“Passion: Palm Sunday” by John Burke

“Passion: Palm Sunday” by John Burke

Passion: One Week That Changed Everything – Palm Sunday

I love Marvel movies – I don’t know why I love Marvel Movies, it’s really the same movie, different characters over and over.  Have you noticed that.  Evil arises against humanity, the superhero rises up to save the world by overcoming evil—but it seems like Evil is going to win, the superhero almost dies trying to save us, but almost miraculously the superhero overcomes evil to set the world free. It’s a story that’s not new to Marvel—it’s found in literature throughout history—but that’s because all these hero stories are a shadow of God’s Hero Story—told and foretold since human history began. It’s the story of Jesus—the ultimate Superhero.  All the other stories are myths, this one’s true.  And you’re gonna see this as we take the next 3 weeks leading up to Easter to talk about the week that changed history—called the Passion Week.

Webster’s dictionary defines “passion” as “the sufferings of Christ between the night of the Last Supper and his death.” We think of passion as enthusiasm, excitement, commitment. I’m passionate about soccer—it’s funny, cause I can’t make myself run to the end of the block and back. But get me in a soccer game with a stupid little ball, and I run 2 hours straight, drenched with sweat, and I do it 3-4 times a week.  But I can’t make myself run. But I’m passionate about soccer.  That’s how we use the word “Passion” but that’s not genuine passion.

Genuine passion is what we care about so much, we will give everything for it. I’m not THAT passionate about soccer. Genuine Passion is what we are willing to die for. There are times I thought I was going to die playing soccer, but not willingly. Genuine Passion is a heroic giving everything for that which you are passionate about. What are you Passionate About—Passionate enough to lay down your time? Money? life? Anything? God demonstrated His passion for you and me by sending His Son to give His life for us. The week in the life of Jesus called “Passion Week” began with a cheering crowd (Triumphal entry) and a stand for justice (cleansing of the Temple).  So today, I’m going to tell you a story of Passion, at the beginning of this week that changed the world, even up to today. And I want you to think about this—what will I be passionate about? What’s worth my passionate commitment?

MOVEMENT 1 – Jesus Comes to Jerusalem

It’s been 3 ½ years since Jesus began his public ministry.

It’s about 32 AD, the Roman oppressors are ruling over Israel using the Pharisees and Sadducees, the Jewish Religious Oligarchs, as their puppets.

The Jewish people have long awaited a promised King, their Messiah, deliverer, savior.  For 1500 years, the Jewish prophets had been foretelling and anticipating this King of Kings to save Israel. 

And so, when Jesus comes on the scene, and he starts healing the sick, the disabled, even blind people, stories travelled—he was feeding 10000s miraculously, he was teaching with authority but also compassion—the drunks, the thieves, the prostitutes, the corporate crooks of his day actually flocked to him.

IN Jesus eyes they found what they were looking for, and they set aside their old ways to follow him. Many of them became his disciples. 

The Religious Leaders complained—he welcomes sinners—and he claims to forgive sins and wrongs—who does he think he is, God?  It’s blasphemy.

Yet 10s of 1000s flocked to Jesus wherever he went—Galiliee, Jerusalem, Samaria—he taught about the heart of God for all people.

I found two old scrapbooks filled with pictures from my high school and college years. I showed my kids pictures of me back then, and they got a good laugh at the short-shorts and Big Hair on everybody in the 80s.  But as we looked at pictures, I was able to tell them stories that surrounded those pictures—every picture told a story, which gave them insight into Dad. 

God gives us Pictures of who he is through the stories of Jesus interaction with others—in the last weeks of Jesus life, we see Pictures of God’s heart.

Jesus popularity became such a threat to the Religious Leaders power and political standing, when Jesus decided to go to Jerusalem for Passover Week, his disciples warned him.  They say the Religious Leaders want to arrest you.  Jesus was determined.

31 Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. 32 He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; 33 they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again. The disciples did not understand any of this..” Luke 18:31-34.

