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25 March 2018 message – Palm Sunday and the King

Reading: John 12:12-19

MESSAGE

So –  its Easter morning. You would have expected a service at sunrise. When you were small you might have had an Easter egg hunt in the garden.

You climb out of bed and go downstairs.

And you see a Christmas tree and Christmas presents, with Easter eggs hiding behind them.

You rub your eyes, scratch your head – and go back to bed thinking this is a dream.

Try again 10 minutes later – and yes, it’s true. Someone’s got Easter and Christmas muddled.

You wonder why. What does this mean? What are they trying to tell you?

That’s exactly what makes Jesus’ triumphal entry so interesting.

It was the spring – it was Passover time. There were things you did at Passover – remembering the rescue from slavery and the blood of the lamb on the doorpost which saved people from death – and you celebrate their rescue from bondage.

And Jesus rides into the city on a donkey and people are waving palms.

This is a mid-winter thing happening in the spring. Like Christmas and Easter together.

Although it’s the wrong time of the year, the symbols of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem go with Hanukkah– which John has already mentioned in 10.22. (Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter)

When Judas Maccabaeus defeated the pagan invaders and cleansed the Temple in 164 BC, his followers entered the city waving palm branches in celebration (1 Maccabees 13.51; 2 Maccabees 10.7). (Tom Wright)

We were talking about these extra books called the apocrypha just recently – a whole series of them you don’t find in the Protestant bible.

Here’s the passage from the second book of Maccabees chapter 10, reading from verse 7:

2Ma 10:7  Therefore, carrying ivy-wreathed wands and beautiful branches and also fronds of palm, they offered hymns of thanksgiving to him who had given success to the purifying of his own holy place. 2Ma 10:8  They decreed by public edict, ratified by vote, that the whole nation of the Jews should observe these days every year.

After the temple was cleansed in 164 BC, Judas Maccabeus and his family became kings of Israel.

Jesus and his followers were combining Hanukkah and Passover – declaring that Jesus was the true King coming to claim his throne AND at the same time he would really set people free. He is the new Passover lamb as well –  they just didn’t know it yet.

And the final sign that sealed the matter was the raising of Lazarus. He was set free from death!

That’s why the two verses before this passage and the last three verses of today’s passage are so important:

Joh 12:10  So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, Joh 12:11  for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him.

And:

Joh 12:17  Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Joh 12:18  Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. Joh 12:19  So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”

The raising of Lazarus was the last sign and the hour had come. We talked about that last week.

Palm Sunday seals the destiny of Jesus.

People connected the dots because of the palms. Not just the Jewish community who would have remembered Hanukkah, but the Romans and Greeks would have all recognised the significance of the Palms as a sign of a victory parade.

Like a flag raising parade when the battle is won – it has huge significance. The enemy’s flag is lowered, and the conquering army’s flag is raised.

It’s a powerful provocative statement. And on a donkey – not a huge white horse. They would have remembered the prophecy in Zechariah 9:

Zec 9:9  Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Palm Sunday is the triumph of the love the God – yes.

But the means of victory – we know looking back the way of achieving victory would be painful to say the least.

FOCAL POINT TODAY

I’d like us to focus on one verse today:

Joh 12:17  Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word.

Witnessing is a central part of discipleship – of following this amazing man called Jesus of Nazareth.

Giving testimony to what he has done.

Spreading the word.

  • Have you testified this week?
  • Given testimony?
  • Have you been a witness?

V17 – they bore witness to Lazarus’ raising –

Do we talk about the resurrection?

It is the separating point between us and other religions– the dividing line – the ultimate sign of Jesus’ power and authority, his divinity, his supremacy – and of course it leads to his ascension when he is enthroned again on high.

It’s the greatest story worth telling.

Because it brings the greatest sense of hope.

Are we ready always to give a reason for the hope we have?

HOPE?

Our Mission in the newsletter these past weeks has been this; “Always prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks us to give the reason for the hope that we have”

Hope – in the face of the greatest enemy – death.

