The Strangest Parade
March 30th, 1969 @ 7:30 PM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-30-69 7:30 p.m.
We would be so delighted if you who are listening on the radio would read out loud with us God’s holy Word. The passage is in Luke chapter 19, and the beginning verse is 35. Luke 19, verse 35 starts off with the story of a colt that is brought to Jesus. And we shall read through verse 44 in the middle of the chapter toward the end, verse 35 through verse 44. Luke chapter 19, now all of us reading out loud together beginning at verse 35, ending at verse 44.
And they brought him to Jesus: and they cast their garments upon the colt, and they set Jesus thereon.
And as He went, they spread their clothes in the way.
And when He was come nigh, even now at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen;
Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.
And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto Him, Master, rebuke Thy disciples.
And He answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.
And when He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it,
Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.
For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side,
And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.
The title of the sermon is The Strangest Parade. And in our preaching through the Book of Luke these evening hours, preaching through the Gospel, through all of the Sunday evening services, it is a coincidence and a blessed one that the passage before us is what we call Palm Sunday this Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, the Sunday of the triumphant and royal entry of our Lord into the city. And I’ve given it the title The Strangest Parade because of the text "And when He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it" [Luke 19:41]. The Strangest Parade.
When I think of a parade I think for the most part, though I saw one in Israel that was the opposite. I was in Israel soon after the war when the state was declared an independent nation. And there was a parade led by David Ben-Gurion, the prime minister of the little country. And they were burying their dead from the war. There were many thousands in that parade following after.
But most of the parades that we see and know are joyous occasions. We are accustomed to them as such. If we can’t share in them by actual looking, we watch their course on television. I think of the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California, on New Year’s Day before the Rose Bowl game is played. And a multitude of parades such as a ticker tape parade in New York City when we welcome some great hero who has done a significant assignment on behalf of our country. And we welcome him back and we honor him with a tremendous ovation.
Well, most of our parades are like that. Even here in Dallas when the Cotton Bowl game is played, and the Fourth of July comes, a great joyous occasion. But I speak of this as the strangest parade not because of its composition, had we looked at it, doubtless in that time when this happened. The only ones who had a horse, a charger, would have been members of the Roman legion. But these humble, poor people took what they had, which in this instance was the colt of a donkey, a burro, a little colt [Luke 19:35]. And they took that little animal and they made it as joyous an occasion as they could. They put the Lord on it and they spread their garments before it. And they took palm branches and laid them in the way. And as they came to the descent of the Mount of Olives, to cross kidron into the city, the people burst out into a great shout, a loud voice, praising God for His mighty works, saying, "Blessed be the King that cometh: Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest" [Luke 19:35-38].
Well, the parade is strange not because of that burro and the poverty of the people. The only way that they could express their gladness and joy was by putting their garments in the way and waving palm branches and shouting the praises of God. But the strangeness of the parade lies in the hero, the King, as He was placed on the animal and was brought into the city. When He came to the descent, to the brow of the Mount of Olives, where the mountain begins to turn down, and as many of you have stood there, you have a panoramic view of the whole city below you.
When He came to that place of elevation, and beheld the city, He wept over it [Luke 19:41]. What an unusual thing. Not because it is unusual that the Lord should have wept. When people ask, "Whom do you think that Jesus is, what is He like?" And when He asked His disciples that oft repeated question, "Who is Jesus and what is He like?" Why, some of the disciples said, "People say, I overhear them talking, people say that You are like Jeremiah and that You might be Jeremiah raised from the dead" [Matthew 16:14].
Well, I could understand how they would say that, because Jeremiah was the weeping prophet. I can so easily visualize the days in which Jeremiah lived. For example, in one of his lamentations he said, "Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? Behold, and see, that there is no sorrow like unto my sorrow" [Lamentations 1:12]. Or again Jeremiah said, "Oh that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!" [Jeremiah 9:1].
He is like Jeremiah, the people said. He weeps. He cries. At the tomb of Lazarus He burst into tears. A literal translation in our King James Version "Jesus wept," literally He burst into tears [John 11:35]. He sobbed aloud. And in the fifth chapter of the Book of Hebrews it says that with strong crying and tears He made supplication to Him who was able to save Him from death [Hebrews 5:7]. With strong crying and tears.
