There and Back Again: The Savior’s Journey: Triumphal Entry

April 14, 2019 ()

Bible Text: Luke 19:28-48 |


There and Back Again, the Savior’s Journey: The Triumphal Entry | Luke 19:28-48
Brian Hedges | April 14, 2019

Turn in your Bibles to Luke 19. For the last several weeks, we’ve been making our journey through kind of the high points in the gospel of Luke, following the journey of Jesus in his incarnation, his humiliation, through his temptation, the mount of transfiguration last week. This morning we’re looking at the triumphal entry, as we begin Holy Week, and then we’ll continue looking at the gospel of Luke in our next several services as well.

While you’re turning there, I just wanted to relay something that came from G.K. Chesterton, who was one of the great Catholic apologists of the early 20th century. Chesterton was Roman Catholic, so of course we wouldn’t agree with him in every respect, but he was a wonderful apologist for the Christian faith. He had a great influence on C.S. Lewis. He was also a colorful guy, as you might gather from this photo.

One of the things that Chesterton wrestled with before he became a Christian was what he called the “paradoxes of Christianity.” He saw that there were contradictory criticisms that people made of Christianity. There were some people who complained that Christianity was weak and passive, “turn the other cheek,” that kind of thing; and yet there were other people who were blaming Christianity for all kinds of violence, they were talking about the crusades, and so on. There were some people who complained about Christianity took women and women were in convents and monasteries and things like that, and others were complaining about the family role, the role that women had in the family.

As he just surveyed this, he just saw that there were these completely contradictory criticisms of Christianity, and his initial impulse was that this religion must not be from heaven, it must be from hell! He said, “I thought that Jesus wasn’t the Christ, he was the antichrist. How could someone be this bad, how could it be this awful, that all of these contradictory criticisms are true?”

But then he said that something struck him like a thunderbolt, and that another explanation came into his mind. I want to give you the key quote. He said, “Suppose we heard an unknown man spoken of by many men. Suppose we were puzzled to hear that some men said he was too tall and some too short; some objected to his fatness, some lamented his leanness. One explanation would be that he might be an odd shape, but there is another explanation. He might be the right shape.”

He went to say it might be that short people thought he was too tall and tall people thought he was too short; fat people thought he was too thin, and thin people thought he was too large. It might be that this man was the perfect shape, and that’s why everyone who was misshapen in their own way found fault with him.

He said that’s what Jesus Christ became to him. He realized that Jesus Christ was actually the embodiment of perfection, and the reason there were all these contradictory criticisms of Jesus is because everyone was criticizing from their own perspective.

I think as we come into the gospel narratives and we begin to study the character of Christ, this is indeed what we see. We see in Jesus this conjunction, this juxtaposition of characteristics and attributes that challenge every single individual, that challenge every single culture, that challenge all of us in our own sins and weaknesses. We see a Christ who is complex and glorious, a Christ who is perfect in every way, a Christ who cannot be explained in human terms; and that’s especially true in the passage that we’re going to study together this morning, which is the triumphal entry of the Lord Jesus Christ into Jerusalem the week before he betrayal, his arrest, his passion, his crucifixion, and then his resurrection. So let’s look at the passage together. We’re in Luke 19, and I want to read verses 28 down through the end of the chapter, verse 48. Luke 19:28-48.

“And when [Jesus] had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, saying, ‘Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?” you shall say this: “The Lord has need of it.”’ So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’ And they said, ‘The Lord has need of it.’ And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’ And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples.’ He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.’ And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.’ And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, ‘It is written, “My house shall be a house of prayer,” but you have made it a den of robbers.’ And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him, but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words.”

This is the word of the Lord.

So, three things I want you to see from this story. I want you to see:

I. The Arrival of the King
II. The Character of the King
III. Our Response to the King

I. The Arrival of the King

So the passage records Jesus’ final entrance into Jerusalem before his passion, crucifixion, and resurrection; the arrival of the King. This is a skillfully crafted narrative with lots of little details that draw out the symbolic and theological significance of Jesus’ arrival, showing us that this is indeed the arrival of the King in the holy city of Jerusalem. I just want you to see some of these details that are right here in the passage.

