The Victory that Ended in Defeat


VI. The Victory that Ended in Defeat

Matthew 21:1-12

Palm Sunday

AUDIO – The Victory That Ended in Defeat

Stand with me, walk with me, watch, look and listen with me, in the streets of the Holy City – Jerusalem.

In the 16th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate is the Procurator of Judea.

For the Jews, it is the Passover time.  In a few days, the celebration will begin.

On this first day of the week, native and foreign Jews throng the marketplace, crowd the temple, and jostle one another even before the altar.

They are remembering the first Passover, celebrated so many years ago, when their ancestors were slaves in Egypt.

How wretched these ancestors had been!  How downtrodden and persecuted!

At the whim of an Egyptian taskmaster, a family would be broken up; with or without provocation a home would be destroyed; Freedom was a fantasy.

There was but to fulfill the daily tasks under the supervision of fanatically cruel Egyptian overseers.

They sweated and slaved under the brightness of the Egyptian sun, constructing palaces, building pyramids for the Pharaohs of Egypt.

Their cries had gone up to God, and

God had heard them.

When Israel was in Egypt’s land….

Let my people go:

The suns so hot they could not stand….

Let my people go!

Go down Moses,

Way down in Egypt land,

Tell ole Pharaoh

Let my people go!

The patience of god – who can say if it was exhausted – or who can say whether it was just that his justice was made manifest?

Plagues were visited upon the Egyptians.

Finally the warning came that unless the people of Israel were freed, the eldest son of every Egyptian household, would be slain.

The command of Moses went to the people of Israel:

“Sprinkle the blood of a lamb upon the lintels, and upon the doorposts of every house.  The angel of death, seeing the blood of the lamb there, will PASSOVER your homes, and visit only those without the sprinkled blood.

It was done.

That night the Israelites stood ready to eat a feast that God had told them to prepare.  Each person was ready for a journey, family’s possessions were packed and they were all ready to march at a moment’s notice.

Then the angel of death came upon the land.

What great turmoil as this plague struck the homes of the Egyptians!

How eagerly now they urged the Israelites to leave.

How they thrust upon them gifts of gold and silver, gorgeous garments and precious jewels – anything to get them out of the country.

The Israelites departed. The night of tumult was a night of deliverance.

It was the night that God passed over the homes of the Israelites, visiting death upon the Egyptians and giving freedom to his chosen people.

And now it is Passover time again.

Hundreds of years have passed.  But again Israel is in bondage – this time to the problem and tyranny of Imperial Rome.

In thousand of hearts is the longing for a day of deliverance.

Thousands of prayers ascend to God that Israel may be delivered from bondage.

There is longing, hoping, yearning, praying, for another deliverer like Moses.

Once again the Jews have come to Jerusalem, not only to remember the past, but to hope for the future.


A rumor is making the rounds that the deliverer of Israel, has come at last.

They say his name is Jesus.

Jesus, from the town of Nazareth, in the hills of Galilee.

What good thing can come out of Nazareth?

They say He was a carpenter.

Three years ago He began preaching.

It is quite evident, it is said, that God blesses Him.

Many are the stories told of his wonderful works.

Men crippled from youth are able to walk.

Women, stricken with leprosy, are made whole.

It is said, that in some instances, EVEN THE DEAD HAVE BEEN BROUGHT BACK TO LIFE!

Some have already hailed Him as King.

A number of men have given up their homes and jobs and families in order to be with Him.

Word that he is en-route to Jerusalem sweeps like wildfire through the city.

Perhaps at this very feast He will make himself known.  He will assume His rightful place as the Messiah of Israel.  Today, even today, he is coming through the city’s gates.

Today He will be proclaimed King.

The word passes from block to block, from house to house, from ear to ear.

The people come out of their homes; they even come down from the sacred precincts of the Temple.

They gather along the city’s narrow ways.

They prepare to do honor to Him who comes as their Messiah, their deliverer.

At first, far in the distance, the murmurings of the crowd are heard.

The voices are indistinct, but then become more clear.

There is music in what they are saying.

The refrain seems on great “Hosannas!





In the excitement, a little boy climbs up a tree to see better.

He tears off a branch, and throws it in the street.  Others in the pulsing crowd shout up to him:

“Throw me down a branch, too, that I may welcome the King.”

Across the street, the trembling voice of a little girl can be heard above the din of the multitude:

“That’s Him, Mother, that’s Him….that’s Jesus, who made me walk again!”

Back on this side of the street an old man says, “Yes, there is my Lord.  He is the one, who made me see again.”

He takes the cloak from around his feeble shoulders; he spreads it on the street.  The colt on which Jesus is riding, passes directly over it.

Along the streets, stand stationed Roman soldiers, brought there to keep the law of Rome amidst the Jewish celebration.  They do not bother to cover their…smiles of cynicism…sneers of disdain.

“These Jews,” they say, “always looking for a king and thinking that, THAT ONE THERE…RIDING ON AN ASS…is their deliverer.

Up near the Temple, the priests are gathered.

“So THIS is the one,’ they say;

THIS is the one who comes to us in the name of the God of Israel.  See how he disturbs the people.

