Sermon – 04-14-19 – Palm Sunday – Cycle C
Scriptures: Isaiah 50:4-9a; Psalm 31:9-16; Philippians 2:5-11; Luke 19:28-40
Sermon Title: “The Lord Needs It”
This whole Lenten and Easter scenario is pre-written and choreographed by God. We are drawing near to the climax of this drama. Electricity and puzzlement are mixed in the atmosphere. Remember how Jesus does not go to Lazarus to heal him while he is still alive. Instead, God designs the script so that Jesus will be there to raise Lazarus from the dead after four days in the tomb. Here we find Jesus weeping as the family and friends of Lazarus are weeping before Jesus calls Lazarus from the tomb. But the weeping abruptly stops when Lazarus walks forth from the tomb.
However, the weeping is not yet finished. After the holy parade on the path from the Mount of Olives, the followers of Jesus spread their cloaks and wave palm branches and shout, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” After this parade, Jesus weeps as he looks down from his position on the hill above Jerusalem. He weeps as he talks to the city as if it were a person. The solemn, heart-wrenching drama about a city that will not bow, the city which will not bend, the city which will not repent. But then this city is drama itself. It is in seige by the Roman government with all of the Roman personnel in place and in charge. The Jews are in captivity so to speak. Their world has gone haywire. Nothing new of course; the Israelites, the Jews, God’s beloved people, have led lives of desperation through history. Why is that? God’s people? Hold that for another sermon.
In today’s act of the drama, not only are the Romans in charge over the Jews. Now, this fiesty person comes from Nazareth and further upsets the already bent applecart, the already bent system. This city is to be pitied. This city calls for tears. Jesus gives them. The tears flow as Jesus speaks to this chaotic locale of confused hearts and minds in their Roman bondage.
When are we going to hear “The Lord needs it?” Let’s backtrack up the hill to where the parade starts. The disciples of Jesus are in the dark about this drama. The location is near Bethpage and Bethany, Bethany being the hometown of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. This area includes the Mount of Olives which is frequently referenced in the gospels. Jesus tells two of his disciples to go the the nearest village and untie a colt, a young donkey, not even a grown donkey. This story in Matthew mentions a mother with the colt but it is on the colt that Jesus rides. One would wonder how a colt could carry an adult man. Then the silliest of silly, the scripture says the disciples set Jesus on the colt.
One author I read, explains this act of the disciples and the acceptance of Jesus to be set on the colt signify a change in Jesus. It is like he is on automatic pilot now. He does not seat himself on the colt. Someone else takes care of that action. The drama has been pre-arranged by God. The password to use the colt is “He needs it.” Jesus directs two disciples to go into town and find this colt. The colt is exactly where Jesus says it will be. If anyone asks why they are taking it, the disciples shall say “He needs it.” The disciples go, they untie the colt, the owner says “why are you untying the colt.” The disciples say “The Lord needs it.” The owner seems to say no more but I picture the owner watching as the colt goes on to serve God as planned by the Almighty.
Here we have Jesus on the colt moving along the path to Jerusalem which would be an upward walk since Jerusalem is on a hill. God has supporters of Jesus appear waving palm branches and throwing their cloaks on the road, something like a red carpet. They are not doing this in silence. No! This is loud, enough to start a disturbance if the Romans and the Jewish leaders start taking offence. Someone who is supposed to be keeping the peace, asks Jesus to tell the rabble rousers to be quiet. You never know what kind of chaos could develop. Did you hear what Jesus replied?
“If these people are silent, the very stones will cry out.” You see, this message had to be said. It was in the script! Someone has to say it! If not people, then stones. This praising God is of the ultimate importance. This praise has to be shouted. The Lord needs it! The Lord needs it! Even as we walk head-on into the disaster of Good Friday, the Lord needs our praise.
Even as we face the disaster of a hurricane, we need to praise the Lord. Even as we are walking into divorce court, we need to praise the Lord. The Lord needs it. Even if our hearts are cold and hard as stone, we need to crack that hardness enough to praise the Lord. Even as our long-time family pet has died and we need to decide how to bury it and live with the grief, we need to shout “Blessed is the Lord” added to “Bless our Devoted and Beloved Pet.”
Even as we are moving into a new home, do we remember to say, “Praise the Lord.” We need to dedicate that house or apartment or mobile home or assisted living or even the nursing section to God. God has a plan. Let us be open to see it as it unfolds.
We can wander all we want, making haphazard choices, taking the easy road, the tempting road. What is the destination? What is the outcome? Instead, let us join the parade of the donkey with the king as the rider, so low, so humble, that we need to push close to see this new kind of king. From Philippians 2, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, . . . but humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.” Because of this, . . . “at the name of Jesus every knee should bend . . . and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
If we join this parade of humility we need courage. We need courage to say, “Jesus is Lord.” We need courage to tell our adult children that they are missing the parade.
Oh God, meekness and humility are not soft and wishy-washy. They take backbone. Help us to develop the necessary impulses to share our faith, to invite our relatives, to invite our friends. Or maybe we could be quiet and pray and let the stones tell the story and shout the praise. But then again, you need us to be part of the story. Will we ever have enough courage? Will we ever step over the failures on to the successes? Only with your help, Lord! Only with your help! Amen