First of all, you can just see that as the passage unfolds there is this anticipation of Jesus drawing near into the city, and Luke writes it in this way - in fact, he uses this language three times: in verse 29, when he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, and he sends the two disciples to get the colt; and then, verse 37, he’s a little bit closer as he’s drawing near, already on the way down the Mount of Olives.

Now, you just have to keep the scene in your mind. This is sometime before Passover. The crowd of pilgrims that Jesus is probably traveling with, including his disciples, are coming to Jerusalem for this annual festival, and they’re coming up from Jericho, which was below sea level, ascending the Mount of Olives, until they get to the top of the mountain, which is several thousand feet above sea level, so an arduous climb. Then they get to the peak of the mountain and they see the city of Jerusalem there. So just the fact of this journey, this pilgrimage, means that they are all ripe with anticipation as they draw near to the city.

You see this again in verse 41: “When he drew near and saw the city…” So you get the scene. Jesus is now over the top of the mountain, he’s coming down the mountain, he sees the city of Jerusalem, and he begins to weep over it.

Finally, in verse 45, he’s in the city, and he actually enters into the temple. The temple, by the way, in Jerusalem was not just one little temple among many, as would be the case, say, in Corinth. Corinth was a large city with lots of little temples. Jerusalem was a city which was basically built around the temple, so 25 per cent of the city was this temple complex. So it is the center point of the worship of the Jewish people, so it’s very significant when Jesus comes into the city.

So there’s anticipation that just building, and in fact, it’s been building throughout the gospel according to Luke, and another way we see this is just the significance of arrival in the city of Jerusalem, the significance of Jerusalem itself. Jerusalem is named in verse 28: “He went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem,” and then it finally takes center stage in verses 41-44 as Jesus weeps over the city and expresses his lament over the city.

Some of you, perhaps, if you’re readers, you’ve noticed that in great literature sometimes an author will devote so much attention and detail to a place that the place begins to function almost like a character in the story.

I noticed this several years ago when I was reading Alan Paton's wonderful novel, Cry the Beloved Country. It’s a novel about racism in apartheid South Africa, and it’s such a picturesque book that Africa becomes almost a character in the story.

A little less cultured than that (nerd alert!) is Batman. So, in the Batman stories, and especially in the Scott Snyder run of Batman (one of my favorite Batman authors), Gotham City becomes a character in the story of Batman.

So, whether you like high culture or low culture, you could find this someplace or another, that there are wonderful storytellers who give so much detail about a place that the place becomes a character in the story.

That’s sort of happening in the gospel of Luke. In fact, Jerusalem dominates in the gospel of Luke. It begins at the very beginning of the gospel, where Jesus as an infant is taken to Jerusalem and the prophetess Anna gives thanks to God and speaks of this infant child for whom they are waiting to bring redemption to Jerusalem. Then, only the gospel of Luke records that Jesus as a 12-year-old boy made a journey to Jerusalem with his parents.

You remember that when Satan tempts Jesus in the wilderness, he takes him to a pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem, and that’s one of the temptations. As we saw last week, on the mount of transfiguration, Moses and Elijah appear there on Mount Tabor, and they are speaking with Jesus about his departure, which he will accomplish in Jerusalem, his exodus that he will accomplish in Jerusalem.

Then perhaps the turning point of the book is Luke 9:51, which reads, “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” So this becomes almost a refrain, then, through the second half of the gospel of Luke, and it just seems that Jerusalem constantly, throughout this gospel, is coming in and out of focus, until it just dominates the horizon of Jesus Christ, who has a mission to accomplish in Jerusalem, and finally he enters the city, here in this passage.

But notice that he enters the city as King, and there is a strong emphasis also on the kingship of Jesus in this passage. The symbols of it are all over the place. Jesus’ deliberate choice to ride on a donkey fulfills the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!” Zion is another name for Jerusalem. “Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he; humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

New Testament scholar N.T. Wright in a fantastic book, Jesus and the Victory of God, says, “Within his own time and culture, his riding on donkey over the Mount of Olives, across Kidron, and up to the temple mount spoke more powerfully than words could have done of a royal claim.” Wright says this is almost like street theater. Jesus is using symbolic actions and gestures to make a point that he is the King who is arriving in the royal holy city! He’s coming as the King of glory.