Our Lord wept. Our Lord cried. And when He was come near He beheld the city, and wept over it [Luke 19:44]. No. I am not saying that to me it is a strange parade because He cried. Jesus wept. Jesus cried. "Jesus, moved with compassion" is His enduring name forever [Mark 1:41].
But it is an amazing thing to me and I’ve called it The Strangest Parade because He is weeping in the hour of His greatest triumph. When the Scriptures say that He cried, one time was at the tomb of Lazarus [John 11:35]. And when He looked at the sorrow of the two sisters that had lost their brother, His heart was filled with sympathy and He wept with them. I can see that. And in the [fifth] chapter of Hebrews when it says there was strong crying and tears [Hebrews 5:7], He agonized before God; that referred to His cry in Gethsemane when all the burden of the sins of the world was laid upon His soul [Luke 22:44]. And He wept. He cried in an agony [Hebrews 5:7].
But this is so different. This is His hour of greatest victory. The people everywhere are shouting, "Hosanna in the highest, blessed the Son of David" [Matthew 21:9]. This is His royal triumphal entry into Jerusalem. This is the great covenant moment in the life of Israel when the Messiah comes, and He presents Himself to the people; but when He comes, and when He presents Himself, He does it with great crying and many tears [Luke 19:35-44].
The strangest presentation and the strangest parade; why did He cry, and why did He weep at this particular time? I have two reasons for it. First: He wept because of the crowds and the throngs that were around Him [Luke 19:37]. For the Lord knew what was in the heart of man, and being God He knew every tomorrow.
And there as He rode at the head of that joyful procession into the city, and as He heard the shouting of the people around Him, "Hosanna, glory, praises" [Matthew 21:9; Luke 19:37-38], everyone in the highest ecstasy. He could see, being the Lord, that in just a few days that same throng and that same crowd would be crying, "Crucify Him, kill Him, kick Him from the earth! He is worthy of death" [Matthew 27:22-23].
There is an oratorio or a cantata or a long piece of music that we sing in the choir, and one dramatic part of that is the throng around, "Crucify Him, crucify Him." What is that? "The Seven Last Words." Oh, that is dramatic. And that is so expressive of what exactly happened. This day the throngs are shouting, "Hosanna" and "Blessed be He that cometh in the name of the Lord" [Matthew 21:9; Luke 19:38]. And the same people and the same throng just Friday later of that same week are shouting, "Crucify Him, crucify Him, crucify Him!" [Mark 15:14].
And the Lord, seeing that, wept. You know the cross we preach is a sign and a symbol of the love of God. The Lord spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all [Romans 8:32], that in His wounds, and His sobs, and His tears, and His agony, and His death, we might find remission of our sins, the forgiveness of our sins [Hebrews 9:22, 10:18]. I know that. The cross is a sign of the love of God. And when you put it on top of a church or in a cemetery above a fallen friend, it is a sign of hope in God.
But the cross is also a demonstration of the dark stain in the human soul. Was there ever such a black hour of cruelty and injustice and violence as the crucifixion of the Son of God? If you want to know what humanity is, just look at the crucifixion of Jesus. This is what the fallen sons of old man Adam did to the Son of God. When God gave us the gift of the little Babe in Bethlehem [Luke 2:10-16], humanity returned it to God on the point of a Roman spear [John 19:34]. Here, God. Take Him. Crucify Him, dead.
Why did He weep? I think that is one reason. The throngs around Him crying, "Hosanna" [Matthew 21:9], and the next day crying, "Crucify Him" [Luke 23:13, 21].
All right, a second reason: And when He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it [Luke 19:41]. Our Lord could see what seemingly very few people, statesmen, political leaders, what very few people are ever able to see. Our Lord could see that the destiny of a nation lies in its relationship to God. And that is not true only of a nation, but it is true of a family, and it is true of an individual soul. Our Lord could see what few are able seemingly to see. That the destiny of a city or a nation or a country or a family or a soul lies in its relationship to God. "And when He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it" [Luke 19:41].
