I Feel Your Pain! - Luke 19:28-44 - Skip Heitzig
Amen. Amen. Well, it's Palm Sunday weekend, and you're not here. Well, you're not here like we typically think of you as being here, but a few of us are here. A few of us are up here worshipping, and we're glad that they are. We even have, on the other side of the auditorium, up in a couple rooms, people who are monitoring the video and sending that out to you. So there's people here who are working and serving the Lord.
But we wish you were here on this day. I do want to thank you for tuning in, for joining us like this. So many people have said how they enjoyed the content, the worship, the experience of Calvary at home. So we're glad that you are here in this way joining us. And thank you also for continue to pray for one another, pray for us, pray for our missionaries on the field, and the different things that we're doing around the world.
There are people in different parts of the world that are facing this with not the kind of resources we have in America. We're still supporting them. So thank you for supporting this ministry so we can support them, and we can continue the kind of programming that we are doing.
Well, we are in the Gospel of Luke this weekend. Luke chapter 19 for this Palm Sunday weekend. One Palm Sunday, a family went to church. Their teenage boy was sick, so he stayed home. And when the family returned, they brought some palm branches with them that they had gotten at church.
The teenage boy looked at the palm branches and said, so what are these all about? And the family explained that, look, when Jesus was passing by, the people took palm branches and waved the palm branches in front of Christ while he was passing by. And he looked at the palm branches, and looked at them, and he said, great. The one Sunday I miss church, and Jesus shows up.
Well, unfortunately, you can't be at church this weekend. You can't be on campus. But I want you to know wherever you are, Jesus is showing up. He's with you right where you are. He shows up where two or three are gathered, or if you're even watching this alone, Jesus is your companion. He has showed up.
Many churches do pass out, on Palm Sunday, palm branches. We do it for our kids to tell them the story. But this Palm Sunday, oddly, is palm-less Sunday. We're not able to pass palm branches out. In fact, churches across this country and the world have stopped doing that because of the high transmissibility of COVID-19. They don't want to touch something, and then give it to someone in close proximity, violating the social distancing rule, then have them touch that same item, because that germ might spread. So this is palm-less Sunday for that reason.
So let me just encourage you to use your palms and face them upward in praise to God this week. And use your palms to reach out to the community by showing them love, maybe in this kindness campaign. It can be palm week as you worship God and as you reach out to others.
Well, we're going to look at Luke 19, a very typical Palm Sunday text. But I want to look at it through a different lens-- through the lens of the present crisis. Through the lens of suffering. Because after all, Isaiah called Jesus a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. Think of that title. A man of sorrows. That's what Isaiah dubbed him in Isaiah 53.
He could have been called a man of holiness because he lived a perfect life. He could have been called a man of peace because he was the Prince of Peace. He certainly could have been called a man of love because there was no one who was ever kinder than he was. But he was called a man of sorrows.
This whole text that we're reading-- in fact, the whole final week of Jesus on the Earth was soaked in suffering, and in sorrow. Don't get me wrong, there is joy in the story. There's rejoicing in the text. A group of believers are there to celebrate. Verse 37 says, "as he was drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice."
So there was joy in the story. But their joy gets suddenly interrupted by his tears. Jesus cries in verse 41. "As he drew near, he saw the city, and he wept over it."
They were happy. He was sad. They were happy because they were misinformed. They anticipated a Messiah who would be a political conqueror. They thought, when the Messiah comes-- and surely, this must be the Messiah-- it's time to get excited because he's going to throw off the yoke of Rome, and we're going to be in charge now.
So they were joyful, but it was a misinformed joy. They didn't know the truth. They thought this Messiah was going to take away their suffering, when in fact, in the text that we're about to read, Jesus predicts more suffering. It's a very sobering scene.
In the next few days in Jerusalem, it will not be what they had imagined. He comes to their city, but in the next few days, Jesus will be betrayed by one of his colleagues. He will be denied by one of his best friends. In the background, the political powers that be will collude with the religious powers, and by the end of the week, they'll kill him.
