God Has Ordained Praise (Matthew Sermon 100 of 151)
May 24, 2009 | Andrew Davis
Exalting Christ, Worship, Pure in Heart, Humility
A Word About Praise
So I constantly marvel at the providence of God. We did not orchestrate that the children would sing this morning. We didn't plan that out that that would line up with the sermon, but so it is. And so I get to preach on this very text, which fits well with the display you had earlier of those joyful little faces as they were singing praise to Jesus. So that's a wonderful thing. Another plug for expository preaching, amen? But this morning, we're looking at Matthew 21:14-17, and I wanna begin with a word about praise.
The Centrality of Praise
Now again and again, we have established in scripture that we were created to praise and worship the living God; that's why you draw breath today. That's why God created you, that you would praise and worship him; that's why God sent his Son into the world, to redeem us from our sinfulness that we might worship him in spirit and in truth. And praise is again the focus of this passage this morning.
Now when Jesus' enemies refused to give him glory themselves, they were especially offended at the worship that the children were giving to Jesus and offended that Jesus didn't rebuke those children who were praising him but actually accepted that worship. And so that's the passage we're looking at today, so the glory of God and the praise of Christ is a central theme of the Bible, and of our lives, and also of our text today.
C.S. Lewis’s Problem
And I wanna begin with an extended quote from C.S. Lewis on praise. It's one of the most influential things ever written about praise, and I'd like to read it to you because it changed my life, the things that he wrote. It was a sermon and he entitled it, “A Word About Praise.”
This is what he said, “When I first began to draw near to belief in God, and even for some time after it had been given to me, I found a stumbling block in the demand so clamorously made by all religious people that we should ‘praise’ God; still more in the suggestion that God himself demanded praise. We all despise the man who demands continued assurance of his own virtue, or of his own intelligence, or delightfulness. We despise still more of the crowd of people around every dictator, every millionaire, every celebrity, who gratify that demand. Thus a picture, at once ludicrous and horrible, both of God and of his worshippers, threatened to appear in my mind. The Psalms were especially troublesome in this way. ‘Praise the Lord, O my soul,’ ‘O praise the Lord with everything that's within me,’ ‘Praise him,’ say the Psalms. Worse still for me was the statement put into God's own mouth, ‘Whoever offers me thanks and praise honors me’ (Psalm 50:23).
“It was hideously like saying, ‘What I most want is to be told that I am good and great.’ ... [Furthermore], more than once the Psalmists seemed to be saying something like this, ‘You like praise, O God. If you do this good thing for me, I'll give you what you want, namely praise.’ It was extremely distressing to me. It made one think that what one least wanted to think. Namely, gratitude to God, reverence to him, obedience to him, I thought I could understand, but not this perpetual worshipping, this perpetual eulogy. Now, part of my initial problem,” said CS Lewis, “is that I did not see that it is in the process of being worshipped that God actually communicates himself to us.
“It is not of course the only way, but for many people at many times the ‘fair beauty of the Lord’ is revealed chiefly and only in times of corporate worship. The miserable idea that God should in any sense need or crave or yearn for our worship like some vain woman wanting compliments on a new dress, or a vain author presenting his new books to people who have never met or heard him, that unworthy idea of God is answered in that same Psalm. Psalm 50:12. ‘If I were hungry, I would not tell you.’ Even if such an absurd deity could be conceived he would hardly come to us, the lowest of rational creatures, to gratify his appetite. I don't want my dog to bark his approval of my new books. But the most obvious fact about praise - whether of God or anything - strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honor; I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise unless shyness or the fear of boring others is deliberately brought in to check it.
“The world rings with praise - lovers praising their lovers, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game. There's praise of weather, praise of wines and dishes, of actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, praise of children, praise of flowers and mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians and scholars. I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it. ‘Isn't she lovely?’ ‘Wasn't it glorious?’ ‘Don't you think it magnificent?’