Even though the Jewish Prophets had foretold this, most people back then, just like today, weren’t really seeking to know God’s Word, they were just busy trying to live and survive and make a life for themselves. Passionate only about my plans. 

Yet Jesus shows pictures of God’s heart, even for people whose passion is misplaced. 

Jesus travels through Jericho on the way to Jerusalem, he heals a blind man, then he sees a tax collector, Zachaeus, a little gangster/mobster and Jesus stays at his house. 

Zachaeus comes for faith in Jesus and says he will pay back all he’s robbed from people double.

 Jesus says “That’s why I’ve come—to seek out and save those lost from God.” 

We get pictures of the heart of God, healing the hurting, forgiving and restoring relationship to the immoral, the broken, the fallen. 

Is that you?  Have you been passionate about the wrong things—but God is passionate about you.  Maybe it’s time to trade passions and get passionate about God?

Then Jesus hears about Lazarus, his friend, is sick and dying.  He waits, he lets Lazarus die, but then Jesus comes to Bethany and raises Lazarus from the dead.  A picture of God’s Power—death, the ultimate terror of humanity—cannot stand the Passionate Power of God.  Well, news about Lazarus travelled fast, and a groundswell of rumor spread “This must be Messiah, the King of Kings promised to us.  Surely Jesus is coming to save us—to overthrow the cruel Roman oppressors and bring Justice to Israel.  And momentum was building so strongly, it threw the Religious Leaders into a panic.

The Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin…If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation…So from that day on they plotted to take his life.” John 11:47-48, 53  

You see—it was all about what they were passionate about—their place of prestige,  their power, their possession, their plans. Is there anything you’re more passionate about that God—if so, in time, you will be challenged to worship it and get rid of God because you can’t have 2 in first place. Only One gets your ultimate Passion—what is that? 

So at the end of the first Movement of our Hero’s Journey—Jesus goes from Jericho up to Bethany where Lazarus, Mary and Martha live—just over the Mount of Olives from Jerusalem. The place is going crazy with talk of the coming King, and the tension is set for the great showdown:

MOVEMENT 2 – The Triumphal Entry of the King

Jesus comes to Bethany, and he tells his disciples, “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’” Luke 19:30-31

They brought back a donkey’s colt, and they put their outer cloaks over the donkey, and Jesus got up and the donkey, and began riding down the Mount of Olives toward Jerusalem. And word gets out that Jesus is going to the Temple, so people flock from Bethany and Bethphage and up from Jerusalem to see—is this the day King Jesus is going to call down angels from heaven and strike all our Roman enemies dead? They still didn’t understand what Jesus meant when people asked “When is God’s Kingdom coming” and he said,

“The Kingdom of God can’t be detected by visible signs. 21 You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is already among you.” Luke 17:20-21

God’s Kingdom rules wherever people put God first in their hearts—some had, but others had not. They were threatened by the thought of God ruling in their lives.  Jesus Kingdom is a spiritual Kingdom. It conquers the world, not by force, like we see the kings of the world brutally doing even today, but it conquers by winning the love, the loyalty, the passion of you, me, life by life that changes our world.

So Jesus comes riding in on a Donkey. Malachi the prophet 400 years before this wrote, “Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. Then the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his Temple. The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming,” says the Lord. Malachi 3:1

The messenger was John the Baptist, who prepared the way for Jesus, they were talking about these things, and here comes King Jesus riding down the mount of Olives to His Temple.

The Prophet Zechariah in 520 BC writes, “Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey—riding on a donkey’s colt. 10 I will remove the battle chariots from Israel and the warhorses from Jerusalem. I will destroy all the weapons used in battle, and your king will bring peace to the nations. Zechariah 9:9-10.

So you can’t totally blame them—they see Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt, the humble king, who will bring peace to the nations.  And He will—but not with military might.

What a Picture of God’s upside down Kingdom.