Oh, dear. In that same city, six hundred five years before, in that same city Jeremiah had lifted up his voice and cried saying, "Repent ye, turn ye, get right with God" [Jeremiah 26:1-6], and the people scorned the message of the prophet, and Nebuchadnezzar came the first time in 605 BC [Daniel 1:1-2]. And Jeremiah the prophet lifted up his voice and said to his people, "Repent ye, turn ye" [Jeremiah 36:2-7], and Nebuchadnezzar came in 597 BC [2 Kings 24:11-14]. And Jeremiah cried, "Repent ye, get right with God" [Jeremiah 34:1-7, 36:3]. Nebuchadnezzar came the third time [Jeremiah 39:1-10, 52:4-30; 2 Corinthians 36:17-21], and he didn’t need to return anymore. For he plowed the city under and he destroyed the temple and he carried the people into captivity [Jeremiah 52:4-15].
And that same thing is coming to pass again. For the God who reigns up there in heaven is not just the God of 600 BC, or the God of 600 AD, or the God of our grandfathers, and He is not [just] God today. For the same Lord God that reigned in heaven in the BC’s is the same God that reigns in heaven in the AD’s. And the same Lord God that reigned over our forefathers is the same Lord God that reigns over us today.
And when a nation and when a people or when a family, or when a soul flaunts and blasphemes and dishonors God, there is judgment day someday. And the Lord said as He wept over the city [Luke 19:41], "Ah, if thou hadst known the day of thy visitation [Luke 19:44], and the day that belongs unto thy peace," for now there is a day coming, and it came in 70 AD. "The days shall come when armies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and shut thee up like a vise keep thee in on every side, And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children" [Luke 19:43-44].
I wonder why the Lord put that in there; "And thy children?" [Luke 19:44]. I think it is because the same way I feel about the course of America. Sometimes as I follow the blasphemous, ungodliness of our America, our films get increasingly filthier. Our pornography becomes increasingly available. And the desecration of our people, for everything sacred, becomes increasingly more flagrant. As I look at that I think O God, America deserves the visitation and the judgment of Almighty God.
Then I think, O Lord, if it were to fall on us it wouldn’t matter much. But I began to think about our children. O Lord, what a tragedy, what an agony. What a sadness. For the judgment of God, because of our sins, to fall upon our cities and our country and our nation and our children be swept away in it. "And shall lay thee even with the ground and thy children" [Luke 19:44]. They are the ones that really will suffer." And when He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it" [Luke 19:41].
Now for the moment may I speak of our Lord as He looks down upon us today? I believe Jesus is in heaven. I believe that because the disciples saw Him ascend into heaven [Acts 1:9-10]. And the blessed Jesus poured out into the earth the ascension gift, the Holy Spirit [Acts 1:4, 2:1-4]. It is the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Jesus that is in this congregation. And it is the Spirit of Jesus that is in my heart. But the Lord is in heaven [1 Thessalonians 1:10]. And He looks down upon us. And I know that because He appeared to the apostle Paul on the road to Damascus, above the brightness of the sun [Acts 9:1-3].
And I know that because when the first Christian martyr laid down his life, when Stephen was stoned and beat to the earth, he lifted up his eyes, and he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God ready to receive His martyred saint [Acts 7:55-56]. And I know that because the great holy, divine apostle John on the lonely aisle of Patmos saw Jesus glorified and described Him in the first chapter of the Apocalypse [Revelation 1:9-18].
And once in a while, as the great pastor, Dr. Truett, I hear or I read the testimony of somebody who has seen the Lord Jesus. And as the Lord looks down upon us, what does He see and does He still cry? Does He still weep over the city? Does He? As the Lord looks down, and I will just mention it, I think He sees storm clouds gathering. I have the feeling that we live on a razor edge, that we teeter-totter over an abyss, that any moment and any day, anything could shove the international situation into a catastrophe.
I think that is a reason that our senators and our representatives, when they gather together, they are in an agony in their confusion. They don’t know where to turn and they don’t know what to do. Shall we build this great anti-missile system at billions of dollars or would it be effective? And I know exactly why that agony of confusion. Simply because it is God that keeps a nation. It is God that guards a city [Psalms 127:1]. And if God keeps us we shall be in peace with our children. But if we sin away our day of grace, all the anti-missile systems that the human genius could create could not preserve us from lurid death, the judgment of Almighty God.
