Download the Worship Folder & Announcements for March 27-28
Fill out a card to record your family’s online worship attendance
For supporting the ministry of the Gospel at Salem
Worship Series: The Hands of the Passion
Worship Theme: A True Confession Is Spoken with Actions
- CW 130 Hosanna, Loud Hosanna
- All Glory, Laud, and Honor
- Behold the Lamb
- CW 133 Ride On, Ride On in Majesty
Message: A True Confession Is Spoken with Actions
Pastor Jon Enter
Today we are going to take a deep dive into a very familiar section of the Bible. Every year...every year, the Sunday before Easter, this text, our text for today, is part of worship. Often this story of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem is the subject of the sermon. It is again today. But, oh, there’s so much left to learn in this account.
As I’ve taught you before, whenever you read the Bible, get street level. See the surroundings from the Bible character’s perspective. Feel the emotion, the tension of what just happened, the fear of not knowing what is about to happen. The Bible is written at that 30,000-foot flyover. It has to! The Apostle John told us, if they wrote down everything Jesus did, “the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” (John 21:25) So let’s get street level with Jesus. Let’s walk with the disciples as they journey to Jerusalem with Jesus who just said for the third time that he was going to Jerusalem to die. “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death...mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him.” (Mark 10:33-34) If you’re a disciple, if they seize and kill Jesus, your Leader, your all powerful, miraculous Protector, what’s going to happen to you? You’re dead too. A goner. Do you already see this text differently getting street level into tension of the context? They didn’t think cheering crowds would meet them in Jerusalem but, instead, death.
At the start of our text in Mark’s gospel, Jesus and His disciples were walking up a bluff a couple of miles outside of Jerusalem approaching the villages of Bethphage and Bethany. Jesus said to two of His disciples, “Go to the village ahead of you and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here.” (Mark 11:2) Let’s get into the minds of those two disciples. They’ve got to be thinking, “Jesus, did you really just ask us to commit grand larceny? We’re supposed to go steal a donkey? Okay. Actually, steal a baby donkey, one that’s never been ridden. Seriously?”
Here's what’s amazing. The disciples didn’t hesitate. They didn’t delay. They went. They trusted. Their confession of who they thought Jesus was, their trust in his Words was revealed in their actions. That’s what we’re going to see today. A true confession is spoken with actions.
As Jesus sent them on their way, He said to them, “If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’” (Mark 11:3) Okay, it wasn’t stealing. They were going to just borrow it and return it shortly later. How well do you think that would go over if you went down to a local pub in the area and tried to ‘borrow’ a pickup truck? You find the one that’s brand new, never been used to haul anything yet. The sticker is still in the window. As you have your wire coat hanger trying to pop the lock, someone yells at you, “HEY! What are you doing?!” And you say, “The Lord needs it and I’ll totally return in shortly.” How would that go over? It wouldn’t. And if you kept trying to break into the pickup, I’m guessing the cops would get called to scrape your broken body off the pavement.
That’s what you’d think would happen to the disciples.
But that’s not what happened here! Oh, the disciples got caught. The owners (plural) confronted them, “What are you doing untying that colt?” (Mark 11:5) It sounds like the fisticuffs were about to break out; they were about to get a Bethphage beatdown. By the way, this donkey was not tied up in a donkey parking lot. The text says it was “tied at a doorway” (Mark 11:4). That’s like stealing someone’s truck from their own driveway while the guy’s out mowing his yard. But when the disciples tell the angry donkey owners that Jesus needs it, then suddenly it’s all okay. It’s no problem. That was their confession. The donkey owners’ confession was seen in their action of letting strangers take their brand new work truck (that’s what donkeys were used for). They trusted with their actions. A true confession is spoken with actions.
Those disciples must have been praying prayers of absolute relieved thanksgiving to the Lord for God for getting them out of that predicament. The authorities in and around Jerusalem don’t take too kindly to thieves. Do you remember? Who was crucified on either side of Jesus? Thieves! The Romans tortured and crucified thieves!
When the disciples got the baby donkey to Jesus, He placed cloaks on it and hopped on! Donkeys are notoriously stubborn animals that won’t let anyone ride them unless they’ve been trained. Even trained ones randomly revolt refusing to be ridden. But this one obeyed. This one let Jesus ride it. In a very unique way, even this naturally stubborn animal made a confession revealing the power of Jesus!
Jesus made His miraculous way to Jerusalem riding strangely atop a baby donkey. This is not how the disciples pictured this scene in their minds. This was no mighty stallion carrying Jesus. This was no powerful display of triumph. This is like the president of the US riding in a parade in one of those tiny cars the Shriners ride around in. Beep! Beep! Jesus was making a confession on why He came to this world—in humility to serve and save us. Jesus as well showed the best way to make a confession is with actions.
