By Pastor Glenn Pease
One of the most famous speeches Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ever gave was his "I have a dream" speech. It was a dream about a future America where prejudice was eliminated, and there was peace and unity among all races. This dream could only become a reality if men learned to use power in a way that was pleasing to God. On Palm Sunday we see the King of Kings showing the world how to use power to make God's dream come true. All of history and all of life is about the use or abuse of power. Jesus is the only perfect man, and the one and only perfect king to ever reign, for he is the only one whoever demonstrated the perfect use of power. By his perfect use of power he made God's dream come true.
Does God actually dream? Not in the sense of going to sleep and dreaming, for the Bible says he never slumbers or sleeps. God is ever conscious and so his dreams are like those we are talking about in our 50 day adventure. They are desires and goals and plans. God had all of these, and our goal as Christians is to make His goal and purpose our own. Jesus did that perfectly, and He submitted to the dreams of God. He prayed, "Not my will but Thine be done." God has a will and a purpose, and we re either going with the flow of His will, or we are resisting it.
Luke 7:30 says, "But the Pharisees and the experts in the law rejected God's purpose for themselves." God had a dream for them. He had a purpose for their lives to achieve for His kingdom, but they rejected it. We see them on Palm Sunday, when the crowds were shouting, "Blessed is the king of Israel," sulking and complaining. They refused to join in and acknowledge that Jesus was their long awaited Messiah. Then they became the perfect examples of the abuse of power, for they used their position to see that this king was nailed to a cross.
Their abuse of power did not hinder God's dream, however, for He uses their evil for good. He had a Son who used His power to serve, and one of the ways He would serve all mankind was to die for their sin. So God even used the abuse of power to fulfill His dream for man. God's dream will come true. Nothing can stop that, but the big question for all of us is, will I be a partner with God in making His dream come true, or will I be one trying to frustrate the dream by abuse of power? The whole Bible is about God's dream for man, and either man's cooperation or conflict with this dream. Thomas Curtis Clark has written this poetic summary.
Dreams are they-but they are God's dreams!
Shall we decry them and scorn them?
That men shall love one another,
That white shall call black man brother,
That greed shall pass from the market-place,
That lust shall yield to love for the race,
That man shall meet with God face to face-
Dreams are they all,
But shall we despise them?
Dreams are they-to become man's dreams!
Can we say nay as they claim us?
That men shall cease from their hating,
That war shall soon be abating,
That the glory of kings and lords shall pale,
That the pride of dominion and power shall fail,
That the love of humanity shall prevail-
Dreams are they all,
But shall we despise them?
The leaders of Israel did despise God's dream, and they did abuse their power. Jesus desired God's dream, and He used His power to fulfill it. Palm Sunday is about the clash between God-centered and self-centered dreams. Self-centered dreams are about having power to control and manipulate others. But God's dreams are about having power to serve others. Jesus had it in His power to do what the crowds hoped He would do. They hoped He would use His power to defect the Romans and set them free to dominate the Gentiles like they had been dominated by them. This was the dream they thought was about to come true as they shouted, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord-blessed is the King of Israel."
This, however, was not God's dream at all. God's dream was that Israel would fulfill its purpose and become a channel of God's good news of salvation to the whole world. God's dream was for His Son to die for the sins of the world and provide the good news to proclaim, and that Israel would proclaim it. God's dream was that power would be used, not to control others, but to serve others. Abuse of power is one of the major sins of all intelligent beings. Satan abused his power and used it to try and hinder God's purpose. He used it to manipulate man to disobey God. He tried to get Jesus to abuse His power, and use it to turn stones to bread, and thrill the crowds with His magic by leaping off the temple. The masses were in favor of this abuse of power. They longed for a Messiah who would feed them by miracles, and lead them by miracles to rule the world.
The thinking of man is often like this: "What good is power if you do not use it to become top dog." This is the thinking that makes it true that "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Any person who can have power and not abuse it is truly Christ like, for this was the major temptation Jesus had to fight and win. He had the power to be abusive, and to fulfill any self-centered dream He could think of. He could have been the world's greatest conqueror, and the king of all the world. He could have had the Pharisees serving Him as His slaves. He could have had all His enemies at His feet begging for mercy. Every dream Satan could dream for Jesus could have come true if Jesus would have chosen to follow those dreams. He chose instead to dream the dreams of God. He dreamed of being the Savior of all, and the servant of all.