So the week begins on Palm Sunday with a rejoicing crowd. It ends with a rugged cross, which will leave them bewildered. So the whole scene is soaked in sorrow.
So I want to consider this text, as I said, from a very different lens because of this COVID-19 thing. And I want to consider the man of sorrows in three different ways-- our suffering, his suffering, and more suffering. That's what we're going to look at in the text. Jesus entered our suffering. He embraced his suffering. But then he also predicted more suffering.
I'm going to begin at the beginning. The story begins in verse 28, where it says, "when he had said this-- that is a parable. He was speaking on the way from Jericho going up to Jerusalem. He has his disciples all around him. He's sharing with them a parable, part of which has a lot of suffering that is anticipated in it. So he is going from Jericho to Jerusalem, speaking to his disciples. And "when he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem."
Now, he had just come from Jericho. I want to set the scene for you. I kind of want you to know where Jesus has been. He has been in Jericho, and a couple of the people that he met in Jericho, the Bible tells us, were blind. Blind beggars.
And one of them is very famous, named Bartimaeus. And Bartimaeus saw that it was Jesus of Nazareth, or heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth. He couldn't see. And he just heard the crowd passing by, knew Jesus was in it, and cried out and said, son of David, have mercy on me. Jesus healed that man. Great story.
But the point is, in Jericho, Jesus was surrounded with suffering. Before that, he was in Samaria, and he was in Galilee. And it's the same scene. He's on the way to Jerusalem, but he meets 10 men who have leprosy. So he's around blindness. He's around leprosy. And really, that marks his whole ministry, doesn't it? Suffering people. He was around the blind, the lame, the deaf, lepers, hemorrhagia-- a woman had a flow of blood-- congenital anomalies, paralysis, fever, people who were mute, people who were demon-possessed, even people who died that he was called in to attend to.
So there was, in Jesus' life, lots of suffering around him. That's why he came, at least one of the reasons. He started his ministry by saying, the Spirit of the Lord is upon me because He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor, to bind up the broken-hearted. So he trafficked in poverty, and broken hearts, and disease. He was surrounded with it all the time.
Here's what I want you to grasp. Jesus could have, but didn't stay up in heaven, and just enjoyed perfection. He could have just been an armchair God looking down on a suffering world, go, yeah, it's really a drag down there, isn't it? Just think if Jesus would have decided to stay in heaven. I'm not going down to that dirt clod. There's suffering people down there. There's fever down there. There's disease down there, and broken hearts.
But he did. The Bible says he emptied himself. Philippians 2, "though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. He made himself nothing." Or could be translated, he poured himself out, emptied himself. "He took the humble position of a slave and appeared in a human form."
God in a suffering world. From perfection to imperfection. From glory to disease, and broken hearts, and poverty. Isaiah predicted that Jesus would be called Emmanuel, translated God with us. He gave up the glory of worshipping angels, the intimate fellowship with the Father in that heavenly scene, and came here.
Hard to grasp, I admit. God's hard to grasp. We wish he would show up more plainly, blatantly, instead of behind the scenes, like the little boy who looked up at the sky and said, you know, I wish God would just poke His head out every once in a while.
Well, He did. He did better. That's what the incarnation is, is God not just poking His head out, but becoming us, coming in flesh and walking among us.
What that means is-- and I don't want you to miss it, and I'm underscoring it over and over again-- for 33 years, Jesus came to live in, to walk in, to serve in, to cry in a world marked by suffering. He wept at the tomb of his friend Lazarus. He met with and healed Simon, who was a leper. He forgave an adulterous who was about to be stoned to death. In the midst of all that, he showed up.
Aren't we glad? Because the writer of Hebrews summed it up by saying, we don't have a high priest-- that is a representative-- we don't have a representative, a high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. But he was in all points tempted like we are, yet without sin. Therefore, let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
That's why we're so confident when we pray. And we're so confident when we suffer and we pray, because we realize we know he knows our experience. We have a representative in heaven who knows the pain of Earth. We have a creator who put on the shoes of His creation and walked among us.