The Romans would prance in high on their stallions, commanding respect, you bow or you die. 

Forcing obedience, demanding loyalty, it’s the way of the Kings of the World.  But God is humble.  The most powerful is the most humble.

He overcomes evil one human heart at time as we become more passionate about God than anything else, because God is so passionate about you—as we will see—He would lay down His life for you, if you were the only person he had created. Because You are his unique daughter, His only son that’s just like you. Is there anything or anyone worthy of our passion more than this humble, passionate God?

So all the people line the streets, and they are laying down their cloaks in the road, cutting palm branches and laying them down before Jesus.  This was a sign of honor for a King, or troups coming in from battle, they would line the road with cloaks or palms to honor their King.  That’s why next week, the week before Easter Sunday is called Palm Sunday. It was when the people hailed Jesus as King. 

Luke tells us: When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: 38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” Luke 19:37-40

Until now, whenever someone proclaimed Jesus publicly as Messiah, he would do something strange:

He healed all the sick among them, 16 but he warned them not to reveal who he was. Matthew 12:15-16.

He did this often—You are the Messiah “Yes, Then he sternly warned the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. Matthew 16:20

That’s strange, why?  And why today, as He rides on a donkey into Jerusalem, when the Religious Leaders rebuke him for blasphemy, because he is accepting worship as the Messiah—God’s self-revelation long foretold.  Why today does he say “I am the Messiah—and if I made these people stop, the rocks would shout it out?  Because Jesus knew where He lived—he was wise.

We live in a world not ruled by God or His Kingdom. 

We live in a world where the Kingdoms of this world are opposed to God, opposed to Jesus. 

That’s why you’re so tempted to be ashamed of Jesus—the pressure is to hide your faith in Jesus, to deny Jesus, to use Jesus name only as a cuss word. 

Have you ever wondered why, even in other countries—I’ve been to 30 countries—why is the name of Jesus used as a cussword?  Have you ever heard Mohammed’s name, any of the Indian god’s names, or Buddha’s name used in a string of cusswords? Why Jesus? 

At the end of this week, Jesus will say why: This is my command: Love each other. If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.” John 15:18.

Jesus said this world is opposed to God and God’s loving ways—We live behind enemy lines.  That’s why we need to decide—what’s worth my passion? 

Because if you don’t decide, it will be decided for you. Let’s be people who decide—I’m going to passionately live for jesus, who loved me enough to passionately die for me. But when people choose to live for other passions and reject God, it breaks God’s heart.

MOVEMENT 3 – Signs in Our Times

Jesus comes riding down the hill, it’s a great celebration with people crying Hosannah-which means Save Us.  I’ve been up on the Mount of Olives

Here’s the glorious sight overlooking the city. In Jesus day, where the Muslim Dome of the Rock now stands, was the glorious Temple Jesus was coming to.  But seeing this picture, Jesus gets off his donkey, and He’s flooded with sadness. Because he knows some of the very people hailing him King will soon yell “Crucify Him” when the social media pressure mounts.

As Jesus approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now [your enemies]…will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” Luke 19:41, 44

God’s desire is to bring peace to our hearts, joy to our souls, forgiveness and restored relationship of love with God—so that we will trust God, put God as first, and follow God’s ways. That heals us, but it also brings peace and life to others as we live for God first.  Jesus knew they would turn on him and demand his crucifixion. When people push God out, God gives them what they think they want. But when God stays out, the evil world is all that’s left. And Jesus foretold what happened in history because they rejected God’s coming to them.  Jesus said, your enemies will not leave one stone on another. Later in the week, Jesus talks about what is to come for the Jewish people, and He predicts events happening in our generation.

“They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations.  Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”  Luke 21:24 (before 64 A.D.)

Jesus reiterated that not only would Jerusalem and the Temple be wiped out, but the Jewish people would be scattered among the nations, having no homeland until the “time of the Gentiles” (non-Jewish people) was fulfilled. But the prophets of old had already foretold this event. After the Messiah is killed, Israel will be scattered until the last days.

