2010-03-28 (am) Palm Sunday Luke 19:28-44 Let the Rocks Be Kept Silent
Palm Sunday. It is so familiar to us. Those who have grown up in the church have heard it preached every year. So pastors struggle with creativity. How to present something so old, so familiar in a new way?
Another danger for pastors and for all of us is to assume we know what the passage is all about because we’ve heard it so often. Some pastors, in an effort to be creative try telling the story from different perspectives. There’s Jesus’ perspective, the disciples, the Pharisees and the crowd. It wouldn’t be surprising to come across a pastor trying to be relevant and fresh to look at the event of Palm Sunday from the Donkey’s perspective.
So, let’s battle the familiar together, let’s get into the text and try to look at it for what it is, and what it is saying. In this passage, in Luke’s telling of Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem on the day marked on our calendars as Palm Sunday, though it wasn’t Palm Sunday back then, it was just Sunday, the Sunday before the Passover. There are three sections, three things that jump out, I’ve organised them as Wonder, Witness and Warning.
The first one is Wonder. The disciples must have wondered what was going on. They knew that Jesus is the Messiah. His miracles, his authority, his personality, his character, his fulfilment of numerous prophecies all demonstrated that Jesus is the Messiah. But they must have wondered when Jesus was finally going to get on with it. Though he was honest enough with them, with the public, he skirted the issue. He kept avoiding any attempt at king making.
Now, it seems as though their hopes were being realised. Jesus said, “I’m going ahead to Jerusalem.” “Did you hear that? Jesus is going to Jerusalem. This must be it. He’s announcing his kingship. Didn’t he just call himself the king? Didn’t Mary say that when Jesus was a baby some wise men came from the east to worship the king of the Jews? Do you remember that?”
“Okay Jesus, tell us where to get the stallion! Alexander the Great came victoriously into Jerusalem on war horse, after destroying the Persians. Everyone agrees that he was fulfilling Daniel’s prophecy. Jesus, we’re with you all the way. We’ll make it to the palace. Hey Peter, you got your sword right? Just in case?”
“No, no, Jesus said. You two, go to village, you’ll find a donkey, which no one has ever ridden. Bring him to me.”
“Right, there’s a stallion tied up in the village ahead, we’ll get him for you.” “No, a donkey.”
“Wait a minute. Why does he want a donkey? Why does he want a wild, untrained donkey? What’s going on here? I wonder why a donkey?”
John tells us in his gospel that the disciples didn’t grasp the significance of the events until much later. Jesus is fulfilling another bit of scripture here. In Zech. 9:9, the legitimate king of Israel is described as riding a colt, the foal of a donkey. Jesus is declaring that yes, he is the king of Israel. But he is riding on a symbol of peace, a donkey, not a symbol of war, like a stallion.
This tells us something. We have to approach scripture carefully, wonderingly. Why did Jesus do such and such? Why does God command us to do such and such? Why are we taught that? Does my idea of God come from scripture? Am I guilty of expecting Jesus to do something that he in fact does not do?
Though the disciples did not catch the significance immediately, they did realise later. Jesus came, as it says in John 3:16-17, to save the world, not to condemn it. Jesus came to bring peace, not war. There will come a time, when Christ will return, and he will not be riding a donkey then. He will be riding a stallion and he will be coming as judge. But that time is not yet. Yes, Jesus has many things to say about how people live their lives and how religious people ought to behave, but he is not coming in end of the world judgement yet.
Though the disciples did not yet fully understand the significance of what Jesus was doing, nevertheless, they did understand that Jesus was doing something. Jesus wasn’t hiding his identity anymore. Jesus is heading for a confrontation with the Pharisees. And so, spontaneously, the disciples shout for joy and begin to praise God. They are expecting great things. And they are witnesses.
This leads us to the second point of our passage, witness.
The crowd at this point is made up of people from Bethany and Bethsaida. Most of these people probably were followers of Jesus. This is the hometown of Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead. The people, remembering Jesus’ miracles, are filled with the power and presence of God with them. They burst out into praise! They identify Jesus as the legitimate king. They give witness to this fact.
Their response is like ours, isn’t it? When we consider God and his goodness, is amazing love and mercy, we cannot help but burst out into praise! We worship every Sunday, not because we have to, but because we must give voice to our enjoyment of God. If we keep silent, the stones will cry out!