This becomes, of course, most obvious in verses 37 and 38, when Jesus actually rides down to the city and the crowd begins singing Psalm 118, a royal psalm, and they say, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

So, this is the arrival of the King! This is a turning point in the book, as King Jesus finally comes into the royal city. But as we will soon learn, he comes not to ascend a throne, but a cross. The arrival of the King.

II. The Character of the King

Now, the amazing thing is that though Jesus clearly claims kingship through his actions, he also through his actions displays the kind of character that is utterly unique among the kings of the world. Utterly unique, utterly different than any other kind of king. I want you to think for a minute about the character of the King, the character of King Jesus.

There is this juxtaposition of attributes, this combination, this coalescence of qualities that comes together in Jesus Christ, and we see these in the passage. I just want to show you two pairs, two pairs of attributes or characteristics.

(1) First of all, authority with humility. So, we already have seen the authority, right, in the claims of kingship. Jesus clearly has authority - I mean, he’s exercising authority as he claims - you know, he lays claim to this colt! “Go to such and such a house and get a colt and bring it back to me.” I mean, he’s acting like a king. He is deliberately fulfilling the prophecies of the Messianic king.

Jesus is willfully receiving the praises of the people as they worship him. In fact, when the Pharisees come out and say, “Hey, tell your disciples to quit this; this is inappropriate,” what does Jesus say? He says, “If they don’t do it, the stones are going to do it. The stones are going to cry out.” He is a King, he has authority, and he is claiming this authority. He receives the worship. He is God incarnate, he is the word made flesh.

But he’s a King who has authority joined with humility. It’s humble authority. It’s not arrogant authority, it’s not proud authority, it’s not abusive authority. I mean, how many times have we seen in our own culture that authority has been abused, it has been misused. We have such a distrust of authority and authority figures and of institutions and of politicians and sometimes even of church leaders, because we see so much authority misused and mishandled. Jesus gives us a different model. He shows us authority that is combined with humility.

We see the humility in particular in the fact that he doesn’t mount a black stallion, he doesn’t ride into Jerusalem on a white charger or in a Roman chariot; he comes humble, and mounted on a donkey. Nobody’s going to win a war that way, right? He’s not riding a warhorse; he’s riding a humble donkey.

It’s such a contrast to what the emperors and the kings of that era, of that day, did. We actually know something about Roman triumphs, the triumphal procession of a Roman general or a caesar. There’s a scholar named Christian Maier who wrote a book on Julius Caesar and describes the triumphal procession of Caesar after his victories in Gaul and Pontus and Egypt and Africa. He talks about the various things that were in this parade. It was a parade of triumph as Caesar rode back into Rome.

First of all, there would be the booty and the spoils of war: trophies and treasures and pictures and maps of cities of the lands that have been conquered. Then there would be the prisoners of war, marching behind in their chains, in their shackles. Then there would be the lictors, the Roman officials who guarded magistrates and executed the criminals. Then Caesar himself rode on a chariot pulled by three white horses. Then fifth, behind him there would be priest who were offering up white bulls at the temple of Jupiter; and then sixth, this was followed by all kinds of spectacular events, circuses and gladiators and - it was pageantry, it was a spectacle, an absolute spectacle.

That’s how the kings of the ancient world came into their royal city. Not Jesus. Jesus comes in humbly. He comes in riding on a donkey. He comes in in utter contrast to the kings of the world.

David Garland puts it this way: “He does not arrive as his royal highness, but as his royal lowness.’” He comes in lowly and humble.

Jonathan Edwards, one of my great favorite preachers, a New England Puritan pastor involved in the First Great Awakening. Some of you have heard me quote this before, but Edwards preached an amazing sermon called “The Excellency of Jesus Christ,” where he pointed out what he called “the admirable conjunction of diverse excellencies in Jesus Christ.”

