Palm Sunday 2015

It’s Palm Sunday – The start of what many of us call Passion Week or Holy Week or Easter Week – It’s the week where we remember – we share in Jesus’ suffering – we celebrate His resurrection – Every possible emotion is laid before us this week – The week that change history – Split time in half and gave hope to us when there seemed to be no hope!

Sometimes we can become so focused on the suffering of Jesus on the cross that we fail to see the intended outcome. The suffering of Jesus led to  the redemption of mankind. The redeemed of Christ will reign with Him forever. This total picture gives us hope and courage.

Easter is about life that died to live again. It’s about victory succumbing to defeat only to be victorious again. It’s about a God who left heaven to live on earth to return to heaven again. It’s about the Shepherd who became a Lamb who became a Shepherd again. Sound confusing? Let’s see if we can make some sense out of it. Jesus is…

The Shepherd who Rescues

One of the strongest images in the Bible is that of God as a shepherd.

David, a shepherd, penned these references from the Psalms.

“The Lord is my shepherd” (Psalms 23:1).

“Then we, Your people, the sheep of Your pasture, will thank You forever” (Psalms 79:13).

“Listen, Shepherd of Israel, who leads Joseph like a flock” ( Psalms 80:1).

“For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, the sheep under his care” (Psalms 95:7).

David must have been watching his sheep – and the idea came to him that God was like a shepherd. No flock ever grazed without a shepherd, and no shepherd was ever off duty. There were no fences or walls, so the shepherd had to remain on guard for straying sheep.

The shepherd’s presence was the sheep’s assurance. When sheep wandered, the shepherd found them. When they fell, he carried them. When they were hurt, he healed them.

We are like sheep

Sheep are dumb. They need someone to guide them to the quiet waters to drink and to the pastures for their food.

They need someone to guard and protect them when threatened and attacked. Ancient shepherds knew their sheep by name. And the sheep knew their shepherd’s voice. Even if two shepherds called their flocks at the same time and the sheep were intermingled, they never followed the wrong one.

We aren’t very smart sometimes. We do goofy, hurtful things. We tend to be helpless. We are prone to attack from the evil lion that prowls around to devour us. We, too, get lost.

We need a shepherd

We need someone who knows the grief, pain, and loneliness that overwhelm us. We need someone who does not drive us, but gently leads us. We need someone who does not look down on us when we get lost, but looks for us instead. We need someone who hears our bleating cries and saves us. We need someone who does not scold us when we lag behind, but gathers us up in his arms and carries us next to his heart. Jesus is The Shepherd who Rescues – He’s also,

The Lamb who Redeems

The Shepherd became a Lamb. Religion would say that a lamb should give up its life for the shepherd. The shepherd would bring his lamb to the sanctuary, lean with all his weight on the lamb’s head, and confess his sin. The lamb would be slain and its blood would flow out – a life for a life. But watch this —-

Jesus is the Lamb

“Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Jesus, the Good Shepherd, became a Lamb, sacrificing his life for our sin. The prophet Isaiah provided more detail: Isaiah. 53:4-7

Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down.

And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! 5 But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. 6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own.

Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all. 7 He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth.

Jesus Gives His life

Here’s where the image changes and the story turns. Life dies. Victory is defeated. God is crucified. The Savior hangs on a cross. The Shepherd becomes a sacrificial Lamb. The word for “the lamb” means “a little pet lamb,” the kind you wouldn’t want to see slain for any reason.

Jesus, like a little lamb, spotless and pure, takes our place on the cross. His blood is spilled out for the forgiveness of our sin.

The Shepherd Who Reigns

Jesus did not stay on the cross. God died, but He rose again. The devil did not have the final say. Loss was thwarted. Victory reigned. The Lamb that was slain became the Shepherd again. That’s the message of Easter. That’s the hope of the world. Jesus is The Shepherd who Rescues – The Lamb who Redeems – and:

The Shepherd who will Make us Holy

John, in his Revelation speaks of this change. John views a wonderful scene in chapter 7. The folks in heaven are basking in the presence of Jesus. This picture assures us of His presence here and now.

He’s a Shepherd who reigns for all eternity, and His flock will reign with him. John says that his flock “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14). They will be “before the throne of God, and they serve Him day and night in His sanctuary . . . no longer will they hunger; no longer will they thirst; no longer will the sun strike them, or any heat” Revelation 7:15-16.

Notice the change. “Because the Lamb who is at the center of the throne will shepherd them; He will guide them to springs of living waters, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes”  Revelation 7:17. And finally…

The Shepherd will Lead us Home

We will be in Heaven, beside the living waters. We will be home. We will not be hungry or thirsty. We will not experience hurt or pain. All of our suffering and tears will be wiped away. On the other side in the great tomorrow, there will be no more sorrow, no more disappointment, no more losses, no more funerals, no more scars, no more guilt, no more cancer, no more failure, no more sadness, no more hatred, no more violence.

If Easter teaches us anything it teaches us to wait. On Thursday, Jesus shared a meal with His disciples, on Friday Jesus hung on the cross. By all outward signs, it looked at if Satan had won. The Lamb had been slain.

Easter reminds us that it may be Friday, but Sunday is coming. The Lamb that died would rise to live again as “the shepherd and guardian of your souls” 

1 Peter 2:25.

In our present world, we will experience disappointment and discouragement, but hold on. Just wait. Today we may shed tears of defeat, but tomorrow we will shout the songs of victory. And it’s because a Shepherd became a Lamb and became a Shepherd again.

It was February 1941, in Auschwitz. Maxmillan Kolba was a priest put in the infamous death camp for helping Jews escape Nazi terrorism. Months went by, and in desperation an escape took place. Ten people would be rounded up randomly and herded into a cell where they would die of starvation and exposure as a lesson against future escape attempts. Names were called.

A Polish Jew, Frandishek Gasovnachek, was called. He cried, “Wait, I have a wife and children!” Kolba stepped forward and said, “I will take his place.” Kolba was marched to the cell with 9 others where he managed to live until Aug 14.

Several years ago, NBC did a special on this true story –  Gasovnachek, by this time 84, was shown telling this story while tears streamed down his cheeks. A mobile camera followed him around his little white house to a marble monument carefully tended with flowers. The inscription read: IN MEMORY OF MAXIMILLAN KOLBA. HE DIED IN MY PLACE.

Every day Gasovnachek lived after 1941, he lived with the knowledge, “I live because someone died for me.” Every year on August 14 he traveled to Auschwitz in memory of Kolba.

Folks, every year, Passion Week comes around and we are faced with the reality that We live because Jesus gave His life for us. When we say the Bible is a big deal and Jesus is the biggest deal –

It’s because He shared with His closest family on that Thursday of His impending death, He hung on an old rugged cross on Friday and one week from today, we will celebrate his glorious resurrection as He rose from the dead that might have life in abundance today and for eternity tomorrow – We live because He died – The shepherd became a sheep so we could live with the Shepherd forever! Let’s pray.