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Series:  Characters at a Crucifixion

Pastor Stephen Muncherian
March 20, 2005

As we’re thinking together about Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem - I’d like to share three perspectives of Palm Sunday.

The first perspective focuses on Satan
.  We rarely hear about Satan during this week between Palm Sunday and the resurrection.  But, he’s there.  Do you remember the movie The Passion Of The Christ?  Mel Gibson does a good job of having him lurking around - just out of sight - watching - very much a part of what’s happening.

This past week The Modesto Bee had an article about the release of Star Wars III - “Revenge of the Sith.”  How many of you are planning on seeing that?  George Lucas was talking about the film.  The Bee had this quote,
“This first trilogy is really about the father, the struggles of a father, or a man, basically, to find himself, and at the same time fall into a trap of wanting certain powers, making a pact with the devil and basically spending the rest of his life regretting it.” (1)

That’s an interesting quote based on where Lucas is coming from spiritually.  Many people don’t believe that Satan is real person.  They might believe in a kind of evil force - a compliment to good.  One force pulls in one direction - the “dark side.”  The other force pulls in the other direction.  A yin and yang kind of tension.  The Devil - Satan - is a kind of myth - a personification of evil.

“He made a pact with the Devil.” 
Its just a saying.  Since there really isn’t a Devil - just a struggle within us - good verses bad - nothing personal - just a lot of mixed up karma.

But God - in the Bible - is very specific in His description of Satan as a real person. (2)

The Bible tells us that Satan was created by God - a magnificent creature - perfect in beauty.  Satan is called the “star of the morning” the “son of the dawn.”  Satan’s home was in heaven with God - in the riches and splendor of the presence of God - living in close intimacy with God.  He is exalted.  Blameless in all his ways.  Full of wisdom.  Charming.  Skillful in his operation. (Isaiah 14:4-21; Ezekiel 28:1-10)

The Bible tells us that there was a war in heaven - Satan - in pride - rebelling against God.  The angel Michael and God’s angels fought a battle against Satan and his followers.  Satan - defeated - was kicked out of heaven. (Luke 10:18; Revelation 12:7-9)

The Bible tells us that Satan is the “Prince of the power of the air.” (Ephesians 2:2)  He’s the god of this world.  He controls darkness - the forces of darkness - all that’s evil.  Kicked out of heaven he’s working to make life on earth - hell on earth.   (2 Corinthians 4:4)

The word “satan” means “accuser” or “slanderer.”  “Satan” is the Hebrew word.  “Diabolos” is the Greek translation.  Which is where we get our English word “devil.”  Satan - Devil - same person.  He makes accusations about us before God. 
“Look at all their sins - their failures.  They don’t deserve to be loved by You.  To know You.” (1 Samuel 29:4; 1 Kings 11:14)  He scores big when he gets us to believe those lies - to doubt ourselves and God’s love for us.  “Maybe he’s right.”

Satan is called “The Tempter.” (Matthew 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 3:5)   Jesus called Satan “the father of lies.”  (John 8:44)  The best lie is the one - what? - closest to the truth.  Satan mimics God’s truth.  Imitates God’s work.  Promises great things to those who will follow him in his lies.  Eve in the Garden.  Pharaoh’s magicians.  Jesus in the wilderness.  False prophets.  Antichrists.  Tempting us to trust ourselves - to follow him.  Satan doing whatever he can to lead us away from God and to our own destruction. (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25; Luke 9:24)

He’s called “The Destroyer.” (Mark 5:3; 15:30; Acts 26:18; 2 Corinthians 2:11; Revelation 9:11)  His desire is to destroy God’s people - us.

Persistent - mighty - violent - intelligent - these are all words used in the Bible to describe the person of Satan. 

Peter writes,
“Be of sober spirit, be on the alert.  Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

Ever watch a cat play with a mouse?  I enjoyed watching our cat play with mice.  He’d pick up the mouse in his mouth - shake it a little - just enough to stun it.  Then he dropped the mouse.  When the mouse moved he batted it back and forth between his paws.

Then - just as the mouse thought it saw a way of escape - the cat - with one flick of its paw flipped the mouse up in the air and caught it in his mouth.  Shook the mouse - just enough to stun it - dropped it - batted it - flicked it - shook it.  On and on.  Lots of fun if you're not the mouse.

A lion is much bigger than a kitty.  In the paws of a lion we’re a toy being prepared for dinner.  There’s a reason why the lion is called the king of beasts.  With one blow of its paw a lion can smash a human skull.  One slap and your skull would be crushed.  With his teeth a lion can bite through any bone of the human body.  A lion can rip a human to shreds.

The paws of Satan are the philosophies and ideas and religions of this world.  His teeth are the economics - the things we run after - the ungodly desires and cravings of our hearts.  He’s licking his chops - hungry -
“seeking someone to devour.”