Even though Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a stinky, smelly, lowly donkey, what was the reaction of the people? They cut down palm branches and laid them on the road along with their cloaks before Jesus. Do you get it? Do you see it? Get street level. This was an absolute act of defiance against Rome! This was treason! How? You ask.
Let me explain. Warning, I’m going to get all nerdy for a moment. Almost 200 years before this, Jerusalem was ruled by the Syrian ruler, Antiochus. He thought he was the false god Zeus in human form and so any religion was beneath him including the Jews and their worship of the Lord in the Temple. To show his dominance, Antiochus went into the Temple (where only Jewish priests could go) and slaughtered a pig in there (which was an unholy, unclean animal to Jews). This caused a riot led by Judas Maccabee. When Judas returned from defeating Antiochus, guess how the people welcomed him and celebrated his victory? They cut down palm branches and laid them on the road. Modern day Jews still commemorate this victory with their celebration of Hanukkah.
Now Jesus, the one they call Christ, which means “Anointed One” or “king” is riding into Jerusalem. Herod is in the city. King Herod is there. And the people dare to brazenly, boldly, defiantly cut down palm branches for Jesus with Herod a few blocks away. This was treason!
Then they shouted out, “Hosanna!” (Mark 11:9) A word of exultation and praise meaning, “Save us!” This was something shouted to a king. These people were making a grand confession of their trust in Jesus with their words and actions. But, as you know, it didn’t last. Five days later, they shouted something else at Jesus, “Crucify Him!” (Mark 15:14) Here we learn the last, final part needed to make a true confession. A true confession is spoken in consistent actions. Unless those actions are regular, faithful and consistent, they are empty and meaningless. That’s what happened to the confession of the people. It didn’t last. It revealed truly where their heart was.
What do your actions confess about you?
What bold promises have you made to God only to turn on God later? Jesus, I’m done with the bottle. I lay it down before you. No more drunkenness for me. Never again. Until a few days later.
Jesus, I’m done with my anger. I lay it down before you. No more yelling at the kids for me. No more losing it on the roadways. No more fighting with my spouse. I’m going to be better. I’m going to be different. Until a few days. When it happens again.
Jesus, I’m done with lust. I lay it down before you. No more wandering thoughts about my cute coworker. No more websites that are sultry and seductive. No more dirty thoughts. Until a few days later.
Jesus, I’m done with gossip. I lay it down before you. No more bad-talking, badmouthing the screwup at work. No more blasting my brother, my sister, my in-laws. No more gathering together with.
Jesus, I’m done. I promise. What have you vowed before God that you’ll never, ever repeat it again. Here’s the deal. You meant it. You did. So did the crowds on Palm Sunday. They meant it when they laid down the palm branches in an act of defiance against the Roman authorities. You defied the devil and said, ENOUGH! Only to repeat it again.
Jesus wasn’t done because he promised. He knew He was there in Jerusalem to lay down His life before God the Father. His entry into Jerusalem had nothing to do with Herod and the Romans. His entry had everything to do with the devil and restoring your relationship with God the Father. Oh, how true the crowds were when they cried out “Hosanna!” Save us! For Jesus did. Why? He promised it. He confessed it. When God promises, when God confesses it, He fulfills. Every time. Since a true confession is spoken in actions, Jesus came to Jerusalem to die. He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that gives you peace was upon Him and by His wounds you are healed. Why? He promised. He confessed He would.
The slashing of the flog was severe, but He wouldn’t stop. He promised. The crown of thorns was painful and piercing, but He didn’t stop. He promised. The cries of “Crucify Him!” were deafening but He didn’t stop. He promised. The desertion of the disciples was heartbreakingly lonely, but He didn’t stop. He promised. The weight of the cross as He climbed Calvary was too much, He fell but He didn’t stop. He promised. The nails pierced, the sun baked, the Pharisees mocked but He didn’t stop. He promised. His chest heavy, His breath shallow, His life fleeting but He didn’t stop. He promised. He died. He promised the Father He would to pay the price for the sins we couldn’t.
What did He promise? To wash away your sins. They are! You are forgiven! Freely, fully, forever forgiven! See yourself as you are. See yourself not standing before that sin tempted to take it up again. You’re forgiven! See yourself standing at the cross, before your Savior who promised to heal you, to help you, to have you be with Him forever. You are! You are! You are! All because, He promised! Amen.