Written Sermons & Bible Studies

Palm Sunday: A Journey of Compassion

We have finished our Lenten study of Lamentations. Now we begin our journey to Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Before we leave Lamentations for good, let’s read:

Lamentations 3:19-24

The thought of my affliction and my homelessness
is wormwood and gall!
20 My soul continually thinks of it
and is bowed down within me.
21 But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
22 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”

Lamentations speaks of God bringing hope through love that never ceases and mercies that never come to an end. Lamentations speaks of the people hoping in God, deep in their soul. After Jerusalem was destroyed, the people of Judah waited with hope for over 500 years. They waited for the promised savior of their people, the Messiah of God.
When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the people of Judah placed high expectations on him. They expected Jesus to be the promised Messiah and Judah’s King described in Psalm 2.

Psalms 2:7-8

I will tell of the decree of the LORD:
He said to me, “You are my son;
today I have begotten you.
8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.”

Jesus shouldered the full weight of their centuries of suffering and their current reality under the oppression of Rome. When Jesus didn’t deliver them from Roman rule and claim the throne as their king, they were grievously disappointed. Their hope turned into a fire of rage that would consume Jesus in hatred.

The people couldn’t see that Jesus brought them hope and salvation. Throughout his ministry, Jesus lived his life as a comforter. He showed empathy and compassion towards those who were suffering. He offered peace and healing to the brokenhearted. He was the man who showed people the steadfast love of God. He brought the world mercy like no other.

Thinking of Jesus as comforter, my eyes have been opened to the way Jesus treated those around him from Palm Sunday to his death on the cross on Good Friday. When we observe Jesus’ journey to the cross, we see his empathy and care of others under very real stress. Jesus is empathetic, he serves the needs of others, and he contributes to their well-being throughout his journey. He even cares for those crucifying him.
Today, I want us to look at how Jesus responded to the people he encountered on his journey to death. As we travel with Jesus to his death, I hope to share some perspectives that will help all of us live a happier life. That seems weird, how can a journey to death help us live happier lives? Because as we examine how Jesus treated the people he encountered on his journey, we will discover the key to happiness.

Palm Sunday: Let’s start with the events of Palm Sunday. In Matthew 21, we read about Jesus’s first encounter with the people shouting Hosanna as he enters the city of Jerusalem.

Matthew 21:9-11

The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
10 When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?”

11 The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Jesus enters the city riding on a donkey. This symbolizes Jesus entering the city as the Messiah. He accepts the role of savior of God’s people. What he accepts is not the fight for power, but the self-sacrifice required for their eternal salvation. In this first encounter, he willingly assumes their expectations. On Palm Sunday, the people welcome Jesus with shouts of praise and hearts full of hope, while he quietly makes his way through the crowd to his destiny.

Jesus has empathy for them. He goes as far as to take all their pain upon himself and carry it to the cross. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, celebrated on Palm Sunday, marks the beginning of a week that would culminate in His crucifixion. Despite being hailed as Messiah; Jesus understands the expectations placed upon Him and the coming betrayals and suffering. His acceptance of this path, without seeking to correct or temper the crowd’s expectations, reflects a commitment to a mission focused on the well-being of humanity rather than immediate acclaim or power.

The Last Supper: At the last supper Jesus has with his disciples, he washes their feet. This act of service was typically done by the lowest servant. This underscores Jesus’s heart of servant leadership and humility. By washing his disciples’ feet, Jesus models the dignity of serving others. With this act, he also provides them with emotional support, preparing them for the trials ahead. This demonstrates Jesus’s focus on the welfare of his community of disciples.

Peter’s Betrayal: Jesus predicts that his disciple Peter will publicly deny him three times. Peter can’t believe it, but Jesus’s prediction comes true. After Jesus is arrested, Peter is asked three times if he knows Jesus, and he denies it. Jesus supports Peter knowing he will betray him to protect himself. Jesus predicts Peter’s denial without expressing criticism or anger. He understands human frailty and the conflict of loyalty and fear. Jesus communicates truth without the sting of blame. He sets Peter on a path of personal growth. Jesus helps Peter gain courage and self-awareness, which Peter will need to lead the church.

Jesus Before Pilate: Jesus is taken to stand before the Roman authority, Pilate, for final judgment. Jesus’s conversation with Pilate is amazing. He could challenge Pilate and criticize him for condemning an innocent man. Accuse him of pandering to the Pharisees. Call him a pathetic puppet of Rome. Jesus doesn’t do any of that. Let’s look at the interaction between Jesus and Pontius Pilate:

John 18:37-38

Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?”

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

 38 Pilate asked him, “What is truth?”
After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, “I find no case against him.”

