Eat, Drink & Be Merry
MARCH 14, 2018
The triumphal entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem (Matthew 21 and Luke 19) always seemed strange to me. On the surface, it looks like just another party. There are the same smiles, excitement and celebration. But there is more going on here. In the midst of celebration, Jesus is preparing to die. He is going to be mocked, scourged and crucified. He knew it. His disciples knew it. When you realize what is really happening here, it just about takes the fun out of the party.
When Napoleon returned home from his successful campaigns in Austria and Italy, amid the clamorous shouts of his people, someone said to him, “It must be delightful to be greeted with such a demonstration of enthusiastic admiration.” Napoleon replied, “Nonsense. This same unthinking crowd, under a slightly different set of circumstances, would follow me just as eagerly to the scaffold.”
That is true. In fact that is what happened with Jesus. On Sunday, they praised him. On Friday, they crucified him.
The interesting thing about this entire episode—as Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey and people place palm branches at his feet—is that Jesus, knowing what was to come, allowed the celebration to continue and even encouraged his disciples to participate. In the dark, the disciples were free enough to have a party. It reminds me of “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.”
As a Christian, even in the dark (whatever your darkness—cancer, doubt, divorce, the list is endless), even when you know what might happen tomorrow, you have been granted the freedom that only Christ can give. What is that freedom? What happens when you’re really free?
When you’re free, truth cannot be ignored (Matthew 21:4-5). Winston Churchill said this: “The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.” Everything we are and everything we do, as Christians, has to do with truth.
Faith doesn’t need a defense. Truth is true. They can make fun of it. They can ignore it. They can pretend it doesn’t exist. But it is still true. There is a God and he will hold men and women accountable. God is in charge. Jesus Christ will return.
Jesus has set you free. When you’re free, you don’t have to worry about what people think. Truth cannot be ignored.
When you’re free, belief cannot be denied (Matthew 21:8). Belief, in the biblical sense, is a gift. You can’t work it up; faith is given. And once you have faith, you can’t get rid of it. That is what Pascal meant when he prayed, “I would not have searched for thee, if thou had not already found me.”
I’m good in arguments. If you’re not a believer and want to argue about it, I’ll win…simply because theology is my business. But I’ll let you in on a little secret. I believed because I believed because I believed. It is just there and I can’t shake it.
The people who put their palm branches down at Jesus’ feet couldn’t explain it. They had not been to rabbinical school and they had never studied apologetics, but they just knew. All the military might of Rome and the manipulation of the religious establishment could not shake them from their belief. Their belief just could not be denied.
On a concentration center wall in Germany after WWII, someone found the following words: “I believe in the sun even when it is not shining. / I believe in love even when I feel it not. / I believe in God even when He is silent.”
I don’t know why. We believe the unbelievable. But when you have the freedom of belief, when you have been given that gift, you keep on believing…even in the dark.
When you’re free, joy cannot be suppressed. “Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’” (Matthew 21:9).
“And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, ‘Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.’ But He answered and said to them, ‘I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out’” (Luke 19:39-40).
Religious people put down joy. Do you know what really religious people hate about genuine joy? They cannot control it…and we all like to be in control. The fact is, they cannot control joy now and they will never be able to control joy in the future.
Free laughter comes from knowing Christ’s presence. If Jesus were to return today, the first thing we would do is fall on our knees. The second thing we would do is laugh and laugh and laugh!
When you’re free, hope cannot be banished. “And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, ‘Who is this?’” (Matthew 21:10). They had hope.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). As Christians, we hold the hope of eternity and its fulfillment in our hearts…and that hope cannot be banished.
It is the eternity in our hearts that makes the difference between a celebration and a wake. It does not yet appear what we shall be…We do look into a mirror dimly…We do die not having received what was promised…But deep down, we know that there is more than this. It is that knowledge that moved the city of Jerusalem. It is also that same knowledge that will cause us to bring our palm branches to his party.
Evangelist D.L. Moody once said, “Someday you will read that old D.L. is dead. Don’t you believe it. On that day D.L. Moody will be far more alive than he is right now.” Remember that you aren’t Home yet…but someday you will be.
So if you look at what happened later that week, the party was really a farce. The triumphal entry of Jesus was a celebration on the Titanic. But if you only ask the Father, he will set you free and give you his eyes. You will then see beyond Friday, the cross and the pain…to the truth, the belief, the joy and the hope. You will then see beyond the death to the resurrection.
Those who aren’t free will hear the laughter at our party and they simply won’t understand. That is sad. Unbelief talks about freedom…but there is none. Unbelief has no holidays…for they have nothing to celebrate. We do.