Sunday, April 1, 2012

a walk into palm sunday

Jesus wants to share His eternal victory with you. Palm Sunday illustrates this.

The sun was rising rapidly. It was beginning to shoot its golden beams across the horizon to adorn the sky and bring a grand finale to the dawn that would bring a new day to the history-filled city of Jerusalem. This is the festive season of Passover. The old city was filled with pilgrims, visitors, and travelers who had come from many countries to share in the feast. Secular census records indicate there were at least 2,500,000 people in Jerusalem for the event. An exciting rumor spread through the city: "Jesus is coming!"

Behind Jesus were His sermons; ahead, His suffering. Behind Him were His parables; ahead, His passion. Behind Him were His suppers of fellowship; ahead, what would be called last supper. Behind Him were the delights of Galilee; ahead, dark Gethsemane. Prophecy was now to become practice.

I want you to walk through this story…I want you to put yourself in this story and experience what the day might have been like if you were there, what the day is like as you are there.

Jesus had spent the night at the home of friends in Bethany on the opposite side of the Mount of Olives from Jerusalem. The two towns were no more than five miles apart.

Historians tell us that traditionally persons from various regions all had their special area around Jerusalem where they camped for feast days. The south end of the Mount of Olives had for years been the camping grounds of people from Galilee. These were the unsophisticated and unspoiled people of the area where Jesus spent most of His time and performed most of His miracles. They knew Him best. On several occasions they had tried to make Him a king

In the city of Jerusalem were the wealthy and religious leaders. Jesus had antagonized them by referring to the "scribes and Pharisees" as "hypocrites" (Matt. 23). Also among them were the Sadducees who had long been plotting His downfall. In order to preserve their way of life they often worked with the Romans. They had much to lose if they displeased their Roman overlords. You must remember in order to maintain the lives they were accustomed to they had to work hand in hand with Rome.

In their eyes Jesus was an expendable. Besides, in the eyes of the religious leaders He was a threat to religious tradition, he was not the Messiah.

Notice that, in today’s reading, there were two groups. "Those that went before" were persons who had come out of Jerusalem because of their curiosity as a result of all the shouting. "Those who followed" and "cried out" were the Galileans.

Our distance from the event causes us to merge the two crowds into one and assume it was the same people who shouted "Hosanna" that also cried "crucify Him."

It was the jubilant Galileans who shouted "Hosanna" and the religious and affluent of Jerusalem who wanted to appease the Romans who cried "crucify Him."

So where are you in this crowd? I know we all like to think we are standing with the common folk, the Galileans’ shouting Hosanna, Yet, how often are we observers who stand in Judgment sneering at those who are less fortunate or are making too much noise?? Reflect on the occupy movement how often did we stand outside just making comments, judging, not truly understanding where they were coming from or, if there was one, what their message was??

Passover was a celebration commemorating the deliverance of the Jews from Egyptian captivity. It always occurred on the 15th of the Jewish month of Nisan. That's about mid-April for us. All who lived within 20 miles of Jerusalem were required to attend. Actually, Jews from all over the world gladly gathered for this major happening. There was a bustle of activity as they prepared for the Holiday just as there is around here. In Jerusalem Roads were repaired, tombs were whitewashed, and children were rehearsed in the significance of the event.

Jesus needed a donkey. Centuries earlier the prophet Zechariah said Messiah would enter Jerusalem riding on a donkey. Jesus turned to his followers and told them exactly where to find the colt/donkey and to simply say “the Rabbi requires it” to the owner. What Kind of faith did that require?

We read that passage so simply, so matter- of- fact and yet is there a challenge in that? If Christ puts something on your heart how quick are you to respond? If you are called to step boldly in faith because the Teacher requires it of you are you ready? Could you be ready?

So now the disciples return with the donkey and they prepare for the ride into Jerusalem.

All those along the route He was to ride had learned in infancy and repeated often the passage of Zechariah. As they saw Him riding they would recall the words of the prophet. Remember these are people who often could not read so the stories of scripture were memorized and repeated often so they would easily remember the words of Zechariah:

"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey" Zechariah 9:9.

The crowds starting shouting Hosanna are you one of the people celebrating in the crowd?? How does it feel to be there? I imagine people pushing up against one another just trying to get a glimpse of this Messiah, the ancestor of David the anticipated one, the king.

Jesus was being called "King" and "Lord." The Greek word for "Lord" is kudos. It was used in various ways. In which of these prominent ways is it used by you?

It was used as a title of respect like our Southern use of the words "Sir" or "Ma'am." It was used of one who is in charge. Luke refers to an individual who was the "lord of the vineyard," meaning He was the master in charge of the vineyard. It was used of deity. In Greek it held the figurative meaning of “praise” but the more literal meaning of “fame” and “renown.” So when someone is given kudos it is as if the person praising them was saying “you deserve to be famous.

