Palm Sunday Sermon, April 13, 2014
This is a time of year where there is a lot of overlap in sports. Auto racing has been running for a little over a month, baseball has moved into the regular season, pro hockey and basketball is beginning to head into post season, college basketball and hockey winds down, and pro football is taking a brief nap. Careers, legends, and champions are made and unmade, born or reborn, and begin or come to an end. Fame is elusively missed or surprisingly achieved.
And speaking of fame, how many here have ever personally met a famous person?
Were you impressed?
Tribute to the winners (Photo credit: patentboy)
The most famous person I have personally met is Jerry Lucas. He played his college ball at Ohio State and was part of the NCAA championship in 1960. He also won a Gold Medal in the 1960 Olympics as part of the USA basketball team. He was a 7 time NBA all-star and was a part of the 1973 NBA Champion New York Knicks and was named one of the top 50 greatest players of the NBA in 1996.
But I met and heard Jerry Lucas, after his days of basketball. It was in the 1990’s at our national meetings. By this point had he become known for his unique memory system and shared it as it related to Bible memorization. I even got his autograph that day. His Christian faith was evident in his comments before and after and he seems to have had a quality life after fame had come his way.
Have you ever asked yourself what makes a person famous?
Here are some famous people on the issue of fame:
John Wooden at a ceremony on Oct. 14, the coach’s 96th birthday, to name the Reseda post office after the sports legend and long-time San Fernando Valley resident. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful. John Wooden
Oprah at her 50th birthday party (Photo credit: Alan Light)
If you come to fame not understanding who you are, it will define who you are. Oprah Winfrey
English: Charlie Sheen in March 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Fame is empowering. My mistake was that I thought I would instinctively know how to handle it. But there’s no manual, no training course. Charlie Sheen
Marilyn Monroe (Photo credit: Alexander Sasha Dejan)
Fame doesn’t fulfill you. It warms you a bit, but that warmth is temporary. Marilyn Monroe
English: Andy Warhol (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In the future everybody will be world famous for fifteen minutes. Andy Warhol
I’m bored with that line. I never use it anymore. My new line is, “In 15 minutes, everybody will be famous.” Andy Warhol
Now, I will have one more statement up in a moment. But here is a question about it, “Is it a statement about being famous or being faithful?”
If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. Jesus in Luke 9:24
Jesus was famous on this day we call Palm Sunday. He had performed numerous miracles over the past three years. He had raised Lazarus from the dead after he had been buried for four days. Jesus was on everybody’s guest list.
And so when He came into Jerusalem, He was feted! Big Time!
The next day, the news that Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem swept through the city. A large crowd of Passover visitors took palm branches and went down the road to meet him. They shouted,
Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hail to the King of Israel!”
Jesus found a young donkey and rode on it, fulfilling the prophecy that said:
“Don’t be afraid, people of Jerusalem.
Look, your King is coming,
riding on a donkey’s colt.”
His disciples didn’t understand at the time that this was a fulfillment of prophecy. But after Jesus entered into his glory, they remembered what had happened and realized that these things had been written about him.
Many in the crowd had seen Jesus call Lazarus from the tomb, raising him from the dead, and they were telling others about it. That was the reason so many went out to meet him—because they had heard about this miraculous sign. Then the Pharisees said to each other, “There’s nothing we can do. Look, everyone has gone after him!”
In this passage there are three groups of people present. There are the disciples who are with Jesus and who, as we read in the other parallel gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark and Luke, are responsible for getting the donkey on which Jesus rides into Jerusalem. There are many things, I think, going on in their mind as the Passover approaches. Little did they know.
There is the crowd, actually I think, two crowds. There is the Jerusalem crowd who is awaiting Jesus’ arrival and there is the crowd who is following Jesus into Jerusalem and who is telling the first crowd about the miracle of Lazarus. Excitement abounds in their thinking and their hoping. Little did they know.