The Lord said through Isaiah, "When those hasty Assyrians, the wing-bulls of Asshur came, Assyria is the rod of My anger and the staff of My correction" [Isaiah 10:5]. And when Habakkuk brought before the Lord the insoluble problem of the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem and the temple by those uncircumcised, blaspheming pagan Babylonians, God said, "I have ordained them for correction, and I have established them for judgment" [Habakkuk 1:12].
We live in the imponderables of God. As the Lord looks down from heaven today I think He sees the gathering storm. And as the Lord looks down from heaven on our city, what does He see? I think He sees, as queenly as Dallas is, even here and how much more the other great cities deserve, I think He sees a colossal and profound and impenetrable spiritual indifference.
When I was in Moscow, we landed there Sunday night. And Sunday morning, landed at night, I walked out of the front door of the Europa Hotel and to the corner. And there right in front of me was a church, a beautiful church. And it was a railroad station. First time I had seen that. I had heard of it, but it was the first time I had ever looked at it. A beautiful church there, and it is a railroad station.
I turned the corner and went down that main boulevard and in about another block here was another beautiful church, a beautiful church. It was a warehouse full of stuff like you’d see in a granary, in a warehouse. I walked down the boulevard and there was one of the most beautiful Byzantine, those onion-domed churches I ever looked at. And it was falling in ruins and had an enormous padlock over its door.
Then as the day wore on I walked up and down the streets. And wherever there is a Russian city, the people are poor, they have no automobiles. They have no place to go, they are not allowed to go. So they come out into the streets. It’s the only place they can go. And they kneel on those streets by the hundreds of thousands, kneeling in those streets, walking up and down those streets.
And you know, I felt that the tragedy of Soviet Russia, of Moscow, of Leningrad, the tragedy of Russia is not the closing down of the churches. But the tragedy of Russia is the people don’t care! They don’t miss it. That is, I could not see that they did. And just that little handful of Baptists that cried almost all the way through their services. And just that little handful that you would see in an Orthodox, a Greek Orthodox church. Just that little tiny minority. But the great mass of the people, utterly indifferent.
What if the church is a railroad station or a greenery or a warehouse or falling into ruins? What would it matter? You know I am beginning to think about our America. I wonder how many people would really miss it if our churches were confiscated, and our ministers were banished or killed, and our people prohibited from the worship of God? I wonder how many would miss it? And the Lord looks down from heaven and He sees the vast spiritual indifference of our people. I must close. But that is not all that He sees.
When the Lord looks on the city, He also sees that faithful few, those devoted servants, those disciples of the Lord true unto death. He also sees them. We are never to lose faith or be discouraged. We are never to sound a low note. Never! God said to Elijah under the juniper tree, "And I have got seven thousand reserved for Me who have not bowed the knee to Baal" [1 Kings 19:18]. He knows them. We are never to be discouraged or to lose heart. God is here and God is with us. And the Lord Jesus from heaven, He sees you. And He sees your heart and knows your love for the Lord. And God looks down from heaven and to us through the ages. And He sees the testimony that never fails. Never!
Even to this day after two thousand years, and if the Lord delays His coming for another thousand years, He will have His churches, and He will have His preachers, and He will have His godly witnesses in the earth [Acts 1:8]. It says so in the Book. When Jesus comes again there will be His people, His sainted disciples, loving His name, waiting for His blessed appearing [Titus 2:13].
And it will be worth it all when we see Jesus.
Life’s trials will seem so small when we see Him;
One glimpse of His dear face, all of our sorrows will erase,
So let’s bravely run the race till we see Him.
["When We See Christ," by Esther Kerr Rusthoi]
Oh, bless to our hearts and our homes and our lives and our every tomorrow His blessed presence. The hope we have in our Lord.
We must sing our song of appeal, and while we sing it, a family you to come, a couple you to come, a one somebody you to come. In the balcony round, you, on this lower floor, you, into that aisle and down here to the front, make it now. Come now. Do it now. Make the decision for Christ now. And in a moment when we stand to sing, stand up coming. Into that aisle down to the front, "Here I am, pastor, and here I come." Do it now. Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.