Triumph and Tears: the paradox of the Triumphal Entry

April 10, 2022 Speaker: Allen Snapp Series: Triumph and Tears: the paradox of the Triumphal Entry

Topic: Palm Sunday Passage: Luke 19:28–19:42

Palm Sunday Message

Allen Snapp

Grace Community Church

April 10, 2022

 

Triumph and Tears: the paradox of the Triumphal Entry

Today is Palm Sunday, the morning we mark Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Let’s read from Luke 19 beginning in verse 28.

28 And when he (Jesus) had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, 30 saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’” 32 So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. 33 And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” 35 And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36 And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. 37 As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, 38 saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39 And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. Luke 19:28-42

Our bibles call this the triumphal entry and that’s what it was! The same Jesus who spent most of his ministry restraining the crowds, telling enthusiastic recipients of healing not to tell anyone, commanding demons who recognized him to be silent, on this day takes away the restraints. He fans the flames of enthusiasm by riding into Jerusalem on an unbroken colt, purposely fulfilling Zechariah’s prophecy that their king would come with salvation riding on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

His disciples are seeing this and they’re like: “this is it! Jesus is proclaiming himself king! He’s going to set up his kingdom in Jerusalem and of his throne there will be no end! Hosanna to the king! Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” And by now Jesus’ fame has reached everywhere in Israel, so the crowd just gets bigger and bigger and louder and louder and they lay palm branches down in front of Jesus.

It was a triumphal entry and nothing was going to take this moment away. The Pharisees, understanding that all this implied that Jesus was the Messiah, the King of Israel, were jealous and disgusted by the shouting and told Jesus to shut it down. “Tell your disciples to be quiet Jesus!” Jesus said, “no, if I shut them up the very stones would cry out!”

The King of Israel, the King of kings and Lord of lords, the King of Creation and the King of heaven was approaching and there needed to be praise. This is the triumphal entry.

The disciples were probably elated thinking this triumphal entry was ushering in a new day of nothing but triumph. Things can only get better as King Jesus sets up his throne and rules the earth with a scepter

of righteousness.

But triumph soon turned to tears. It must have surprised the disciples to see Jesus weep as he got near to Jerusalem. Sinclair Ferguson points out that weeping is more than crying. It is to cry deep, heart-wrenching, pain-drenched tears. Jesus’ triumphal entry turned into Jesus’ tearful entry.

We don’t tend to think of those two things together. Victory and loss are opposites. Success and failure never co-mingle. You can’t be on a mountaintop and in a valley at the same time. Rejoicing and sorrow just don’t go together.

But sometimes they do. Jesus’ triumphal entry was real – so real Jesus said if the crowds don’t acknowledge it creation will! But Jesus’ tearful entry was also real. This triumphant moment, rather than ushering in the best week of their lives, ushered in the worst week of their lives.

  • The religious leaders would conspire to destroy Jesus. Not diminish, destroy!
  • They would challenge his authority to do what he was doing
  • They would try to trip him up with trick questions
  • Finally they would pay off Judas to betray Jesus, arrest him, try him, and execute him

The perfect, triumphant week that they envisioned turned into the worst week possible. Which turned into the best week possible – the week that made it possible for us to be saved from our sin.

The road of life can be paradoxical at times. The best things can lead to the worst things and the worst things can lead to the best things. A mountaintop can become the lowest point in our lives, and a valley can become the high point of our lives.

Let’s consider two paradoxes we can learn from the triumphal entry. Probably more.

  1. Jesus didn’t triumph with the crowds, he triumphed with the cross

The crowds were praising and exalting Jesus, but the Bible tells us Jesus didn’t entrust himself to their praise for he knew what was in the heart of man. Jesus knew how fickle the praise of men is. The same crowd that praised Jesus today would curse and condemn him tomorrow.

Jesus didn’t come to triumph with the crowds, he came to triumph with the cross.

He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Col. 2:13-15 (NIV)

On the cross Jesus took the debt we owed to God and wrote, “paid in full”. On the cross he bore our sins – including our fickle, adulterous hearts – so that we could be forgiven and have relationship with God again. On the cross Jesus bore the pain and brokenness of this old world so that our lives could be put back together again.

Consider the paradox: to the disciples, the triumphal entry was the high point, and the cross was the low

point. But in terms of our salvation, the triumphal entry wasn’t the high point, the cross was!

There is a beautiful truth for our lives in this paradox. We will never find our identity in the crowds. What people say about us can never define who we are. Identity is a big thing today; people want to be free to be themselves. The paradox is, the freer we are to be ourselves, the more enslaved we become to our identity.