In this conversation, Pilate asks Jesus if he is a king, and Jesus says he is above being a king. Jesus’s role is to testify to the truth. Pilate expresses ignorance about truth. What happens here is Jesus acknowledges the limits of Pilate’s authority. Pilate is not in a position to judge the truth. Therefore, Pilate is not in a position to judge Jesus. In effect, Jesus absolves Pilate of responsibility for his death. Jesus even forgives his unjust conviction. More than that, he serves Pilate by giving him a clear conscience. Jesus shows Pilate an extraordinary level of understanding. He shows empathy even for someone involved in condemning him to death.

People Turn Against Jesus: The same people who had welcomed Jesus with joy turn against him. They discover he will not be the king they want him to be. He will not lead them to victory over Rome and restore the glory of Jerusalem. Frustrated and disillusioned, they vent their anger and hurl insults at him as he stands trial before Pilate. Despite the people’s rejection of him, Jesus responds with unwavering love and compassion. He accepts the pain, disappointment, and rage of those who had once praised him. He bears their emotions and burdens with grace, knowing what needs to be done for their ultimate benefit.

Care for His Mother: As Jesus carries his cross to Golgotha, he stops to turn the care of his mother over to his disciple John. He makes sure that she is provided for. Even while enduring deep pain, Jesus thinks of his mother and desires to make her life better.

John 19:26-27

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.”

 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.”

Salvation of the Condemned: Jesus was nailed to a cross as were two criminals beside him. When hanging on the cross, Jesus listens to the plea for mercy of one of the criminals. Jesus hears him, forgives him, and gives him a place in heaven. Even on the cross, Jesus improves the life of another person.

Luke 23:41-43

 And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.”

42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

43 He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.

Forgiveness from the Cross: Jesus asked his Father for forgiveness for His executioners saying “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” This is perhaps the ultimate expression of unconditional love and forgiveness. It is an incredible act of putting the well-being of others first, even in the midst of personal suffering at their very hands.

2000 years ago, Jesus taught us to love our neighbor and to love our enemy. Jesus modeled the profound expectations God has for us to care for those around us. Jesus shows us just how far we need to go to show empathy and compassion toward others. While facing torture and death, extreme pain and betrayal, Jesus never utters a harsh word or criticism to those who tortured him or betrayed him. Jesus cares for others with remarkable grace under pressure. On his journey to death, he exhibits profound love, empathy, understanding, and deep concern for all those he encounters.

Like Jesus, we are to give forgiveness, acceptance, and benevolence without expecting anything in return. We are called to be merciful and show compassion toward others whether they deserve it or not. As followers of Jesus, we are to care for the needs of our community and make their lives better.

So, how does Jesus’s example relate to our happiness?

Studies show that when we focus our energies on making the lives of others better, we are happier. Acts of kindness and helping others improves our mental and physical health and increases our satisfaction in life. Cultivating empathy and contributing to our community helps our personal well-being. Our social relationships within our community have a significant impact on our happiness. When we contribute to the common good and orient our lives towards serving others, we have purpose and satisfaction.

Contributing to the well-being of others brings us happiness.

This research confirms what our faith tells us. When we are guided by the Holy Spirit, we are more empathetic in our encounters with others. Christ in us moves us to serve others and care for our community, be it this church or our neighborhood. We have practical evidence of serving as a path to happiness.
I see it every Food Pantry. When our volunteers leave, they are happy. They feel a sense of satisfaction for working to ensure others have what they need. They are tired, but they are blessed. At Place of Grace, we serve as Christ’s hands and feet in this world, and we invite everyone here to join us as we follow Jesus.

The message of Jesus is to love one another. The truth of living the message of Jesus is happiness.
Prayer time

Gracious and Loving God,

As we enter begin Holy Week, turn our hearts to the path that Jesus walked. In His every action, we see the embodiment of divine love, mercy, and commitment to the well-being of others.

Inspired by the example of Jesus, may we seek to show His compassion and grace in our own lives. God, help us improve the lives of those around us. May we choose blessings over condemnation. Help us extend Your love even when it challenges us. Remind us of how Jesus encountered Pilate, the people of Judah, and Peter—offering forgiveness, understanding, and betterment instead of judgment.

We give thanks for the opportunities to serve You through acts of kindness and love. Thank you for the success of our Food Pantry and Spring Festival. The joy and warmth shared reflects the happiness that comes from serving others. It is with grateful hearts that we recall these moments, feeling blessed to be part of a community that seeks to spread Your light in the world.

Lord, empower us to bringing blessings to others and experience the deep joy that comes from embodying the grace and peace of Christ. May our actions reflect Your love. May we discover the true happiness that Your Son, Jesus Christ, gives us.

As we move through Holy Week and look towards Resurrection Sunday, let us hold fast to the hope and renewal found in Christ. Challenge us to live out our faith through acts of holiness and love, affirming the dignity and worth of every person we encounter.

In the name of Jesus Christ, who guides us in love and in truth, we pray, Amen.

About Pastor Tim

Tim Holmes

Senior Pastor

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