What Is Palm Sunday?

“…Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Matthew 21:9

Good Morning! What a beautiful morning it is. I know I am again jumping off-route with our relationship topic, but there is certainly significance in today’s teaching.  We are nearing a time of year where a lot is recognized in our faith. And days like today, Palm Sunday, and next Sunday, Easter, are such significant times of the year to worship, but even a lot of Christians don’t understand what they truly represent.  So I wanted to break down the basics of what today really means…

Today is Palm Sunday. Just as the date of Easter changes every year, so does the date of Palm Sunday. You see, these dates are marked by the beginning and ending of seasons in the faith, including the Jewish season of Passover.  But Palm Sunday is ALWAYS the Sunday before Easter Sunday.  This week between is known as the “Holy Week” because it recognizes the time frame of Jesus’ journey to the cross–His celebration, condemnation, persecution, and resurrection!

So why is Palm Sunday significant? What actually happened? Let’s take a look…

We talked about who Jesus Christ was. We talked about the life He lived, the struggles He faced, and the unbelievable works that He did. We also talked about how, as time passed and Jesus began to acquire followers and disciples, He began to stir up nations.  Throughout Jesus’ life, it became harder and harder for people to ignore His teachings. And this infuriated the Pharisees and leaders of the nations.  Because they refused to recognize power greater than their own and grew more and more hostile towards this man who proclaimed to be the Son of God.  You see, much of the Old Testament predicted that there would be a Messiah. So many of the prophets of the Old Testament had recorded that the Son of God would come, and they had recorded so much detail of what His life and death would look like.  As people began to see affirmation after affirmation of these truths, divided opinions grew. People either (1) recognized that Jesus Christ was, in fact, the Son of God and worshiped Him, or (2) became so stirred and shaken, by the fulfillment of these predictions, that they refused to believe the Truth.  The Pharisees definitely fell into group #2.

Anyways, one of the final miracles that Jesus Christ performed was raising a man named Lazarus from the dead. (If you want to read about this miracle, look at John  11: 1-43. Or, more specifically, John 11: 38-43.)  When Jesus Christ performed this miracle, it sparked a fire. Many Jews who had seen what had happened became believers and put their faith in Him.  Then, the word spread like wildfire.  People began to worship Jesus, and praise Him, and put their faith in Him. And when the Pharisees found out that He was performing miracles that were stirring nations and gaining great attention, they were livid. They met and decided that Jesus must be put to death. They basically put a hit out on him, and if anyone saw or knew where He was, they were instructed to turn Him in. (John 11:45-57)

So what did Jesus do? Here comes the best part! Jesus knew how all of this was going to play out.  He had been predicting His death for some time, and He knew exactly why it was that He had to die–to save our souls. So, rather than run, Jesus took some time to collect himself and then made His way to Jerusalem where He knew, full well, that His trip would end in His sacrificial death for the sin of humanity. (Now if that isn’t courage and fearlessness and humility, then I don’t know what is. What a boss!)  This is where Palm Sunday comes into the history…Jesus came to Jerusalem and made, what is known as, the triumphal entry.

If you want to read the scripture about Palm Sunday and His triumphal entry, look at:

Matthew 21:1-11…or…

Mark 11:1-11…or…

Luke 19: 28-44…or…

John 12:12-19

There are a lot of really amazing things that occur in this short passage in the Bible.  First, as Jesus and His disciples came near the city , they stopped in the city of Bethphage at the foot of the Mount of Olives. Jesus told two of His disciples to “Go into the village ahead of you and find a donkey tied there, with her colt beside her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the LORD needs them, and he will send them right away.” (Matthew 21: 2-3). You’re probably thinking, so what, he asked for a donkey. But hold up, there are TWO incredible things present in this first passage. First and foremost, Jesus refers to himself as the LORD. Which is a definite proclamation of His divinity. Powerful stuff for such a humble man…this proclamation is once again emphasizing, there are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. He is LORD. Secondly, He asks for a donkey and when His disciples brought it to Him they laid their cloaks over the animals and Jesus rode them into the city. What’s so significant about that? BOOM! By riding into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey, Jesus fulfilled yet ANOTHER ancient prophecy from the Old Testament–Zechariah 9:9. This prophecy said, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

Keep in mind, this was the ONLY instance in the gospel where Jesus rode an animal. And in that humble action, Jesus fulfilled just one of many prophecies that were written thousands of years before His life. It’s not like Jesus carried around a Blackberry and googled the prophecies and figured out, step by step, what He was supposed to do next. No chance! God spoke truth to the prophets of the Old Testament, and God lived truth through our Savior in the New Testament.