“The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak about something they care about. My whole more general difficulty then about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us as regards what is supremely valuable, God, what we delight to do, in fact, what we can't help doing about everything else we consider valuable in our lives. I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses, but actually, in some sense, completes the enjoyment. It is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete until it's expressed. It's frustrating to have discovered a new author and not be able to tell anyone how good he is, or to come suddenly at the turn of a country road, upon some beautiful mountain valley, something of unexpected grandeur, and then I have to keep silent because you know the people that you're with and that care for you care no more for it than for a tin can in the alley or in a gutter. Or to hear a good joke and not have anyone to share it with.
“If it were possible for a soul, a created soul, fully to appreciate, that is to love and delight in, the worthiest object of all and simultaneously at every moment to give this delight a perfect expression, then that soul would be in the highest form of happiness imaginable. To see what the doctrine really means we must then suppose ourselves to be in perfect love with God, drunk with, drowned in, dissolved by that delight and then have it flow out from us like some river, a river of praise. The Catechism says. ‘Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.’ But we shall then know that these are really the same thing. Fully to enjoy is to glorify. Therefore in commanding us to glorify him, God is inviting us to enjoy him.”
Well, Jesus knew all of this, and he knew the hearts of these enemies, the hard-hearted enemies of Jesus, and he knew the hearts of the children that were praising him that day, and he knew what it was all about. And so therefore Jesus upheld the worship of these children and basically implied that that was the reason that they existed in the first place.
Context: A Perfect Progression
Now, let's get the context of this encounter. There is, I think, a beautiful progression, a symbolic almost parable-like progression of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem as he begins the final week of his life. Everything's moving rapidly to its foreordained conclusion that Jesus would die for our sins on the cross that week.
And so, events are moving ahead to what God had ordained before the foundation of the world. And here we see this perfect progression. Jesus enters. Jesus assesses. Jesus purifies. Jesus heals, and then Jesus is worshipped. It's a beautiful progression, really. I think I probably should have turned it into the sermon, but I didn't. This is just an aside, but I'm just setting the context. Jesus enters in the triumphal entry, and they're all celebrating. He goes in; they don't understand what they're celebrating. He goes in and looks at the temple area, he looks around, he scouts it out, and goes home for the night since it's already late.
He comes back the next day and purifies that temple, cleansing it from all of its impurities. Then in our account here as we begin, Jesus does this healing ministry, this river of healing, just yet another summary statement of multiple healings, and then Jesus is worshipped. I think it's somewhat a parable of what he does in our individual lives as well. Jesus enters our hearts meek and lowly, humble like a king, but he is a king, but that's how he comes. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I'll give you rest. Take my yoke, my kingly yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
And so Jesus enters, humble meek, and lowly, but king-like as well. He assesses us perfectly, scouts our hearts, looks around, sees what there is there, and then he begins to purify our hearts, purified by faith from everything that would defile. Jesus heals us so that we may see his glory, like he healed the blind man to see the physical glory of God. He heals our legs so that we can walk in obedience to his commands. And then in the end, and all along too, receives our heartfelt and child-like worship. So, that's setting the context.
The Consummation of Jesus’ Healing Ministry
The Final Healing in Matthew’s Gospel
Look how it begins in verse 14, it says, “The blind and the lame came to him at the temple and he healed them.” This is the final mention of healing in Matthew's gospel.
Jesus' final week in the city of Jerusalem, characterized by yet another summary statement of his healing works, of his many miracles; the blind and the lame here, come to Jesus at the temple. And what better place for them to be healed. This is the place representing God dwelling with man on earth, the place where God is worshipped, the focal point of all of Israel's worship. And how easy it is, even though we've never seen Jesus do these miracles, how easy it is for us to become blasé. Oh yes, more miracles. Oh yes, more healings. More blind people healed, more lame people healed, how easy it is. Friends, there was not a single record in the Bible in history ever of the healing of a blind man before Jesus. It had never been done before.
