Palm Sunday: The Branch or The Nail? - 3/25/18

PALM SUNDAY: THE BRANCH OR THE NAIL?
Luke 19: 36-38, Matthew 27: 15-17, 20-21

This is a life story shared by Jack Martin: …
My mother took us to church on religious holidays. She was not a religious
woman, but she liked to sing, only her singing voice was like that of a cat
crying. But at church she could belt out her favorite hymns and no one could
complain.
My sisters and I were too young to join the main congregation so we attended
a Sunday school service, held in a pre-fab building next to the church. There
were couches in there and beanbags, and like all Sunday schools, there was
mostly table tennis going on and a very enthusiastic young carer trying
desperately to interest everyone in the Good Word. Palm Sunday was my
favorite service because we were allowed to make palm crosses and build, in
small buckets, replicas of Jesus’s tomb. I loved making things and my tomb
took me the better part of twenty minutes. I molded it out of mud, found
pebbles, and covered the top in moss.
I then set about playing on my tomb with a Lego monkey, until my enthusiastic
caregiver, sensing a dip in my spiritual application, steered me to the
activities table where kids were making palm crosses and told me “ to just try
a few, for fun.”
There has only been one thing I have ever been good at folding – paper
airplanes. I tried my hand at a few palm crosses, got bored and set about
crafting five of the finest palm airplanes the world had yet seen
The caregiver was busy and I wanted then to show my mother the palm
airplanes. I snuck out of the pre-fab, towards the glorious sound of mother’s
caterwauling inside the church. I had my reservations about marching in
there, but I thought a display would suit the occasion, so I launched, one by
one, my palm airplanes across the singing congregation.
They sailed through the House of God, gliding gently, bathed in stained glass
light. The song ended, “The Lord has Come.” Most of the planes landed in the
crowd. But my best design found its way to the preacher’s pulpit. The old
preacher, good soul that he was, simply smiled, picked it up and threw it back
to me. It sailed across the crowd and I caught it neatly.

2

This morning, as many of you know, … today is Palm Sunday; …
The day, … taken from the Gospels, … where a whole city threw a parade for
Jesus. … As Jesus rode into the city, the people threw Palm branches in
anticipation of His coming; … Thus we get our word Palm Sunday.
This day marked a time of celebration where Jesus was worshipped and praised.
This day is Bittersweet for us because even as we read of the celebration, …
we know that Friday is coming; … The cross is coming.
We know that many in this same crowd will, … within a few short days, …
exchange words of praise to words of death. … Shouting Hosanna, Hosanna …
and then later shouting … Crucify Him, Crucify Him.
Today, … I want to focus our attention on two scriptures, … both which focused
upon Jesus … but with two different results.
If you have your Bibles this morning, turn with me to two passages, … one from
the Gospel of Matthew and the other from the gospel of Luke.
Turn first to Matthew 27:15. … Place your finger there … and then turn to Luke
19: 36.
The great and late evangelist, Billy Graham, has been quoted many times as saying
that the greatest mission field in our country today, … is in our local Church; …
the people sitting already in our Churches.
Now I am not sure whether this statement is true or not … but I do know that
many people know what to say, … how to say it, … even how to act in it …
but when the rubber truly meets that road, … there is no personal relationship with
Jesus Christ. … No salvation; … just empty words.
We see a perfect example of this in our two scripture readings this morning.
On Sunday, … Jesus rode into the city with the people shouting praises and
praising God for all the wonderful miracles they had seen.
On Friday they are shouting “give us Barabbas, … We want him, … Crucify
Jesus Crucify Him!”
Why the change?
Well there are many possible reasons … but one simple reason is that their words
did not match their heart. … They possessed a casual, … not a committed faith.
They had religion … but they missed the person Jesus. … So how can we have a
committed faith? … How can we be real and sincere? … Consistent in all that we
do?
Well this morning, … I want to offer some keys to just such a faith.
The first Key is that a committed faith is not self-centered; …
it is Christ-Centered!
This sounds obvious … but we often miss it . …

