Imagine two thousand years earlier, the dusty, dirty streets of Jerusalem during Passover. Tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of sheep slain, blood smeared on the door posts and door frames. Blood pouring from the altar in the temple. The warm Mediterranean sun beating down, none of the sanitary conditions we know today, no sewers, no water to wash everything away. We think the dairy air around Lynden gets a bit strong sometimes, but imagine back then. Let your mind stretch back even farther, back over the previous 1500 years, animal sacrifices of every kind being offered morning, noon and night every day, 365 days a year for the past one and a half millennia. The ground literally saturated with rivers of blood that never ceased to flow. You could never escape the stench, it was always in your nostrils.
The importance of Holy Week as we call it is seen in the Gospels where one-third of Mark’s Gospel and one-half of John’s Gospel are devoted to just the events from Palm Sunday to Easter. This is where we are given the revelation of Jesus Christ as the Son of God and our Savior from sin, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. This is why He came to earth. For the first time in His public ministry Jesus choses to make a very public appearance and even draw attention to Himself. And He does it at a time when there are hundreds of thousands of Passover pilgrims in Jerusalem. Publically He rode into Jerusalem. Publically He went into the Temple. Publically He was brought before the high priest and Pilate and condemned. Publically He was led to Calvary and crucified on a cross. Publically He died and that death was the “life of the world” (John 6:51). The Triumphal Entry story is related in all four of the Gospels and it’s intended by the Holy Spirit to be something we know and learn from. I want us to see in this story four aspects of Jesus’ character and I want us to see that His display of these four character traits is not just to save us from our sin, but to give to us these traits in the things we face. Jesus doesn’t just do this for us, He gives them to us. The cross He took up He also enables us to take up, but in His strength and ability.
All religions have teachings and traditions that are passed down and revered and believed. Many of the larger or higher religions have their holy books. Hinduism has the Vedas and Upanishads (oo-pan-i-shads) of which the Baghavad Gita is a part. Buddhism has the Tripataka (nearly 40 volumes). Islam has the Koran (Quran). Judaism has the Torah and the OT. Christianity has the Holy Bible. When we talk about the Holy Bible we sometimes refer to it as the canon of Scripture. The word canon means a rule or a standard, a measure, a rod for keeping things straight. It’s like a carpenter’s rule, to give a straight and true line. By canon of Scripture we are talking about what belongs in the Bible and what does not, as our standard and measure. How did the canon come to be and how did it get its authority and when did the church officially recognize these particular 66 books? We should not underestimate the importance of these questions. God’s Word is our life, our spiritual life depends on it. We must know with confidence what’s from God and what’s not.
In Lewis Carroll’s delightful story, Alice in Wonderland, there’s a scene in which Alice is talking to the White Queen and Alice says, “There's no use trying, one can't believe impossible things.” And the Queen replies, “I daresay you haven't had much practice. When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” Last Sunday morning we talked about one impossible thing after breakfast. It’s impossible to enter the Kingdom of God even if you are rich or smart or hardworking. People who are rich or smart or hardworking or morally decent think they are OK and they think they can get to heaven on their own ability. It’s impossible for them to enter the Kingdom of God. This leads the disciples to utter astonishment. This is terrible news. If people with all kinds of resources and means and abilities can’t get into the Kingdom of God then who can? And Jesus looks them straight in the eye and says you can’t. With people it’s impossible. Salvation belongs to God and God saves sinners. Impossible for us, possible for God. God can make a sinner go through the eye of a needle, through the needle of salvation. Here’s an interesting question. If God actually does get us though that impossible needle’s eye, what awaits us on the other side? What is life like on the other side of the needle?
Psalm 19 begins: Psalm 19:1-6 The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. 2 Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. And then in verse 7 it changes direction: Psalm 19:7 The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; Last week we called these the two revelations of God, general revelation in creation and special revelation in the Word of God. The Belgic Confession speaks of these two revelations as two books in which we can read and learn about God. Of the two books the second is clearly superior to the first. From Psalm 19 we see what a great glorious gift and treasure the Word of God is. There are hardly enough adjectives to describe it. The first book is awesome, but it cannot make us wise to salvation. We need our Bibles to reveal to us that God is also a redeemer.