God forbid that we should ever be blasé about this, the blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. And Jesus does all of these things effortlessly. He does all things well. It says that in Mark 7:37, “They were astonished beyond measure, saying ‘he has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.’” There was nothing that Jesus could not do, and he does it effortlessly. There's no trouble with it.
A Review of Christ’s Healings
And so I think since this is the last record of Jesus' healing ministry in Matthew's gospel, let's survey it just from Matthew's gospel. First of all, we should understand that none of the gospel accounts is complete. Even if you put Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John together, it still is not a complete record of all that Jesus did in those three years.
John put it this way in John 21:25, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” And so what the Gospel writers have chosen to do, what Matthew does is give general summary statements in which huge crowds are all healed. He gives seven of those, and then he gives 14 specific healing accounts so that you get a sense of what it was like for an individual or a couple of individuals to be healed. It's a very powerful combination, a very beautiful approach.
So the summary statements in Matthew 4:24, it says, “News about him spread all over Syria and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, the epileptic, and the paralytics, and he healed them all.” That's a summary statement. Huge region healed. Matthew 8:16-17, “When evening came many who were demon possessed and were brought to him and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: ‘He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.’” Matthew 12:15-16, “Jesus withdrew from that place. Many followed him and he healed all their sick, warning them not to tell who he was.”
Matthew 14:14, “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” At the end of that chapter, Matthew 14:34 and following, “When they had crossed over the they landed at Gennesaret, and when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country and people brought all their sick to him and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed.” Mathew 15:30-31, “Great crowds came to him bringing the lame, the blind, the cripple, the mute, and many others, and he healed them. The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the cripple made well, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.”
And then Matthew 19:1-2, “When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan, large crowds followed him and he healed them there.” Those are seven general kinds of summary statements of huge crowds. Everyone healed. But there are also individual miracle accounts like the leper who comes to Jesus and Jesus is so moved with compassion that he says, “I am willing, be healed.” And he touches him and immediately he is healed. Or you've got the centurion's servant who's lying at bed paralyzed and in terrible suffering. Jesus says, “I'll go and heal him.” Centurion says, “You don't need to come under my roof, just say the word and my servant will be healed.” He gives the word and the servant is healed, from miles away.
Peter's mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever, Jesus touches her and the fever leaves and she gets up and begins to serve them. Two demon-possessed men in the region of the Gadarenes so violent that even chains couldn't hold them, out there howling at the moon and naked. Jesus in the Matthew account drives out the demons with a word, “Go,” and they go into a huge herd of pigs and the pigs all rush down and drown in the lake. Then there's the paralyzed man lying on a mat, and they carve out a hole in the roof, and lower him down to Jesus, and Jesus to prove that he has power on earth to forgive sins, says, “Rise and walk,” and the man rises and walks.
There's a woman subject to bleeding for 12 years, spending all that money on doctors and she never got better, only worse. Then she pushes her way through the crowd, she says, “If only I touch his garment I'll be healed.” She does. Jesus feels that power is gone out. It seems that God the Father has healed her directly through Jesus' power without him knowing it, finds out who it was and says, “Your faith has healed you; go in peace.” Then there's Jairus' little daughter. Jesus was on his way to heal her, she was sick when he began going there, but by the time this encounter with the woman with the issue of blood happened, she's died now; she's dead. “Don't bother the teacher anymore,” and Jesus goes in and says, “Don't be afraid she's only sleeping,” but they laughed at him.
Jesus put them all outside, goes in and just with a word, “Little girl, I say to you, get up.” Jesus restores her to her grateful parents. Then there's two blind men. Jesus says, “According to your faith, it will be done to you.” And immediately they were healed. There was a man with a shrivelled hand there in the synagogue and Jesus' enemy is watching to see if he would heal on the Sabbath and Jesus touched his hand, and immediately his withered or shrivelled hand was restored and made whole. There was a demon-possessed man, blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so he could both talk and see and it was at that moment, Jesus' enemies decided to say it's by the power of Satan, that he heals, and Jesus said the sin would never be forgiven.
