5 March 2017

Eyewitness to the Messiah
#Worship—as It Was Meant to Be
##Matthew 21:1-11

We all experience good news, and bad news. Sometimes at the same time. For example:

– The Womens Fellowship voted 11-10 to send you a get-well card.
– The Church Council were so inspired by the new job description you proposed, we have formed a search committee to find somebody capable of filling the position.
– Church attendance rose dramatically whilst you were on holiday.

Good and bad news happens to everybody — nobody is immune, not even our Lord Jesus Christ. In the final week of his earthly life, Jesus experience good news and a very good day, just before he experienced bad news that started some very bad days.

It is 30th March, 33 A.D. in Jerusalem and the beginning of the Passover Festival in Jerusalem, one of the three feasts in Jerusalem each year which every Jewish male over 20 years of age was required to attend. Pilgrims were jamming the city — probably 2 or 2.5 million Jewish pilgrims from all over, in Jerusalem to commemorate the great deliverance of Israel from Egypt, when the Passover Lambs were sacrificed as a ransom to save the first-born of Israel from the fate of the Egyptians.

On this Passover about 250,000 lambs would be sacrificed in commemoration of that first Passover, but there was one Lamb, the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world, on His way to Jerusalem to sacrifice himself, and change the world, and eternity. He has changed many of our lives.

I’m speaking of Jesus of Nazareth, Israel’s Messiah, the Son of David, the only begotten Son of God. It was perhaps the only day in His entire earthly ministry that He received wide-spread public acclaim and worshipped as the long-awaited Messiah, the Son of David, and as God in the flesh.

I want you to imagine this morning, what things could be like if we worshiped Jesus the way we are meant to worship Him, ways that please Him, in Spirit and in Truth.

True worship is revolutionary. I mean that because it **is** revolutionary **inside** us and **all around** us, when we worship Jesus by obeying Him completely, loving others impartially and praising Jesus whole-heartedly. When we do, people want to know who the Jesus is.

On this particular day, Jesus was honoured as a king. He was worshiped as God, and as a Saviour and Deliverer.

Jesus and His band were approaching Jerusalem from Jericho, and reached Bethpage, a small village on a ridge, some 200 feet higher than the highest point of Jerusalem, and about 2 miles from the Mount of Olives.

It’s the place from which Jesus ascended to heaven after His resurrection, and according to **Zechariah 14:1-4**, it’s the place to which He will return from Heaven when He comes again. We’re specifically told His feet will set upon the Mount of Olives.

Here Jesus began his triumphal procession into Jerusalem, most significant moment, the fulfilment of the hopes and fears of all the years regarding the long-awaited Messiah of Israel, whose coming had been prophesied for more than 1500 years.

After three years of supernatural ministry, Jesus comes to Jerusalem, to present Himself publicly as the Messiah, as the Son of David, and suddenly the fate of all future humankind now hung in the balance — dependent on whether we receive or reject Jesus as the Messiah. He made these claims, we choose to belief by faith or to reject.

This day, it was strangely different — almost everything went well. Jesus was received like a king; He was worshiped like the God He was. He was lauded as the Saviour and Deliverer He would become, not just for Israel, but for all the world. We can learn from what went right that day.

The day began on an ordinary note. Jesus had a job for a couple of his disciples as we learn from Matthew 21:1-3.

He told them to go into the village opposite them, probably Bethpage, and find a donkey tied up with her colt. They were to untie them and bring them to Him. And he told them that if anyone asked them about what they were doing, to tell them that the Lord had need of them.

And that’s what happened. Luke 19 tells us the owner asked them what they were doing, and they answered exactly as Jesus had told them, and were then allowed to take the donkey, and her colt, upon which no one had ever sat, according to the Gospel of John.

Today, it would be like lending your prized sports car to a stranger. Donkeys were luxury transportation. Everyone else walked, except for traders who used small pick up trucks, I mean camels.

Fascinating that the disciples borrow from a complete stranger, and all goes exactly as the Lord predicted.
We learn how to worship here. The disciples had learned to trust Jesus implicitly and completely from 3½ years with him. They’d learned He was faithful, reliable, totally truthful in all he said and did.

We also worship by trusting Jesus fully, obeying him completely, and then observe what starts to happen in our lives. We must walk by faith, not by sight, believe what we cannot see, because we trust Jesus, like his men trusted him when he told them to go get the donkey and colt. Our heart attitude or wisdom is not enough, the words of Jesus are.

And so the donkey came back with them. Matthew recollects the event, recording his conviction that Jesus was their long promised Messiah

Matthew 21:4 quotes an Old Testament prophecy about to be fulfilled. In John’s account, in John 12:16, John makes it clear the disciples did not understand what was happening at the time, and did not recognise this was a precise fulfilment of prophecy It was only after Jesus was glorified, when He had ascended into Heaven, that they realised they had been witnesses to a glorious fulfilment of a 550 year prophecy.

In Matthew 21:4-5, Matthew quotes from Zechariah’s great prophecy: **”This took place to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet, ‘Say to the daughter of Zion, Behold Your King is coming to you. Gentle, and mounted on a Donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.”**

Zion, is one of the hills Jerusalem is built upon. The daughter of Zion is Jerusalem itself, which in 550 B.C. was already waiting for the coming of its King Messiah, the Son of David. The sign to prove He had come would be a ride into town with an attitude of gentleness and humility, mounted on a mere donkey, a humble beast of burdens, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Great kings, back then, didn’t come riding into town gently and humbly on a little beast of burden, no, they rode in town in all their power and splendour and glory, on prancing, powerful, white stallions, warhorses, the best their nations could offer.