Like the stories of a few of those European kings back in medieval times. A few of them actually dressed like peasants and walked among the people, for a couple of reasons. They wanted to check on their staff, make sure they were doing their job. More than that, they wanted to hear and see the effect of their reign among their people. They wanted to hear what people were saying, and see what people were living like. So God came to this Earth. The king came, and he entered our suffering.
Second thing I want to make note of. Not only did Jesus enter our suffering, Jesus embraced his own suffering. In verse 29, it says, "it came to pass, when he came near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mountain called Olivet--" that's the Mount of Olives-- "he sent two of his disciples, saying, go to the village opposite you, where as you enter, you will find a colt tied on which no one ever sat. Loose it and bring it here." So donkey's colt, other gospels tell us.
"If anyone asks you, 'why are you loosing it?' thus you shall say, 'because the Lord has need of it.' So those who were sent went their way and found it just as he said to them. But as they were loosing the colt, the owners of it said to them, 'why are you loosing the colt?' And they said, 'the Lord has need of him?'" I think they said it like that.
It's like, Jesus said, go find a donkey in the town next to you, and if they ask why are you doing it, say these words. OK. So they're untying it. And anybody would naturally say, hey, you're ripping off my donkey. What are you doing? So they-- let's try what Jesus said. The Lord needs him?
"And so they brought him to Jesus and threw their clothes on the colt, and they set Jesus on him. And as he went, many spread their clothes on the road." Now, again, doesn't say it in this text, but two other gospels, Matthew and Mark, that's where they said they took palm branches, and laid them on the road, and waved them in front of him.
"Then, as he was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, saying, 'blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.'
And some of the Pharisees called to him from the crowd, 'teacher, rebuke your disciples.'" I love this next part. "But he answered and said to them, 'I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.'"
Now, here's the angle I want to look at this. Not only did Jesus come from Jericho, from Galilee, from Samaria, surrounded for three and a half years in public ministry with people who were suffering, he came to Jerusalem specifically to suffer himself. That's why he was there.
Now, a couple of different texts appear here. One is Psalm 118, a messianic Psalm. "Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord." The author is showing this was fulfilled when Jesus did this.
But another one, it's alluded to, and spoken about, and highlighted in the other passages. And that is Zacharias chapter 9, verse 9. A specific prophecy about how the Messiah would come to Jerusalem.
I'm reading from Zacharias, chapter 9, verse 9. "Rejoice greatly, o daughter of Zion. Shout, daughter of Jerusalem. See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle, and riding on a donkey." The prophet announce the Messiah will come to Jerusalem on a donkey. Why a donkey? Because kings rode donkeys.
They rode donkeys in times of peace. When they were spelling out terms for peace, when they wanted to make peace, or they wanted to ensure peace, they rode on a donkey. When they came for war, they typically rode on a war horse. When Jesus comes back the second time, Revelation 19, he is riding a white horse. He comes in righteousness, it says, to judge and to make war. It's a very different scene.
Here, he comes as a peacemaker. He's spelling out terms of peace. He wants to bring people into peace with God, because in a few days, he's going to a cross. He came the first time to save people from their sins. He's coming the second time to rule and reign with those who have been cleansed from their sin.
So he comes now on a donkey as a peaceful king. And he presents himself to the city. He allows the crowd to recognize that he is the Messiah. This is the very first time it ever happened in Jesus' ministry.
It's a public presentation. It's a public-- call it a messianic parade. It's a Messiah parade, and Jesus is orchestrating it and allowing it to happen. Up to this point, he told people, be quiet, don't tell anybody. They were healed of a disease.
Can you imagine, after having a paralysis your whole life, suddenly getting healed, for the one to heal you say, don't tell anybody! Like, nobody's going to obey that. That's why they all went out and told somebody. But he told them to keep it quiet.
On another occasion, they tried to make him king by force, and it tells us Jesus withdrew to a mountain by himself. This is different. Now he presents himself. Why? Because it's time.