WE DO THIS IN WORSHIP EACH WEEK

  • We wave Palms every week!
  • We cry Hosanna!
  • Worship is exactly that – celebrating King Jesus

–           Celebrating the triumph of the cross

–           Celebrating the power of the resurrection

–           Celebrating the glory of the ascension.

–         Celebrating the love of the Father

–           Celebrating the promises that apply to us – our inheritance that will outlast all the other shiny things that fascinate us.

Peter puts it like this (we shared this in our call to worship today):

1Pe 1:3  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 1Pe 1:4  and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, 1Pe 1:5  who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

Palm Sunday takes us into this week called holy week.

I’ve asked today how we can make this a different week.

I don’t know how you’re going to do that.

But you can’t ignore the power of the events.

I hope that you take the time to remember at the various opportunities we have to remember what God has done for us to establish this inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.

I pray that we can really discover for ourselves that he was and is the true king, the true rescuer, the bringer of true freedom.

As we watch his progression into Jerusalem, and on to meet his fate, we must ourselves be drawn into the action, and the passion, that awaits him.

And we must ourselves become part of the means by which his message goes out to the world. (Tom Wright)

The victory was won for us by a young man nearly 2000 years ago.

Our closing hymn captures the profound nature of this day.

1 Ride on, ride on in majesty
as all the crowds ‘Hosanna!’ cry:
through waving branches slowly ride,
O Saviour, to be crucified.

2 Ride on, ride on in majesty,
in lowly pomp ride on to die:
O Christ, your triumph now begin
with captured death, and conquered sin!

3 Ride on, ride on in majesty
the angel armies of the sky
look down with sad and wondering eyes
to see the approaching sacrifice.

4 Ride on, ride on in majesty,
the last and fiercest foe defy:
the Father on his sapphire throne
awaits his own anointed Son.

5 Ride on, ride on in majesty,
in lowly pomp ride on to die:
bow your meek head to mortal pain,
then take, O God, your power and reign!

Robin Mark has a song that helps us anticipate and appreciate what he has done as we close:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PiH3Tv9gLY&feature=share

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Sunday Sermon 9 April 2017 – Coat Sunday, or the day of the King’s visitation

READING: Luke 19:28-44

CHILDREN’S MESSAGE:

Did you bring a coat today? What kind, you say. It doesn’t matter. Rain coat. Warm coat. Wind breaker coat. Trench coat. Detective’s coat.

If you read the bible reading today – people had coats when Jesus came riding in to Jerusalem on a donkey. O wait – let’s watch the little guys’ story about the donkey. Then we’ll go back to the coats.

Cool story. Three famous donkey’s hey. Yes. Dave. Dave’s grandad. And the other one. What? Two? Okay but the third one could really speak. (verse Numbers 22:28-31  Balaam’s donkey)

Okay no Palms. A donkey and coats. Coats are good. You could put them on the donkey of you didn’t have a saddle. You could lay them on the floor – if you didn’t have a red carpet. Like that famous man, Sir Walter Raleigh. He put his cloak over a puddle so that Queen Elizabeth I didn’t get her feet wet. Cool hey!

I reckon you have to do that for Kings and queens. And Jesus was and is a King. Best listen to him when he speaks!

Or just be a donkey carrying Jesus around. So people can see how great he is.

(Prayer for children as they leave)

ADULT MESSAGE:

Talking about coats, I remember very clearly the picture of Sir Walter Raleigh laying his cloak down over a puddle so that Queen Elizabeth I didn’t get her feet wet. There it was in our history notes – that picture has stuck with me.

Trouble is it probably never happened. Blame Historian Thomas Fuller who liked to embellish facts. Walter Raleigh did get his head chopped off after his second holiday in the tower of London. During his first stay in the tower he wrote his first volume of his “History of the world” which was 776 pages long. On the grisly side, his head was embalmed and his widow carried it around with her for the rest of her life.

Now you’re wondering if that’s true. The coat and puddle story sounds more believable.

So, if we didn’t have John’s gospel, we wouldn’t have Palm Sunday. Only coat Sunday at best.

The point is that the genuineness of the accounts of Easter by the four gospel writers supports the historicity of the event. There is no attempt like witnesses protecting each other to line up their versions of the story with each other.