Anyways, back on track…So Jesus rode into the city of Jerusalem with His head held high. As he entered the city, people rejoiced and cried out “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” They celebrated and cheered Him and the masses threw their cloaks into the path of the donkey and laid down palms along His path.  This is why we call it Palm Sunday. you see, laying down your cloak for an animal to walk over, and laying down palms, and fanning Jesus with palms, were acts of absolute homage and respect. This signified people’s submission to Jesus Christ.  This represented their recognition that He was the promised Messiah! (And just to clarify, the people’s cries of “Hosanna” originate from Psalms 118:25-26, meaning “save now.”)

You better believe that at the sight of all of this celebration, the Pharisees were FURIOUS! They were so jealous of Jesus and so fearful of the Romans. You’ve got to picture it like this–these high priests were in straight panic mode.  All the authority and order they had instilled was being shaken up and stirred by a humble man riding on a donkey–dressed in humble clothes. No riches, no jewels, nothing…Jesus was a man of the masses. He was a carpenter, by trade. He was an average Joe. Yet He brought NATIONS TO THEIR KNEES! Unreal. He was nothing the Pharisees expected.  They expected the Son of God to be some unbelievable, earthly man of power and prestige! Everything they expected Him to be…Jesus was the complete opposite. He was the underdog. And the people were beginning to love Him. This sent those Pharisees into fits. They refused to believe.

What Jesus said next were some of the most beautiful words He ever uttered, in my opinion.  Luke 19:39-40 tells us this: “Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples!’ ‘I tell you,’ Jesus replied, ‘if they keep quiet, even the stones will cry out.”

HA! Do you understand what He just said here? Let me break this down in the simplest of terms: The Pharisees are telling Jesus to keep His disciples from praising Him because they think it’s blasphemy. And Jesus is like, ‘Listen dude, I’m God. There’s nothing you can do to keep anything on this Earth from praising me. In fact, everything will praise me–even the things that don’t hold life. If you try to silence one thing, the next thing will begin to cry out, and so on and so on until even the rocks will scream that I am God!’ HAHA! AHHHH..I love it!

So long story short, the summary of today is that Jesus is a straight BOSS. He performs miracles…the haters put a hit on Him…rather than hiding, He rides into the city and fulfills a prophecy…the people go crazy for Him…the haters try to call Him out…He makes them look like fools. 🙂 I love Him! What a humble, gracious, UNBELIEVABLE KING WE SERVE!!

Happy Palm Sunday!

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What Is Salvation? (part 2–man and man)

Wow! I have to start this blog post off with an apology. It seems like it has been forever since I have posted. Between soccer workouts and practice, school, studying for midterms, sports reporting for WAFB, preparing to move, bible studies, church, motivational speaking engagements, community service, and everything else that comes along with busy, everyday life, time has slipped by so quickly! So I am so sorry it’s been over a week…but let’s continue to dig into this awesome lesson. This part coming up is the BEST! J-E-S-U-S is about to light the place up! 🙂

Alright, so in the last post we talked about the original sin.  The very first sin that the very first man ever committed. Adam. And because of Adam’s sin, sin was born in man. Humans became sinful creatures.  Every person born after that was born into sin and confined to a sinful human nature.  Because of that one man’s sin, the one man was can all be traced back to, we are all impure and unrighteous.  No way around it.

We then went on to talk about the rules God laid out for humans after that.  The Old Testament of the Bible lays out all of these rules.  They are extensive, difficult, and overwhelming.  But God told the people who if they wanted a chance in heaven, they had to abide by these rules.  Long story short, nobody could do it. Every single person failed.  Because, as humans, we are sinful creatures, it is literally IMPOSSIBLE for anyone to live a perfect life.  We all sin. And back then, they all sinned.  As hard as they tried, they couldn’t follow all of the rules. So God fulfilled a promise that the earliest prophets had expressed in the Old Testament. He blessed us with a Messiah–a Savior. Here comes Jesus…

God recognized that it was impossible for any human being to live by the rules of the Old Testament.  But He loves us, unconditionally. We are His creation.  He grants us free will to choose, but He doesn’t want to see us all damned. He yearns to spend eternity with us.  He yearns for us to come home to Him.  So, He did the most amazing thing ever.  He sent His Son, a human being, to Earth. Jesus Christ. Why? So that we could be shown forgiveness, taught, and saved. So that we could have an outlet to heaven and stand a chance of spending eternity with Him. Stick with me here and open your mind to understand this concept. Romans 5:12-19 explains exactly why a HUMAN BEING had to be born to teach us…

It says, “For just as through the DISOBEDIENCE of one man (Adam) the many were made sinners, so also through the OBEDIENCE of one man (Jesus) the many will be made righteous.”