You know how Jesus always spoke about my hour? And he would say, for my hour has not yet come. It shows up in several different ways in several different places. For example, John chapter 7, they sought to take him, but his hour had not yet come. John chapter 13, Jesus knew his hour had come that he should depart this world and go to the Father. In John chapter 17, he prays, and he says, Father, the hour has come. Glorify your son that your son may glorify you. This is that hour. This is the final week. Jesus comes to embrace suffering-- his own-- and to go and die in a cross.
Now, it's a very specific hour. It's a very specific day. Happens to be the 10th of Nisan in the Hebrew calendar. And the 10th of Nisan in our calendar, April 6, 32 AD, was the day that the Hebrew population selected a lamb and brought it home, and then in a few days of Passover, would kill it. On the 10th of Nisan, the lamb of God presents himself to the nation of Israel. In perfect timing. I've gone over the timing before. I'm not going to do it this weekend, but it is the fulfillment of the 69 weeks as predicted by Daniel to the very day. Presents himself as the Messiah, embraces the suffering that will follow.
Somebody once said wisely, no other religion has at its heart the humiliation of its God. What a statement. No other religion has at its heart the humiliation of its God. I would add something to that. I would say no other religion has at its heart the anticipation of the humiliation of its God. What I mean by that is that the humiliation of Christ, the suffering of Christ was predicted and anticipated by prophet after prophet after prophet in the Old Testament, and by Jesus himself. Jesus knew what was coming. His whole life, he said to Nicodemus, as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, the son of man must be lifted up. That's a prediction of his cross. He said, if I be lifted up, I will draw all men to myself. The text says he was speaking of the crucifixion.
In Matthew 16, when he asked the question to the disciples, who do men say that I am? We all know that famous text. We love it. He's giving them a little quiz. Quiz has only two questions. It's pass or fail. You can get the first one wrong, but the second one is all important.
Who do men say that I am? They said, some say you're John the Baptist, some say you're Elijah, et cetera. But then he said, who do you say that I am? Peter said, you are the Christ, the son of the living God. Jesus said, you get an A on the test, Peter. Flesh and blood didn't reveal this to you, my Father in heaven did. A-plus.
But then it says, from that time, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, and the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up the third day. Over and over and over again, Jesus himself knowing when he was going to die and how he was going to die, tried to tell his disciples that.
What that means is Jesus lived under the shadow of the cross 24/7. Can you imagine knowing the exact day of your own death, and the exact manner of your own death? I'll guarantee you if you did, you would live differently.
So Jesus lived that way. And he comes to Jerusalem now, not only after entering our suffering, but after embracing his own suffering. The very same week that Jesus entered Jerusalem-- in fact, probably a day later than this-- he was already starting to feel the weight of the cross on his soul. He said to his disciples-- this is in John, chapter 12-- "now my soul is troubled." The word means agitated, or disturbed. He was upset. He was unsettled.
Listen to what he said. "Now my soul is troubled. And what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour? But for this purpose, I came to this hour."
Why was Jesus so agitated? Why was he so troubled? Well, he knew what was coming. He knew that soon, his back would be opened up, eviscerated by a Roman whip. He knew that there would be spikes driven through his wrist on a cross. He knew his scalp would be punctured by a crown of thorns. He knew that was coming.
He also knew that God the Father would-- at that moment, there would be a holy transaction where God the Father would dump all of the sins of humanity past, present, and future, on Jesus' spotless, perfect, sinless soul.
So he said, my soul is troubled. But I can't say, Father saved me from this hour. I came for this reason. Though Jesus felt it emotionally, was troubled by it emotionally, he embraced it wholeheartedly.
Hebrews, chapter 12 tells us, "looking unto Jesus, the author and the finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of his Father." What was the joy? You. Seeing you, right where you are, worshipping God. You trusting him, your life is given over to Christ. He's transformed your life. He's going to take you to heaven. That's the joy. It was worth it. You were worth it. This is why he was born. He knew it all his life.