Jesus walked on water during the storm, invited Peter to come out, Peter starts to walk and he starts to drown, and Jesus reaches out his hand and pulls him up, “You of little faith,” he said, “Why did you doubt?” There was a Canaanite woman who wanted healing for her daughter, demon-possessed daughter, Jesus doesn't answer her a word. “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel,” he said. When she comes and confronts him, he says, “It's not right to take the children's bread and throw it to their dogs.” She said, “Yes Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the master's table.” And by faith, the daughter was healed.
After the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus comes off the mountain, and there's a frustrated father, the apostles haven't been able to drive out the demon. Jesus says, “Oh unbelieving and perverse generation. How long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” And he rebukes the demon and drives it out. And then there were the two blind men, Bartimaeus and his friend, outside the city of Jericho, and Jesus says, “According to your faith, it will be done,” touches their eyes and they are healed. Fourteen individual healing accounts. Seven summary healing accounts. This is the God we worship. This is Jesus' power. Is there anything he cannot do?
The Worship and the Rebuke
The Children’s Worship
The children, they could see it; they saw him healing. They had learned what to say, the heart was there, they just didn't know what to say, so they learned, I think from the triumphal entry, always say, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” that's what they said, so they're praising Jesus, “Hosanna to the son of David.” Now Jesus already has repeatedly extolled the virtues of little children. He said in Matthew 18 to his own disciples. “I tell you the truth, unless you're converted and become like little children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.”
So, all true disciples, Jesus is saying, are children at heart. That's the message of this sermon: You will not praise Jesus unless you become like a child, self forgetful, humble, aware, willing to worship Jesus for what you see, and not afraid of what anybody else is gonna say when they see you worshipping. It's like a child. Jesus also repeatedly defended children from all attackers, protecting children. In Matthew 18, he says, “Woe to the man through whom any of these little ones who believe in me should sin. Be better for him to have a millstone hung around his neck, be drowned in the depths of the sea then cause one of these little children to sin.”
He even had to protect children from his own disciples, as they didn't really understand what he was doing and the parents were bringing little babies for Jesus to place his hands on them, pray for them, and the disciples were rebuking those who brought those little children, and Jesus was perplexed with them, distressed with them and said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for is such as the Kingdom of Heaven.” In a moment, he's going to defend them again against his own enemies, but he defends these children. Now, these children in the text, I think, are actually boys. The gender is pretty clear in the Greek, and so they're probably 12-year-old boys who had made their Bar-mitzvah and they're there in that area of the temple, and they are perhaps worshipping there as Jewish young men for the first time, just like Jesus did when he was 12.
And so they are there to worship God, but there's Jesus doing all these miracles and isn't it obvious just like the man born blind, now this is remarkable, he does things that no one else has ever done, and you don't know where he's from? Isn't it obvious? Isn't it obvious who he is? He must be worthy of worship and so they're praising him, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they're saying. Pure simple hearts, giving sweet, simple praise to Jesus. How wonderful is that?
The Enemies Attack
Well, the enemies attack, they move out and they attack. Verse 15 and 16 tells the whole story. “When the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David,’ they were indignant. ‘Do you hear what these children are saying?’ they asked.” Now, who are these enemies? They were chief priests responsible for the sacrificial system; they were scribes or teachers of the law responsible for the transmission of the Law of Moses in its faithful teaching. So they were copyists; they would literally copy the Law of Moses, and the Psalms, and the prophets so that there would be copies for the synagogues. That's what they did. They were scholars; they were meticulously careful men.