I won’t read you a long quote, but I’ll just summarize for you. He just drew attention to Jesus’ infinite highness and his infinite condescension. He was preaching, by the way, on John’s vision, the lion and the lamb. He’s a lion and he’s a lamb! The majesty of a lion and the meekness of a lamb. Infinite justice and infinite grace. Infinite glory and the lowest humility. Majesty and meekness.

He says that in Jesus you see the deepest reverence for God, but you also see equality with God. Here’s Jesus, who has infinite worthiness of good, and yet he shows the greatest patience in suffering evil. Jesus has an exceeding spirit of obedience, he is obedient to the Father; and yet, he claims supreme dominion over heaven and earth. Absolute sovereignty - he’s God incarnate - and perfect resignation. “Not my will, Father, but yours be done.” Self-sufficiency and an entire trust and reliance on God.

There is this rare conjunction, this coalescence of attributes in Jesus, of characteristics: humility and authority.

(2) And then we see it again in the second half of the passage, where we see judgment and compassion. You have two scenes in the second half of the chapter, right? You have Jesus weeping over the city (so there’s the compassion, verses 41-44). Here he comes over the Mount of Olives, he sees the city of Jerusalem, and he starts crying! We only have three occasions in the life of Jesus recorded for us where he cries. One is at the tomb of Lazarus, before Lazarus is raised from the dead in John 11. One is in the garden of Gethsemane, because Hebrews 5:7 speaks of how he “prayed with loud crying and tears.” The other time is right here. He sees Jerusalem, it’s the week before his death; he sees Jerusalem and he starts crying.

Why is he crying? Because he knows what’s coming for the city. He knows that in just a little over 35 years the city is going to be razed to the ground because they did not know the time of their visitation. Of course, we know from history that the city of Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. Jesus weeps over them. He weeps over them. His compassionate heart.

Yet, he wipes the tears from his eyes and he walks into the temple, and what does he do? He pronounces judgment on the temple, right? He comes into the temple and he says, “My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of robbers.” The other gospel writers tell us that he’s throwing over tables, he’s using a whip, he’s driving out these moneylenders! Perhaps the word here, “You made it a den of robbers,” the word is actually the word for revolutionaries, insurrectionists. So it might have been that there were even political zealots who were misusing the temple for political purposes. He’s driving them out! He’s angry, and he’s pronouncing judgment on the temple. So you see this combination of compassion with judgment.

Now, so often in our own lives we have one or the other, don’t we? We have authority but not humility, we have humility but not authority. We are compassionate people but not discerning, or we’re judgmental people but we’re not compassionate. Jesus shows us a better way. He shows us how to bring all these things together as we imitate him. He gives us a way of embodying these virtues in a way that glorifies God and that avoids all of the extremes.

So, back to Chesterton’s picture. “He is the perfect man,” right? He’s not too tall, not too short. He’s not too just; he’s infinitely just, but it’s not justice that becomes injustice, right? He’s not weak, but he’s compassionate, he’s tender. He’s meek. He’s the perfect embodiment of these attributes of God. This is the character of our king.

It just invites our application. The Scriptures tell us that as Jesus Christ was in the world, we are to be like him. We’re to walk like him, walk as he walked. We are to imitate him. So we need to think about this in our own lives.

Let me just say in particular, if you are a person who has authority - and most of you probably do. Maybe you’re a parent, you have authority over your children; or you’re a teacher and you have authority over students; or you’re an elder and you have authority in the church. Maybe there’s someone here who’s in some realm of politics and you have governmental authority, or maybe you’re a manager or a business owner and you have authority over employees.

Ask yourself this question: do you wear that authority lightly? Are you a servant leader? You might even ask yourself, “Do my subordinates (or do my children, or does my spouse, or do the members of my church), do they feel comfortable talking to me and addressing me, or do they feel intimidated?” Children climbed up into the lap of Jesus. Women loved to be around Jesus, because Jesus never one time abused authority, never once. Yet he had authority, but he exercised it with perfect, perfect humility.

Then ask yourself about compassion and judgment. I think probably most of us err on the side of judgment, not on compassion. There are probably a few exceptions. If you cry every time you see a broken heart, you’re a compassionate person. That’s probably not most of us. Most of us are probably pretty quick to point the finger, to notice what’s wrong, to criticize. But are we quick to shed the tear?

