PULPIT TODAY SERMONS
Robert D. Pace
A Message for Holy Week or Palm Sunday
Let’s journey back several thousand years to Jerusalem during Passover week. This was the holiest of the seven Hebrew festivals that attracted thousands of worshipers. Some traveled hundreds of miles to attend this celebration in the religious capital of the world—Jerusalem.
What a sight it must have been! For seven days the Priests appeared in their royal apparel, led the people in worship, offered sacrifices, and blew shofars (2 Chronicles 30:21). Everything was leading to the Day of Atonement when the High Priest would present the blood of a Passover lamb for the people’s sins.
Not only was Jerusalem sightly its aroma was pungent. The thousands of visitors arrived on horses, donkeys, and camels, all prepared to offer their sacrifices. Josephus, the first century historian, says there were approximately 250,000 animals that were offered in sacrifice during this week. Jerusalem smelled like a zoo.
Aromatic relief came a few hours each evening when Galilee’s breezes carried the fresh baked scent of unleavened bread through the city (30:21). The Passover bread commemorated Israel’s quick exodus from Egypt and was eaten throughout the week.
(Transition) Despite the celebration of Passover several things were missing when this Holy Week climaxed on the Day of Atonement. And I want to begin by noting those things.
What Never Happened on the Day of Atonement
A. There was no conclusion to the Priest’s work on the Day of Atonement. It was an unfinished religious work. Hebrews 10:11 says: “Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.” There was no closure to this Week of Atonement, even when the High Priest entered the Holy Place and sprinkled blood on the mercy seat. The process continued year after year. That’s because:
B. The Day of Atonement never removed sin. This is ironic because Passover centered on the High Priest’s sacrifice behind the Temple veil. But Hebrews 10:4 says, “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” The word atonement means, covering. All the High Priest could do was cloak, or conceal sins, not remove them.
C. Then thirdly, the Day of Atonement never appeased God’s wrath against sin. Notice verse eight: “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them” (although the law required them to be made).” Think about it, how could a superficial animal sacrifice possibly satisfy the demands of justice against sin?
D. And then the ministry of the Holy Spirit was absent from the Day of the Atonement. Everything the High Priest did to mediate between God and man was ritualistic. Nowhere in the Old Testament was the High Priest empowered by the Spirit to conduct his service. That means, despite all of these repetitive animal sacrifices, year after year, nothing imputed life from God into the OT worshipers. These animal sacrifices brought no transformation of the human spirit; transgressions weren’t pardoned; and God’s judgment against sin wasn’t satisfied.
So as you investigate the Day of Atonement, several important matters relating to man’s restoration to God were left incomplete.
(Transition) On the other hand, let’s look at the difference between the High Priest’s Old Testament sacrifice and Christ’s New Testament sacrifice. In other words, what didn’t happen on the Day of Atonement and what happened at the Atonement of Calvary.
What Happened At Calvary
Hebrews 10:12 says: “But when this priest [Jesus] had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. (13) Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, (14) because by one sacrifice he [Jesus] has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”
When Jesus offered Himself as a sacrifice for our sins “He sat down at God’s right hand,” signifying His work was complete, acknowledged by the Father, and sufficient for removing sin. It did more than atone, that is, cover sin, it totally removed sin. David said in Psalm 103:12, “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” When Christ forgives He completely removes every sin from your past.
One of Satan’s chief schemes is to remind Christians of their past sins. If he can’t steal your salvation he’ll try to rob your joy. But listen: When your sins are forgiven, your sins are forgiven! Jesus doesn’t forgive minor sins and retain the major ones! He forgives one and all, great and small.
Christ’s sacrifice removed sin and satisfied the Father’s judgment of sin because everything about Jesus—His body, soul, and spirit—were uncontaminated by sin. He lived as the perfect man and fully pleased the Father.
That’s important to understand but there’s more to Jesus living perfectly and being uncontaminated by sin that makes His sacrifice acceptable. Jesus said in John 6:63, “the flesh profits nothing . . . it’s the Spirit that brings life” (John 6:63). Jesus had to live under the complete influence of the Holy Spirit in order to impute a life-giving experience to us.
What we have to understand about Christ is, He didn’t impute life to others as the Son of God, although He was inherently the divine, “zoe”-life of God. The life He imputed to others came through the power of the Holy Spirit. That’s why His first sermon was: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, (19) to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18). As John 3:34 says, God gave Christ “the Spirit without limit.” The Spirit saturated everything He did.
And we must live accordingly! Our works are acceptable in God’s Kingdom only through the Holy Spirit’s life-giving inspiration:
- Prayer without the Holy Spirit’s direction and impetus is unproductive. It has to be anointed.
- Our labors apart from the Holy Spirit can’t please God.
- Our worship without the Holy Spirit’s anointing is unacceptable.
Romans 14:17 says: “The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” In other words, The Holy Spirit imparts our righteousness and inspires our righteous acts. He imparts our peace and inspires our ability to manifest it. He imparts our joy and inspires our ability to share it with others. It’s why Ephesians 5:18 says, “Be filled with the Spirit”
Our new life in Christ begins with a supernatural infusion of life and we have to continue living under the Spirit’s direction. Let’s look at that. John 3 opens under the cover of dark with Nicodemus, a Rabbi, approaching Christ with questions about God’s Kingdom:
Read: John 3:1-8
Nicodemus was mystified by this “Born Again,” talk from Jesus. That’s why we hear him say: “Do you have to “enter the second time into [your] mother’s womb, and be born?”