When I was studying Hebrew I found out that they knew the middle letter of every book of the Old Testament, the middle letter. Would you like to spend your time finding the middle letter of the Gospel of Matthew? Not I, but that's what they did. They were counting from the front and from the back and there it is, and if it was off a letter, they knew they'd missed a letter. They spent their whole time staring at these letters like getting a magnifying glass and staring at a piece of bark on a redwood tree and not looking at the greatness, the glory of the whole forest. I don't think there's anything wrong with looking at a detail. I think details are good, but what is the big picture? Is it not the glory of God in the face of his son, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world?
And so Jesus says in John 5, “You diligently study the scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life; these are the scriptures that testify about me. And you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” These are his enemies; these are the ones. They've been in opposition to Jesus the moment that his miracle working gained him a greater favored name than they had, and they were jealous. Pilate knew it. Pilate said, “It's out of jealousy that they handed Jesus over;” they were jealous of Jesus.
They hated Jesus for what he did. They were expert religionists, they should have seen in Jesus' healings the coming of the Kingdom of God. They should have been among the first to acclaim his rights as the son of David, but their hearts opposed, in their hearts they did not love Jesus. They hated him, and they became indignant. The word implies a fierce anger, perhaps even a rage. The fact is, they're already angry at Jesus and hated him before this moment. And so, they asked this question, “Do you hear what these children are saying?” The implication is that, “Jesus, this is your fault. You are leading our children astray. You ought to rebuke the children. You have to stop them from praising you.” Jesus never stopped anyone from worshipping him. That should tell you something right there. Many great figures in the Bible, whether angels or men, stopped others from worshipping them. Jesus never did. He had come for that. He had come to be worshipped, to be acclaimed, and so he did not stop, he defended it.
Jesus’ Answer: God Has Ordained Worship from Children
Nothing Wrong with Jesus’ Hearing!
So they asked, “Do you hear what these children are saying?” “Yes,” replied Jesus. Just stop there. There is nothing wrong with Jesus' hearing. His ear is not dull to hear; he can hear you praise him. When this morning you got up, as I hope you did, and you began your day with praise and worship. Get down on your knees and say, “Jesus, thank you for going to the cross for me. Thank you that you shed your blood for me. You died for me, thank you.” He heard you. “Yes, I hear. Yes, I hear him.” Of course he hears. He hears everything.
Defending the Praise with Scripture
And then he defends them, and how does he defend them? Well, how would you expect Jesus to defend? With scripture. Has anyone in history ever used scripture as perfectly as Jesus? I mean, he was amazing, he just always had just the right scripture. When Satan tempted him in the desert, he's got three scriptures from the book of Deuteronomy ready to go, all three of them, just perfect. When the Jewish leaders attacked his refusal to the ceremony to wash his hands like they did and all the rules and regulations, Jesus defended it, and attacked their hypocrisy through the book of Isaiah.
When they came to attack his disciples picking grain and rubbing it together and eating like poor people do on the Sabbath, he said, “Haven't you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry?” He defends it from scripture. So he uses precept, he uses example. When they came to ask him about divorce, he answers with scripture right from the book of Genesis.
Frankly, this flowing of scripture from Jesus' mouth will actually only increase over the last week of his life. He is going to defend, by the end of this chapter, the doctrine of ... He'll expose their rebellion by scripture. He'll defend the doctrine of resurrection from the flames of the burning bush, in the next chapter, and finally the culmination of this as he's standing on trial for his life and they charge him under oath by the living God to say, “If you are the Christ, the Son of God.” He answers, “I am.” Exodus 3.
“In the future, you'll see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Daniel 7. Then they nail him to the cross, and he says, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Psalm 22. It's astonishing. A river of scripture flowing through us. Now here, it's Psalm 8. He pulls out Psalm 8, “Do you hear what these children are saying?” “Yes.” What about you? Do you hear what the Lord is saying in Psalm 8? Are you listening to God? I'm listening to the children, are you listening to God? This is what it says, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies to silence the foe and the avenger.” Didn't you read that part? The basic idea then is that God's name, his presence, his person is majestic and glorious.
