Sunday Sermon: Who is Jesus to you?

Scripture Passage – Luke 19:36-40

Description – Final 2012 Lenten sermon and Communion Meditation for Palm Sunday 2012

 The story is told of a woman who took her nephew to church on Palm Sunday and when the young boy saw the ushers walk down the aisle with armloads of palm, he exclaimed, “Oh boy! Corn on the Cob!”

While we are not serving corn on the cob this morning, and that does sound good, nor are we serving a healthy dose of chocolate, which sounds equally good, we are going to be remembering and giving thanks to the Lord as we partake of the elements this morning during communion.

The Biblical story that we attached to this particular Sunday appears in all four gospel accounts of the New Testament. And what I want to do is to slow us down for some reflection at the beginning of this very important week and as preparation for Communion.

So I am going to read each of the accounts as Jesus enters Jerusalem and invite you to imagine yourself in the crowd. You can follow along with your Bibles or simply listen and follow along.

 

I begin with our main text from Luke 19:36-40:

As he rode along, the crowds spread out their garments on the road ahead of him. When he reached the place where the road started down the Mount of Olives, all of his followers began to shout and sing as they walked along, praising God for all the wonderful miracles they had seen.

“Blessings on the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in highest heaven!”

 But some of the Pharisees among the crowd said, “Teacher, rebuke your followers for saying things like that!”

He replied, “If they kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!”

Now from Matthew 21:1-11

As Jesus and the disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the town of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of them on ahead. “Go into the village over there,” he said. “As soon as you enter it, you will see a donkey tied there, with its colt beside it. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone asks what you are doing, just say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will immediately let you take them.”

            This took place to fulfill the prophecy that said,

 “Tell the people of Jerusalem,
‘Look, your King is coming to you.
He is humble, riding on a donkey—
riding on a donkey’s colt.’”

The two disciples did as Jesus commanded. They brought the donkey and the colt to him and threw their garments over the colt, and he sat on it.

Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting,

“Praise God for the Son of David!
Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Praise God in highest heaven!”

The entire city of Jerusalem was in an uproar as he entered. “Who is this?” they asked.

And the crowds replied, “It’s Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Now Mark 11:4-11

“The two disciples left and found the colt standing in the street, tied outside the front door. As they were untying it, some bystanders demanded, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” They said what Jesus had told them to say, and they were permitted to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their garments over it, and he sat on it.

Many in the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him, and others spread leafy branches they had cut in the fields. Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting,

“Praise God!
Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessings on the coming Kingdom of our ancestor David!
Praise God in highest heaven!”

So Jesus came to Jerusalem and went into the Temple. After looking around carefully at everything, he left because it was late in the afternoon. Then he returned to Bethany with the twelve disciples.

And finally John 12:12-19

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,

“Praise God!
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, everyonehas gone after him!”

 

If you had been in that crowd what kind of emotions would you have been experiencing?

Hope?

Joy?

Fear?

Jealousy?

They were all present in that important moment.

I think that there were people in that crowd who had seen Jesus’ first miracles and perhaps had been the recipients of a miracle themselves.  Maybe they had seen Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead. And there were also people who were still making up their mind about Jesus as well… maybe someone like the rich young ruler.

There were people in this crowd for whom their hopes and fears were pinned on Jesus and His ability to do things and say things that could bring freedom and happiness to them and the nation. They had high expectations for Jesus. They were hopeful that His entrance into Jerusalem heralded a new age for Israel!

But not everyone felt the same way. Those Pharisees were still there, always nearby, seeking to upset and disturb Jesus. And He would really disturb them soon with a provocative angry outburst in the temple. And they were also jealous and John reveals this when we read “Then the Pharisees said to each other, “There’s nothing we can do. Look, everyonehas gone after him!”

 

But for now, emotions and hopes were running high around Jesus. He was their King! And that was a beacon to the powers that be that they should be watching this man more closely. And I am always reminded that within 6 or so days, this crowd would probably be dwarfed by a larger crowd that would scream “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” And perhaps some of those who stood alongside the road into Jerusalem also stood along the way as Jesus was led outside Jerusalem. Were they cheering for Him then?

Such is the human landscape through which Jesus walked then… and now!

We are in the crowd, hoping in Jesus, hoping for Jesus, and perhaps trying to make up our minds about Jesus.

Who is Jesus to you this day?

Is He a nice guy?

Is He simply another religious figure who has some nice things to say?

Is He someone in the past who people still talk about?

 

AW Tozer wrote, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”  Jesus did not give any wiggle room when it came to who He was and is. He said with confidence “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Next Sunday we celebrate His resurrection. A resurrection that has affected millions of lives over the past 2000 plus years. A resurrection which has been argued about, over and around since it was proclaimed.

I believe that Jesus Christ was, and still is, God the Son. I believe that He walked this earth as a true human being and yet was still God. I don’t often understand that but I believe it because sometimes faith requires us to make a step out over the edge, not to justify some crazed and bizarre behavior, but because we human beings are in a mess of things. And we cannot truly save ourselves.

And in taking on the brokenness of humanity because of sin, Jesus has given us all a second chance.

When we have lied, Jesus has forgiven us and so, as in some countries, our tongues are not cut out but our speech can become honest and true.

When we have been sexually unfaithful, Jesus has forgiven us and so, we do not have to be stoned for committing adultery.

When we have been jealous of another’s success and often as a result murdered the character and reputation of the successful one, Jesus has forgiven us so that we do not end up like Cain did wandering the earth because of his compulsive act of murdering his brother.

Who is Jesus to you?

If He is not your savior? Then who, and even what, is He?

Let us prepare our hearts for communion.

 

Amen.

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