But Israel’s greatest King was fully different. Not proud, or boastful, or arrogant, or with a display of His readily available mighty power. Israel’s King, Almighty God, came humbly and gently, on a mission of peace, seeking reconciliation with His own people and with the world.

Not a King requiring subjects and soldiers to die protecting his own sovereignty, Jesus would die for his own subjects so they might live in His kingdom, forever and ever.

No matter that His people were at odds with Him. No matter that they were sinners. No matter that they would be the ones to reject and crucify Him. He came humbly and gently, loving others impartially, regardless of how rebellious and difficult they were.

A perfect example for how we relate to others — humbly and gently, loving others impartially, reconciling unbelievers to Christ. This is true worship of God, because God’s economy, His mercy, always precedes justice. He always gives someone a chance to repent through His kindness, before He manifests His justice upon unrepentant sinners thoroughly deserving of His wrath.

Worship as it was meant to be, follows Jesus in love. It humbly and gently loves others impartially — regardless of differences, regardless of sin, regardless of rejection and violence. Any church or community that has complete and immediate obedience, and also love, impartial love that is blind to differences, boldly loving the unlovable, **will experience revival.**

I came to know Christ through the tail end of what is now called the Jesus Revolution. The long haired hippies and the short haired conservatives, the drug-experimenting kids and the straight kids, loved each other. The love was genuine, it was the love of Jesus that conquered all.

The kindness of Jesus shown through and conquered many hearts and changed many lives. Mine was one of them. I think God is worshipped much more when we stay longer after church to talk to the new person, or if we give up watching this week’s Call the Midwife to call a hurting friend, than all the hymns we can sing pitch perfect, or incredible sermons we can teach, or chapel meetings we can attend.

This village received royalty in the early 60s. Prince Phillip landed here in a red helicopter, on the green. The bunting was out, the hall was decorated, the finest dresses and suits were worn. School was out, and there is still a bottle of well water drawn by the prince, on a mantlepiece in The Cherry Tree Inn! Stoke Row rolled out the red carpet. And then Prince Phillip stepped back into his red helicopter and flew away again, and nobody was really changed for life. I am not aware of anyone who decided that day they loved the Prince so much they would lay down their life for him? Let alone the Prince wanting to do the same for his cheerful audience.

Contrast that with Jesus, who intentionally rode into Jerusalem in humility and gentleness, determined to love us to the point of giving his life for our sins. If you can’t give somebody five minutes of your attention, five minutes to love them or pray for them, or care about them, then you simply, aren’t following. You aren’t worshiping Jesus, because you’re not actively, wilfully, seeking to be like Him.

Notice what happened spontaneously that day in Jerusalem — it had to be the Holy Spirit. Everyone on this day would roll out the red carpet, as best they could, for the great King who was entering into His royal city—Jerusalem.

Verses 6 and 7 tell us that the disciples went and found everything as Jesus had told them, brought donkey and the colt back, and put their own coats, their own outer garments on the donkey and the colt. As prophesied, Jesus mounted the colt, sitting the garments laid out for Him as royal treatment He richly deserved.

Most of the crowd was overcome by this incredibly special moment when they recognised this was the King they had longed for. They were people who had followed Him from Galilee, who had seen Him resurrect Lazarus of Bethany only days before. They began ripping off their coats to spread before the great King and His humble steed. Those who didn’t have garments to spread were cutting down branches, palm fronds, spreading them in the road before the Great King. They are shouting Hosannah! Son of David. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the Highest, recognising Jesus was the Messiah, and proclaiming it at the top of their voices. In actuality, they were singing the Messianic **Psalm, 118:25-26.**

Hosanna means ‘save me now’. They were appealing to God in the Flesh for the salvation and deliverance from sin that only the Deliverer would bring.

The third evidence of appropriate worship is found in our willingness to praise Jesus wholeheartedly. ‘But, I say Mark, we are British?’

No excuse! Worship is not a spectator sport. It’s something you actively participate in, according to Jesus’ pleasure, His design, and we must learn and practise worshipping in spirit and truth. Wonder what that means?

It means we worship with mind, heart, and body engaged, and we worship according to the grand and majestic truth of who Jesus is — your Saviour, Your King, Your Lord and Your God who served you when He died on the cross for your sins, and proved who he was when He was gloriously raised from the dead.

He now sits at the right hand of on High, and at the centre of your life, and everything you have depends on Him. Reason to shout praises with all your heart. ‘But Mark, we British Christians are a most reserved and private lot you know?’ Yes know, its very nice, but never let that stop you from true worship.

When Scriptures says, Let everyone who has breath praise the Lord, it means worshiping like we believe it. When that happens, it gets noticed. The Holy Spirit gets involved, because He loves to live in the praises of His people.

That’s the fourth result of authentic worship: when we engage in genuine, heartfelt, emotional, worship of our Redeemer God, it stirs genuine interest in Jesus from others. ‘But Mark …’ yes, there is a lot of cultural baggage we all let get between us and true worship, but are you willing to give it a go, simply because you love God much more than you love your culture or tradition of the framework of the generation you were born into? God bless you as you do. Amen.