The Magi showed up with gold, frankincense, and of all things, myrrh. Myrrh was embalming fluid. If you're a mother and somebody gives you embalming fluid for your baby, you're going to go, thanks? This is a weird gift.
Why that one? Because it spoke of the reason he came and was born, and that is to die. By the way, myrrh gives off a scent only when it's crushed. Jesus here being crushed, his soul being troubled, he's giving off that scent as he's entering into his own suffering.
You remember when Jesus was-- after he was born and he was dedicated in the temple, a man named Simeon saw that couple, Joseph and Mary there, and grabbed the baby Jesus gently, and brought it up before the Father in praise and glory. He said, now I can die in peace because I've seen your salvation. And he said to Joseph and Mary, this child will be rejected by many and be their undoing, but be the greatest of joy to others. Then he turned to Mary and said, and a sword will pierce your own soul also.
There's a lot in that statement. What Simeon is basically saying is, this child is going to be the most loved and the most hated person ever. And it's the first hint of the crucifixion to Mary. A sword's going to pierce your own soul. One day, she would stand at the foot of the cross, see her son die, and feel the weight of sorrow that not only Jesus entered into, but she entered into as well.
So Jesus, always knowing this, was moving with determination toward the cross. That's why he rebuked Peter when Peter said, far be it from you, Lord. We're not going to let this happen to you, in that Matthew 16 passage. He said, get behind me, Satan.
And people go, what's up with Jesus? Was he having like a bad Messiah day or something, saying "get behind me, Satan" to his best friend Peter? What's that all about?
He recognized the philosophy that Peter gave to him was Satanic. Jesus heard it before when he was being tempted. Years earlier, he was on the Mount of Temptation down by Jericho, and Satan came to him and said, look, basically, I know why you've come. You've come to redeem the world. The world is mine. I can give it to whoever I want. So if you just worship me, I'll give you the kingdoms of the world in a moment.
You see, Satan knew why Jesus had come-- to buy back the world to the Father. So he says, tell you what, you don't have to go to the cross. You can bypass the suffering, and I'll give it to you if you'll just indulge me with a moment of worship.
Jesus knew, and it seems that Satan knew the importance of the cross. So Jesus fully embraced it. He entered into our suffering. He embraced his own suffering.
But I'm going to close on this note. He predicted even more suffering. "As he drew near," verse 41, "he saw the city and wept over it, saying, 'if you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you and your children within you to the ground, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another because you did not know the time of your visitation.'"
It's a sobering scene. The scene is rejoicing. The scene is a party. The scene is singing the psalms as Jesus comes down the Mount of Olives. They're having a parade.
Then suddenly, the donkey stops. Then suddenly, the hero of the story starts weeping. And not just shedding a few tears, taking a little Kleenex, and dabbing his eyes. When it says that Jesus was crying here, it's a very strong word that means to burst into tears and weep audibly. So you can picture that on your own. I'm not going to try to emulate that.
But this is only the second time that Jesus Christ, we are told, wept openly. One was at the tomb of Lazarus, his friend, because of the unbelief of the crowd, and now this. He stopped, and he started weeping.
Now, hold this scene for a minute. Push the pause button. If you are ever tempted to think that God doesn't care about your sorrow and your suffering, you don't know the God I know. He knows what's going to happen to this city. He loves these people who are before him. And he starts weeping audibly. This is the heart of God. He looks downward and sees the oppressed city. He looks inward and sees their empty hearts. He looks forward to when Jerusalem would fall to the Romans in 70 AD. That's the prediction.
In 70 AD, hundreds of thousands of Jews were at Passover in Jerusalem. They were there to worship. Titus, the Roman general was there, surrounded the city, killed thousands of Jews. So many of them died, they didn't have time, we're told, to even bury the dead. They just threw the bodies over the walls of Jerusalem. Jesus saw that that would take place, and he is moved by it. He weeps audibly.
