(sermon note: 03-28 sermon note)
When he [Jesus] had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?” just say this: “The Lord needs it.” ’ So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’ They said, ‘The Lord needs it.’ Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying,
‘Blessed is the king
who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
and glory in the highest heaven!’
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, order your disciples to stop.’ He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.’
As he came near and saw 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. Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.’
It wouldn’t be a Palm Sunday if I didn’t lift up the classic one about a little boy who had a sore throat and had to stay home with a sitter on Palm Sunday. When the rest of the family came home, naturally they were carrying palm branches. The little boy asked what they were for. His father told him that people held them over Jesus’ head when he walked by. In a sad, disappointed voice, the little boy said, “Aaaah, wouldn’t you know it?! The one Sunday I miss, Jesus shows up!”
Of course, Jesus showed up that Sunday as he shows up every Sunday when two or three are gathered in his name! That’s why we gather each Sunday–to be in the presence of our Lord! That little boy was confused about a couple things, and not just because of a sore throat. If he thinks Jesus would only come to church if people held palm branches over his head, then he’s got the wrong idea about church. Or maybe his church hadn’t gathered in Jesus’ name for a long time and it needed some special enticement like holding palm branches over his head to bring him back. But for most churches, Jesus shows up week in and week out when we gather in his name.
In fact, Jesus has a propensity for showing up in all types of situations whether we’ve gathered in his name or not. Jesus likes showing up whether we’ve asked him to or not. Jesus is somewhat of a “crasher” that way. Sure, he’ll come when he’s invited but he particularly enjoys coming into situations uninvited, or at least not overtly invited. For whatever reason, he likes gathering with the outcast and forgotten. He likes going into situations that many of us shy away from. No person or situation is beyond his reach or comfort level. He enjoys all people and is comfortable in all situations. Nothing frightens or disgusts him. He’s seen it all, knows all, and yet somehow loves us all. At times, he is saddened by us and the situations we get ourselves into but that doesn’t take away from the love he has for us. He loves us and wants nothing more than to help us.
I mean, why else would he head into Jerusalem for the last time knowing what awaited him there?! He most certainly knew who and what awaited him there and he still…showed…up. Remember, he has a strong propensity for showing up even when it doesn’t stand to benefit him. Jesus knew the brood of vipers were waiting for him, waiting to take him down and end his life and ministry. Jesus knew the city of Jerusalem wouldn’t help him in his time of suffering. He also knew that the city would eventually be crushed by its enemies because it didn’t recognize who he was as we heard at the end of our reading for today. Jesus still…showed…up.
And with such fanfare too! The multitude of disciples all proclaimed his triumphal entry into the city that would ultimately destroy him: “Blessed is the king, who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” Such bold proclamation in the face of a disastrous situation! It’s interesting how we refer to this event of Jesus riding into the city as a “triumphal entry.” What was Jesus triumphing over? What great achievement was he and his disciples celebrating? Certainly not his victory over sin and death, the crucifixion and resurrection having yet to occur. Perhaps his victory over fear itself. Because he knew what awaited him, he had to have felt some degree of fear. No man is without fear when facing sure and certain suffering and death, at least no man in his right mind. Even those who are absolutely certain of what awaits them after death are afraid of what might happen to those they leave behind. Jesus knew what awaited him in that city. He also knew what awaited him after death. But he didn’t know what awaited us left behind. Sure, he promised the help of the Holy Spirit and promised to return but both of those things were out of his control. For someone who loved us as much as he did, he had to have felt some degree of fear in leaving us behind. But again, he still showed up! He overcame the fear within himself and still showed up for what amounted to the most catastrophic week of his life. Truly a triumphal entry!
Now then, there is something else illustrated in our reading besides Jesus’ propensity for showing up that is equally worth noting. Jesus’ triumphal entry would have gone unnoticed without the help of his disciples’ proclamation. Jesus needed their proclamation just as much as he needs our proclamation. In proclaiming, we prepare the world to receive his gifts of love and grace and mercy. The world needs to know who Jesus is and what he did for us. The world needs his gifts of love and grace and mercy now more than ever. And we can give his gifts simply by proclaiming who Jesus is and what he’s done for the word. Scripture encourages us to make such proclamations. The prophet Isaiah says, “how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’” (52:7) And John writes at the start of his first letter, “we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.” (1:3-4) John’s community knew the joy of being in God’s presence and they wanted us to know that joy. Indeed, there is great joy being in the presence of God! I mean, why else would we gather here week in and week out?!
So, Jesus showed up and triumphantly overcame any fears he had in showing up. Let us be encouraged to do the same in our own lives. If Jesus can persistently show up, invited or uninvited, then surely we can show up to whatever situations life throws at us. And we need to proclaim and share the good news of who Jesus is and what he did as we’ll reflect on over the next week. Jesus loves us…Jesus died for us…Jesus rose again for us! Oh, how blessed we are! Thanks be to God!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.