God of the Unexpected
April 12, 2020 | Randy Smith
God Of The Unexpected
Resurrection Sunday • April 12, 2020
Pastor Randy Smith
This morning we celebrate Easter, or more appropriately named, Resurrection Sunday. For many of us, this is the first Resurrection Sunday we are not sitting in a church building. Let’s hope it is the last. Let’s hope this pandemic s also the last one in our lifetimes. It came out of nowhere and no one can rightly predict when it is going to end. But what gets us through the tough times is hope. Hope that this will pass, but moreover, hope that God is using this for our ultimate good and His ultimate glory.
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the greatest proof that God’s people can have hope. It’s the greatest proof that we can always expect the unexpected. It’s the greatest proof that God can bring remarkable good out of something remarkably bad.
Now, the Resurrection story does not start at the grave. It doesn’t even start at the cross. I believe it in a sense begins when Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem to present Himself as an offering for our sin. That is what triggers these events of the Passion Week. It’s the Sunday before the Resurrection. It is typically what Christians call “Palm Sunday.” And that is where we find ourselves in our study in Luke’s Gospel. So, we’ll begin with Palm Sunday and then tie it into Resurrection Sunday by looking for ways the Lord brings hope in the unexpected by answering three questions.
Is He A King?
So, the first question: “Is He a King?”
Is Jesus King? Of course, but not in a way the people expected. You see, when Jesus entered Jerusalem, it was interpreted at the climatic point of the Messiah’s work in the minds of the people. This is the time when He would become King. They thought this was the time that Jesus would take the throne of David, exalt Israel and overthrow her enemies. In real time, this plan all made perfect sense to them, but it was unfolding in a way that was unexpected. How can this man be a King? In looking back, it all now makes perfect sense to us and unfolded in a divine way. There is no question that this man is a King!
Did Luke leave us any doubt based on the response of the people as to what they expected?
Verse 36, they spread their “coats on the road” for Jesus to pass over. This signaled royalty.
Verse 37, there was a large crowd, and this was the first time Jesus permitted a large demonstration in His favor. He even refused to quiet the people down as the Pharisees demanded in verse 39. Even (verse 40) “the stones will cry out” if people fail to praise Him, He said.
Verse 37, “The Mount of Olives.”
Verse 37, they “praise[d] God joyfully with a loud voice.” Verse 37 says it wasn’t just some emotional frenzy. The text says they were praising Jesus “for all the miracles which they had seen.” There was proof that He was the real deal.
Verse 38, they shouted, “BLESSED IS THE KING WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” This was a quote from Psalm 118, one of 6 Psalms called the Hallel that was sung during the Jewish Passover to praise God for His saving power.
And from John’s Gospel we know they waved palm branches (Jn. 12:13).
This was the moment that not just the Disciples, but the entire Jewish nation was waiting for!
This was the fulfillment of Zechariah 14. The Messiah comes to the Mount of Olives (verse 4). God’s holy ones are with Him (verse 5). Living waters flow out of Jerusalem (verse 8). The Lord will be recognized as King over the entire earth (verse 9). Jerusalem will rise (verse 10). The curse will be over (verse 11). The Jewish people will live securely (verse 11). Their enemies will be destroyed (verse 12). Gentiles will come to Jerusalem to worship the true King (verse 16). Punishment will fall upon all the nations who ignore Him (verse 17).
This is not a triumphal processional like the ones we are familiar with. Jesus is riding on a donkey. Where is the white horse? Where are the victor’s spoils and the prisoners of war? Where is the nobleman we learned about in the previous parable that was rich and slayed his enemies?
Why is Jesus “weeping” (verse 41)? This is a victory, right? We are praising joyfully with loud voices (verse 37) and Jesus is weeping?
Clearly the plan of Jesus was different than what they were expecting. And very few if any at the time could understand it.
Maybe Jesus is not what they were expecting.
Is This Peace?
Let’s move to the second point as the situation hits its turning point. The people wanted peace (verse 38). Jesus came to bring peace (verse 42). Everybody wanted peace. But here is where the people begin to see that Jesus did not come to bring peace in a way they expected.
You see, it basically comes down to this. The majority of Israel affirmed that God is holy and that He will judge and condemn those who are deemed His enemies who rebel against His holiness. There was no doubt that the Gentile nations with all their idols and immorality were God’s enemies. They would receive condemnation. But for Israel, it was universally accepted that they were the objects of His commendation.
