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Gospel centred sermons, based on the lectionary often in advance.

Apr 7, 2022

Focus reading:  Luke 19:28-40


On Palm Sunday Jesus enters Jerusalem as the King. In Luke’s Gospel the crowd are there but it is all his followers who hail him as king. Jesus doesn’t stop them, even saying that the rocks would praise him if his followers were silent. He knew he was a king, but a king of peace and that he was riding to death and not to a glorious throne. The Pharisees want the crowd to be silent. They don’t want Jesus to stir up trouble. Who are you in the parade? Part of the excited crowd looking on, enjoying the spectacle? The disciples telling the world Jesus is the King, perhaps about to enter his glory, hoping for a quick victory? Or are you one of the Pharisees, friendly or unfriendly, believing that Jesus claim on Kingship will fail and cause nothing but trouble, maybe even violence and bloodshed? Desperate for the crowd to be quiet.

************ Sermon Text ***************

I want you to think about Jesus and what he was doing as he entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and then I want you to think about who you are in this version - Luke’s version of the story. Are you like the crowd looking on? Are you like the disciples trowing your clothes on the ground and hailing Jesus as King? Are you like he pharisees concerned about the lack of discipline and the Roman reaction?

As the federal election approaches and we are presented with lots of different models of leadership and authority it is good to be gathered on palm Sunday as we see Jesus’ model of Kingship leadership and authority presented. Whatever their feelings about themselves politicians have to push themselves forward as the best choice, the greatest the one who will solve all your problems. In modern Australian society that usually means who will deliver the most economic benefits firstly for me and secondly for the country. Jesus offers a very different model of leadership.

            His greatest signal on the day about what he might have been doing was to come riding in on a Donkey, the second clue is his response to the Pharisees and a third can be found in the context of this passage.

            Way back in Chapter 9 Jesus is hailed as the King by Peter, then in the story of the transfiguration, God’s voice from heaven booms that Jesus is “my beloved son” and at the end of the chapter Jesus begins the journey, “sets his face” (Lk 9:51) towards Jerusalem. Just before he begins that final approach (in the passage in Luke just before today’s reading) he tells a story about a King who although delayed, is coming to claim royal power. He tells this story “because he was near Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately.” (Lk 19:11 NRSV)

            At this point Jesus could have chosen to do a couple of things. If he wanted to deny he was king he would simply keep walking into Jerusalem. If had been coming to claim immediate power he would have come in on a horse. Instead he chooses a Donkey. A Donkey is a sign of peace and a sign of kingship. There is a famous Old Testament passage about the King when he comes.

The message translation puts it like this:

Zechariah 9:9–10 (The Message)

9 “Shout and cheer, Daughter Zion! Raise the roof, Daughter Jerusalem!

Your king is coming! a good king who makes all things right,

a humble king riding a donkey, a mere colt of a donkey.

10 I’ve had it with war—no more chariots in Ephraim,

no more war horses in Jerusalem, no more swords and spears, bows and arrows.

He will offer peace to the nations, a peaceful rule worldwide,

from the four winds to the seven seas.

For the people of Jesus time this would have been an unmistakable sign. “He’s saying he’s the King he’s riding a Donkey just like the prophet said!”

            Indeed, Jesus doesn’t deny it, for when the pharisees beg Jesus to quieten down his disciples, he refuses and claims that even the stones, the elements of creation would hail him as King if the disciples did not. But Jesus wasn’t going to be a King or a leader like Herod or Caesar, or Scott Morrison, or Anthony Albanese, Clive Palmer, Pauline Hanson, or even a great general like David. He was going to be a peace maker who makes all things right, who isn’t only for the Jewish people but for all the world, including the Romans, Including Herod, Caesar,  Scott Morrison,  Anthony Albanese, Clive Palmer, Pauline Hanson and for you and also for me. He is choosing the way of the cross, humiliation and obedience. You can follow where Jesus leads but you can never take his place. We cannot die on the cross and be raised again to bring forgiveness and new life. Like the others in this story you are looking on as the king goes by, or following on behind.

            You can take their place in the story. Are you a part of the crowd? In this version of the story (Luke’s version) the crowd are in the background. The Pharisees are standing in the crowd and others are there too all on the way to the Passover Festival. Through the middle of you comes a procession. A man on a Donkey. A great crowd of disciples is following on. Do you join in the parade and cheering Jesus as King? Do you join the disciples.  Do you keep silent not cheering but following to see what will happen? Do you just dismiss him as another would be leader making a noise, a Neville Warburton, a Bill Shorton or a John Hewson who will soon disappear into the footnotes of history. Does the parade just go by?

            Or are  you part of “the great multitude of disciples” following Jesus with the 12 all the way from Galilee in the north of the country, or perhaps you have joined more recently. Along the way you have seen the sick healed, the demon possessed and mentally unwell have been brought to their right minds. You have heard Jesus speaking words to make your heart sing. Words about the poor and the broken and the imprisoned being restored. Words about the Kingdom of God being near and even among them. You have watched him eat with sinners and seen him touch and restore the leper. And now he rides a Donkey, just as the Prophet said. He must be the King, the dawning of the Kingdom of God you have already seen in the “deeds of power” together with this symbolic act must mean that the Kingdom of God is about to come in all its fulness. Jesus will sit on the throne and Caesar will be humbled. Do you hail him as king? Is their any doubt in your mind? Do you see a hint, any shadow of the cross? Will you be like virtually all the male disciples? Will you run away when he is arrested, or deny him at his trial? Will you betray him with a kiss?

            Are you like the Pharisees. Perhaps you think Jesus is a fraud, perhaps there is a longing in your heart, a hope that Jesus might be the King, but you know the Romans, you know the temple officials. Someone claiming to be a King as Jesus was, better have a whole army behind him, be it an army of men or of angels. For without such an army they will be crushed. The best they will do is cause trouble. Stir up the Romans to draw their swords. All this cheering and shouting will end in tears and blood shed by the sword of those Gentiles, those unclean Roman overlords. The festival and perhaps even the Temple, if Jesus causes trouble there, will be defiled. You can not let this happen. As the crowd cheers for Jesus your heart sinks, the nation is at risk because of this foolishness. Are you a Pharisee longing to preserve what is and hoping for a return to a glorious past vision of David slaying Goliath, beating the Philistines and taking the throne to rule forever?

            Who are you? Part of the Crowd deciding to follow ? Looking on with interest, or turning away from the one proclaimed as King? Are you the disciples, recognising Jesus as the promised King and yet not really understanding him?

            Wherever you are is not necessarily wrong. The Pharisees were right in their fears for Jesus and the Jewish nation. In five days the power of Rome had nailed this King of the Jews to the Cross and less than a generation later the might of Rome destroyed the whole city of Jerusalem.

            The disciples were right to hail Jesus as king, he was and is the king of king and the lord of lords and his kingdom shall have no end. Just 7 days after this parade, Caesar still sits on his throne, but the greatest  enemy of all Death has been defeated, has lost its victory and its sting.

            And it is Ok to be part of the crowd looking on. It’s where we all start. It’s where in any new or startling thing we will often find ourselves. The real question is will you keep looking on? Will you turn away? Or will you join in the parade, with the great crown of disciples and hail Jesus as the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. Will your lives reflect that humble mission.

            Will you preach his peace, his reconciliation with your vote, your friendships, in your families, workplaces, in this community and in the schools. On the golf courses and in the boardrooms will you proclaim that he is King? Will you live out our congregation’s vision and be an active expression of God’s love? Will you join in the parade?