We must stop this lest he disrupts the whole land, and bring the power and fury of Rome crashing about our ears.”

Down the center of the winding streets…a few of his disciples leading the way…comes Jesus of Nazareth…riding upon that little beast of burden…the shouts of the people enveloping Him.  “Hosanna! Hosanna, to the Son of David!  Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord.  Hosanna in the highest!”

The enthusiasm is contagious.  In the minds of the people there arises the vision of a great victory at last!  For the Messiah, the deliverer has come!

At last Rome will be defeated.  The bonds of servitude will be cast off.  The day of humiliation will be ended.  God Himself has sent his son, the Son of David, to be the Savior.

One man says to another: “Remember what the prophet said, ‘Tell the daughter of Zion, behold your King comes unto you MEEK, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt, the foal of an ass.”

He comments,” See, is not this the way in which he comes?”

“Yea, verily, this is the promised one of God.”

“This is our day of victory.”

But it is not so to be.

The triumph of this day will prove but the glory of a moment.

It will be for scarcely longer than a fish could live out of water or a man can breathe without air.

Oh, there might have been an earthly victory.

If Jesus had allowed it, so to be, there might have been a victory of this world.

The people of the Hebrews were looking for a King.

They sought the overthrow of Rome.

They wanted release from political tyranny and oppression.

But, Jesus did not seek that kind of victory.

The triumph he sought; the victory he desired was the triumph and victory that would be won in the minds and in the souls of people.

His aim was not to establish a kingdom of this world, but a kingdom of the spirit.

His aim was to bring people to obedience to the prophets…to do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with God.

His aim was to mediate the love and forgiveness of God.  But the world would not have it!

Follow Jesus thru the days of this week and see how truly it was NOT a victory for Him.

Jesus had chosen twelve men as his closest associates and most intimate friends.

The name of one was Judas Iscariot.

It was during this week that Judas made a bargain with the rulers of the Jewish Council.  He would let them know where Jesus might be found at any given time.

He would lead the soldiers there.

He would identify His master with a kiss.

He would betray Him, into the hands of his enemies.

How this must have burdened the mind and heart of Christ as He thought of one whom He had called FRIEND, now to betray Him.

Was this not a defeat?


Then there was the experience at Gethsemane.

After Judas had betrayed the master with a kiss, the soldiers had arrested Him, and were about to lead Him away and it is recorded: “Then all the disciples left him and fled.”

Betrayed by one; deserted by the remainder.  Was this victory?  Was it rather not a crushing defeat?

Then, too, there was that stalwart follower, the one whose name had been changed from Simon to Peter, meaning the Rock. On the way thru the Temple courtyard, Jesus see’s this disciple of His.  He looks at him and Peter looks the other way….for moments before he has denied his Lord three times.

“I don’t know Him.  I tell you, I don’t know Him.  I never knew the man!”

Even Peter.  Was this victory?

And then on that fateful Friday morning; the masses of the people, the multitudes made up of His own race, the same persons whose lives had been blessed by His ministry of teaching and healing… by the granting of his gifts of forgiveness and life, the same people stand outside the palace of Pilate, and cry aloud for His death.

Jesus stands before Pilate, and Pilate seeks to save Him.  But the priests and the rulers of the people would not have it so.

Finally the Roman governor washes his hands of the whole matter and Jesus is led away to be crucified.

“With jeers and taunts they nailed Him to a cross, and them with tearing flesh and distressed bone raised him on high that all might see their King.  And they sat and watched Him there.

So died this Son of Man…and son of God…and a great darkness fell upon the earth.”

The victory had ended in defeat.

But this defeat had to happen.  It was the only thing that could have happened. Earthly victory was not true victory. Earthly victory was not lasting triumph.

It was necessary that for our sins Jesus should go to the cross.

It was necessary that Jesus should go down to the defeat of death, before he could emerge as a conqueror over it.

The victory of this day was not the true victory.

“They hailed Him King as He passed by, they strewed their garments in the road, but they were set on earthly things, and He on God.

They sang His praise for that He did,

But gave His message little thought:

They could not see, that their soul’s good…..was all He sought.


They could not understand why He,

with powers so vast at His command,

should hesitate to claim their rights,

and free the land.

Their own concerns and this world’s hopes,

shut out the wonder of His news;

And we, with larger knowledge, still

His way refuse.

He walks among us still, unseen,

and still points out the only way,

but we still follow other gods,

and Him betray.”

Indeed this was not the victory. And never will be the victory, as long as our hearts, and minds are set on lesser things, when He would fill us with the things of God, and lead us into the way, the truth and the life.

The victory is yet to be won.

Go out of this house with the realization; go through these days with the realization; In the depths of your being possess the realization, that it is only out of the humiliation and shame, the suffering and the pain, the torture and the defeat of this week that there could be eternal victory.

Go determined, not just to acclaim Him King with a shout and cry, but to share with Him in humility and submission, that you too may return to hail the eternal victory come forth from the tomb, and opening the fates of eternal life.

You see, Palm Sunday was a victory, but it ended in defeat.

But also…but also…that same defeat ends in victory.

It depends upon what your heart….and mind….and soul are set.


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