His glory is infinite and we are supposed to look up at the heavens, the constellations, the stars, and we're supposed to feel really, really small; we're supposed to feel, “What is man that you're even mindful of us, the son of man that you even care about us.” You're supposed to shrink in your own estimation when you look up at the stars and see them all. “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place. What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” His fingers set the stars in place; the meticulous tiny little workings of God's fingers. How great then is God.
So when these feelings of weakness and smallness come over us, we are most fit, then, to praise God, that's becoming like a little child. You are nothing in your own estimation; you're not a worthy topic. We're not gonna spend eternity talking about each other; we will talk about what God did in each other's lives. We'll see the glory radiating from each other that's Jesus' glory, we'll do that, but Jesus will be the topic. And so God has literally ordained or set in order or prepared praise from the lips of children and infants; he has prepared it. He has ordained it. Even nursing infants. So, when humans have a humble meek child-like heart then we are ready to praise God.
Now, the grown-ups, please don't be offended. I'm a grown up, too, here, but grown-ups with all of their intelligence, and all of their education, and all of their attainments, and achievements, and possessions, and power, and positions are not fit to praise him because they're so self-absorbed. Jesus said, “You have to be transformed, you have to be changed and become like a little child to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” And so also, I think to praise him. And notice that God has ordained praise from the lips of children and infants to silence the foe and the avenger, the enemy; the ultimate avenger or foe is Satan, the Accuser. Satan is silenced by the mouths of children and infants who praise him. What can he say? Because God's strength is made perfect in what? In weakness. And he will defend them as he's doing here.
You know, it's a famous statement, “From the lips of infants, from the mouths of babes.” You can find all kinds of fun statements. It was tempting for me to just give you a bunch of fun stories of fun things that little children say. It really would be fun, but it be beside the point. Afterwards, we can talk about all the fun things that our children say and they do say lots of fun things; you know what I'm talking about. It's a public gathering, it's a party, something like that, and they just speak what everybody's thinking, and they don't get in trouble, everybody else just kinda looks away, etcetera. But you know what I'm talking about. Hans Christian Anderson wrote a parable around that concept entitled “The Emperor's New Clothes.” You remember that? A couple of unscrupulous con artists come in and convince everyone that they are the finest weavers, tailors in the world, and they're gonna make for the emperor a piece of clothing, so perfect, so light, so airy that he couldn't even feel it on his body.
It also had a kind of a magical quality that only if you were competent and fit for your job, would you be able to see it. Other than that it would be invisible to you. Well, this is a really elaborate con isn't it? The emperor can't feel it; he apparently can't see it either, so what is he gonna do? If he acknowledges that he can't see it, he's gonna say, “I'm not fit to be Emperor,” so, he says, :This is the finest piece of clothing I've ever put on.” Well, the counselors around him are starting to pick up on it and they say, “Oh Majesty, you've never looked so wonderful. Look at those robes, the train of robes. Look at the colors, look at the weave,: and the word gets out that that's what going on with the emperors new clothes and soon all the adults, they're all doing the same thing.
“Oh, he's magnificent; he's wonderful.” That is until the child comes. You remember what the child says? “The emperor is naked. He's not wearing anything.” What's funny in the story is the story ends and the emperor actually ignores the child and keeps right on going. Well, what else can he do? So he just keeps right on going in his charade that he's covered with the most majestic clothing ever. Now, I think that this story about Jesus is the same thing only in reverse. Jesus is the emperor, he's clothed in majesty and splendor. And the only ones that can see it are the children.
And the adults who are afraid to lose their position because it's already been decreed by the Sanhedrin that if anyone acknowledge that Jesus was the Christ, they be thrown out of their position. They will not praise him though their eyes show them that he's doing things that no one else could do. And so, they join in, in condemning Jesus, the Sanhedrin does; even Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, they did not vote. They were not in favor, but they couldn't speak up because it says in John that, “they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” They were afraid to lose their position, that is until Jesus powerfully moved on them to bury his body, what a moment to declare their allegiance to Jesus. Only the sovereignty of God could see that happen.