In fact, here’s the great test, isn’t it: how do you think of people who disagree with you, and especially how do we think about non-Christians? It’s so easy for us to start thinking that non-Christians are the enemy. They’re not the enemy! They are not the enemy. We have an enemy, and it’s not them, it’s Satan, it’s our adversary the devil. It’s not non-Christians.

When we think about the plight of those who do not know Christ, we should weep. I wish I did weep more. We should at least mourn, we should grieve. Some of us are constitutionally less capable of weeping than others, but we should mourn. Our hearts should be broken for those who do not know Christ. So test yourself by the character of Jesus.

III. Our Response to the King

Then finally, our response to the King, point number three. Our response to the King. How should we respond to King Jesus? I want you to just notice in the passage that there are two contrasting responses, there are two possible responses.

(1) There are the disciples, and how do they respond? Look at verses 37 and 38: they worship. They worship. “The whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice.” It’s joyful worship! “They began to praise God with a loud voice - ” it’s loud worship “ - for all the mighty works that they had seen.” They honor Jesus, they are proclaiming the King. They are saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” They’re quoting Psalm 118, they’re applying it to Jesus. They were worshipping Jesus.

Verse 48 says that “all the people were hanging on his words.” They’re hanging on the words of Jesus. That’s also part of our worship, hanging on the word. So it’s both. Worship includes both the affections, joyfully praising, and it includes the mind, hanging on every word of God. Let’s keep those two things together.

Charles Spurgeon preached a wonderful sermon on worship from this passage. I read it yesterday. This is one of the things he said; I thought it was both helpful and a little bit funny. He was rebuking Christians for the lack of joy and worship.

He said, “I hope the doctrine that Christians ought to be gloomy will soon be driven out of the universe. There are no people who have such a right to be happy nor have such cause to be joyful as the saints of the living God. I have been in congregations,” he said, “where the tune was so dolorous to the very last degree, where the time was so dreadfully slow, that one wondered whether, to use Watts’ expression, ‘eternity would not be too short for them to get through it.’” And then he said, “Never hang your flag at half-mast when you praise God. No, run up every color, let every banner wave in the breeze, and let all the powers of passions of your spirit exult and rejoice in God your Savior.”

Now listen, I know there’s a place for lament. The book of Psalms has both celebration and lament, right? It does. There’s a time and a place for us to sing, “From the depths of woe I call to thee / With a voice of lamentation,” which we sang last week; or to sing, “O sacred head, now wounded, / With grief and shame weighed down,” which we will sing on Good Friday; or to sing, “Laden with guilt and full of fear / I fly to thee, O Lord,” which we sang two weeks ago. There’s a place for songs that express lament. But shouldn’t the dominant note of those who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, should not the dominant note be,

“My sin, oh the bliss of that glorious thought,
My sin, not in part, but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more;
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, oh my soul!”

We should have joy in our hearts as we worship, and it’s the right response to the King, because here’s the King who went all the way to the cross for us.

(2) Now, notice how the other group responded, the Pharisees, in verse 39. “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” They want to rebuke those who are worshipping. Now, the reason they want to rebuke the worshipping disciples is because they don’t believe that Jesus is the King. They don’t believe that Jesus is God, so they think it’s inappropriate. So they say, “Rebuke your disciples.” But that rebuke becomes full-fledged rejection of Jesus by the end of this chapter. You see it in verse 47, when “the chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people [are] seeking to destroy” Jesus! They’re seeking to destroy Jesus.

Now, why are they doing that? They’re doing that because he’s made these royal claims. They’re doing that because he’s come into the temple and he’s bringing a halt to the sacrifices and he’s overturning the tables and he’s saying, “My house shall be a house of prayer.” They do it because they are recognizing his claims, and they reject those claims. This will lead directly to the cross.

Now, here’s the amazing thing about this passage. When Jesus comes to Jerusalem, he comes not only pronouncing judgment on the temple, he comes inviting judgment on himself. In all of Jesus’ actions, he is deliberately and he is intentionally moving the pieces on the board to lead right to what looks like his own checkmate! He is headed straight to the cross.

