As I write this, I am reminiscing about where I was on this day in 2019… in Galilee, Israel! On Saturday, 23 March, we were on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. These are some of the photos I took: The Old City, Mount of Olives, Garden of Gethsemane, and an empty tomb!
Of course we know that things were different in the time of Jesus, but being there was a life-changing experience.
Palm Sunday, or Passion Sunday, is the start of Passion Week. The Passion, which from the Latin means suffering, is the short final period in the life of Jesus. On this day, Jesus began His triumphant entry into Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, where people waved palm leaves and laid them on the road before Him, shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David (Messiah)! Blessed (praised, glorified) is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Matthew 21:9 AMP)
How tragic that only five days later they were shouting, “Crucify Him!” (John 19:6)
Luke 19:41-42 (NIV) records Jesus: As He approached Jerusalem and saw the city, He wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace - but now it is hidden from your eyes.”
Jesus goes on about the destruction of the city, and verse 44 ends with: “They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”
Let us not miss Him – now or ever!
The Passion story supposedly ends with the crucifixion and death of Jesus on Good Friday.
But, thank God for Sunday!
The Passion of Christ reached its triumphant pinnacle when He was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit! And that victory continues in each of us, every day! Remember that resurrection power resides within you and I! We are more than conquerors through Christ! (Romans 8:37 NIV)
The main Scripture I want to share with you in this article is from Paul’s writing in Hebrews 12:1-3:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Verse 1-2 (NIV)
For the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the cross!
I love how The Passion puts it in verse 2: “Because His heart was focused on the joy of knowing that you would be His, He endured the agony of the cross and conquered its humiliation…”!
We are the joy that He focused on! Amazing!
Verse 3 in The Passion Translation reads, “So consider carefully how Jesus faced such intense opposition from sinners who opposed their own souls, so that you won’t become worn down and cave in under life’s pressures.” The Amplified version says, “…[consider it all in comparison with your trials], so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. ”
It won’t come as any surprise to you that I believe joy is an important key, and it is one, I believe, that is often greatly under-estimated in the church! The book of James starts off talking about joy:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4 NIV)
This letter was written to Jewish believers to persuade them not to abandon their faith, but it is as relevant today.
Again, for the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the Cross. He paid the price not only so we could one day go to Heaven. Salvation, is usually translated as ‘being saved’, but in its fullest form it also means healed, restored, delivered, made whole. Jesus paid the price, and we are saved by grace through faith, not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9), but when we count it all joy, we are partnering with Him as we persevere, and become mature and complete!
You may be wondering, especially if you don’t know me, if I always consider it pure joy when I am facing challenges in life? The short, emphatic answer is, sadly, NO! Sadly, I have had some dark moments in my life, and even during my walk with the Lord! A few years ago, I was renting a cottage from a friend, and another friend came to visit, only to find me in bed, curtains drawn, with my head under the duvet! God sent her to come to my rescue! We need one another.
Thankfully, even though I still face challenges, as many of you do, and occasionally have some dark days, perseverance is still at work! And God is still on the throne.
How about you? Do you consider it pure joy when facing trials and challenges?
In both ministry and corporate work, I have a session that I teach called ‘Foundations for Joy’, or ‘Weapons of Warfare’ (see my previous story). I believe that we can use these to build strong ‘joy muscles’.
These foundations, or weapons, work for believers and non-believers alike, because we are all created in the image of God. However, as believers, we have Holy Spirit working in us, with His resurrection, dunamis, dynamic, miracle-working power!
And, of course, to repeat what I wrote in ‘Weapons of Warfare’, Nehemiah 8:10 tells us that it is the joy of the Lord that strengthens us. His joy empowers us, and it is in His presence that we find fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11). Burning intimacy with the Lord is one of the most vital foundations for joy.
Other important foundations are our thoughts, words, and our belief system. Steve Backlund says ‘Our highest level of spiritual warfare is to think differently’.
Bill Johnson always talks about the renewed mind! He says, ‘I cannot afford to have a thought in my head about myself that God doesn’t have about me.’ Also, ‘believing a lie empowers the liar!’ And I love this: Bill says, ‘You know your mind is renewed when the impossible looks logical!’
If we change only our thoughts and words, we will truly change our lives!
Jesus did not have an identity crisis!
Jesus could endure the Cross partly because He knew and was secure in His identity. On Palm, or Passion Sunday, we remember His triumphant entry into Jerusalem. He rode on a donkey to demonstrate grace, and the Kingdom of God, as our Prince of Peace. The palm branches represented goodness, well-being and victory.
We give thanks for Resurrection Sunday, for His glorious victory as Jesus conquered death and the grave. And we also always remember that the best is yet to come! In Revelation 7:9-10 (NIV) John writes:
After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:
“Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
Later, in Revelation 19:11-12 and 16 (NIV), John writes about the triumphant return of our Beloved Jesus, not on a donkey this time, but a white horse:
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice He judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on His head are many crowns. He has a name written on Him that no one knows but He Himself.
On His robe and on His thigh He has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
As we meditate on the Passion of our Lord Jesus – and the agony He endured on the Cross, let us remember Resurrection Sunday and the empty tomb! Let us remember that ‘because His heart was focused on the joy of knowing that you would be His, He endured the agony of the cross’! Let us live joyful lives, worthy of His sacrifice.