The Pharisees understood what was going on. Jesus was a huge threat to them, to their whole organisational structure. They didn’t want Jesus. They didn’t want an upsetting of the status quo. They wanted Jesus on their own terms. They wanted to stop what was going on, no matter what. So they come up to Jesus, riding on the donkey, and they say, “Come on, Jesus, this isn’t the kind of thing appropriate for a rabbi! They’re making you out to be some kind of king. Boy, that’s going to make Herod mad. That’s going to ruffle a lot of feathers. This isn’t the way we do things here. Please, for your safety and theirs, for all of us, make them stop.
But Jesus refuses. It is time. It is his time. He’s pushing their buttons. He’s getting under their skin. He’s fully in charge of what is going on. He’ knows the path before him. He knows that he is the Passover lamb, the lamb that takes away the sin of the world. He is the one. His shed blood will spare all those who believe from the angel of death.
Consider what Christ has done for you. You were dead in your trespasses, now you’re alive. You were once not God’s people. You are now God’s people. You were blind, but now you see. You were lame, but now you walk. You were lost but now you’re found. You were enslaved, now you’re free!
How can you not praise? How can we not give thanks? How can we be silent. Even if we could, the whole works of creation, which already reflect the glory of God, would become alive with the sound of God’s praise.
Let the richness of God’s love for you fill you with all joy! Let his goodness fill you with a perfect loving response of praise. Let your whole life be filled with praise. Be a praising God type of person in your everyday life. Your worship of God will be evident, not only in setting aside a day of worship, but also in how you worship God in every part of every day! Seek to worship God in how you raise your kids, how you demonstrate your love for your spouse, how you honour and obey your parents, how you serve your employees or your employer. Demonstrate your gratefulness by being a respectful, hard working student.
Don’t let the joy be sucked out of you. The Pharisees wanted to shut down the joy. Michal, King David’s wife, disapproved of his joyful praise to God. People will be telling you, this is the way to do it, these are the songs to sing, and these are the respectful ways to praise. Full of the knowledge of God’s goodness, full of knowing his amazing love demonstrated in your life, simply praise God with all you have! Let it out! Don’t let the rocks rob you of the joy of praising God. Simply praise him!
And finally, we must look at our third point, the warning. The warning is not so much for us, as for the world. This is how it applies to us. Jesus was describing the destruction of Jerusalem, which he knew would happen in AD 70. Approximately 40 years in the future. He wept because he knew that so many people wouldn’t believe. He wept for them. He wept for the rebellious leaders, those poor souls who thought they were doing everything right when in reality, everything they did was wrong.
He wept for their blind faith, their wrong religion, and the leaderless people. Salvation was right before them, but they couldn’t see it. He wept because he was there, God was there, Immanuel, God with us, standing in their midst, and they didn’t see him. Pulled and prodded in all kinds of different directions, they just couldn’t fathom Jesus. They were just too busy, working too hard, partying too hard, spending money too hard. Jesus wept because he is the way, and so few would follow.
We must pray for Jesus’ heart. We must pray that we might see Edson and the surrounding area through Jesus’ eyes. We must weep for Edson. We know the way. We have the truth. We know what will happen. Destruction will come. Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead.
So let us weep for Edson. Let us demonstrate our care and concern by telling others about Jesus. Let us become bold in proclaiming the faith. Just ask questions. Jesus did that a lot. Have you noticed? Often when the Pharisees challenged him, or when he met strangers like the woman at the well, he asked questions. He even asked his disciples questions: “Who do you say that I am?”
Ask your friends, ask your neighbours, ask them, “Who is Jesus? Who is God? What do you think happens when we die? What is the meaning of life? Isn’t there something more to it all?”
Find out what they know, or what they think they know. Take them to the first part of this message. Help them wonder about Jesus. Shatter their preconceived notions about him. Using scripture show them who he really is. Most people who reject Jesus reject him because they don’t understand or know who Jesus really is. They think God is some big white dude in a white robe with long white hair and stuff like that. Well, no wonder they don’t want to be Christians! Who’d want to follow some mostly dead guy?
Help them to see who Jesus really is. He is the king of kings riding on a donkey. He is the king who comes in peace, who offers true life, true salvation, he is the way, the truth and the life.
Witness this truth to them, witness it by your passionate praise of the God who saves you! Witness Christ, knowing that the rocks scattered over the earth would gladly give praise to their creator as well!
Warn them of the coming judgement. Be real. Be honest; be true to Christ. Wonder witness and warn. Amen.