And then, there are the Pharisees who see their influence wane because, as we read in verses 9 through 11 of what Jesus had done in raising Lazarus from the dead. They are angry. They are jealous. They are looking for an opportunity to silence the opposition – Jesus. Little did they know.
And of course, there is Jesus in the middle of them all and Luke notes in chapter 19 and verses 41 and 42 of his gospel account that Jesus’ heart is broken for Jerusalem:
But as he came closer to Jerusalem and saw the city ahead, he began to weep. “How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes.
I suggest this morning that there is a common thread running through all of these groups which are swirling around Jesus as He enters Jerusalem four days before His arrest and crucifixion. This common thread, in light of Lazarus’ resurrection, is an expectation that Jesus will do something powerful to change the situation which currently exists. They all view Jesus as very powerful especially since He raised Lazarus from the grave. Some are hoping He will use his fame and power and make these changes and others are hoping to keep it from happening.
But Jesus’ focus is not on becoming powerful and famous but being faithful to God the Father’s plan and when He says “It is finished,” the Pharisees were happy because they had stopped Him (or so they though); the crowd was disappointed and I think that some in the crowd that day were screaming “Crucify Him!” a few days later while others were deeply disappointed that He had not overthrown the Romans (or so they thought); and the Disciples, well they scattered, some just far enough to keep tabs on what was going on and the others took off and probably hid (or so they tried!)
And Jesus died.
We call this Sunday Palm Sunday and remember Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem that day. But there is more that we need to explore in the events of this week we call Holy Week than the events we have already looked at.
I think that these three groups, all present at the Jesus’ entrance to Jerusalem, continue to get His attention through the rest of the week. “Why?” Because He ultimately wants them to see Him and believe in Him as the Messiah who transforms more than their circumstances. He wants them to believe in Him as the Son of God who transforms their hearts and lives as He saves them from their sin!
Let me illustrate from various gospel texts of what Jesus did and said this week prior to His death and resurrection in which these three audiences were addressed in one way or another about Jesus’ real mission and purpose.
In Matthew 21, we read of Jesus getting the Pharisees’ attention with a rampage of the Temple in which He over turns tables and chairs of those selling animals to be sacrificed in line with the ancient Hebrew law. But even then we read these words:
“The blind and the lame came to him in the Temple, and he healed them. The leading priests and the teachers of religious law saw these wonderful miracles and heard even the children in the Temple shouting, “Praise God for the Son of David. But the leaders were indignant.”
Jesus also over the course of the next day would again use parables to describe how different the Kingdom of God is to what the Pharisees teach and believe with stories about the Two Sons, The Evil Farmers, and the Wedding Dinner. Parts of Matthew 21, 22, and 23 tell these stories. He also argues them about taxes and the Greatest Commandment.
As for the crowd, John records in chapter 12 and verse 37 this incredible statement: But despite all the miraculous signs Jesus had done, most of the people still did not believe in him. Wow. Unbelievable! (And yet, is it?)
But as the week comes close to the Passover celebration, Jesus pulls back and focuses on the disciples and we have His final words to the Disciples in John chapters 13 through 17. Then comes the betrayal, His arrest, trial, crucifixion, and His death.
But all through that week His agenda and focus is not about fame and popularity. It is about being faithful and obedient to the Father’s plan. John 14:1-7
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.”
“No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!”
So what does all this mean for us this week?
One question: What are you seeking this week – to be famous in some way or to be faithful to God’s mission and purpose for you?
Fame comes and goes. Some, perhaps, many of us had no idea who Jerry Lucas was and is.
Who was the MVP for the 1989 World Series? Who had the bestselling book in 1972? Who won the Academy Award for best picture in 1981?
Who was that teacher in school who helped you work through a tough class? Who was that basketball coach who took a risk and selected you for the team? Who was that Sunday School teacher who helped you learn the Bible?
Let us choose to be people of faith and faithfulness to God and His mission as we go through this week and remember Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf. Amen.