Now think about this, because this is not mythology—this is world history foretold. This is not Nostradamus-type incredibly vague predictions, which re-run every 3 days on History channel. How do you explain that in 70 A.D., 40 years after Jesus’ crucifixion, Roman General Titus leveled Jerusalem and the Temple—Yearly Jewish sacrifice ended because the Temple has not been rebuilt yet! And as we will see next week, Jesus was the last Passover Sacrifice. But for nearly 1900 years the Jewish people had no homeland, no government, and were scattered across the globe.

In 1927 Floyd Hamilton writes, “Palestine today is a land of ruins…the land that formerly supported such a large population is now barren and capable of supporting only a mere fraction of its former population.” -Hamilton (1927)

When your parents were born, Israel was still scattered and not a nation and Palestine was barren.

But Jesus said, Israel will be scattered UNTIL the time of the gentiles is complete. The prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel also foretold the miraculous event that happened in 1948. Isaiah in 680 BC foretold it

In that day the Root of Jesse [Messiah] will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious.  In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time…and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth.  Isaiah 11:10-12, (680 B.C.)

(Jesse was King David’s father, root of Jesse=Messiah). Isaiah writes that the Messiah’s “place of rest” Jerusalem, will be known and nations will rally to the Messiah. Then a 2nd time (note that Isaiah wrote before Israel was regathered a first time in 500 BC—here he says, a second time the Jewish Exiles will be regathered from all over the earth.

Then it happened—right after evil tries to wipe the Jewish people from the earth in a Holocaust; Russian Jews, Ethiopian Jews, American Jews, European Jews returned to the land they had been exiled from for 1900 years—In 1948, overnight a Nation was Born! Just as Isaiah predicted: 

Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children…they will bring all your people, from all the nations, to my holy mountain in Jerusalem.”  Isaiah 66:8, 20 (680 BC)  

Jesus said, you will be scattered until the time of the Gentiles is over.  This is not mythology, this is not religion, this is history—His-story foretold.  Religion is our attempt to reach God.  Jesus is God’s attempt to reach us—all of us! 

So when is the Time of the Gentiles over?

 If It’s the time Gentiles ruled Israel–1948. But It’s the time of the church too—the time when God is bringing people from all nations into His family.  That’s what is now. Telling people everywhere how Passionate God is for them—He loves them, you, me, all of us. He passionately laid down his life to pay His own price of Justice. So we can all be forgiven. Now is the time to tell everyone God’s Great News. The Time of the Gentiles—Us.

When is that time over? Well—I don’t know, but I know 1948 and Israel’s rebirth after 1900 years scattered was a major sign—yet Jesus foretold it that Passion Week.  And Jesus said something else later that week

As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

Now, let me just say, I’ve never been an end-times prophecy guy. I’ve had to ask God’s forgiveness because my skeptical attitude is “Yeah, but you said you were coming back 2000 years ago, and people thought it every few years in history.” Okay BUT 1948 Israel’s rebirth…and Jesus answered what’s the sign of the end:

32 “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out [rebirth?], you know that summer is near. 33 Even so, when you see all these things, you know that itis near, right at the door. 34 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.  Matthew 24:32-34

Does this mean when the fig tree, Israel is reborn, this generation will be the one to see all he says in Matthew 24 happen?  That’s a whole series we could do on that.  I don’t know, but it could be. 1948 was a big deal. But here’s the So What of this.  Passion Week reminds us that Jesus is the Lord of all history.  He is God come to rescue us from and evil broken world. He is the only real Superhero there’s ever been, and He is So Passionate about you, there’s nothing His love would not do for you.  So let’s live passionately for God.  Let’s not be ashamed to tell people about the passionate Love God has for them, so that they too can live connected to the Source of Love. 

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About John and Kathy Burke

After ministry in Santa Barbara, the former Soviet Union, and Chicago, in one of the […]


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