BOOM! What a simple and awesome explanation.  Do you understand? Adam was a HUMAN BEING that made a conscious choice to sin and to bring sin into the world.  Because of that sin, Adam opened the door to Hell. He put all of us at risk.  BUT, in order to negate Adam’s sin, God sent Jesus Christ, another HUMAN BEING to make a conscious choice to live perfectly and purely. And in doing so, He brought salvation into the world. Jesus opened the door to heaven. He showed us God’s grace.  Since a human brought sin into the world, a human had to bring salvation into the world.  That’s the only way we, as people, could be saved. Sure, God could have made it way easier.  If He wanted, He could have started the world all over.  He could have destroyed sin before it even existed. He could have cut us some slack and let us all into heaven anyways. God can literally do ANYTHING.  But He wanted to grant us freedom.  He wanted to give us the right to choose.  He wanted us to have the option and to be drawn closer to His truth by recognizing both sides of things.  He wanted us to have FAITH. Ah, so awesome.

So we see that Jesus Christ was the only way. Since sin was brought into the world by a man, God’s grace had to be shown to the world by a man. That was the only way we would be able to understand it all, and to be saved. We had to be taught by another human being. Wow. Okay, so what’s the big deal with Jesus? What did this man actually do? How did His actions grant us “salvation?”

(I promise I will post again ASAP!…This is the best part, so check back in soon!)

What Is Salvation? (part 1–the original sin)

We have talked all about our position in Christ and our condition in Christ. We have looked at a graph that depicts these two things, and we have talked about how we can grow in our conditions.  We have defined what righteousness is and we have found countless scriptures that illustrate this very topic. We have learned about the change that takes place within us when we believe in Jesus Christ, and we have studied why it is so very important that Christians strive to grow and to teach. But all the while, we have danced around the topic of salvation. What IS salvation? What does it mean to be saved? What does it look like? What is the significance of believing in Jesus Christ? What does His life even represent?

There are so so so many questions that surround the idea of salvation.  There is so much confusion and misrepresentation in our world today, as well. So I want to start at the beginning and break it down, piece by piece.  To reintroduce topics that are overlooked and to clarify points that are often left in the shadows.  Ah! I LOVE this topic!! The salvation that is offered to EVERY SINGLE PERSON on this planet is so unbelievably beautiful, and SO unbelievably humbling.  This is the bread and butter…this is the mac-daddy…this is the grand prize! Let’s take a look.

Okay, in order to understand why it is even necessary to care about what Jesus Christ did, we have to rewind allllllllll the way back to Adam and Eve.  I am going to explain all of this in the simplest way possible, because I don’t want to throw anything over anybody’s head or drown this awesome message in excessive detail and historical overflow. (Plus, I am still learning about it all, as well!) But here is the deal…after God created the heavens and the Earth and all that is encompassed within that perfection, He created man. He created Adam, and eventually Eve, in His image.  At this point, there was already an existence of evil.  Satan had already defied God and descended to hell, so God had already acknowledged the right of free will. (That is, the ability for man to choose between right and wrong.)  The book of Genesis describes of the perfection of this garden. Adam and Eve had all they could ever want and need there, and there was no existence of sin. They were simply instructed not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Essentially, they were commanded not to disobey and sin against God.  However, Satan appeared in the form of a serpent and tempted Eve to eat from the tree.  In the truest and simplest of terms, this was the first presentation of evil. And temptation. And deceit.  Eve was drawn to sin through Satan and she then led Adam to eat from the tree and sin, as well.

BAM. There it was. In the instant that Adam, the FIRST man on this planet, sinned again God, everything changed.  Sin was born in man. You see, every single person on this planet is a descendant from Adam and Eve. So think about it…Adam committed the first sin. Adam and Eve screwed up from the get-go and, therefore, every single person born from that line is embodied in sin.  We are born into a world of sin and we are prone, as humans…as descendants from the very first sinner…to sin.  We are all sinners because we are all human.  Because of this original sin, every person born from that point on was doomed.

Well, crap…thanks a lot Adam.  Thank a lot Eve.  So now we stand no chance.  Now we are all screwed because of that one man’s decision.  An interesting concept, huh? That ANOTHER person’s sin could affect OUR salvation…(we will look at this in more detail later, and I will share with you the most earth-shaking realization I came to in my personal life with regards to this subject.) So there we were, a bunch of humans being bred from sin. A bunch of humans whose souls were fair game to Satan. Just imagine how upset God must have been…these beautiful humans he created hardly lasted a blip in time before they sinned! So what now? This is where the Old Testament takes shape.  God understood that man had sinned. And that now, every man was born from that original sinner.  So, he worked with us a little bit.  Rather than damning every sinner to hell, He began to establish rules.  This is what the Old Testament is full of…God set forth rules, communicated through divinely inspired prophets and other individuals, for the people of the Earth.  He basically said, Okay, everybody, if you want to stand a chance to spend eternity with me, you have to follow these rules.  Though you will never be completely pure, if you follow these rules, I’ll cut you some slack and you can strive to purify yourselves. (Those weren’t His exact words, haha, but work with me here. I’m trying to keep it simple :). )

The Old Testament of the Bible lays out what these rules were.  If you read throughout the Old Testament, the rules were insanely difficult for any human being to obey.  They were extensive and specific and very challenging.  And basically what the entire Old Testament explains is that nobody could do it. Every single person failed. Every single human being was incapable of following all of these rules and living a perfect life. So every single human being born as a descendent from Adam, a descendent of the original sin, was imperfect and sinful and flawed.