There on Palm Sunday is Satan - behind the scenes - real - dangerous.  Let’s say that together: 
“There on Palm Sunday is Satan - behind the scenes - real - dangerous.”

The second perspective is Jesus entering Jerusalem

Palm Sunday - in the Hebrew calendar - was the time of the great Passover Festival - a religious gathering of the Hebrew nation into Jerusalem. 

It was a religious celebration - the commemoration of the Hebrew’s last meal in Egypt - the deliverance of God.  And the Feast of Tabernacles - commemorating the Hebrew’s wandering in the wilderness - and God’s deliverance.  People waving willow branches - symbols of sorrow.  And, myrtle branches - symbols of God’s goodness.

Under the yoke of Rome - it was a celebration of nationalism - stirring up the people’s desires for national - political - and social deliverance.

Jesus begins in Bethany - hometown of his friends Mary, Martha, Lazarus.  As he begins walking the 2 mile or so trip into Jerusalem the disciples are with Him.  A crowd begins to form - to join the procession.  Many are there to get a glimpse of Lazarus - who’s become a local celebrity since coming back from death.  Some are expecting Jesus to do something miraculous.

When Jesus gets to the Mount of Olives, He stops and sends two disciples into Bethphage - a suburb of Jerusalem - sends them to get a donkey and her colt.  As He sends His disciples into Bethphage - Jesus gives them instructions - where to find the donkey and the colt and what to tell the owners. 
“If they ask you what you’re doing tell them the Lord needs the donkey.”

Let’s not pass by that too quickly.  The donkey is symbolic of humility - peace - Davidic royalty.  Before the horse was used, kings rode on donkeys.  The colt - a young donkey that had never been ridden on - never used but set apart for Jesus - the colt is a direct fulfillment of prophecy. 

500 years earlier the prophet Zechariah had written of the Messiah,
“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.” (Zechariah 9:9)

We need to see this.  Jesus had made prior arrangements to use that donkey and colt.  This is the only fulfillment of prophecy concerning the Messiah - identifying Jesus for who He is and His mission - the only fulfillment of prophecy that Jesus took deliberate - in advance steps - to orchestrate the fulfillment of.

When Jesus - the disciples - the Lazarus groupies - and the crowd enter Jerusalem - to join the throng of maybe 2 million people there - there is no question that the King has entered the city.  Jesus is making a powerful statement about Himself - what He is offering the people. 
“I am the Anointed One.  I am your salvation.”

Where is Satan in all this?  Satan is like a pick pocket at a parade.  Quiet - sneaky - workin’ the crowd.  He’s making a killing.

Coats are laid on the ground for Jesus to ride over.  Palm branches are cut - laid before Jesus to ride on.  Its political - a sign given to honor royalty. (Psalm 118:25,26)  The waving of palm branches is political.  Think of waving American flags at a 4th of July parade.

Jesus has challenged the Roman authorities - the religious authorities - challenged and triumphed over them.  Jesus
has come to Jerusalem.  Jesus the champion of the people.  This is the moment of God’s deliverance.  The victory is now!  (Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:29-44; John 12:12-19)

The crowd is cheering
- euphoric - frenzied - joyous beyond description.  They’re shouting, “Hosanna!”  Literally “Save Now!”  “Hosanna to the Son of David!”  But they’ve missed the point - what Jesus offers.  They’re  focused on themselves. 

The Pharisees - while this crowd is whipped up to a frenzy - the Pharisees come to Jesus. 
“Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.”   They weren’t seeing what Jesus offered.  They’re concerned with their religious position and control over the people

Remember how Jesus had described the Pharisees? 
“You are of your father the Devil, and you want to do the desires of you father.”  (John 8:44a)  Satan uses their concern for themselves - leads them to persuade the crowd to demand the release of Barabbas and the crucifixion of Jesus. (Matthew 27:20)

Do you remember Judas - at the Passover Meal?  Judas - who had such hopes for himself while following Jesus - the rising star.  The promise of big bucks and high position.  At the Passover Jesus takes the bread - dips it - gives it to Judas - the betrayer.  John 13:27 says,
“After the morsel, Satan then entered into him.”  Satan put it into Judas’ heart to betray Jesus - selling out Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. (John 13:2)

Jesus was teaching in the villages around Caesarea Philippi - in the far north above Galilee.  The disciples were beginning to understand that Jesus was the Messiah.  It was then that Peter made his declaration,
“You are the Christ” (Mark 8:27-30)

But then Jesus began to teach that He would be rejected - suffer - die - and after three days rise again.  Peter takes Jesus aside and begins to tell Jesus,
“Don’t say that.  Its not good for the ministry.  What will people think?  Besides, we’re not going to let that happen.”

