9am Worship Service – Sunday 14 April 2019
Theme: Reconsider Respond
Series: Lent & Easter 2019 – Reimagine
Bible Readings: Luke 19:35-40; Luke 20:45 – 21:4; Luke 22:39-46
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
A few weeks ago, I already preached a sermon on the Palm Sunday reading and how it reflected the revolution that Jesus was bringing. Today in these few minutes I would like to reflect on how Palm Sunday is a picture of contrasts.
We know from later in the Easter story that Herod was currently in staying in Jerusalem. Now when Herod arrived there would have been a huge parade. Herod would have entered by the main Jerusalem. People would have gathered, flags would have been waved, and Herod would have been riding on a large horse. It would have been a royal occasion of which people would have proclaimed Herod as King.
When Jesus arrived – it is almost like Jesus purposely contrasts himself with Herod:
- Instead of the main gate Jesus entered in the back gate near the mount of Olives
- Instead of a horse, Jesus rode on a donkey
- Instead of flags, people grabbed branches and coats
Jesus was clearly saying – I am not a king like Herod, But at the same time Jesus was clearly saying – I am a king – and the people knew it. Listen to what they said, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! They were not only saying he was a king, but THE king, the long-awaited Messiah. What a declaration – and yet this is the same crowd who five days later calls for Jesus to be crucified.
At the same time, Jesus was painting a picture of the constrast between right and wrong, about behaviour that was pleasing to God and behaviour that God disapproves of.
Look at the reactions between the crowd of disciples and the Pharisees. The crowd are singing God’s praises and the Pharisees are trying to shut it down.
Often when we stray into behaviour that God is not happy with, it is when we take something which is good and change it, or misuse it in a way which makes it bad – or in a way that it was not intended. Like me using my mothers embodied cushion as a hallway soccerball.
And so, in the story which comes straight after this reading – Jesus goes nuts in the temple because instead of being a house of prayer, the priests had changed it into something it should not have been. Uusing a temple as a marketplace is not the way that God intended it to be used. And Jesus was trying to make things right again, to bring people back to the way that God indended.
So, if we go back to the triumphant entry. The Pharisees were trying to shut down this spontaneous act of worship. The Pharisees wanted to control how people worship and whom they are declaring as king. But just the same as in the temple – Jesus pushed back and declared that sponteneous praise is good and godly and if the Pharisees shut it down, the stones will cry out in praise instread.
As we enter into this Holy Week – let us declare the greatness of Jesus, let us declare Jesus as our King. Let us wave our hands and be sponteneous with our praise to God
Reflection – RECONSIDER…
We have read a lot of Luke over the past 6 weeks. In the Lent Reflections, we have read nearly ever verse from Luke 10 through to Luke 24 – and the ones we haven’t we will hear during the Easter Weekend.
One thing that has jumped out to me in reading Luke’s Easter Narratives is what when people encounter Jesus they are often are challenged to reconsider their assumptions about life and faith. It seems that just being near Jesus or hearing Jesus speak makes them reconsider their understands or beliefs or the decisions that they have made.
- Zacchaeus has dinner with Jesus and reconsiders his business practices
- Mary and Martha host Jesus and Martha had to reconsider her priorities
- The Rich Young Ruler had to reconsider his wealth
Time after time, there was this sense of Jesus saying, “You have heard it said that, but now I say this” … or “I know that the common practice is that, but I want to you think about this”
This reading has two examples of Jesus asking his disciples to reconsider…
Firstly, in the time of Jesus, the people who were most highly respected where the Rabbis or Teachers of the Law. They were seen as having insight into God and being able to share that insight to the people. But Jesus was saying – reconsider the thing that you are giving respect to.
If you are respecting them because of their position – that they look important, that they give long prayers and are given the seats of honour at banquets – and overlooking the way they treat people – then you are missing the point. Reconsider what is worthy of respect.
But the second one is the one that I find interesting – the woman giving the two coins into the treasury. I can well imagine the disciples being totally confused when Jesus said that she put in more than any others.
“But they others put in bags full of money, she put in two coins … how could she have possibly given more???”
Once again, Jesus gently challenges them to look at it differently. Don’t look at it from the amount but rather reconsider giving from how much it cost them to give. “All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
I wonder as we move into Holy Week whether we are open to Jesus come to us this Easter as challenging us to reconsider aspects of our life, our beliefs, or assumptions or the way we view others. And I wonder what that reconsidering might cost us?
Reflection – Relate/Respond…
Whenever I try to do a kids Easter service there is a problem that I always run into is that there are parts of the Easter story which are not very nice and some parts that are really sad. It is really hard to explain to kids why one of Jesus friends betrayed him, or why the soldiers were particular cruel when mocking Jesus, or why the crowd yelled out for Jesus to be crucified – let lone trying to explain to kids why Jesus had to die. It is really hard.
Yet, this is all part of the Easter story. If we are going to talk about aspects of Easter … then we can’t just focus on the joyful parts like Resurrection, we also need to touch on the parts which are full of sadness and sorrow.
This sadness and sorrow is most profound on the Thursday night before Good Friday – Maundy Thursday. Three things happen on this night which must have broken Jesus’ heart.
The first was that he shared the Passover meal with the people closest to him – his disciples. This was deeply emotional time for Jesus because he knew that this would be the last meal that they would share together before his death.
John 13:1 (NIrV) tells us, “It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world. It was time for him to go to the Father. Jesus loved his disciples who were in the world. So he now showed them how much he really loved them”
And he did show them. The bible tells us that despite the fact that Jesus was the master, he wrapped a towel around his waist and washed his disciple’s feet as a way of showing them how to serve each other. He told them about God’s love for them and gave them a new commandment to love one another just as Jesus loved them. He told them not to be worried or anxious because even though death was coming, that death would not be the end. And then he broke bread and share a cup to symbolise how his body would be broken and his blood would be shed for the forgiveness of sins.
Can you hear the depth of emotion in this story? And as the night progress the night gets more sorrowful. Jesus goes to the Garden of Gethsemane (just outside the city walls) to pray … and his disciples instead of supporting him all fell asleep … and then Judas the betrayer turns up with the soldiers who arrest him and the rest of the disciples run away in fear … leaving Jesus alone.
In the depth of his prayer, Jesus actually cries out to God … please, if there is some other way, if there is any way that you can take this cup of suffering from me … please do … (feel the emotion) … but then it is almost like Jesus is reminded of the big picture and says to God, “But above all I want to do your will – not my will be done but your will be done”.
This is not a nice part of the Easter story … it is indeed full of sorrow and sadness … and yet there is something strangely comforting in this. Why? Because it reflects the reality of life.
Most of us here would have had a similar experience – where things go from bad to worse, when close friends let us down, when we know that something difficult is coming and we would do anything to not walk down that road … and yet we know deep down that we have no other option.
Can you relate to this? Well so can Jesus – because he has lived through the darkness of deep sadness and sorrow too.
Life was never meant to be easy. When we become a Christian … life does not become easy. But the bible tells us that we have a high-priest, Jesus who not only cares for us, but know what we are going through because he has gone through it as well.
If you are struggling with something … call on Jesus, tell him about it and believe him when he says, “I know how you feel”.
Let us take a few moments to pray for people who are struggling at the moment.