Generally speaking, the Jews would have had no problem with verse 27 from last week. “But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence.” They just never imagined in a million years that that reality could apply to them. But Jesus knew it.
That is why we see in verse 41 that “when [Jesus] approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it.”
They city that wanted peace had no idea the type of peace they needed the most and the kind peace that Jesus was determined to bring. They needed what we all need, the peace with God that only Jesus can achieve. They missed what was most important because of their false expectations. As He said in verse 42, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.”
Jesus loved Jerusalem. In 13:34 we read Him saying, “How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it!” And He also knew what awaited them in the very near future. The same crowds that were presenting hailing Him King, in a matter of days would be crying for His death. John 1:11, “He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.”
He came to die on a cross to be the final and ultimate Passover Lamb to put away sin and offer peace with God when He is embraced by faith. Yet the pride, ignorance and spiritual blindness of the Jews did not see or desire this type of Messiah. Jesus reversed everything they expected. And thus, they rejected Him. And because they rejected Him, He rejected them.
For the Jews it would not be exaltation, but rather condemnation. They didn’t see it and it was only about to get worse. And because of that, Jesus wept, He expressed deep sorrow. Not so much here for His upcoming pain, but rather for their upcoming pain.
Verses 43-44 are terrifying. “For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”
The prophecy speaks for itself. The city of Jerusalem will be surrounded. There will be no escape. When the people were weakened, the enemy will overthrow Jerusalem, killing the people and destroying the buildings.
Did it happen as Jesus predicted?
Sadly, yes it did. It is an historical fact. From the works of the ancient historian Josephus, we read, “While the sanctuary was burning, all that came to hand was looted and thousands of captives were killed. No pity was shown for youth or respect for age, but children and old men and laity and priests were all alike killed, so that this war engulfed and destroyed all sorts of people, whether begged or fought for their lives” ch. 5.271). “The emperor ordered the entire city and the temple to be razed to the ground, leaving only the loftiest of towers…and the portion of the wall enclosing the city on the west (the present “Western Wall” or “Wailing Wall”)… All the rest of the wall that surrounded the city was so completely razed to the ground as to leave future visitors to the spot no reason to believe that the city had ever been inhabited” (ch. 7.1-3)
When did this happen? In AD 70 under Roman General Titus with the help of four Roman legions some 40 years after our Lord’s prediction.
Why all this? Verse 44 again, “because [they] did not recognize the time of [their] visitation.”
They all witnessed the miracles (verse 37). Some witnessed His control of these events when He knew exactly where the young donkey was (verse 30). And they should have recognized something when He rode the colt. After all, Jesus always walked everywhere. Clearly there was something symbolic about demanding the donkey. Back to Zechariah, chapter 9, verse 9. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
If there is one lesson we can all learn, it is that peace or calamity results on what we do with Jesus.
Is He Dead?
And as we move to the third and final point, the greatest surprise came when our Lord conquered sin and death and the devil and rose from the dead on the third day. Clearly this was something unexpected.
Let’s connect the dots. Jesus enters Jerusalem. He goes from being hailed as Messiah to being crucified as a fraud, political enemy and blasphemer. The people demand His blood. The religious establishment works in conjunction with the Romans to have Him crucified and killed. To them it was clear that Jesus was accursed by God. Yet all of this was the masterplan of the devil with the crowning victory of Jesus being placed in the grave. In their all their minds, Jesus was gone. This is what they expected.
Yet from God’s perspective. The plan was Christ slain from the foundation of the earth. He would come to Jerusalem, “the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her” (Lk. 13:34) to lay down His life. He would provide the ultimate peace with God, reign as King over creation and be recognized as King by those who love Him.
As the animals were sacrificed that Friday Passover, the final and best sacrifice Jesus would die to atone for our sins. His work on the cross was completed. He was put in a grave. Yet contrary to the expectation of everyone, including His own disciples, He rose on the third day.
He stands ready to forgive all who acknowledge their sin and receive Him as Lord and Savior. And those who don’t, they will face an even greater terror than what Jerusalem experienced because they have rejected God’s love offering and the only hope for their forgiveness. And for those who do, they are promised no condemnation and an eternal relationship with Him now and forevermore.
On one historical day the most righteous person that ever walked on the earth was killed in an unjust and brutal way. It was a bad day. Yet it was also a good day. That’s why we call it “Good Friday.” Jesus entered Jerusalem to reach the cross that was waiting for Him. It was good that He made peace for us with God and it was good that He has risen from the death to validate His victory. That is our great hope. And we can always have hope because He is the God of the unexpected.