Remember Jesus’ response? 
“Get behind Me, Satan.  You’re looking at things from your own perspective - not God’s”  “Peter, you’re letting yourself be influenced by Satan.” (Matthew 16:21-23; Mark 7:31-33)

During that Passion Week - Peter does take things in his own hands - in the Garden of Gethsemane - the self-reliant fisherman - proving that he has what it takes before men - Peter cuts off the ear of the high priest’s slave Malchus.  Then Peter - concerned about the thoughts of others - denies Jesus 3 times.

There on Palm Sunday is Satan - behind the scenes - real - dangerous.  Let’s say that together: 
“There on Palm Sunday is Satan - behind the scenes - real - dangerous.”

The third perspective is of us

There are two verses I’d like to share with you.  Please turn with me to 2 Corinthians 12:9,10.

As Paul is writing to the church in Corinth - he’s in the midst of a teaching where’s he’s defending his authority as an apostle.  In the midst of that teaching he launches off into reasons why he could boast in his position - his apostleship - his accomplishments - to take great confidence in them.  But, Paul says, that would be really foolish.

In 2 Corinthians 12 - starting at verse 9: 
“And He - Jesus - has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’  Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Jesus makes two remarkable statements here..  Did you see these?

:  “My grace is sufficient for you.”

What God applies to our lives isn’t because of us - our ability to earn it - our strength to achieve it.  It’s grace.

His grace is sufficient.  We don’t need no more.  Its enough.  He is able - and willing - to meet our deepest needs.  Able to heal us in our deepest places.  Able to heal our homes and families.  Able even to offer us forgiveness of our sins and to restore our relationship with God.

Satan may try to accuse us - deceive us - into thinking that God’s grace isn’t enough.  To look at our weaknesses rather than God’s grace - to trust him.  That somehow we have to do more - to be more than we can be.  But, His grace is all we need.

His grace is sufficient.  Let’s say that together. 
“His grace is sufficient.”

Second remarkable statement
:  “Power is perfected in weakness.”  In verse 10 - Paul personalizes it, “When I am weak, then I am strong.”

I’ve got a tooth on the right side of my mouth that’s painful to chew with.  So I find myself chewing more on the left side.  Do you ever do that?  Use one eye more than the other?  Lean on one leg more than the other?   One hand more than another?  Compensate for weakness? 

We know that we fall short.  If we’re honest - our response when confronted with our weaknesses - our inadequacies - our failures - is to try to compensate - to cover them up.

We put our trust in money and property and things and hide behind gossip and comparison and anger and drugs and sex and alcohol and accomplishment and position - even serving God - focusing on
what we’re doing - on what we assume God desires from us.

Pharisees - well educated in their religion - confident in their position - reject Jesus.  Judas - the financial genius - trusts in money rather than God.  Peter - competent in his physical ability - the natural born leader - follows the leading of men rather than God.  Crowds seeing only what they desire to see - looking for a strong savior to kick the Romans back to Rome - call for crucifixion of the Savior.

The weak - trusting themselves - vulnerable to the schemes of Satan.

The world - deceived by Satan - boasts in its strength - would rather portray itself as strong - competent - self-reliant.  Paul says he boasts in his weakness - reminds himself that he is weak - that he needs what God graciously supplies.

Church - hear this - the schemes of Satan aren’t exposed because we’re strong and confident and doing wonderful things.  Because we’re smart enough to find solutions to problems and clever enough to see when Satan’s deceiving us.  Satan is exposed when we stay focused on God - when we remember that in our weakness God gives us strength.

Rather than letting Satan use our weaknesses - our failures - our inadequacies - use them to trap us and twist our thinking around and getting us to trust ourselves and try to find our own solutions to the problems of our lives and the deeper issues of our hearts - and in reality allow Satan to lead us farther from God and to our own destruction… We need to trust in the all sufficient grace of Jesus and turn to Him - to allow Him to expose our weaknesses - to deal with them - to apply His grace and  strength - to draw us closer to God and all that He has for us.

Here, on Palm Sunday is Satan - behind the scenes - real - dangerous.  But - confident in our understanding - we know that.  Be careful. 

Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a colt.  A well orchestrated fulfillment of prophecy declaring that He is the Anointed One of God.  What is Satan using today to keep you focused on everything else but the truth of what Jesus is offering you?

God and you know where the weakness is.  Let me encourage you to stop trying to compensate by your own power.  Satan loves that.  But open your weakness up to God - tell Him how you feel - what you struggle with - even confess how you’ve been covering it up.  Let Jesus prove His sufficiency - to bring His strength into the issues of your life.



1.   The Modesto Bee, 03.18.05, A11
2.  A good book on this subject is “I Believe in Satan’s Downfall” by Michael Green,
     Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1981

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible®, © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation.  Used by permission.