The more we try to find our identity in what the crowds say about us the more we 1) strive to keep the crowds happy and 2) the more we realize the crowds don’t have the power to forge our identity anyway. The crowd says we’re successful, but deep inside we feel like a failure. The crowd says we are lovable, but we struggle with feeling unloved. The crowd says we have everything life has to offer, but we feel empty inside.

Tim Keller points out that Christianity is the only identity that is received, not achieved. Wow, let that sink in. We receive our identity as beloved children of God, we don’t achieve it. We receive our identity as more than conquerors through Christ Jesus, we don’t achieve it. We don’t achieve our identity as valuable and precious in the eyes of our heavenly Father, we receive it.

Which means not only can’t the crowds make us a success by saying so, they can’t make us a failure by saying so. The world doesn’t have the power to define your identity – who you are in God’s eyes is who you are.

And who you are isn’t defined by what you do or don’t do, what you achieve or don’t achieve, what your personality or abilities or gifts are or aren’t. For the Christian, who you are is defined by the cross and the resurrection: you have died and have risen in newness of life in Christ. He didn’t come to be king of the crowd, he came to be king of our hearts, and that is the good work he is doing in you and me.

Jesus didn’t come to triumph with the crowds, he came to triumph with the cross.

  1. Triumph and tears can go together

Was it a triumphal entry or a tearful entry? The answer is “yes”. Was Jesus triumphal or tearful? The answer is “yes”. When Jesus said the very stones would cry out, he’s saying this is a joyful moment as the King draws near. But as he sees the city and knows the pain and suffering it will endure because it will reject him, he weeps.

Triumph and tears can sometimes go together.Or follow right after each other. For Jesus, his triumph was followed by tears, followed by the suffering of rejection and crucifixion, followed by the triumph of resurrection.

Jesus has won for us an eternal victory through the cross and the empty grave and we will ultimately live forever in the goodness of that victory, but until then we live in a place of triumph and tears.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. 2 Cor. 2:14

Paul doesn’t write this verse about our being led in triumph in the context of win after win after win. He writes it in the context of grief and relational stress and mental distress. Triumph and tears, triumph and suffering, triumph and loss, even triumph and failure, often go together in this winding road we call life.

Things might look hopeless today, and tomorrow hope may explode in your life with new possibilities. Or you may feel like you’ve got the world by the tail today, not knowing it’s all going to come crashing down around you tomorrow. The disciples thought that Victory Highway was going to be their permanent zip code from now on, only to find themselves later that week following Jesus on the Via Delarosa (path of sorrows). Only to find themselves celebrating the risen Savior just a few days later. Triumph and tears – but in Christ the tears are temporary and the triumph is forever!

I had coffee with a friend this week whose life seems to be shattered right now. One of the most important parts of his life has broken down and he doesn’t see anything he can do about it. The pain on his face was evident. He feels broken, helpless, confused. There was nothing I could say that could change that, but I shared with him something I heard recently that God has been using to work in my heart: let weakness be your superpower. Embrace your weakness in this season. Embrace your need for God, your dependence on God. Our flesh doesn’t like to hear that. Some Christians don’t like hearing that: “I’m more than a conqueror in Christ!” Yes you are, and Jesus was more than triumphant as he entered Jerusalem, but for the rest of that Passion Week, Jesus’ triumph looked a lot like failure and loss to the world.

Paradox: God’s strength is perfected in our weakness. Weeping may last for a nighttime but joy comes in the morning (Ps 30:5). Those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy. (Ps. 126:5)

As we head into the Passion Week, let’s not try to airbrush away the sorrow, the adversity, the rejection, or the suffering of this Passion Week. Let’s embrace it and thank God that Jesus our King endured it all for our sake. Our Good Friday service will meditate on the beauty of Christ’s gory, brutal death and the triumph he won for us on the cross. And, of course, none of that would be good news if it weren’t for Resurrection Sunday when we celebrate our risen Savior!

And I hope you can apply this to whatever life is throwing at you today. Maybe you’re in a season of victory and success. Good for you! Enjoy it! Thank God for it! Maybe you’re in a season of loss and failure, of suffering and sorrow and it hurts. And you feel disoriented – you can’t see how God’s promises help in this season. Let weakness be your superpower.

Seasons of success and wins. Seasons of failure and losses. They come and go. I wrote many years ago in my journal, as I reflected on various seasons of my life: It’s not about the season, it’s about the Savior.