Luke 19:28-40Jesus proceeded on his journey up to Jerusalem.
As he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany
at the place called the Mount of Olives,
he sent two of his disciples.
He said, “Go into the village opposite you,
and as you enter it you will find a colt tethered
on which no one has ever sat.
Untie it and bring it here.
And if anyone should ask you,
‘Why are you untying it?’
you will answer,
‘The Master has need of it.’”
So those who had been sent went off
and found everything just as he had told them.
And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them,
“Why are you untying this colt?”
“The Master has need of it.”
So they brought it to Jesus,
threw their cloaks over the colt,
and helped Jesus to mount.
As he rode along,
the people were spreading their cloaks on the road;
and now as he was approaching the slope of the Mount of Olives,
the whole multitude of his disciples
began to praise God aloud with joy
for all the mighty deeds they had seen.
“Blessed is the king who comes
in the name of the Lord.
Peace in heaven
and glory in the highest.”
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him,
“Teacher, rebuke your disciples.”
He said in reply,
“I tell you, if they keep silent,
the stones will cry out!”
Crowds welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem waving palm branches and shouting as he rode on the back of a donkey. They laid clothing and branches on the road as if rolling out the red carpet, not even letting the feet of the donkey touch the ground.
The people shouted their welcome and blessing as Jesus approached Jerusalem: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” This was truly a right royal welcome.
But behind this excitement, sinister events were beginning to take place. Jesus’ enemies were already plotting to bring an end to this fraud whom people had come to regard as a prophet. Especially after he had brought Lazarus back to life again.
As we listen to the cheering crowd it’s easy to forget momentarily that something terrifying and horrifying is about to happen. An innocent man is about to be treated with so much indignity, cruelty, and torture and then be murdered.
There is a lot about the Bible that is M rated for mature. There are pages in it that are frightening.
For example, when God asked Abraham to kill and sacrifice his only son. We couldn't think of anything more horrifying than to kill any child, let alone the one and only son who was the joy of this old man and his wife.
And now as we enter Holy Week we are reminded of another father who was prepared to allow his only son to die a cruel and senseless death. A death on a cross. The sacrifice of the innocent is simply too horrible to contemplate.
We can rationalize and give explanations, but that doesn’t take away the terror and harshness of these events. On the list of “Texts of Terror” are also verses that tell us
to sell everything we have and follow Jesus.
About the foolish bridesmaids who were not prepared for the arrival of the bridegroom and so were locked out of the wedding feast.
How those who fail to give a drink to the thirsty, visit the sick and imprisoned, give clothing to the naked, and welcome the stranger are “sent away to eternal punishment” .
We join with the disciples and ask the question, “How can anyone ever be saved?”
Texts such these expose our vulnerability. They remind us that sin has a powerful effect in our lives. They remind us that discipleship is demanding and we will fail often.
Taken by themselves these texts are enough to make us get up, walk away and give up. As hard as some of this is we need to hear these verses, not to frighten us. But to remind us of how helpless we are, how much we need God's grace and love and peace.
We need to see this other side of life – the painful hurtful side to begin to appreciate how much God has done and continues to do for us in his Son, Jesus. We could talk about Palm Sunday and focus only on the shouts of praise but we know the story. There is terror lurking behind the scenes. This crowd will soon turn against Jesus in a bloody and violent frenzy crying out loud, "Crucify him! Crucify him!"
In fact, if we are totally honest, we can see ourselves in the crowd; those voices are our voices. It's a terrifying moment when we realize that the voices that one moment are praising Jesus and in the next moment calling for his death are our voices.
We say we are followers of Jesus and yet when it gets too hard or uncomfortable it’s easy to say with Peter, “I don’t know this man”.
We are the ones for whom he endures the worst terrors of all so that we might be free from all that terrifies us. The Good News is that Jesus did not flinch from the murderous mob. He did not side-step the terror. He came among us.
He passed through the palm-waving crowd. He went into Jerusalem, and marched right on toward death, all the way to Calvary.
God doesn't just talk about our fears, he does something about them. Even though the events of Good Friday are horrifying. God is present in them, working out our salvation for us. The all-powerful God puts himself in the hands of so much wickedness. Endures so much suffering to keep us safe from everything that terrifies us.
Taking the sins of all people on his shoulders. He says to each of us, “Brothers and sisters, I love you!"
Preached by Deacon Gerry Mattingly on Palm Sunday, March 20, 2016 at St. Francis Xavier Church, Mt. Washington, KY.