It’s important to note who is conversing with Jesus. Nicodemus was a Rabbi, well acquainted with Moses’ Law. He served on the prestigious Jewish Supreme Council. He understood priestly protocol and Jewish customs. But he didn’t understand that New Testament worship and ministry were only possible through the Holy Spirit. That’s because nothing about Old Testament sacrifices involved the Spirit’s work.
In defense of Nicodemus regeneration is a mystifying concept. No theologian has ever fully plumbed its depths. When it comes to explaining regeneration Jesus knew it was easier understanding the “what” of regeneration than the “how.” In essence He said, “Nicodemus forget “how” regeneration works and concentrate on “what” regeneration works. You must understand that the Spirit’s work is like the wind. When the wind blows, it’s unseen but real, dynamic, and effectual.”
Thus, we gain a glimpse of the correlation between the work of the wind and the work of the Holy Spirit: When we believe on Christ the Holy Spirit sweeps expunges our sins, plunges them into the deepest sea, and imparts life. “How?” I don’t know! But that’s “what” happened! And when it comes to explaining some doctrines I’d rather know “what” happened than “how” it happened:
When your body aches and you need Christ’s touch you don’t want to know “how” the spiritual superimposes the physical. You just want to experience “what” 1 Peter 2:24 says: “By His stripes you are healed”!
When you’re bound by Satan you’re not interested in “how” to decipher demonology you just want to experience “what” the loosing Word of Christ can accomplish. You want the angels unleashed, Satan bound, and the shackles broken.
And it’s not necessary to fully grasp “how” the Spirit applies regeneration, but there’s great peace in knowing “what” happens. That is, the Blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all unrighteousness. As Christ told Nicodemus: ‘Rejoice in what the Holy Spirit does and let the unknowable concepts take care of themselves.’
(Transition) What do we absolutely know about the Holy Spirit’s regenerating work? Let’s investigate that. First, the Holy Spirit’s regenerating work brings life to our spiritual deadness.
The Spirit’s Work Quickens our Spiritual Deadness
During the worship of the Old Testament, the Day of Atonement never regenerated man’s spiritual deadness. And that was the purpose of Christ’s Appearance. He came as the Son of God to create life within the spirit of man. The New Birth (regeneration) is when the Holy Spirit revives and transforms our spirit and restores a right relationship with God. Paul explained regeneration in these terms in 2 Corinthians 5:17 when he said, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
That doesn’t mean your physical features change. Being a “new creation in Christ” doesn’t mean bald-headed men grow hair. It doesn’t trim pounds from overweight bodies. What it does mean is that our deepest, innermost nature is radically transformed. The part of us that stands before God and will continue throughout eternity becomes “a new creation.”
(Illustration) Let me continue by explaining it this way: Until a person is Born Again they are like a car with a defective motor. You can purchase new tires for it, repaint it, or have it refurbished. But when the ignition is turned the car will not crank! You can situate that car among the world’s finest luxury vehicles, but cranking it would still be futile! What the car needs is a new motor, or the old one transformed. This is what it means to be “Born Again” . . . to become a child of God. It’s when the Holy Spirit touches our dead human spirit and instantly resurrects it and infuses it with life. He doesn’t patch-up our dead spirit; He transforms and resurrects it! And that means it’s nothing you or I could do! It’s all a work of the Holy Spirit. It’s something that totally transforms the inner nature of your being.
(Application) Someone might say, “If that’s the case, why do I keep sinning? How can a “new creation in Christ” yield to temptation?” Well, the difference between a sinner sinning and a Christian sinner is this: The sinner can sin without any intention of avoiding it. It’s not difficult for a sinner to pursue evil without restraint. On the other hand, Christians sin against their intentions. They’re not seeking to sin, they are hoping and praying to avoid it.
Remember, our body and soul are not yet redeemed! The corruptible nature of Christians (the body and soul) awaits their transformation and “glorification” in Heaven (1 Cor. 15). If our body and soul were transformed today we wouldn’t age, ache, or succumb to temptation. Only man’s spirit, the real us, is the “new creation” in Christ and this why Paul commanded Christians to crucify their flesh and renew their mind.
A person can make many improvements on their life. They may stop frequenting worldly places and terminate bad habits. They may begin associating with the finest Christians in the world. But the only means of salvation comes by the life-giving work of the Holy Spirit we call regeneration. And the Spirit doesn’t just mend or patch your old human spirit; He gives you a new one!
(Illustration) Before the modern era of laptop and desktop computers I typed my messages on an electronic typewriter. Can you conceive of such a primitive generation? As I typed the Conclusion of a sermon I made a typographical change. The process involved executing a series of commands that activated an automatic erasure key. It allowed the typewriter to literally remove the old mark from the page and then replace it with a new one. As I made the typographical change to my document, the Lord said to me: “That’s what the New Birth is. I remove the old and give the new!”
This is something that never happened on the Day of Atonement during Old Testament times. But it’s what Christ offers today! Have you been Born Again? If not, let Christ remove your sins and impute His righteousness. “You must be Born Again”!