Listen to the sermon here:
Scriptures: Isaiah 50:4-9a Philippians 2:5-11 Luke 19:28-41
Do you know or remember what the Lord needs? In one way the Lord needs nothing, because everything in the whole world belongs to him already. In Psalm 50, we have these wonderful words by the Lord God: “Every animal in the forest belongs to me, and so do the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds in the mountains, and every wild creature is in my care. If I were hungry I would not tell you, because I own the world and everything in it.” (CEV)
In another way, the Lord needs all of us to do his will. If we were doing the Lord’s will, the Lord would have no need to cry. Yes, Jesus our Lord cried when he came near to Jerusalem to complete his mission on earth. Luke writes in Luke 19: 41, “When Jesus came closer and could see Jerusalem, he cried and said: It is too bad that today your people don’t know what will bring them peace! Now it is hidden from them. Jerusalem, the time will come when your enemies will build walls around you to attack you. Armies will surround you and close in on you from every side. They will level you to the ground and kill your people. Not one stone in your buildings will be left on top of another. This will happen because you did not see that God had come to save you.”
Jesus was referring to the destruction of Jerusalem that happened after his death, resurrection and ascension but still in the first century of our Lord; the beginning of the A.D. years. So even the appearance of Jesus on earth, not even his saving death, could turn the people of God to face God and come to their senses. No wonder that Jesus cried. But some of God’s children heard. They heard so well that we, today – this very day – believe that truly this Jesus is the promised Messiah. The Word could not be silenced.
Listen! “As Jesus was riding into Jerusalem on the borrowed donkey, the large crowd of disciples were happy and praised God because of all the miracles they had seen. They shouted, ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory to God.’”
Well the Pharisees, the keepers of the religious law, demanded, “Teacher, make your disciples stop shouting!” But Jesus answered, “If they keep quiet, these stones will start shouting.” Yes, the good news could not be silenced – not even in 2000 years. What we believe today reached us because it could not be silenced. If we refuse to shout “Hosanna,” the stones will chime the news. The Almighty God planned this salvation. We can get on the path following this humble servant Jesus or we can walk off the path into our own wilderness.
Hard times may be our lot even if we confess belief in this Savior but when the hard times come we are accompanied through them. We are not alone. We will not drown. We will not be thrown from the top of the cliff into a chasm! People who will not join this sometimes solemn, sometimes joyous parade are not accompanied in troublesome times. As Jesus said to Jerusalem, “Not one stone in your buildings will be left on top of another. This will happen because you did not see that God had come to save you.”
I believe that we get to choose if we are going to be the ones joining in the crowd shouting “Hosanna!” or if we are going to be the Pharisees asking for quiet or if we are going to turn our backs or if we are going to be the stones who simply cannot be silent. Think of the stones which Jesus predicted would fall when the buildings would crumble. Those stones were not the fault of the destruction. Even in their falling they were making a statement. “We only stand when our residents and owners are facing the Omnipotent God – the all-powerful God. So watch! We fall! The one who holds us together has let go.”
Just think of being let go by God! We think God would not do that. Maybe not. Maybe yes. Even if God does not really let go because we are his children, because he created us, we are not in his favor if we turn our backs, if our faith becomes a thin, thin thread or even breaks. Why do we want to live so dangerously? Why do we want to live without the blanket of protection and presence? Why do we want to live without the spontaneous praise pouring forth from our souls in hosannas – hosannas to the King of peace, hosannas to the King of kings, hosannas to the giver of our salvation?
We have this prophecy about Jesus our Lord in Isaiah 50. “I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting. The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me. It is the Lord God who helps me; who will declare me guilty?”
So hundreds of years later, we find Jesus on the cross. As soon as he shouted, “My God, my God, why have you deserted me?” he remembered his call to obedience, his reason for existence as human. We have these precious words from Philippians 2: “And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.” From Luke 23 (CEV) we read, “Around noon the sky turned dark and stayed that way until the middle of the afternoon. The sun stopped shining, and the curtain in the temple split down the middle. Jesus shouted, “Father, I put myself in your hands!” Then he died.
Hear this immediate confession from Luke 23 (NRSV): “When the centurion of the Roman army saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.”
(Philippians 2 (NRSV) “Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
We need to confess. We are called to bend our knees. We need to declare that Jesus Christ is Lord. We need to do this to give glory to God the Father as well as to Jesus Christ the obedient Son. Jesus needs it!
Where is our obedience really? Do we just try to save our own necks? When have we forgotten or refused to declare Jesus as Lord when we were given the exact opportunity? When did we crawl under a rock or hide our heads in the sand? When were we silent when we should have shouted, “Hosanna! Praise to the Lord who cometh in the name of the Lord?”
This part of the follower’s shouting intrigues me. “Peace in heaven and glory to God.” (CEV) When our attention was focused on the weeping of Jesus as he overlooked Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, “peace” was part of his sadness. Luke 19:41-42 (NRSV) “As he came near the city he wept over it, saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.”
How does peace flow into this focus on obedience? Peace. Is this some big thing that the whole world needs to accomplish in one big sweep – like through the United Nations structure or through the World Council of Churches or through all religions in the whole world declaring that peace is their goal and that nothing will stop the movement of peace?
I don’t know. Remember the war to end all wars. Did it? Where does peace start? Does this sound familiar? “We shall love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves.” How about “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” Have we missed our window of opportunity? Are we dead yet? Opportunities for peace come our way if we watch for them. We might consider being more creative with these opportunities. Add some boldness. Add some obedience. What if we are trying for a peaceful existence with a Jewish person or a Muslim person or Hindu? What does God expect of us in regard to peace?
Shall we proclaim Jesus as Lord in the face of a Jewish friend who sits on the same social service agency board as we do? Where is the line between pursuing peace and being obedient to Jesus our Lord? Where is the line? Is there a line? Can we co-exist in this world without pushing for conversion? Is peace found only through Jesus Christ or can peace be found through persons such as Mahatma Ghandi? We acknowledge that Jesus is supremely important in our own lives. But, does Christianity have a clean record of promoting peace? No it does not. Awful crimes have been committed, wars fought, in the name of Christianity. How could this happen?
The true nature and purpose of our Lord Jesus Christ was not perceived by these misguided leaders. We do not have this excuse. We know that being peaceful and humble are the way of Jesus. This does not mean that Jesus did not insist on justice, that Jesus did not make demands. But Jesus did not go to war to achieve what he was sent to earth to achieve. Jesus came to earth to give peace to us, peace within, while we are directed toward peace in the world by non-violent means. Paul wrote in Philippians 4 (CEV), “Then, because you belong to Christ Jesus, God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand and this peace will control the way you think and feel.”
Remember the donkey that was released with the words, “The Lord needs it.” The humble donkey was what Jesus needed. The donkey’s owner was led to decide that if the Lord needs it, he gets it. If the Lord needs us, we agree and we offer ourselves in obedience, on our knees. We declare Jesus Christ as Lord! We decide to follow Jesus. May peace follow! Amen.