This was not easy for Jesus. It was His hardest battle in life. We see Him fighting it on Palm Sunday, even before the great conflict in the garden of Gethsemane. In John 12:27 Jesus says, "Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father glorify your name." In Gethsemane He had to fight the battle all over again, and finally even on the cross He had to resist the temptation to call legions of angels to use heavenly power to rescue them. The power struggles of Jesus are in a category beyond our comprehension, but Jesus won every battle, and He came out of each conflict saying, "Not my will but thine be done." Jesus fulfilled all of God's dreams for Him, and because it is so we too can dream God's dreams and see them come true.
We have to make the same decision that Jesus did, which is to abuse power for selfish ends, or to use power for godly goals. When Jesus said to deny yourself and take up the cross and follow me, He was saying that we need to choose what we are going to do with power. This will mean different things for each of us, but it will always mean breaking out of some comfort zone. Bill Hybels, the pastor of the fastest growing church in America, tells of the choice he had to make to fulfill God's dream for him. He was in the family business ready to make a fortune when a camp director asked him, "Bill, what are you doing with your life that will last forever?" He realized that his life was self-centered and caught up in planes, boats, and fast cars. He gave up that life to follow God's dream, and he went on to become one of the greatest Christian influences in our world today.
David Mains in his book Never Too Late To Dream says some guilt producing things that we need to hear. They don't fit our comfort zone, and his quote from A. W. Tozer offends our use of our freedom of choice. They are not pleasant things to hear, but you determine if they are true for your life. He writes, "Our lives have become so busy that we have little time for God. Our lives have become obsessed with climbing the ladder of success and resting in the easy chair of entertainment. A prayerless church exists in this generation. We cannot get people to prayer meetings, but we have no problem amassing large crowds for Christian entertainment. Our church schedules are filled with events oriented toward entertainment, and we have no time left to seek God. We have become like the Laodicean church. Jesus is on the outside knocking, wanting to come in and have fellowship with us."
"A. W. Tozer said, "For centuries the church stood solidly against every form of worldly entertainment, recognizing it for what it was-a device for wasting time, a refuge from the disturbing voice of conscience, a scheme to divert attention from moral accountability. For this she got herself abused roundly by the sons of this world. But of late she has become tired of the abuse and has given over the struggle. She appears to have decided that if she can not conquer the great god, Entertainment, she may as well join forces with him and make what use she can of his powers."
If that produces no sense of guilt in you, then you are a better Christian than I am, for I do not doubt that I spend more time getting entertained than I do in prayer. My responsibility as a pastor makes me spend a lot more time in Bible study than in getting entertained, but most Christians do not have this advantage, and that means the average Christian in our culture spends more time being entertained than in Bible study, prayer, worship, and Christian service. This is an abuse of power and our freedom of choice. The problem is that we are comfortable in this weak state of commitment to the dreams of God because we are with the majority. There is great comfort in knowing you are part of a large group of Christians who are comfortable in not taking any risk for the kingdom of God.
We see it in the context of our passage where a good many of the leaders in Israel did believe in Jesus as the Messiah, but they became secret believers because they refused to take the risk of rejection. Don't we quick to judge them, for all of us are probably guilty of the same cowardice. Listen to John 12:42 and 43, "Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue, for they loved praise from men more than praise from God."
They succumbed to the very temptation Jesus had to conquer in order to save them. He had to lose His life to save it. He had to give up His dream of acceptance and having the crowds ever cheering. He had to chose to become despised and rejected. He had to give up every comfort zone that the human mind craves, and suffer the loss of all, even His life, to make God's dream for Him come true. Many Christians refused to follow His example, and they stayed in their comfort zone, and they failed to be a part of God's dream. They do not lose their salvation, but they lose the chance to be what God dreamed they would be. They missed life's greatest adventure, and it can happen to any of us.