This is when God sat back and was like, Alright, time for plan B. Haha. There was a clear recognition that none of these people stood a chance.  Because of this one man’s original sin, humans had wound themselves into a web of tangled sin and greed and lust and deceit and all that is unrighteous.  Human beings were caught in Satan’s snare and stood absolutely no chance of achieving salvation.  They all stood no chance of spending eternity with God.  So what did God do?….Enter, Jesus.

(to be continued…this next part is great!)

“Back to the Basics” (part 3 of 3)

Pillar #3–the proof.  One of the three most important foundations of our faith that we must believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt. #1–Jesus Christ was a real man. #2–Jesus Christ was the Son of God who died and rose again. And #3–The Bible is the Word of God.

This is yet another topic that I feel like people are quick to say, Duh, obviously. Of course it’s the Word of God. But, again, there are a number of elements that go into this belief. A number of elements that are really helpful to be reminded of frequently.

You see, the Bible is obviously the first thing that people associate with Christianity.  Just as the Torah is associated with the practice of Judaism,  the Quran with the practice of Islam, and so on. But what IS the Bible? What all does it represent? Why should we just believe everything it says? Who wrote it? Why are there so many different translations and versions? And can’t I just search for verses when I need them for motivation or inspiration?

I’ll explain, in brevity, an overview of this fantastic book.  The Bible is composed of the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament, which is also recognized by the Jewish faith, was written by divinely inspired prophets. Don’t let that term intimidate you–essentially, the Old Testament was written by individuals who were spoken to by God long before Jesus was ever born. Individuals who recognized that there was a greater power at work and were communicated with by our King.  They were able to communicate their understandings in writing and document historical information from as far back as the creation of the universe.  Fantastically, all of their stories and translations lined up perfectly with one another’s AND came to fruition in the future and the New Testament–giving validity and evidentiary support to all of their prophecies.

The New Testament, on the other hand, picks up at the birth of Jesus, and serves as historical documentation of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ–written by Jesus’ disciples and well as other individuals involved with Jesus throughout His life. Essentially, it is a documentation of all that this fantastic man taught, all of the miracles He performed, and all that “proves” the magnificence of God.

Since the Old Testament was written by prophets inspired by God, and the New Testament was written about the Son of God, we MUST believe that the Bible, as a whole, is the living, breathing Word of God.  You may be wondering what I mean when I say the “living, breathing” Word of God. But the words in the Bible are exactly that. There are individuals who have read the Bible cover to cover, memorized the pages, and teach of its magnitude. Those individuals, who seemingly should know all there is to know about the Word, STILL read through it and find new meanings to new applications, daily. You see, there are no defined meanings for the words of the book.  It was not God’s intent to give us a history book to study. It was His intent to give us a reference that human beings could open until the end of time, and constantly learn and grow from.  It was His intent to provide us with a means of communication directly to Him. That’s not meant to sound mystical or eerie, it is simple fact. The Bible is a book of beauty that opens a door to His Kingdom.

Recognizing that it is, in fact, the Word of God, we can’t allow ourselves to be “cultural Christians”. We can’t just open the Bible when we need a motivational quote or a neat scripture. We can’t just pull out the pieces we want to believe. If we are going to believe one single word in the Bible, we HAVE to believe every single word. It is not our right to pick and choose what we think is true.  As Christians, we have to recognize that it is the Word of God, and challenge ourselves to live by it. To apply it. To work, daily, to obey it. We have to study it and to challenge ourselves and the people around us, constantly, to grow in our relationship with our King.

Being a Christian is not easy–especially in the world we live in today. It is not glamorous or comfortable or simple.  Being a Christian is not just being a good person.  It is hard, it is challenging, and it is humbling.  It requires us to be MEN and WOMEN. Real men and women of God.  It requires us to have integrity and humility and understanding.  It requires us to set aside our egos and our desires and our dominance. It requires us to humble ourselves, daily, and realize that our world and our lives are not just about US. It requires us to give up control and to be different. God wants a relationship with us. He wants us to love Him like He, unconditionally, loves us. Do you believe? Are you up for the challenge?