The Gift Of Hope

Palm Sunday Scripture reminds us of the amazing mercy of God.

George Wright
Apr 5, 2020    37m
On Palm Sunday, during the Coronavirus pandemic, Pastor George Wright shares a Palm Sunday scripture that reminds us of the amazing mercy of our God. We may not always get what we want from God, but God will always give those who believe what they need. Video recorded at Columbia, South Carolina.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

George Wright: 00:00 Well, what a privilege it is to join together in worship on this Palm Sunday, and I certainly understand what an unusual circumstance this is, and when an unusual Palm Sunday. But what a gift it is to be able to gather together even as we are separated, even as we are in so many different locations right now. I'm just so thankful for the privilege of this technology, and the gift of this technology, to be able to share this time together. And I do want you to know we are continuing to pray for you. Our team here at Shandon is lifting you up, praying for the families of Shandon and so many others during this time. And it is our hope and our prayer that on this Palm Sunday, you can see and connect with the good news of God's love and grace as you gather together. Be it with family, friends, be it on your own, be it with a group of people joining in on a zoom call, or FaceTime, or whatever the case may be, we're thankful to share this time of worship together.

George Wright: 01:06 And I want to encourage you now to grab your Bible. We're going to be in John chapter 12, looking at this scene from what we call Palm Sunday, this celebration of Jesus coming into Jerusalem and all people showing up to praise his name, to lift up shouts in total excitement, that the King has come to Jerusalem. And we see some incredible significance here in this scripture. But before I read it, I do want to start today by saying just a word of thanks to all the kids that are joining us for this service, kids, I know this has been an unusual time and certainly an unusual experience, but I want to thank you so much for tuning in with us as we have these worship experiences together. And I really love seeing the sermon notes that you've been taking, and some of the things that have been posted on social media. It's just awesome to see the way you are connecting with us, and staying engaged with us, and really being so patient and understanding is your parents tune in to this service. So grateful to have you with us this morning.

George Wright: 02:13 John chapter 12, it is our custom at Shandon to invite everyone in worship to stand at the reading of God's word at the beginning of the message, and I know this is certainly unique, but I would invite you if you're willing and able to stand with me wherever you are, wherever you're tuning in, as we step into God's word here today. John chapter 12 beginning in verse 12, the word of God says this, "The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!”" Palm Sunday, this incredible celebration. Let's ask God to reveal to us what we need to see here on this day as we turn our attention to his word.

George Wright: 03:35 Pray with me. Father God, I am so grateful for the opportunity to step into your scripture on this Palm Sunday. Even in the midst of such unusual circumstances, even in the midst of this time of uncertainty, we can turn to your word and we can see that which is right and good and true, and that which is certain. And so I pray, Lord God, that you would use this time to speak life, speak encouragement, speak hope, and speak what we need to hear as we gather today. We thank you for this time. We pray that you would have your way among us. We pray that you would open our eyes to the good news of what you are laying before us today. We lift this up, in the name of Jesus' I pray. Amen.

George Wright: 04:39 And if you were standing with us, go ahead and grab a seat, get comfortable, and let's step into the significance of this scripture. Before we walk back through what we've read in John 12, and the events of Palm Sunday, I do want to just start with a question here this morning, something for everyone to consider. And the question is simply this, how do you respond when things don't go the way that you've planned? How do you respond when things don't go the way that you hoped they would go, or the way you wanted them to go? Certainly on this Palm Sunday, we are finding ourselves in a scenario that is not what we had planned at all. This is not the way we expected things to go, right? This is not what we had hoped would happen. This is a very difficult time, this is a very trying situation, so how are you responding? My guess is many of you have been stressed out. Many of you have probably been worried. There are many, I know, they're experiencing fear, some may be experiencing disappointment, or even anger. All of these feelings, all of these emotions that can really overwhelm us when things don't go the way that we've planned. I can assure you that this Palm Sunday is not what I had planned, at least not the way we are gathering this week. Actually is the three year Mark for me as the pastor here at Shandon, and if you told me three years ago that that three years down the road as you're pastoring Shandon, you will be preaching on Palm Sunday to an empty room. I would have said, man, this is not going well at all, this is not what I had planned. When things don't go the way we planned, when things don't go the way we hoped, or the way we wanted them to go, it is very natural, even normal to feel disappointed, to feel confused, to even feel afraid or overwhelmed.