3

In America, we tend to say to God; … “ Hey God, here is my calendar, here is my
agenda. … Now I can squeeze you in here or here.” … Pulling God out …
or turning to God … only when it is convenient or useful.
In the “Luke” passage, The people praised Jesus as He passed by … but many of
them praised Him for two reasons. … First, because of His miracles. … He healed
the sick, … raised the dead. …They praised Him because He was serving them …
and Second, … because they saw in Jesus a way to be politically delivered from
the Romans; … to be set free from Rome as Israel was set free from Egypt.
Their praise was tempered with the attitude of … “Jesus, … what can you do for
me.”
A few days later at the trial, they saw a beaten and disfigured Jesus, …A man who
no longer looked like a deliverer or a conqueror. … As words and gossip were said
about Him, … they bought into all the lies … and quickly changed their position.
For them it was all about … “Me, Me, Me!”.
There is a legend about an ancient village in Spain. … The villagers learned that
the king would pay a visit! … In a thousand years, a king had never come to that
village. … Excitement grew! …"We must throw a big celebration"; the villagers
all agreed … but … it was a poor village … and there weren’t many resources.
Someone came up with a classic idea: … Since many of the villagers made their
own wines, the plan was for everyone in the village to bring a large cup of their
choice wine to the town square; … “We’ll pour it into a large vat and offer it to the
king for his pleasure! When the king draws wine to drink, … it will be the very best
he’s ever tasted!”
The day before the king’s arrival, hundreds of people lined up to make their
offering to the honored guest. … They climbed a small stairway and poured their
gift through a small opening at the top. … Finally, the vat was full!
The King arrived, … was escorted to the square, … given a silver cup and was told
to draw some wine, … which represented the best the villagers had.
He placed the cup under the spigot, … turned the handle … and then drank the
wine … but it was nothing more than water.
You see, every villager reasoned; … "I’ll withhold my best wine and substitute
water, what with so many cups of wine in the vat, the king will never know the
difference!"
The problem was, … everyone thought the same … and the king was greatly
dishonored.

4

Today, Palm Sunday 2018, … choose to honor our great King, Jesus Christ, …
by giving Him our very best; … Withholding nothing. … Giving Him our all!
A second key is that a committed faith is relationship driven.
Many of those who gathered to throw their coats and palm branches onto the street
and who shouted praises did so because it was the popular course to take at the
time. … At that one brief moment, … it became trendy. … Perhaps some began
doing it with sincere motives … but others soon did it because others were doing
it.
Later at the trial, … shouting “crucify Him” … was the thing to do. …
In fact, … for a brief moment it was trendy … to make a mass murderer and
criminal … their hero when they shouted … “we want Barabbas!”.
In our own lives, … a committed faith comes only through a personal relationship
with Jesus Christ. … One where every day is fresh and new … as He personally
directs our steps.
In order to have a committed faith, … we must develop and maintain a personal
relationship with Jesus.
A third Key is that committed faith is not swayed or blocked by our personal trials
and crises.
At the parade, it was trendy to offer praise. … Everyone was doing it … but at the
trial to speak out for Jesus was risky; … possibly even life threatening.
Many of us come to Jesus expecting everything to go Good from that point,
forward. … Maybe some slight “bad” … but not too much of it. …
So when the bottom drops out for us, … we often ask God Why? … Thinking it is
not supposed to happen this way.
If our faith is based on our situations or circumstances, … it will never be
committed. … It will always be casual.
In my life, … I have gone to many Christian events; … some in large stadiums …
where the praises for God rock the entire arena; … Where everyone is praising! …
When returning home, while everyone is still glowing from the worship, …
I think to myself, … “it is easy to do that at the event … but tomorrow, … we face
the hard task; … can you do that in a world that is not all praising; … in fact, …
a world that is mocking, … laughing … and is often angry”.
A committed faith takes the good with the bad. … Knowing that all we are ever
promised is that in the midst of both our good and bad; … Jesus will never leave us
nor forsake us. … He will stand with us.

5

A story is told of A little girl who, … while walking in a garden, … noticed a
particularly beautiful flower. … She admired its beauty and enjoyed its fragrance.
“It’s so pretty!” she exclaimed. … As she gazed on it, her eyes followed the stem
down to the soil in which it grew. … “This flower is too pretty to be planted in
such dirt!” she cried. … So she pulled it up by its roots and ran to the water faucet
to wash away the soil. … It wasn’t long until the flower wilted and died.
When the gardener saw what the little girl had done, he exclaimed; … “You have
destroyed my finest plant!”
“I’m sorry, but I didn’t like it in that dirt,” she said. … The gardener replied, …
“I chose that spot and mixed the soil because I knew that only there could it grow
to be a beautiful flower.”
God has placed us exactly where we are. … We must trust Him. … In the trusting,
… we eventually see that He is using our pressures, trials and difficulties …
to bring us to a new degree of spiritual beauty. … True contentment comes when
we accept what God is doing … and thank Him for it.
This morning, … is your faith casual or committed … as we approach this week
where our Jesus suffered incredibly for us. … In A week where our sins, …
past, present and future … were the nails that hung Him on that cross. …
Doesn’t Jesus deserve a second look. … Doesn’t He deserve total control of our
life? … Doesn’t He deserve a personal relationship with us?
This week of the cross, … consider it all. …
My prayer is that we will choose to give it all to Him!
AMEN