Sermon, Palm Sunday (A), April 5, 2020.
Philippians 2:5–11 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:6 who, being in very nature[a] God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature[b] of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Matthew 21:1-11 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, ‘Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.’4 This took place to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet:5 ‘Say to Daughter Zion, “See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”’[a]6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,‘Hosanna[b] to the Son of David!’‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’[c]‘Hosanna[d] in the highest heaven!’10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, ‘Who is this?”11 The crowds answered, ‘This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.’
We went for a walk during the week. It was late in the day. The place looked deserted. If Jesus came into town today, riding a donkey, no one would be in the streets to greet him with cloaks and branches!
However, as we walked, we heard signs of life. Everyone was at home. There was noise behind fences and windows, especially kiddy noises. There was also TV noises; music, human conversation….. Homes are full even if streets are empty.
So, we are still at home even if we are not in our streets. Here is my question. Will we miss him again? As we live through this very different Palm Sunday and Easter, will we miss him coming to us again?
In these unique days when there is plenty of fear and a lack of friends to go around, will we miss the coming Saviour again? They missed him this first time.
The crowd on that Palm Sunday sensed something BIG was happening. They knew it might be to do with this donkey riding Teacher. Old hopes might be coming to life…..Hosanna! to the Son of David!’
‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’‘Hosanna in the highest heaven!’
These are words for the conquering King coming to his capital city to take up his rule.
So, they say, “Yes. King, save us. King, you can save us. King, you will save us from this oppressive threat”. Hooray!!
It is one thing to welcome a winner and pray for escape from a threat, it is another to know and trust the winner, especially when the threat is over.
In the end, both the crowds gathered around the donkey riding Teacher and the general public of the city don’t really get far.
Sure, they join in with those words adoring a king after he has saved the nation’s bacon (2 Kings 9:13). The palms and cloaks show that the crowd around Jesus start out welcoming the possible new hope. But it isn’t long before they miss him. Indeed, they turn on him within a week when he fails their expectations of what they believe a king should really be and do.
There is no indication that the average Jerusalemite had much idea who this ‘Hosanna Man’ is, even if his coming causes a real stir across the whole city (Matthew 9-10).
The best those near the action can say is that this teacher is another prophet. When asked, all they can say is,
“This is the prophet Jesus, the one from Nazareth in Galilee.” (Matthew 21:11)
Will this be our summation of the Easter King again? Will we miss him again? Will you miss him again? I hope we don’t as a community and as a nation. I hope you don’t personally.
I am hoping that because we are locked down; because we are finally stilled with our personal freedom now stripped away, because apparently, the word is being ‘reset’, that this King can finally speak and be heard for who he actually is – the one who resets the human heart, not merely a possible source of saving our bacon.
It might happen for some. We sense this threat. We share this feeling of foreboding, this concern about not just a virus, but the unraveling of our Western way of life in loss of our jobs, loss of money, loss of budget surplus, the end of our financial security, the massing of debt, and all that may mean for our future. It could be that the people behind those fences watching those screen, playing that music could be more ready and able to receive this King of freedom; this King of love; this ‘re-setter’ of our human life.
This King is coming to town again. He will tell them again by palms. wounds, blood, cross, total isolation from his beloved Father, by his words of truth and love, and by his defeat of the greatest threat life as we know it – death, that he is here for everyone in the greatest love.
Most might miss him again. The focus of our relief and celebration when this threat diminishes and this ‘war on the Virus’ has been won, might not be this Crucified Saviour of the world.
We will celebrate someone though. We always find something positive and some heroes to adore.
We are already rightly celebrating the frontline medical workers by lighting up our homes and towns in blue as they are in Paris and London. Fair enough. I am glad they are doing their selfless work!
We might celebrate the economic power the West was able to throw at this threat as it saved our nation’s bacon with massive economic rescue packages.
But we will have missed him again if that is all we can say.
Like those city dwellers and followers on that Palm Sunday, they had much to learn about who he is and what he gives.
Like our last few weeks of rapid change, they would have another interesting week after this grand entrance. This Hosanna Man will intentionally and innocently suffer in blood through the violence, hatred and venom of the human heart to usher in a completely new era of life.
He will show them he is a King who serves both the proud and the humble. He serves through more than just one threat. He serves the sick and the well, the powerful and the powerless in sheer love.
They will see that his kingdom lives by faith not sword and that all are equally lost to God and all are found by God, only in him and his words, not their words or their power or family name or excellent moral fortitude.
Many will not like their expectations and view of self and world being disarmed in this way. They will move to get rid of this Hosanna Man.
Friend, we need to learn that this king is no Jeanie to rub to ‘get out of jail’.
This King is no mere manufacturer of needed hand sanitizer or face masks or holder of vast economic means, he is love; he is THE Servant King who acts beyond and below all the cash and the goods and the professionals.
Even more, he does not only heal sickness caused by a temporary virus but THE enduring sickness of the wayward disordered human heart, and disordered world we have been living in to this point. Only he can truly ‘reset’ this world. Only by his gracious love can a person be truly transformed by love to love.
Oh, the love. When we cannot understand who he is and what he is doing, he loved us. When all we can do is treat him like a magic Jeanie to fix our problems and save our bacon, or expect him to overpower the problems with economic, political or spiritual power, he stays true to his loving mission to the cross that transform us into people who know love and can love in any threat, disease or weakness.
Friend, in our locked down streets and homes, enter this holy week with this serving king of love like none before. Let him enter your city, your castle, your home. Let him do the true resetting. As you attend to his words you won’t miss him. He will find you.
I pray that the Easter we can join in the vast community of faith to which we belong and celebrate that because this Jesus,
8 humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!9 That God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the title that is above every hero, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, 11 and every human voice acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God our Father. (Philippians 2:8-11)