George Wright: 07:10 Why do I bring this up on this Palm Sunday? Well as we step back into the scripture here, there are some fascinating things to consider. Because what we see in the scripture that we call Palm Sunday, this celebration that's happening in the midst of the Passover, this amazing scene of tremendous excitement is actually a scene that leads many people to feel totally disappointed, overwhelmed, confused, upset, fearful, angry. Because Palm Sunday for many leads to a place that they had not planned at all, for many in this crowd, it actually leads to a place that is not what they wanted and not what they hoped for. Why do I say that? Well, let's first talk about what's happening here in this incredible scene of excitement as Jesus comes into Jerusalem. This is really the pinnacle of popularity for Jesus in his ministry on earth.
George Wright: 08:25 We see in John chapter 11 right before our text for the day that Jesus has just raised a man from the dead, a man called Lazarus, and the people are aware of this miracle that has happened, and there is excitement, there is a buzz, a frenzy, if you will, all around Jesus. They've heard about the things that he said that are clearly not from man but from God, they've seen the power that he has, and people want to be around Jesus. And as the Passover is happening, and people are gathered in Jerusalem, and they hear he's coming into town. The excitement reaches an all-time high around Jesus, and the crowd begins to swell, and they all come out into the streets. And as we read here in the scripture, they take branches from Palm trees, they wave them in the air to signify a victory has been won. They lay their coats on the ground, so that is Jesus comes in riding on a donkey, he can walk over their coats. This is a sign of submission to a ruler or a King, the people are ready to crown Jesus the King. They believe that yes, the promised Messiah has come, he has come to restore Israel. He has come to give them exactly what they wanted, and everything that they had hoped for. They are seeing prophecy fulfilled right in front of their faces.

George Wright: 10:17 I'm going to read to you one of the prophecies that is being fulfilled in the events that we celebrate at Palm Sunday. This is from Zechariah chapter 9 in the Old Testament, Zechariah chapter 9 verse 9 says this, "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey." Now, the people of Israel would have been familiar with this prophecy, so imagine this scene, their excitement is built on the fact that prophecy is a literally being fulfilled right in front of their eyes. This is it, the one we've been waiting for. The King is coming, celebrate daughter of Zion, celebrate Jerusalem, he is here. And the people in their excitement believe that Jesus is going to give them everything they want, it appears in all of this energy and excitement flowing through Jerusalem that the people are finally getting what they want. What is it that they want? What we know from reading through this story, and reading through the accounts of scripture, is the people want Israel to be restored to greatness. The people want a King who's going to give them everything they desire. The people want a King who's going to overthrow Rome, and it's oppressive authority, and arise Israel back to prominence. The people want to be comfortable again. The people want to be wealthy again. The people want to be influential again. The people want power again. And they believe that when the King finally comes, when the Messiah finally arrives, he will overthrow Rome, he will restore Israel and the people will get everything they want. In all of this excitement, in all of this celebration, in all of this frenzy of energy surrounding Jesus as he comes into Jerusalem, hearing shouts of Hosanna, the King has come. The entire scene dramatically changes in just a few short days. You see the people look at Jesus and they believe he's come to give them everything they want, and a few short days later they look at Jesus and they feel totally disappointed, believing that he has not given them what they want. How does it change so quickly?

George Wright: 13:51 Flip in your Bible from John 12, over to John chapter 19, just a few pages over. And again, this is recording for us the events that happen at Holy week, what leads us up to Easter. John chapter 19 beginning in verse 14, it says this, "Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. Pilate said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” They cried out..." These same voices that were crying out, Hosanna on the day that we celebrate as Palm Sunday, just a few short days later are continuing to cry out. But this time their cry is very different, a Jesus has been arrested, as Jesus has been thrown in front of Pilate, as Jesus has been forced through a mockery of a trial and beaten and spat upon. Pilate now puts Jesus back in front of the people and says, this is your King. What do you want? And the people that shouted, Hosanna, begin to cry out away with him, away with him, crucify him. And Pilates said to them, shall I crucify your King? As if to say, just a few days ago, you all showed up in the streets ready to crown Jesus as the King, now you're wanting me to crucify your King? The scripture says, "The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” So he delivered him over to them to be crucified."

