Isaiah 6:8

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Who Is This?

"My scripture today comes from Matthew 21:1-11
What were people waving palm branches about 2,000 years ago when Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey?  What did they expect would happen?  What did they want from Jesus?  What do you want from Jesus?  What do I want?  Why are we waving palm branches this morning?  I would imagine that our answers might be as varied as the people so many years ago.  Some of us might be waving our palm branches because that is what everyone else is doing.  We're not sure what to think about it, but it's kind of cool and it feels good to fit in with the crowd.  Others of us are, perhaps, welcoming King Jesus into our presence.  And by "King Jesus" we might be thinking "King Jesus" the democrat who thinks like us.  Or we might be thinking of "King Jesus" the Republican who will be backing our candidate.  Maybe we don't have a clue.  Or perhaps we do.  Who is "King Jesus" to you?  What is He King of?

Some scholars speculate that there are at least two groups of folks involved in the Palm Sunday Parade. There is the "large crowd" that "spread their clothes on the road"......and "cut palm branches off the trees."  These folks were in front and behind Jesus shouting: "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!"  These are the same people who have been on the road with Jesus all the way back from the beginning, along with many, many others who have been picked up along the way.They include tons of women, former prostitutes, J  esus' mother and sisters and other women who had been treated as equals for the first and only time in their lives by the man on the donkey.  There were former lepers in the crowd, people who had once been blind, lame, and even dead.  There were, no doubt as well, many hundreds, if not thousands of folks who had been fed by Jesus on the hillsides as He taught them.  They had been in the original crowds of 5,000 and 4,000 having miraculously eaten their fill of bread and fish.  And there were, of course, the original Twelve disciples......those guys who knew Jesus most intimately but still didn't really understand what His mission was about.  Then there was the other group of folks.  These were the residents of the city of Jerusalem.  Most of them probably watched from the sidelines as this wildly enthusiastic motley crew came marching loudly into their city.  Some of them might have joined in with the others waving palm branches and spreading their clothes out in front of Jesus--giving Him the "red carpet" treatment.  Why not join in?
People like to be part of the "in" crowd.  And the people shouting "Hosanna's" certainly seemed to be having a good time.
What's the old saying?..."Everybody loves a parade."  In any event, we are told that "when Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up."  "Who is this?' they asked."  Turns out that no one seemed to have the "right answer."

Today we live in a time when lots of us are confused as to "Who Jesus Is."  Some folks preach what has come to be called "the prosperity gospel."  There is nothing in Scripture to back up their claims, but they teach the people who come to their churches that Jesus wants us to be rich.  So they insist that if they give their hard-earned money to these "prosperity preachers" they will somehow get lots more money back.  They will finally be able to buy that vacation home in the Keys, put in a swimming pool, retire, or just make their rent payments.  In the meantime, the only ones getting rich are the snake oil salesmen running these operations.  So, in some minds, Jesus is, what?...  ...a lottery ticket, a rising stock or the fastest horse on the race track?

Others seem to think that Jesus is an American politician.
He's concerned with capitalism, oil, big business, national defense and keeping illegal aliens out of the country.  Others might say that Jesus is a Socialist or a Communist.  What did the crowds who were waving Palm Branches think about Jesus 2,000 years ago?  We are told back in Matthew Chapter 12 that they had begun to wonder whether Jesus might be the Son of David...
. other words, whether Jesus was going to be the new King David…  ...the Messiah who was gonna slaughter the occupying forces of Rome and give Israel their home back.  But, Jesus wasn't a war lord.  He didn't believe in using swords, fighting or war.  He didn't care about money...or the amassing of money.  He did care about everyone having enough to eat, and clothes to wear but that was about it.  Jesus wasn't a politician. 
Jesus wasn't a nationalist.  He cared about Israel, but He had just as much concern about the foreigners, the people in other lands, Israel's enemies.  Jesus wasn't a snake oil salesman.
Jesus told the truth and it got a lot of people mad, very, very mad.
Jesus wasn't a lottery ticket.  He told rich folks to sell all they have, give it to the poor and come follow Him.  He told His followers "stop collecting treasures for your own benefit on earth..."Jesus wasn't trying to win a popularity contest.  He told those in charge that they were hypocrites, blind guides, and children of hell.   With this said, Jesus wasn't a kill-joy either......He wasn't the judgmental "church lady" from the old   Saturday Night Live Skit.  Jesus seemed to love a good party.
His first miracle was at a wedding in Cana of Galilee where He turned six stone jars filled with water into about 180 gallons of wine.  The religious elite who watched Him suspiciously described Him as a "glutton and a drunkard," and they didn't like the company He hung out with either.  He made friends with crooks, prostitutes, losers, cripples, the homeless, the blind, the beggars.  And His acceptance of them changed their lives.  He washed their feet, fed them, loved them, taught them, healed them, had compassion on them, and welcomed them into His circle no matter their race, gender, lifestyle or religion. What are we to make of this?

At the very least, doesn't this entice you to learn more about Him?
If He is the very embodiment of God--and in seeing Him we see the Almighty--I want to know Him very well, indeed.  I want to study the Bible.  I want to participate in Sunday school, small groups, and I want to worship every chance I get.  And the more I learn about Him, the more I want to tell others about Him as well…  ...not out of fear for my soul, but out of love for my neighbor…  ...for the love of Christ fills me and I can't keep it to myself.  We are told that "when Jesus entered Jerusalem" on that first Palm Sunday so many years ago, "the whole city was stirred up.  "Who is this?' they asked.  How would you answer this question?  How does your life mirror your answer?

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