Did Jesus plan his Easter service? An excitement about Jesus was buzzing and a mass of people followed Jesus. Interestingly, as I pondered and read, I saw Jesus made a huge deal about his ‘Palm Sunday,’ a parade. He planned it all!
By Pastor Delbert Young
DID JESUS PLAN HIS EASTER SERVICE?
Scriptures: Mark 14:12, Matthew 21:4-5, 9-11, Luke 19:40, 41-44, Mark 14:12, Luke 22:15, John 13:1-5, John 13:8, John 13:12-14
Mark 14:12 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the day the PASSOVER LAMBS WERE SACRIFICED, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go to prepare the Passover supper?”
I was in prayer Monday morning, praying for the people on your and my SAVE5 cards and other issues. I mentioned to the Lord I would enjoy taking a few weeks break from the PROVERBS series and emphasize Easter. I heard the Lord speak saying, “Have you ever thought about how I prepared for my “Easter service”?” I thought, “No, but it’s a neat thought. Never thought of it this way before.” I became excited, waiting for the Lord to speak more to me about this. So, the next several minutes were consumed with me diligently listening for nuggets I knew were coming for me to ponder and I knew my next days would consist of reading all four gospels to see exactly what Jesus did during his week preparing for his “Easter Service.”
We refer to the Sunday before the Sunday we call Easter as Palm Sunday. Theologically it’s referred to as “The Triumphal Entry.” It’s when Jesus came into Jerusalem nearly 2000 years ago on the donkey. It would be this Sunday two-thousand years ago. As I thought about this it really was all about Christ’s PREPARATION for Resurrection Sunday.
There was a tremendous stir concerning Jesus both positively and negatively. The religious system disliked, even hated, Jesus, but most people curiously loved him. He had recently raised Lazarus from the dead creating a huge buzz. Also, he came through Jericho getting Zacchaeus out of a tree and then Jesus healed blind men.
We can relate to this. If you are a Christ follower, Jesus raised you from the dead. He opened your eyes. You see and know things people far from God don’t know and can’t see and Jesus definitely got us all out of our “trees” of mess ups.
So, an excitement about Jesus was buzzing and a mass of people followed Jesus. Interestingly, as I pondered and read, I saw Jesus made a huge deal about his “Palm Sunday,” a parade actually. He wanted people excited about him. He was planning his Easter service!
The Bible says as he and the crowd came close to Jerusalem, he sent two disciples to get him a donkey to ride. This doesn’t mean much to us, but it did to them. According to the prophet (Zec 9:9), the Messiah king would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey.
Matthew 21:4-5 This was done to fulfill the prophecy, “Tell the people of Israel, ‘Look, your King is coming to you. He is humble, riding on a donkey – even on a donkey’s colt.’ “
There was already a crowd following and much excitement about Jesus, but when he climbed on the donkey and rode into Jerusalem at Passover time with people there from all over the world, the crowd went wild. People laid their coats on the ground for Jesus and the donkey as a “red carpet” welcome. Others cut branches (maybe some Palm) waving and laying them on his path.
Matthew 21:9-11 He was in the center of the procession, and the crowds all around him were SHOUTING, “Praise God for the Son of David! Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Praise God in highest heaven!” The ENTIRE CITY of Jerusalem was STIRRED as he entered. “Who is this?” they asked. And the crowds replied, “It’s Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
The atmosphere was contagious. Even people, from other countries, who had no clue who the guy on the donkey was, were caught up in the parade. So, I ask, “What’s up with us? Shouldn’t we be a little more excited about Easter service Sunday, the greatest day of the year for the Christian?” Have you shouted today? Are you stirred up? We should be. People will go to church next Sunday all over the world who have not been to church all year and some may not come back all year, but some will forever be touched and changed. Shouldn’t we get excited about this? Shouldn’t we shout? Shouldn’t we be stirred?
The celebration of the biggest day in history is one week away. This day changed everything. We adjust our calendar for his birth, but his birth would mean nothing had Resurrection Sunday not happened. All Jesus said and did hinged on his next Sunday. Resurrection Sunday celebration will happen next Sunday at this time. We should be stirred and pumped!
Some religious Pharisees came and told Jesus to make those noisy people quiet down. Religious people don’t want you shouting and stirred about Jesus, but Father God does and Jesus does.
Luke 19:40 And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.
Jesus wants some noise. He said all creation should be excited about what’s about to happen. I’ll just tell you, no rock’s going to do my shouting. Jesus wants you excited today about next Sunday.
Jesus focused on two primary things the remainder of the week: (1) confronting the religious system; (2) connecting with friends. He literally transitioned between the temple where he taught confronting the religious system daily and connecting with friends, Lazarus, Mary, Martha, and Simon the leper, or he camped out with his disciples in the Mount of Olives. How would you like to sit around this camp fire?
Some of us have religious relationships needing to be confronted. I spoke with someone this week who mentioned how so many people just go to church for show. It’s about who can dress the best, or associating with the well-known, or financial positioning. They are missing what God has for them. They are going through religious motions, but not actually being challenged by Christ. Could you, would you challenge them? Do you think Jesus would want you to challenge some of those this week? Jesus did as he prepared for his Easter service. Luke’s gospel gives amazing insight to Jesus.
Luke 19:41-44 But as they came closer to Jerusalem and Jesus saw the city ahead, HE BEGAN TO CRY… Before long your enemies will build ramparts against your walls and encircle you and close in on you. They will crush you to the ground, and your children with you. Your enemies will not leave a single stone in place, because you have rejected the opportunity God offered you.
When was the last time you literally cried for those people? They have no real relationship with Jesus. The enemy will crush them and their children will suffer with them. Are there any of those people you could influence this week? Jesus cried. Is anyone coming to your mind this minute? Give them a call. Write them an email. Invite them to join us next Sunday.