In that sermon I mentioned a few minutes ago of Jonathan Edwards, about the excellency of Jesus Christ, Edwards says in the third point of the sermon that “this admirable conjunction of excellencies remarkably appears in his offering up himself as a sacrifice for sinners in his last sufferings.” You see, the cross is the greatest revelation of the character of our King, the greatest revelation of Jesus Christ. Edwards called attention to both the humility of Christ, his humiliation, and his glory.

In the cross you see Jesus humiliated; the shame, the mockery, the pain, the cruelty. He’s absolutely humiliated. He’s de-humanized on the cross! We look at the cross and we see a human figure who is marred beyond recognition, Isaiah tells us. And yet, here’s God in the flesh, showing the wideness of his love for a broken world.

As Jesus says in John 12, this is the hour when he will be glorified. He’s glorified on the cross. We see his love for God - his greatest love for God is shown on the cross as Jesus obeys the Father to the very end; but also his love for his enemies, as he dies on the cross, and he says, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

We see Jesus upholding God’s justice as he drinks that cup, the cup of divine judgment and wrath that was meant for us. He drinks it, he takes our punishment upon himself, and he’s suffering that justice at the same time. He’s upholding justice! The cross shows us that God does not wink at sin. He takes it seriously. And the cross shows us that God loves sinners so much that he will take that judgment upon himself.

At the cross we see the holiness of Christ. Here is the holy, harmless Son of God, and yet he’s treated as a guilty sinner. He who is the perfect embodiment of righteousness becomes sin for us on the cross. He is supremely worthy of our praise, and yet he is treated as a criminal, as one who is unworthy.

At the cross, Jesus, Edwards says, was delivered up to his enemies, the chief priests and these religious leaders and the Romans, Herod and Pilate - they all conspire together. All these people come together. They are the enemies of Christ, Jesus is delivered into their hands, and he triumphs over his enemies at the cross. He triumphs over sin and Satan and death, and over hell.

Maybe one of the best descriptions of this is a poetic one from William Reese, and I’ll just end with these words. Maybe you’ll know these words.

“On the mount of crucifixion,
Fountains opened deep and wide;
Through the floodgates of God’s mercy
Flowed a vast a gracious tide.”

Now listen to this:

“Grace and love, like mighty rivers,
Poured incessant from above;
Heaven’s peace and perfect justice
Kissed a guilty world in love.”

We see “heaven’s peace and perfect justice” coming together at the cross of Jesus Christ. Why? To redeem us. Coming together for our salvation. Surely, then, we should give God the glory for it.

Listen, as we close this morning, if you are not a believer in Jesus Christ, if you have never placed your faith and your trust in Christ, let me encourage you to do so this morning. He is the answer. He is the answer! He is God incarnate, he is all these beautiful, wonderful things that we’ve described this morning, and he is the solution to the deep longings of your soul and to the guilt that you feel in your conscience. Look to Christ this morning.

For all of us who are Christians, let us both examine ourselves to see whether we are imitating Christ, and let us examine our hearts to see, are we worshipping Christ as we should in response to what he has done for us? Let’s pray.

Our gracious and merciful God, we thank you this morning for the Lord Jesus Christ. We don’t have adequate words to express the wonder and the beauty and the glory of what he has done, but we do say thank you. We confess this morning that we need you. We need so deeply, so desperately your grace and your mercy in our lives. We need you on all kinds of levels. We need you in order to be more like Christ, to embody these qualities in our own hearts and lives, and we need you in order to worship as we should and as we want to, to worship you.

So we pray that you would minister to us this morning as we continue in worship; and especially as we come to the table in these next few minutes, we pray that as we feed on the bread and on the juice that we would at the same time by faith feed on Jesus Christ, who is crucified and risen and ascended for us. We pray that by faith in Christ and through the ministry of the Holy Spirit there would be a real participation in the body and blood of Christ. We pray that you would unite our hearts with one another and that we would know the real communion with Christ as our Savior that can come in these moments. We pray that you would speak to us as we continue in worship, that you would draw near, that your Spirit would be in this place. We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.