So God sees your future. Knows your choices. Knows the path you are going down now. And if it's not a good one, I would say he weeps. He cares.
Now, there is a more serious issue than the coronavirus. Looking at the news, looking at your Twitter feed, you would not know that is the case, but that is the case. There is something far more profound and serious than the coronavirus, and that is, are you really saved? We are so focused on the fact that so far, by this message, this Palm Sunday weekend, about 56,000 people worldwide have died as a direct result of the coronavirus.
But that's just a fraction of the people who have died. That's a fraction. 24,641 people died today from heart disease. 26,283 people died today from cancer. 4,300 people died today from diabetes. Today, mosquitoes killed 2,740 people. Humans today killed 1,300 people. And 3,700 people died today from traffic accidents in this country alone.
So all of that to say death is a reality. You may not like to think about it. You may not like to be reminded of it. But it is a fact. And there is a worse reality than death. So get used to the idea that every human being dies, including your saintly grandmother, and even children. Everybody dies.
There's something far worse than death. That is to be eternally lost. Jesus once healed a man in Jerusalem at another festival. He was at the Pool of Bethesda. He healed a man who was lame.
He said, take up your bed and walk. The man walked out of the temple. Afterward, it says Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, "see, you have been made well." Listen to this next part. "Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you."
Worse? What could possibly be worse than a lifetime of suffering? An eternity of suffering is far worse. So Jesus entered our suffering. He embraced his own suffering, but he is predicting far more suffering for the city of Jerusalem, and he is moved by it, and he weeps because of it.
So there's far more at stake than the coronavirus, and that is, are you right with God? Do you know Jesus Christ? Are you going to heaven, or is there something far worse?
So I escaped the coronavirus. Are you going to heaven? That's really the issue. That man that Jesus healed, that disease robbed him of the best years of his life. But sin would rob him of eternal life forever.
St. Augustine at a funeral once said, if we weep for the body from which the soul is departed, should we not weep for the soul from which God is departed? There is an eternal suffering called hell. And anybody who knows the Lord Jesus Christ will not go there. You won't go there. You won't go to purgatory. You won't burn your sins off. You'll go directly to heaven. But if you don't know the Lord Jesus Christ, if you push him away and you rejected him, there's something far worse for you, friend, than anything you'd ever experience here. Than paralysis, than cancer, than heart disease, than stroke, than coronavirus. And that is an eternity without God.
Could it be that we've been brought to this moment for people like you to understand that fact, and to make sure that never happens to you? I'm imploring you, really, if God is getting our attention through this worldwide, I'm imploring you no matter where you're seeing this, or hearing this, to say yes to the Christ who came to suffer in your world for you so you would never have to suffer forever.
Wherever you are, you can turn to him. You can believe in him. He took your pain. He took your sin in that moment of time so that you could live eternally with the Father. So wherever you are, if you're just sick and tired, as my friend Franklin Graham says, of being sick and tired, now's the time to turn to him.
Experience life. Experience joy. Experience forgiveness. Your past wiped away. A whole future exists for you.
How? You just simply talk to God. That's all prayer is. Wherever you are, say this. Say, Lord, I know I'm a sinner. I admit that. Forgive me. Forgive me of my sin.
I believe that You sent Jesus to this Earth, an Earth filled with suffering and pain, to suffer himself, and to die a horrible death. And in so doing, take my sin on himself. I believe that. I believe he died. I believe he rose from the grave.
Right now, I turn from my sin. I repent of my sin. I turn from my past. I turn to Jesus as my savior and as my master, to follow him today and every day. In Jesus' name, amen.
Listen, if you prayed that prayer, you are a child of God. You are saved. You're on your way to heaven. You go, well, I didn't feel anything. Don't care. I didn't do anything. Don't care.
He did it for you. And He gave you-- it's a free gift of eternal life. It's by grace you are saved through faith. We're going to tell you in a minute what to do now, but congratulations. Welcome to God's family. On this Palm Sunday, let your palms be up in worship to Him, and your palms be out to extend God's help and love to others. God bless you.