George Wright: 15:49 How in the world could the tide turn so quickly? How in the world could the crowd that was celebrating Jesus with Palm branches and shouts of Hosanna and cries of victory, the King has come. How could the crowd that showed up to worship so quickly turn and shout, crucify him, crucify him. Please don't miss this, their shouts go from celebration to disappointment and anger because they realize Jesus has not come simply to give them what they want. They are so blinded by what they wanted from the Messiah that they could not see what is happening right in front of their face, that Jesus had calm to give them exactly what they truly needed. This is so important to consider here on this Palm Sunday, especially as we find ourselves in a place that none of us wanted to be, a place that none of us could have seen coming, a place that none of us expected, a place that we did not hope for or even plan for. We see here what they wanted when they thought about a Messiah, and what they needed are actually both on display in the events that we celebrate at Palm Sunday, but there is a huge chasm between what the people wanted and what the people truly needed. Think about this. The people wanted a King who would overthrow Rome, but Jesus came to overthrow sin. The people wanted a King to restore them to greatness, but Jesus came to restore them to the Father. The the people wanted a King to give them what they felt like they deserved, but Jesus came to give them exactly what they did not deserve. You see, the people wanted power, the people wanted influence, the people wanted comforts, and Jesus came to offer them mercy.

George Wright: 18:48 Now, mercy is a fascinating concept to consider, because mercy often does not come to us as something we want, but mercy always comes to us as something we need. Now you may have seen this picture pop up on your news feed, or your social feed this week, what an incredible picture to see, as the Naval ship USS Comfort came into the New York city Harbor. The USS Comfort is one of two ships in the Naval fleet that are part of the mercy class of Naval ships. What an amazing thing to consider, the mercy ship literally comes into port when the need is great. And the Mercy ship, with the big red cross on the side, comes to deliver what is needed in a time of need. I can assure you though, several weeks ago, no one wanted or expected the Mercy ship to come pulling into port in New York city. Mercy does not often come as something we want, but mercy always comes as something we need. And here is the sobering reality when we talk about mercy, our needs make us uncomfortable, our needs cause us to feel weak, our needs cause us to feel uncertain, our needs cause us to feel and vulnerable, our needs make us feel confused and at times even hopeless. Because our needs remind us that we are not in control, and our needs expose us. And isn't it true of you? I know it's so often true of me, but if I am honest our need, my need, is what I'm usually trying to get away from altogether.

George Wright: 21:25 But Jesus comes, Jesus comes to give us exactly what we need. I've heard it said this way, the only thing that you need to get the gospel is need. The only thing that you need to understand the gospel is need. But we often don't want to admit that we have a need, and so our needs must first be exposed so that we can see the only hope that we have in the midst of our need is for one to come and help us in our time of need. Please don't miss this, when our need is exposed, it is actually a glimpse of mercy. A gift of God's grace, allowing us to see what we truly need, when our eyes and our heart and our mind are so often fixated on what we want, God sees our need. He meets us in our need, and he pours out mercy where we need it the most.
George Wright: 22:58 This brings me to a question that I know many people have been asking in the midst of this Coronavirus crisis. There is a question that has been all over social media that many people have been talking about. A question that you may have wrestled with. A question that seems to be kind of hovering around in religious circles. And the question is simply this, is this pandemic that we're experiencing right now, is this the judgment of God? Is this God pouring out his wrath? Is this God pouring out his judgment on the world for all the sin of the world? It's an important question to consider. Now, before answering that question, I just want to give you an illustration to hopefully kind of create a picture in your mind as it relates to this question. This illustration is something I've been thinking about a lot lately in light of that question, and in light of the crisis that we are all facing right now, here's the illustration.