Confrontation was important to Jesus. He spent much of his week confronting issues like: why people go to church. It’s supposed to be a house of prayer; baptism; taxes; the kingdom of God; the resurrection; marriage and divorce. He spoke about a poor widow who could only give two mites, but yet she actually gave more than wealthy people. He confronted eschatology. Did you know this was the week Jesus talked about the “great tribulation”? Jesus confronted preachers because they didn’t know the scriptures or the power of God. He had the audacity to call some hypocrites and say, “Woe to you.” He said some were like the blind leading the blind and called some snakes and a brood of vipers. He confronted the wickedness of hiding your talent when it was given to you to increase. He talked of the last day judgment when the sheep and goats will be separated.
We all know people at work, relatives, friends, and acquaintances we need to cry over this week. Talk to them about those things Jesus challenged people about. We should do everything we possibly can to reach them for Easter service even if it requires confrontation.
It’s one way we can confront religious stuff, but there’s another way too. It’s confronting the religious system in us. Just as the Pharisees had their religious ideas, so do we. We have our ideas of how/if we should worship, if we should sing and shout, how we should do church, if we should read God’s word, what God’s word really means, if we should pray, give, forgive, love, pay taxes, eschatology, and even our own hypocrisy. What if Jesus wants to confront your religious system this week? What if he’s crying over you?
Jesus wants to come alive, not in “religious systems,” but in resurrection life and truth to us and to those we know. We need to talk to them, but prepare ourselves for what God wants to do in us.
The other primary thing Jesus did to prepare for his Easter service (and I think where you and I can have the most influence) was touching every friend he possibly could before his Easter service. Jesus loved his friends. As I read through the gospels looking at how Jesus planned his Easter service, I noticed as the week progressed Jesus gave more and more attention to his friends. He slept in the homes of friends. He had meals with friends. He touched their lives in personal, special ways. My point is Jesus planned time with and spent time with his friends to make certain they came to God.
What if you did something similar this week? What if you purposefully planned time with specific friends for the purpose of getting them to Jesus? Perhaps you could take them out to eat, or to lunch, or have them over for supper, or shopping, whatever. You could say, “I want you and your family to go to church with us Sunday. It’s going to be a special Easter service and I want you to go with me. Maybe after church we could come back home for lunch, or we can all go out afterwards to eat.” What if we did this? Don’t you imagine something would happen?
Thursday evening came. Jesus had his disciples prepare the Passover Feast.
Mark 14:12 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread (the day the Passover lambs were sacrificed), Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go to prepare the Passover supper?”
We speed read through scriptures sometime. Peter and John went to “prepare the Passover.” This meant they sacrificed a lamb. They killed an innocent lamb. It was skinned, dressed out, cut up, and roasted to eat along with the other specified items God gave in Exodus 12.
Luke 22:15 And he said unto them, WITH DESIRE I HAVE DESIRED to eat this passover with you
Jesus had deep desire to experience this meal with his friends. It was from the meal developed around the lamb Jesus took bread and a cup of wine saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” I think it would be good for you to have communion this week with your friends, but at least with your family. What better way could you prepare for Easter?
During their meal and only hours before Jesus would be crucified…
John 13:1-5 …HE NOW SHOWED THEM THE FULL EXTENT OF HIS LOVE… so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and BEGAN TO WASH HIS DISCIPLES’ FEET, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
Jesus went to each friend and washed their feet. In their culture, this job was only given to the lowest servant. Yet, here was Jesus the Master, the son of God, washing feet. Perhaps you remember Peter’s resistance to Jesus washing his feet. “No,” Peter said. “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus replied back with an amazing statement.
John 13:8 …Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
Peter replied, “Then wash my hands and my head as well.” Peter was saying he was all in. Has Jesus washed you? Are you all in? Has Jesus served you? Has Jesus changed your life, taught you, and blessed you? Do you know what this means?
John 13:12-14 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT I HAVE DONE FOR YOU? he asked them…Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.
Have you ever literally washed someone’s feet in a “spiritual environment”? We (Judy and I) have one time. It’s an unforgettable experience. The thought here is not so much to literally wash each other’s feet. It’s you do for people what Jesus has done for you. It’s helping to get them washed. Jesus is asking each of us to do all we can to help people be washed the way he washed us. Jesus said to them…
John 15:15 I no longer call you servants… Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
The definition Jesus gave of a friend is someone who tells their friends everything they learned from Father God. How are we doing?
The remainder of what Jesus did is well known. He and his disciples went to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed. He was betrayed by Judas, arrested on false accusations, went through a mock trial, sent to Pilate, scourged, crucified, and buried. He suffered tremendous disgrace, embarrassment, pain, and death for you and me. My point is, it seems we could go out of our ways a little this week to get someone to church for Easter – Resurrection – Sunday. So, we invite, but they don’t come. At least we tried. Can’t we at least try?
Mark Driscoll says in Radical Reformission, “You know you have a problem in the church when people get more excited about sermons having to do with politics than sermons about sin and repentance and when people get more excited about elections than Easter.” We just went through a real political situation with the House of Representatives and health care. I could hardly talk to anyone and it not come up, but no one has mentioned Easter to me. I think it’s time we change this. I believe the Lord would have each and every one of us give our best shot toward getting excited, confronting some religious systems with others and ourselves, and purposefully spending time with friends this week.
So, I’m going to bring it down to this: Will you? Will you make a special effort this week to make Easter the day of celebration it should be? As it were, I hold Jesus, the Lamb of God, in my hands. I am offering him to you today. Please take him and offer him to everyone you possibly can and especially to your friends. If we’re going to do Easter, let’s do it right!
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