Palm Sunday - Preparing for Passover
Palm Sunday is the day that Jesus was recognized as King and Lord by the people of his day. Many people had just witnessed him raise Lazarus from the dead and Jesus’ fame was preceding him into Jerusalem. During much of his ministry, Jesus kept a low profile, telling those who he healed to not tell anyone. But after the spectacle of bringing Lazarus back to life, those who were present to witness this miracle were telling everyone of what they had seen. This set the scene that we all think of when we talk about Palm Sunday. We see Jesus riding on the back of a donkey into Jerusalem and being welcomed by sinners who acknowledge him as King and Lord.
Jesus and the disciples were making their way to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration and the Festival of Unleavened Bread. Jewish pilgrims were instructed by God to make the journey to Jerusalem three times a year at appointed times. We find this in Deuteronomy 16:16 Three times a year all your men must appear before the Lord your God at the place he will choose: at the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Festival of Weeks and the Festival of Tabernacles. No one should appear before the Lord empty-handed: 17 Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the Lord your God has blessed you.
Passover was a day of remembrance of when God brought Israel out from the bondage of slavery in Egypt. The people of Israel were instructed to sacrifice a lamb, prepare a very specific meal, and eat it in haste on the night that God delivered them. On that night, everyone in the city who did not have the blood of the sacrificial lamb on their doorposts experienced the death of their firstborn. Those who did have the blood of the lamb on their doorposts, experienced the Lord’s pass-over of their home and their firstborns were spared.
The Passover meal is a big deal in Jewish culture. Being good Jewish men, Jesus and his disciples were coming into Jerusalem to celebrate this meal with one another as God had instructed them. You can read the entire account of God giving the original Passover instructions to Moses in Exodus 12. On the heels of the Passover meal, the Israelites were instructed to celebrate a festival of Unleavened Bread. That is, to eat no bread made with yeast in it, because there was no time for the bread to rise on the night of their deliverance from Egypt.
Exodus 12: 17 “Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come.
For thousands of years, to celebrate this week of remembrance, Jewish families remove the yeast from their homes. This may be where the idea of spring cleaning came from. The women of a household will spend much effort in removing the leaven from the home prior to the Passover celebration. To make it fun for the children, the mother would often leave some leaven on the floor in the kitchen for them to find. The father would light a candle and lead the children through the home in search of any remaining left in the house. The children would find it and it would be removed from the home.
Jesus clears the Temple
We all know the story of how Jesus came into Jerusalem on a donkey and the people put down their cloaks and palm branches before him. But did you know that it wasn’t long after Jesus entered into Jerusalem that he found the temple filled with people buying & selling (to the pilgrims & foreigners at inflated prices). He flipped those tables and cleared it out. This was an example of Jesus removing the leaven from His Father’s house.
Matthew 21:12 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.”
A house with leaven is a house that is puffed out and full of pride. A house of prayer is a house of humility and communion with God. And we are now the house of God.
1Peter 2:5 And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God.
We now must self-examine what leaven is present within our own lives. This is the season to “clean the house”.
- How often are we praying and talking with God? Jesus said that his Father’s house will be called a house of prayer. A house of prayer is in communion with Him daily just as it was at the beginning in Eden.
- What are we watching? What are we listening to? What are we permitting into our ear-gate and eye-gates?
- What things are we allowing into our homes and lives that are unhealthy for our spiritual walk with God?
- What have we allowed into our hearts? This is the place where God now dwells. Our hearts ought to be a most holy place for Him.
- Which Jesus do we identify with (donkey riding or table flipping)?
The yeast of the Pharisees and Herod
Jesus spoke to his disciples one time about being mindful of yeast in their lives. The context of this conversation was just after He had fed 4000 people with a few loaves of bread and fish. We pick up the story in Matthew 16:14 The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. 15 “Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.”
16 They discussed this with one another and said, “It is because we have no bread.”
17 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?
The disciples were looking at the natural things, but Jesus was talking about the condition of their hearts. You see, the Herodians were partnered with the Sadducees. The Sadducees were an aristocratic group who saw devotion to God as a key to blessings in life. They were the ones who controlled the concessions in the temple which sold the animal deemed “acceptable” for sacrifice. They were politically minded and believed that fidelity to God produces tangible, personal wealth. On the other hand, you had the Pharisees who were usually theologically opposed to the Sadducees. They were observers of rules and traditions. They would avoid anything they deemed unholy or defiling. Together, the Pharisees and Sadducees made up the Sanhedrin, the second Temple ruling council.
God's Redemptive Nature
We can see how God has instructed us to remove the leaven from our lives in his direction to keep a yearly memorial of how Israel left Eygpt. We also see how Jesus himself cleared the Temple of the “leaven” just before the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The point of the unleavened bread was to illustrate that there was no time for the yeast to cause the bread to rise. In Egypt, time was short and the Israelites were instructed to be ready for The Lord. When Jesus cleared the Temple of those selling goods, the time was short. He was preparing to become the Ultimate Sacrifice for all.
Jesus also cautioned about the yeast of the Sadducees and Pharisees, which can be summed up by saying not to be proud. Don’t be too loose with our spiritual walk so to be corrupted by a political self-serving spirit. Likewise, we are not to be so spiritually compliant that we are stuck in the traditions in man to the point where we are missing the Messiah when He is right in front of us. We cannot separate ourselves from the world just to keep it from influencing us.
Knowing all of this, let’s look at one more time when Jesus spoke about yeast. In the Kingdom we are to be the leaven that influences the world. Matthew 13:33 He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.”
In this example, we see that God will gradually influence the world. The Kingdom is a different kind of yeast than that of personal pride. However, it is a yeast of confidence. Paul wrote to the Corinthian church about this topic.
1 Corinthians 5: 6-8 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
We are to be part of God’s original Genesis mandate, Multiply and Influence.
- Adam & Eve were told to multiply and have dominion over the earth Gen 1:28
- Noah & family were instructed to multiply and cover the earth Gen 9:1
- Jesus’ ascension (Great Commission) multiply and make disciples of all nations. Matt 2816 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Time is short once again today. We need to be ready and prepared for The Lords return. There is no time to be “business as usual” when he is coming back for a Bride without blemish. There is no time like the present for us to prepare ourselves and also influence those around us.
- Remove the old leaven
- Walk out the Kingdom and be influencers of the whole lump
- Celebrate the true Passover Lamb and God’s victory that makes a way for us