Sermon for Sunday, April 2nd, 2023 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
Old Testament reading:
[Zec 9:9-17 ESV] 9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 10 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. 11 As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. 12 Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double. 13 For I have bent Judah as my bow; I have made Ephraim its arrow. I will stir up your sons, O Zion, against your sons, O Greece, and wield you like a warrior’s sword. 14 Then the LORD will appear over them, and his arrow will go forth like lightning; the Lord GOD will sound the trumpet and will march forth in the whirlwinds of the south. 15 The LORD of hosts will protect them, and they shall devour, and tread down the sling stones, and they shall drink and roar as if drunk with wine, and be full like a bowl, drenched like the corners of the altar. 16 On that day the LORD their God will save them, as the flock of his people; for like the jewels of a crown they shall shine on his land. 17 For how great is his goodness, and how great his beauty! Grain shall make the young men flourish, and new wine the young women.
New Testament reading:
[Act 9:1-19 ESV] 1 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. 4 And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. 8 Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. 10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened. For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus.
[Mat 21:1-11 ESV] 1 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, 5 “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.'” 6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. 8 Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
There are many conversion stories of people saying they have “found Jesus” or they” chose Jesus” or something similar to this. Such ways of talking make it as if the convert himself was victorious, triumphant in finding the right path. But many, if not most, who come to faith in Jesus Christ will be more keyed in on the reality behind the scenes. And that reality is that the Holy Spirit is the one who is triumphant. The Holy Spirit comes to the person who hears the Word of God and causes them to believe in it, to trust in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Holy Spirit triumphs.
This Palm Sunday, I want to consider not only Christ’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, but the Holy Spirit’s triumphal entry into the hearts of all believers. There is a surprising amount of overlap in these two concepts. Both carry with them the promise of God. Both are works of God. And both are triumphant.
I. Promises of God
It may seem strange that Christ’s entry into Jerusalem is called triumphant. The victory of sin, death, and the devil — that victory on the cross — had not been won. Or at least, it had not occurred yet in time. But the promise of God made it an assured victory. And so when Christ came into Jerusalem it was triumphant because victory was assured. The plan of the Lord from all eternity was about to be fulfilled.
And it might seem strange that I refer to the entry of the Holy Spirit as another “triumphant entry.” Granted, that is a phrase that is usually reserved just for Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem. But, the term, I submit, also well describes the Spirit’s work in us. For this work also is triumphant. The Holy Spirit also brings with Him the promises of God, so that “it is as good as done.” Salvation is promised. For whoever believes in the Lord believes because of the work of the Holy Spirit, and whoever believes in the Lord shall be saved. It is a guaranteed promise.
So it is that the promises of God are seen in both Christ’s entry into Jerusalem and in the Holy Spirit’s entry into our hearts.
And it is important to understand that we don’t so much “invite” the Holy Spirit into our hearts as He breaks down the door and comes in. Natural man wants nothing of the Spirit. Natural man CANNOT invite the Spirit into his heart. For a man to believe at all, God must act. God must send the Holy Spirit to change a man’s heart from a heart of stone into a heart of flesh. It is the work of God.
II. Works of God
No one would doubt that the entry of Christ into Jerusalem was the work of God. This events fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament, foretold many years previously.
Our text explains:
This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, 5 “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.'”
Matthew is there referencing Zechariah 9:9
[Zec 9:9 ESV] 9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
Jesus Christ is proclaimed King.
And how can anyone be proclaimed King but with the approval of God?
Jesus, being himself God of God, light of light, very God of very God, also by his actions makes this triumphal entry “a work of God.” He knew exactly what was happening. Christ did not just happen to enter Jerusalem one day. This had bee planned from the beginning, and Christ knew it.
This is implied in Christ’s words. He says:
Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.”
Christ is not only the key actor in the drama unfolding, He is its very author and director. It is a work of God.
No less is the work of the Holy Spirit in His triumphal entry into our hearts also a work of God. Sometimes the doctrine of the Holy Spirit is overlooked. The Holy Spirit is a person. We say “he” not “it”. He is the third person of the Trinity. And while the Holy Spirit is also called in the Scriptures “the Spirit of Christ” and “the Spirit of God,” he too is God.