This is the Emperor's New Clothes in reverse. Only the children can see the glory and majesty of Jesus and say he is arrayed in splendor. Are you like a child? Can you see his splendor? Can you see his majesty? He's invisible; you've never seen him, and though you've not seen him yet what? You love him like a child. And so they speak fearlessly, the children, “Hosanna to the Son of David.”
Jesus Left Them
Well, the account ends in verse 17. “He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.” It's a subtle but profound statement. These Jewish leaders represented the official stance of the Jewish nation; pretty soon, they would make it official, by condemning him to death.
And Jesus goes. And where does he spend the night? In Bethany with his friends, Martha, Mary, Lazarus and those that were child-like and around him and knew his glory and could spend time with him and so it will be that way for all eternity.
Consider How Right it is to Praise Jesus
What applications can we take from this passage? Well, first, do you not see how right it is to praise Jesus? Are you like a child? Have you been converted? Oh dear friend, if you've come in here full of yourself, unable to see the glory of God, can I urge you to look to the cross? Look to Jesus, shedding his blood on the cross, see the glory of God there and say, “That is my Savior; he's dying for me, so I don't have to go to Hell.” Trust in him; see with the eyes of a child for the first time. And escape the wrath to come by seeing in Jesus the glory that is his. Oh God, give them eyes to see that they might be converted.
But do you not see how right it is to praise Jesus? Revelation 5 pictures cascading worship coming down on Jesus. You remember in Revelation 5, how he takes the scroll from the right hand of the one who sits on the throne. No one was found in heaven, earth, under the earth, worthy to take that scroll, but Jesus came and he takes the scroll and after he takes the scroll the 24 elders and the four living creatures say, “You are worthy to take the scroll and open its seals because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priest to serve our God and they will reign on the earth.” So the 24 elders and the four living creatures, but then 100 million angels join in. “Then I looked and I heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands and ten thousand times ten thousand; they encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders and in a loud voice they sang, ‘Worthy is the lamb who was slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!’”
Finally, every living creature in heaven and earth join in. “I heard every creature in heaven and earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them singing: ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power forever and ever!’” Do you not see how right and perfect it is to worship Jesus, to give him honor and glory and praise? The children in the temple are doing what was right. They were fulfilling their destiny; they were doing the healthiest thing you can possibly do and that is worship Jesus.
Praise the Chief Employment of Heaven
When we get to heaven, we will be busy, we will be active, we will sing with a loud voice and skilfully too. I sang with a loud voice earlier today but not skilfully. Alright, those of you sitting around me don't say anything, but you know the truth. But we will sing with a loud voice and we will sing skilfully. What's said? A new song to the lamb. No one's ever heard it before, but I think there's a place in our beings ready to hear that melody, and it will be just so perfect. It wasn't given to Handel when he saw heaven open... That was, “Messiah,” very good, very good, but not the new song.
Alright, and we're going to sing and we're going to worship in a beautiful way. We will be active, yes, we'll be developing the new earth; we'll be doing all kinds of things, but the home base will be around that throne seeing the glories of the risen Christ and giving him thanks and honor and praise.
So, what's the best thing we can do here on earth? Do it now as much as you can. Stir up your hearts through meditation on scripture, go to Revelation 5, go to Revelation 14, go to different passages that show the glories of God. Go over these healing miracles and praise him for it. Go over all he's done in redemptive history and praise him for it.
Teach your children to sing and to praise. How sweet was that, wasn't that wonderful? Teach your children to speak these words, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” to know what it means. Teach them to praise Jesus, and then don't forget to be child-like yourself. Don't be so adult that you can't praise Jesus. Close with me.