Only Matthew mentions the fulfilment of the prophecy from Zechariah: This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: “Say to the Daughter of Zion, “See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ (Matthew 21:4-5)

Only Matthew has this dramatic line like a Greek chorus calling out:

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” (21:10-11)

Only Luke seems to hint that there were Pharisees in the crowd of disciples. It changes we see the way they try to tone things down. Perhaps they were really concerned that this procession declaring Jesus as King could have dangerous repercussions. Remember in Acts 15:5 that there were Pharisees who became Christians. (It would have been like Christians today belonging to the Green Party or New Zealand first!)

The two things that really stand out in the reading from Luke today are FIRSTLY the words of those calling out:

“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (v38)

And then the warning to Jerusalem that Jesus gives after weeping over the city:

They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” (v44)

  1. The first one links the proclamation on Palm Sunday with the words of the angels at Jesus’ birth. We are reminded that this is all the same story of Jesus (God Saves) Emmanuel (God with us) Messiah (anointed one) who comes to rescue us. Luke alone spells it out here:

“Blessed is the KING who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.”

His readers would make the connection. Remember how Herod the Great responded to the wise men’s news about the birth of a king?

Infanticide. The murder of the innocents. Boys up to two years of age.

This time round, we can’t expect anything different. Herod’s descendants are ruling a carved up holy land. Pilate has replaced one of them in Judea.

The power play will unfold. The authorities do not approve. Like Walter Raleigh in the tower of London waiting for his execution for treason, Jesus would be a threat to the rulers of the day once more.

A new king could only mean civil unrest, and Pilate could not allow it if he wanted to keep his job. Yes, he sends Jesus to Herod Antipas, but Antipas has his own agenda. This encounter is portrayed very simply in the film “Jesus”. And in the Passion of the Christ we see a better portrayal of Antipas in my view. You’ll have to read the subtitles as they are speaking in Aramaic. Or Latin.

Perhaps you’d like to watch this extract. It’s actually quite well done.

The Passion of Christ – the events of holy week – are deeply political.

  1. The second unique passage in Luke about this Coat Day is his response to the city of Jerusalem and his prophetic word about its destruction:

We pick it up in verse 43:

The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side.

They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” (v44)

Again, its deeply political. The Romans would always put down revolts. You only had the peace of Rome as a privilege – safety, good roads, aqueducts, protection – if you towed the line.

It’s the rejection of the visitation that is fascinating. (v44) Jesus says this:

They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

The original text does not have the word “God” in it. It’s simply a visitation.

Of course, its Jesus who is visiting. Messiah has come.

And they reject him.

The Jewish historian Josephus blamed the nationalists, the Zealots for the demise of the Jewish nation.

Jesus gives another reason of course. By rejecting him, Israel has chosen the way of judgment. It has missed the day and the moment.

What was true of the Jewish nation can also be true of individuals. To miss Jesus is to miss the time of visitation and face accountability before God.

So – consider this. Jesus comes marching into your life today.

  • Riding on a donkey.
  • Or on a bus for that matter. He visits you either way.

What are you going to do?

  • Shout Hosanna?
  • Hail Him as king?
  • Try to go for a softer option – don’t shout too loudly, you might upset the authorities. Hush!
  • Or will you miss his visitation altogether?

The consequences of ignoring who he is and what that means for our lives, our priorities, our decisions, our relationships, our finances, are all challenging. This is a great time to reflect on where Jesus is in our list of priorities.

There are a whole series of opportunities this Holy Week to gather and reflect on what it means for us now, and in eternity.

  • We call it holy week. It must grab our attention.
  • Our Korean friends who pray every morning up in the lounge have asked to move to the church at 5.30am each morning this Easter week. They take it seriously.
  • We have options to reflect on Jesus’ coming on Tuesday morning, Thursday night, Friday morning, and Sunday at Sunrise.

I’m not a prophet, but each year I can predict who will be at which service.

His is my 7th Easter. Go on. Surprise me. Come to something different.

This is about Jesus’ visitation – riding into our lives and being welcomed as King.

How about it? How do we welcome Him? Or are we just not too fussed about it all.

Amen.