We know well the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed. There is another ancient creed that speaks more at length about the Holy Spirit and the nature of the Triune God. That is the Athanasian Creed. And it says
“The Holy Spirit is uncreated.”
“The Holy Spirit is immeasurable.”
“The Holy Spirit is eternal.”
“The Holy Spirit is almighty.”
“Holy Spirit is GOD.”
And so the work of the Holy Spirit is the Work of God.
The work of the Holy Spirit entering into our hearts can well be described as “triumphant.” The Spirit triumphs over our opposition to the Lord. We rightly say that the Holy Spirit comes and overpowers us with “Irresistible Grace.” Well, people try mighty hard to resist the Lord. All people do. Your salvation is not because you resisted the Holy Spirit less than others did; your salvation because God sent His Holy Spirit to you (and all the elect of God) with in triumph that overcomes all our resistance. So it is by the grace of God alone that we believe, and not by anything in us or by the lack of anything in us. When a man is born again it is the work of God.
So there is the promise of God, the work of God, and then the triumph of God.
III. The Triumph of God
And this triumph of God in both Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem and the Spirit’s entrance into our hearts, the triumph is in both cases a triumph in spite of death.
A. In death
Christ’s death was a triumph, because in it the sins of the world were conquered and forgiven. Something good, something great (our salvation) came out of something terrible, the death of Christ.
Now, the Scriptures tell us that in the triumphal entry of the Holy Spirit into our hearts, that the old self dies, and he new self is born. It seems like a terrible thing. We think “I don’t want to give up my ways.” “I don’t want to give up my sins.” But the Spirit changes us, and soon we see that the death of our old self was necessary, even a great thing. We now live not for sin, but for Christ, and we mortify sin, we kill it, triumphing over it.
B. The humility of Christ calls us to be humble.
Now a major feature in the story of Christ’s triumphal entry is humility. He is carried on a donkey, not a powerful horse or a chariot. He is humble.
We are likewise called to be humble.
Paul tell us in Colossians 3:12
[Col 3:12 ESV] 12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,
And Peter says in 1 Peter 5:5
[1Pe 5:5 ESV] 5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
And we must be humble, even though the victory is won.
C. The Victory Won.
Ultimately Christ’s triumphant entry is triumphant because the victory is won.
No less is victory won when the Holy Spirit enters our hearts. For not only is the Grace of God irresistible, but God will preserve us.
It is sometimes called the Perseverance of the Saints, but it could be called the Perseverance of God, or the preservation of the saints. The idea, whatever we call it, is that the promised victory which has been begun in you, God will see to its end. He will keep you. He will protect you. He will ensure that you always have faith in Him.
The Holy Spirit triumphs.
If you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, you no longer ask like the crowd in Jerusalem, “who is this?” nor like Paul on the road to Damascus do you say “Who are you?”
If you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, if you have faith in His words then you know that He is Lord and that God raised him from the dead, and you know of that the Holy Spirit has triumphed in you.
Christ won the victory of salvation for you on the cross, and the Holy Spirit gives you faith in those words of God that you hear in the Holy Scriptures. The promises of God come true in His works, and they always bring triumph.
Therefore we may live knowing that the victory is won.
We need not doubt whether Christ was truly declared King as he entered the city.
We need not doubt whether Christ was truly prophet as was declared that same day.
We need not doubt whether Christ’s death was sufficient for us.
And we need not doubt whether we will remain in the faith,
for God promises victory, and victory He has won.
How does that change your life?
It certainly should.
Though we are weak, He strong.
The Lord is in control, and the Lord has won the victory.
Knowing this, our evangelism is strengthened. God will bring in His people through the proclamation of the gospel. The word will not return void.
The plan of the Lord will triumph.
So we too give praise to God saying:
“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”
… because that which is “triumphant” is not only victorious but brings out rejoicing and celebration over that victory.
Let us therefore rejoice in the Lord and celebrate for
Christ is King
He is Risen
We are born again.
Praise be to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.