So how are viewing Christ as he rides into Jerusalem, is he someone who is worthy of praise and honor and respect in your life? Is he a curiosity that needs to be seen? Is he a majestic and great King or is he a humble servant as the donkey suggests? / Are you, perhaps confused by the mix metaphors and just need to go and process a while away from the crowds?

There is a lot happening in this little vignette.

Why did Jesus come?

Jesus came to identify with His followers. It was now time to bring to a climax His reason for coming to earth. He who could have ridden the wind rode a donkey. He who could have summonsed the Seraphim chose a donkey. Scripture says, "All things were created by Him," Yet, He borrowed a donkey. "The earth is the Lord's," but He borrowed a donkey. What did one see?? First we notice the donkey. Jesus didn't come riding a high spirited war steed or prancing white stallion, but on a colt, an animal associated with peace. Donkeys are quite popular throughout scripture. They were ridden by judges and kings; they were symbols of wealth and common folk alike.

The Palms we use, Matthew, Mark, and John each use a different word for "branches." Matthew speaks of young branches or shoots. Mark refers to a mass of straw. John speaks of palm branches. Each was right. All three were used. Each writer simply mentions the one that stood out to him. This shows there was no collaboration or duplicity in their writing. Each wrote from his own viewpoint.

Years before, this was the way in which the people greeted Judah Maccabee when he liberated the city. The reaction of the crowd was the hailing of Jesus as an anticipated Liberator.

The shouts of Hosanna, Pilgrims today follow Christ's route from Bethany to Jerusalem. As Christ's climactic moment arrived, He and His entourage mounted the crest of the Mount of Olives where suddenly all of the Holy City bursts into panoramic view.

The Jewish historian Josephus wrote about what he saw: "The outward face of the Temple in its front wanted nothing that was likely to surprise either men's minds or their eyes; for it was covered all over with plates of gold of great weight, and, at the first rising of the sun, reflect back a very fiery splendor, and made those who forced themselves to look upon it to turn away their eyes, just as they would have done at the sun's own rays."

The exuberant and impetuous crowd of common people on the Mount of Olives shouted, "Hosanna," it is a shout of praise and even a cry for divine help.

In that shouting crowd were persons who owed Him thanks; thanks for their restored sight, thanks for their straightened limbs, thanks for their sanity, thanks for their healed bodies; and even one named Lazarus, giving thanks for his life restored from the grave.

In this time of triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem what have we to give thanks for? Healings, perhaps healing of spirits…perhaps sadness has been lifted. Perhaps a thanks for a simple healing, remember how miserable you were with a cold or something worse and now you are recovered or on a path of recovery. You may feel that there is a need of healing and give thanks in anticipation of that. Maybe just giving thanks and praise because we are able to and cannot even number the things for which we have to be grateful for.

Jesus descended from the Mount of Olives into the Kedron Valley and started His approach through the Eastern Gate of Jerusalem. It would be there that He would later encounter the hostile crowd intent on appeasing the Romans shouting "Crucify Him!"

With which crowd do you identify? I don't mean which in your more spiritual moments you identify with. In reality with which crowd does your lifestyle more closely identify. Consider the various reactions and see which may be closer to yours in the everyday of life. Some, Wanted to use Him. The Zealots wanted Him to be their military liberator. Some Wanted to ignore Him. The Romans felt superior to this lowly Nazarene whom they wanted to ignore. Some wanted to obey Him. The owner of the donkey eagerly wanted to obey and please Jesus. Some wanted to worship Him. They knew He had resurrected Lazarus and that he possessed a great power.

This eventful morning of His entry into Jerusalem we celebrate on Sunday. On this day do you allow Jesus to enter your heart in triumph? Do you walk with Christ throughout the week? Or Does Jesus come to you only by special invitation in an hour of great need?

The crowd reaction of that day is not so different from the various responses of today. Mark in his gospel, chapter 10 verse 32, makes an interesting observation regarding Christ's immediate followers: "Now they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was going before them; and they were amazed. And as they followed they were afraid..."

When Jesus goes before you there is a sense of amazement and an awe that could inspire a sacred fear. The disciples were not intimidated by their fear at this time, they followed Jesus. With Jesus Courage isn't not having any fear, It is doing what you know is right in spite of your fear. Is fear holding you back in your response to Christ? If there is fear I encourage you to give that up to Christ, show faith in Jesus and express courage by reacting with the crowd that shouted "Hosanna."

Following Christ involves courage, heroism, enthusiasm, power, glory, and peace. Palm Sunday is a living out of Christianity. May this day and its glory bless you, May you find yourself offering up any fear and stepping boldly into a Christ filled life. I pray you find a way to acknowledge the humble Christ who invites you to walk with him, walk with him through Galilee, walk with him into Jerusalem and follow him all the way to Golgotha, for all this leads to one place a glorious Easter morn. Amen.

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