a son of Abraham.
10 And I, the Son of Man, have come to seek and save those like him who are lost."
There are at least six truths we glean from this story which apply to us today.
1. Jesus is coming to our town … and it may be the last time!
* This speaks to us of the urgency and the fleeting opportunities of life which we need be aware of.
* We should not pass up one opportunity to see and hear Him.
2. (Without regard to how big or small we may be), Jesus knows us by name
* He wants us to have a personal relationship with Him … He already knows us & our situation, only we may not be aware of it.
* He knows the number of hairs on our head. (Luke 21:7)
* Sometimes we have to climb higher, try harder to see Him, but we should never think, that God has not already taken notice of us, does not love us dearly, or does not have a plan for our life.
* He may only be waiting for us to make the effort.
3. Jesus wants to go to your house today
* If Jesus can get into our homes, our inner sanctums, our safe havens, the private places of our life … He can change us.
* Jesus knows your secrets and He still wants to be with you
* Take Him home today with great joy and excitement
4. Jesus will give us chances others may never give
* If you have been bad, Jesus will give you the chance to be good
* If you have been wrong, Jesus will give you the chance to be right
* Zacchaeus, like the woman caught in adultery in the Gospel of John, chapter 8, was not accused, condemned, criticized or rejected by Jesus. Rather he was loved, forgiven, trusted and blessed. So will it be with all who will make the effort and invite Him in.
5. It may not all be about you
* What about that person in Jericho that day who had been robbed of their possessions, cheated out of their income, who could not afford to pay their rent, buy food or clothing for their family, pay their just and honest debts and perhaps had to endure humiliation or even be put into debtor’s prison?
* Who was praying for Zacchaeus to get right with God? Whose cry was heard from heaven and responded to on earth? Why did Jesus take such an interest in Zacchaeus and challenge him to make amends? Could others have been included in God’s plan?
* Which poor widow moved the hand of God to touch Zacchaeus and make him a supply for her daily bread?
* Who hears the prayers? God does!
* Who sees the needs? God does!
* Who knows the resources? God does!
Perhaps it’s not always all about those it seems to be about. Maybe you are but a resource God wants to use. Somebody might be praying for you!
6. When people accuse you or complain about you, let be for something of which you are proud.
The people complained that Jesus was always with sinners and tax collectors. This was something of which Jesus could be proud. Jesus was merely reaching out to those who needed Him and in this He was a reflection of His Father.
When people grumble about you being too Godly or too holy or too kind or too giving or too forgiving or too laid back or too principled or disciplined … be proud! You are a reflection of your Heavenly Father!
We need Jesus to come to our homes.
We also need a new day, a fresh chance, a clean start.
We must humble ourselves and make every effort to see and hear Him.
But just as certain:
We need to be willing for Him to use what we have to meet needs we cannot imagine.
Hear Him calling to you?
Invite Jesus into your home today!
It will bless and change your life.
Climb a little higher for Him.
Who knows the rippling impact … God does!
Begin your journey today.