George Wright: 24:22 Imagine tonight that a fire breaks out in my house. That's not something I want to have happen at all. But imagine a fire breaks out in my house, and I wake up in the middle of the night and as I wake up, the fire is contained. But I realize that the fire is about to take over the house if we don't act quickly, and so I run into my kids' rooms in the middle of the night and I kick open their doors, and I flip on the lights and I say, it's time to wake up, wake, you've got to get up. And in the midst of me waking up my kids in the middle of the night, I know they're going to be confused, they're not going to understand, they may be afraid or terrified. Especially as I say, you've got to come with me now, we've got to go now, you've got to come. But then I say to them, get in my arms and I'll take you to safety, get in my arms and I'll take you to what you need. You see a loving father that understands the consequences of sin, a loving God that recognizes the reality of what sin deserves, a loving God who does not wish that anyone would perish will allow things to happen from time to time in our life so that we can have a wakeup call to be jolted awake in the middle of our slumber to see that which we truly need. Because so often we are walking around acting like we don't have a need in the world, totally focused on what we want. And a loving God jolts us and gives us the opportunity to see, yes, the house is on fire, but if you trust me, if you come with me, I will take you safely to what you need. This is the gift of the gospel. A wake up call in the midst of a house fire is a gift of mercy. A wake up call in a world that is broken and sinful and headed for judgment is a gift of mercy. Don't miss the wakeup call. God is exposing our need. God is reminding us we're not in control. God is showing us what he has done for us. Here it is going into Holy week, this Easter season, and the world is longing for hope. And God is inviting us to see that which we truly need, so that we can then see what he has done for us in his mercy and his grace and his love. This season of uncertainty is inviting us to wake up and see the mercy of God as he is inviting us to climb into his arms, so that we can receive what we truly need.

George Wright: 28:22 Romans chapter 5, the apostle Paul says it this way, "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (That's what we need.) Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, (That's what we need.) and we rejoiced in hope of the glory of God." That's what we need. Not only that, the scripture says, "We rejoice in our sufferings." What? "We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." That's what we need. Verse 6, "For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly." That's what we need. Jesus Christ came, not to give us simply what we want, but to give us exactly what we need. And the judgment of God has been poured out on the back of Christ at the cross, as he took our place and died for our sins, and embraced the wrath of God from heaven poured out on sin. So that we might be spared, vso that we might be rescued, so that we might receive mercy and find grace in our time of need.

George Wright: 30:42 Now, please don't misunderstand me here. Please don't misinterpret what I am saying. There will be a final day of judgment. A day of judgment is coming. And when it comes, it will come swiftly, it will be fierce, it will be violent, and it will be final. As all who are not in Christ will face judgment, and will reap what their sins have sown. That's not a popular statement for people to make, or for people to listen to, but that is the reality. Judgment is coming for those who are not in Christ. But please don't miss this, please don't miss this, our God is merciful, and our God is a bounding with patience and loving kindness, and he does not desire that any should perish. And so he does not give us what we want all the time, but instead he offers us what we need so that we can come face to face with the reality of our sin, and then come face to face with the reality of what he has done for us even in our sin. You see, Palm Sunday is not about getting what we want, Palm Sunday is about Jesus Christ riding into town to give us exactly what we need, by offering his life in our place at the cross so that through him we might receive mercy and we might be saved. The mercy ship has come in. Will you trust your life to the mercy of God? Jesus Christ has come to offer you, and come to offer me, exactly what we need.

George Wright: 33:37 Would you pray with me as we consider God's love and mercy today? Heavenly Father, I am so very grateful that you are a God of mercy, sovereign and reigning over all. You see all, you know all, and you recognize exactly what we need. And from time to time exactly what we need is a sobering wake up call, it's hard to hear, we don't want it, it's not the way we had planned, but it's what we need. And Lord, I believe wholeheartedly that even in the midst of this very difficult time, even in the midst of this uncertainty that we are all coming face to face with in this season, you are at work to reveal your mercy to those who are recognizing their need for a savior. And so I pray specifically right now for those who are joining us for this service, who have never experienced in a personal way the mercy of the gift of salvation that comes through Jesus. I pray that today, on this Palm Sunday, it would be the day that they cry out for mercy and say, Jesus, I know I need you, I'm trusting my life to the one who is offering me mercy in the midst of my need. And Father, for the church, you have certainly provided a wakeup call for us. Reminding us of that which is most important, that we stand up and share the good news of who you are and what you have done in the midst of our need. That we stand up as a light of the gospel, that we don't get distracted by lesser things, that we don't get distracted by selfish things, that we don't get off course chasing after what we want. But we follow you in faith, Lord God, to point others to the good news of what you have done in the midst of our need. Lord, please use your church to shine the light of the gospel to those in need. Give us the faith to trust in you, and to follow you, wherever you may lead. Oh, how grateful we are for this reminder at Palm Sunday that you are the God who sees our need, and does something about it. And offers us the thing we need most, the gift of mercy and salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord. We celebrate that now as we turn our attention to the Lord's supper. It's in Jesus' name. We pray. Amen.

Recorded in Columbia, South Carolina.
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Shandon Baptist Church
5250 Forest Drive
Columbia, South Carolina 29206