On the other hand, it is also true that everyone of us has it in our power to choose the way of Christ, and to use our power and resources to serve our Lord, and the needy world for which He died. Anne Kiemel is one of the gifted dreamers for Christ. I heard her in person and have read several of her books. She has a desire to love every person she confronts and win them to Christ. She is very successful at it because she really does love them. Her philosophy of life is summed up in these few sentences she wrote: "I think you do one of two things with every human being your meet in the world. You build a wall or a bridge, I don't know about you, but I'm out to build bridges in my corner of the world."
We don't all have her personality and her gifts, but all of us can have her dream, for it is God's dream for all of us to be bridge builders. That is what Jesus chose to do with His power. He laid down His life on the cross to be a bridge builder between God and man, and so that man could cross over to be reconciled to God. Jesus, the Master bridge builder, wants us all to dream of doing the same, and being agents of reconciliation in a world filled with conflict and division.
Whether we choose to be a part of His kingdom plan or not, it will happen, and people will be reconciled to God out of every tribe, tongue and nation. We already know the final chapter in God's book. I love the poem that describes Jesus this way:
"I'd not give way for an Emperor,
I'd hold my road for a King-
To the Triple Crown I would not bow down-
But this is a different thing.
I'll not fight with the powers of Air,
Sentry pass him through!
Draw bridge let fall, 'tis the Lord of us all,
The Dreamer whose dreams come true!"
The self dreams of the masses and the leaders on Palm Sunday did not come true, but the dream of the King did, for he dreamed the dream of God for Him, and chose the way of power to serve rather than the way of power to control. I do not know how old the boy was who wrote this poem, but he reveals the heart of all people. We can identify with his dream, for it is self-centered enough so that even though we may not make the same choice we can understand his.
"If I were in charge of the world
I'd cancel oatmeal,
Allergy shots, and also
If I were in charge of the world
There'd be brighter night lights,
Healthier hamsters, and
Basketball baskets forty-eight inches lower.
If I were in charge of the world
You wouldn't have lonely.
You wouldn't have clean.
You wouldn't have bedtimes.
Or "Don't punch your sister."
You wouldn't even have sisters.
If I were in charge of the world
A chocolate sundae with whipped cream and nuts
would be a vegetable.
All 007 movies would be G.
And a person who sometimes forgot to brush,
And sometimes forgot to flush,
Would still be allowed to be
In charge of the world."
I love this poem for it is a perfect example where most of us are most of the time. Our dreams are for a world that will conform to us and our likes. That is what the people wanted in a Messiah on Palm Sunday. They wanted someone who would take charge and use power to fulfill their self-centered dreams. But instead Jesus said that if He was in charge of the world He would serve it, suffer for it, die for it and rise again that it might be saved for all eternity. And God said that was His dream as well, and so God put Him in charge. He was a King who did not expect His people to serve Him, but a King who serves His people.
Robert Fulghum became quite famous for his book All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten. I discovered his third book and read it. I asked myself why I do not hesitate to read his books, and the answer I got is that he writes to serve the reader. His dream is to serve others by his writing. He does some mighty strange things. He walks down the street to work in a suit and tie, and a beanie with a propeller on his head for a hat. He gets all kinds of responses. People honk, wave, and shout, "Go gettum grandpa." Teenagers sing the Mickey Mouse song and laugh. Why in the world does he do it?
He tells us why: "I figure the loss of my dignity was balanced by the gain in amusement I gave other people. They got to work in a good humor. They had something to talk about over coffee. I came to think of my wearing the hat and walking to work as a public service." Of course it is crazy, but that is the point. He is willing to be a fool for service. That is what Paul had in mind in being a fool for Christ. It is taking risks and getting out of your comfort zone for the service of others.
Jesus did the craziest thing ever. He let His enemies crucify Him. He gave up His dignity and His life, for He had learned the lesson His Father wanted Him to learn, and that is that power is for service. That is God's dream for us all, and when we learn to use our power, position, and possessions for service, then we are truly followers of the King, and we will be making God's dream for us our dream as well.