Sunday, March 29, 2015

PALM SUNDAY - Matthew 21: 1-11 - "God’s purpose in sending Christ to die”

Today is Palm Sunday - the day on which we remember that Jesus had entered into Jerusalem for the last time (Matt 21: 1-11), before He died on the cross. “The hour had come!” (Jn. 17:1). The hour had come for Him to die, and His death would accomplish the salvation of an innumerable multitude from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages[1]

The apostle Paul reminds the Galatian Christians who were in danger of losing the gospel, “but when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons…” (Gal. 4:4,5). 

So we learn that God has a perfect time table … the hour had come … the fullness of time had come … . There was nothing arbitrary about Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem. He was sent by the Father .[2] He was a man on a mission and no one would detract Him from that. Matthew 16: 21 records His determination : “From that time[3] Jesus began to show his disciples that he MUST go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” . 

He MUST go. He is sent, but for what purpose is He sent ? 

This past week a terrible tragedy unfolded as the 28 year old co-pilot of a German airline, en route from Düsseldorf in Germany to Barcelona in Spain, deliberately caused an Airbus 320 with 144 passengers on board to crash into the French Alps. A German magazine, “Der Spiegel” (27/03/2015) [4] reported that he had been suffering from depression, and that he had been under some form of treatment. The investigators found torn up sick leave notes from the doctor in his home. He never informed his employer of his condition. On that fateful Tuesday , 24th March he must have decided ‘that his hour had come to die’, and after the pilot had left the cockpit , he locked the cockpit and sent the plane into descent and its passengers into death. How terrible that he made this decision without regard for the lives of the many others that were with him on that plane on that day. And oh, how our Christian hearts should bleed today for hopeless men and women, who take their lives, and the lives of others into their own hands, causing so much suffering through their selfish acts.

By contrast, when Jesus knew that His hour had come to die, He had the very opposite view to Andreas Lubitz in mind. By His death He would not destroy, but thankfully He would save so very, very many lives, so many that Revelation 7:9 can speak of a great multitude that no one could count, standing before the throne of the Lamb in heaven in thankful, adoring worship. They worship Him for the fact that by His death He had saved them all from the wrath of God which was awaiting them, were it not for Him who rescues us from the coming wrath (1 Thess. 1:10). Truly, it was the death of our death in the death of Christ . [5]

So, on this Lord’s day we remember at least 4 purposes why Jesus came from Matthew 21. 
The purposes are sequential and interconnected. 

1. When Jesus rode into Jerusalem He had come to die! In fact, He had told His disciples that this would happen on at least three occasions preceding our text in Matthew 21 [6]. It appears that Andreas Lubitz did apparently mention to his ex-girlfriend that “one day everybody will know my name” [7], but I can assure you that no –one is remembering him fondly or praising him today for what He did in sending so many to their death. Jesus, by way of contrast is remembered today in heaven and on earth by us and countless other thankful worshippers for his death, by which so many that believe on Him have escaped from the second death , the lake of fire spoken of in Revelation 20:14. 

2. Jesus had to die, for He needed to fulfill the Scriptures. In Matthew 21:4,5 the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 is quoted in support of this : “This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden’”. Christ was the promised Messiah of the Old Testament. He came to fulfil the prophesies of the OT. If Jesus had not come the mystery of the suffering servant in Isaiah 53 might never have been solved. But because Jesus did come and fulfil all that is written in the law and the prophets [8] , the eunuch of Acts 8:26-40 on his return from Jerusalem to Ethiopia in Africa , reading Isaiah 53 , wondering who Isaiah was talking about , was helped when Philip, sent by the Lord to explain that passage, helped him to see that this was referring to the Lord Jesus . The result was that the Ethiopian believed in Jesus and was baptised , and we expect to meet him in heaven, before Jesus’ throne in glory . 

3. Jesus had to die to take away the sin of the world. The crowds shouted “Hosanna”, which translated means “save we pray!” Save from what? Matthew 1:21 helps us here. The Lord was named “Jesus”, for it was said concerning Him that “He will save His people from their sins“. So, here is a major reason why we celebrate Easter. Jesus came to die to save His people from their sins . John the Baptist said this concerning Him when he saw Him : “Look , the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29). 
We need to briefly explain what is meant by “Christ taking away the sin of the world “, for this is one of the most misunderstood and misapplied texts in the Bible . We will consider this in a more detailed way on “Good Friday”, when we shall ask the question “For whom did Jesus die?”. But, clearly this cannot mean that all the people of this world , past , present and future are automatically freed from the curse of sin, and are forgiven for their sins, because Christ died. It is clear that many people in this world do not believe in the Lord Jesus. It is also clear that many people in the world do believe in the Lord Jesus, having placed their faith in Him, having repented from their sin and having asked Him for forgiveness from their sin. It is clear that there remains a great work to do in the world to make the gospel of Jesus Christ known in the world. That is why the task of evangelism and missionary service to the world remains an imperative for the church , because so many are not yet saved from the coming wrath! 

In what sense then has Jesus come to take away the sin of the world? We need to understand the “ world” in terms of “ worldwide” and not in terms of “everyone in the world”. We see this explained by Jesus in John 10. Here He explains that He is the Good Shepherd and here He speaks about His sheep hearing His voice (10:3,4). The sheep are His chosen people . He explains that these are those whom the Father had given Him out of the world (Jn. 17:6). In Jn. 10:11,15 He explains that here in Judea there are His chosen sheep among the Jews and also His chosen sheep in the world among the gentiles. (Jn. 10:16). The church is made up of Jews and gentiles[9] and it made up from all the nations in the world .[10] It is in that sense Jesus lays down His life for His sheep from all over the world. 

4. Supremely, Jesus had to die to do His Father’s will. He rides into Jerusalem in the Name of the Lord – His Father (Matt. 21:9). Ultimately Jesus comes, because it is His Father’s will. His prayer in the garden of Gethsemane leaves us in no doubt about that! “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as you will.” (Matt. 26:39, 42, 44). The writer to the Hebrews says in Hebr.10:5-10: 
"Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’” When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." 

That means that God the Father has willed that Jesus should die to justify and sanctify God’s elect people. God the Father has an elect people in this world – loved before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4,5) . The question is how could they be justified since they were sinners? How could they be made righteous since they were a fallen race? 

The answer is this : The Father in love sent His Son, and today we praise the Father for the active obedience of His Son. Because Jesus obeyed His Father’s will we have been justified and sanctified by His sacrifice on the cross , and because of Him we can go to heaven , knowing that there is now no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus . (Rom. 8:1) 


1. Jesus came to die 

2. To fulfil the scriptures 

3. To take away the sin of the world 

4. To do the will of the Father 

John 3 : 16 summarizes the purpose : “For God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” 

The answer to the question “ Why did God sent His Son into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to die on Good Friday?” is now answered : Because God loves His chosen people on account of His Son ! AMEN ! 

[1] Revelation 7:9

[2] John’s Gospel in particular has numerous reference to this fact : e.g. Jn. 5:37; 6:38,39,44,57 etc.

[3] This follows Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ ( Matt 16:13-20)


[5] The title of an Essay by John Owen

[6] Matt. 16:21; 17:22-23; 20 :18-19


[8] Luke 24:26,27

[9] See Eph. 3:1-13

[10] Rev 5:9 ; 7:9

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