Palm/Passion Sunday - Luke 19:28-40

Luke 19:28-40.

 28 After Jesus had said this, He went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 As He approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples, saying to them, 30 “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’ ”

32 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as He had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”

34 They replied, “The Lord needs it.”

35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As He went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.

37 When He came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:

38 “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” 

“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples!”

40 “I tell you,” He replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

          We’ve just been through the winter season of the Church year and we’re now coming to the end of this dreary time of repentance, fasting and remembering Jesus suffering.

The cross is in sight, at least it is for Jesus and those who have been paying attention to His teaching. Although Jesus’ suffering, humiliation and death on the cross was not clearly seen by Jesus disciples as they made their way towards that fateful city – there was a brighter day to be celebrated – Palm Sunday – a celebration and a parade of joyful “hosannas”.

          The disciples must have had a dreary time of it on the road with Jesus – the constant sniping of the Pharisees and Sadducees, perhaps sleeping rough on the way. Then there was also the waiting for Jesus to show His hand and get the public recognition He deserved as He challenged the status quo of His day.   

It has been a dreary season for us too as we have followed this story of Jesus journey to Jerusalem. We here in Aotearoa have witnessed an event of terrorism with the slaughter of 50 of our neighbours in Christchurch – an massacre the likes of which is commonplace in many parts of the world – but which we have been immune to, until now that is.

          There’s been the winter floods down south too. Loved ones who’ve died and left us alone in our grief.

There’s been the personal angst as we wrestle with disappointments: perhaps the family not visiting, the family staying too long, interest rates declining so our income reflects the market, new technology which is hard to get to grips with, too many kilos going on and none coming off.

And then at Church: long dreary prayers, slow little known hymns and sermons pointing out how we have fallen short of God’s expectations and commandments. All of these remind us just how much we need the Saviour.

          Now, along comes Jesus, peaceful, riding a donkey of all things. Hailed by the crowd outside Jerusalem as the King who comes in the name of the Lord!

          Jesus followers who’d witnessed His miracles loudly singing His praises – attracting the critical attention of some of the Pharisees – sounds familiar as some in our world seek to silence the Christian message – especially that of Easter.

We see Jesus being replaced with a furry bunny who leaves chocolate eggs all over the place – with chocolate hot cross buns which are sweet – some without the cross on the top – neutering the message of what the hot cross bun represents.

The shape of the hot cross bun represents the stone which was rolled away from the tomb, the mixed spices in the bun signifying those which the women brought to put on Jesus’ body, the yeast which makes the bun rise reminding us of Jesus rising from the dead.

But for now let’s return to Palm Sunday - a temporary respite before the climax of Jesus trumped up trial, crowd filled anger and hatred leading to a hill far away on a rough wooden cross. From Palm Sunday we can’t see the pain of the cross and all that brings Jesus to cry out, “It is finished.” Jesus’ first disciples couldn’t.

Like the crowd on Palm Sunday we like a celebration, we like a hero of the moment – someone to divert us from the hum drum of our lives, our ailments and disappointments. Flag (or Palm, or fern leaves) give a festive air to our day – a temporary reprieve before we have to knuckle down to reality.

I like a good distraction, some might say I’m too distracted at times – but aren’t many of us like that.

Remember the crowd as Jesus entered Jerusalem - they were excited to see Jesus on the day as I am sure the disciples were to – perhaps wondering in the back of their minds: “How does this fit with what Jesus said about what was going to happen when He gets to Jerusalem?

Three times Jesus had predicted His suffering and death on His way to Jerusalem - in Luke chapters 9:21, 9:44 and 18:31-33. With each prediction Jesus went on to explain and demonstrate what was required to be done if one was to follow Him.

First, He said in Luke 9:23–24 (NIV) 23 …: “Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow Me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me will save it.

Have you taken up your cross and followed Jesus – not just for the parade but also for the tough times?

Then in Luke 9:48 (NIV) , “Whoever welcomes this little child in My name welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me welcomes the One who sent Me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.”

Have you put the most vulnerable people’s needs ahead of your own personal needs and desires and recognized Jesus and His Father – God and then done something for the one in need?

Then in Luke 18:41 Jesus asks a blind beggar, Luke 18:41 (NIV) 41 “What do you want me to do for you?” …

Have you asked people you cans see who have special needs what voluntary service you could provide for them?

Following Jesus isn’t just bout joyful celebrations. As Jesus prepared Himself and His disciples with His warning and encouraging words He continues to do so for us today too.

Do you know and understand where and why Jesus was going and where He was leading His disciples two millennia ago?

Where and how He led the early Church through the persecutions of the Roman Empire? Where He led His disciples in the middle ages – into the monasteries and nunneries?

Where He led His disciples in the Reformation period in the universities, castles and peasant cottages? Where Jesus led His disciples in the great revivals of the early eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries?

More importantly, do you know where Jesus is leading you today?

Jesus always leads us to the cross to see the cost of human sin – His life – the life of God – to see what it took to provide you with God’s forgiveness so that each one of you could be made righteous – fit for Christian servanthood here on earth and eventually in heaven and an eternity with our perfect God.

With the disciples we too can sing:

 38 “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” 

“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

          It’s the hope of this peace in the name of Jesus which gets us through the winter of Lent. It’s this hope that takes us with Jesus to the cross and into the grave. It’s this hope that will see us with Mary in the garden of Easter morning recognizing the risen Jesus.

          It’s this hope of peace which will also see us here at St Matthew and in the Lutheran Church of New Zealand sharing the joy of being free from the power of fear and dread of human sin to aim for and strive to be the people God wants us to be and has made us in our Baptism.

We strive to be what we already are in the name and power of Jesus – forgiven sinners. We have been fully received into Jesus’ family and are truly His disciples who sing and whole heartedly live that joyous cry beyond the palm leaves – “He is risen! He is risen indeed!

And so, we are risen too to new life in and with Jesus so that we too can cry out the good news of the Gospel so that we too can cry out the Gospel message for others to share in!

Amen.