my notes for a Palm Sunday sermon on preached at Gateway Community Church, Perth
As a preacher I have probably created a fair amount of confusion in Church
I can vividly remember the first time I felt really confused in church,
it was a Palm Sunday and I was about 5 or 6.
I was at Sunday School @ Greenock Elim and my teacher Mrs Currie, was using that 70s cutting edge technology, “flannelgraph” to teach us the Easter week story.
First of all on the green board the crowd was added and then their palm branches, then Jesus on the donkey. The story unfolded until the shocking moment when the teacher used the same cut out figures she had used for the crowd on Palm Sunday for the crowd shouting to Pilate to crucify Jesus.
I just couldn’t get my mind round it.
As a 6 year old I just couldn’t understand why people who started the week cheering for Jesus ended the week demanding his death and jeering him as he died?
I am not sure I have ever grown out of that feeling.
Almost every year as I reread the story of Jesus final week I am perplexed by that same question.
I think I now have part of the answer,
I have come to the conclusion that most of the Jerusalem crowd turned on Jesus,
and went from cheering him to jeering at him
because quite simply Jesus became a disappointment to them.
To understand why some, perhaps most of Jesus contemporaries thought of him as a disappointment I need to give you a wee bit of back ground history
In 164BC Judah was controlled by Syrian tyrant,
called Antiochus Epiphanes
who thousands of years before Adolf Hitler,
had the self same agenda, he wanted to wipe out Judaism.
So Antiochus threatened to execute anyone who was caught practicing the Jewish religion, and he actually went as far as to force Jews to eat pork and worst of all to the Jewish people he desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem
He took over the Temple
,dedicated it to the Greek God Zeus and then mostly horrifically for theJews,
he sacrificed pigs on the altar.
One Jewish family, called the Maccabeas, couldn’t take it any longer and organised and led an armed resistance movement against their pagan oppressors that lasted three years.
Eventually the Maccabeas and their fellow freedom fighters were so successful that led by their oldest brother who was called “Judah the Hammer
they arrived in triumph in Jerusalem
So after three years
They paraded into the city of Jerusalem
singing Psalms and waving palm branches.
Now does that sound familiar ?
Judah then went on to cleanse the Temple from the pagan worship that had happened there.
So on that very first Palm Sunday it must have seemed to the crowds that saw Jesus arriving, that He was rerunning the career of “Judah the Hammer.”
Most of the crowd probably cheered because they thought that just like “Judah the Hammer,” Jesus was arriving in the Holy City to lead another armed rebellion to kick out the pagan oppressors,
this time the Romans,
and cleanse the Temple from the corrupt high priests who were running it.
The crowds expected Jesus to act like Judah the Hammer,
they expected him to act like the Messiah they believed Scripture promised
A the time of Jesus the Jews basically expected a Messiah who who would be a great military leader. Just like Judas Macbeas, who would set his people free from Pagan domination and make them the most powerful nation in the world.
The problem that emerged during the first Holy Week was that Jesus had a very different agenda for being the Messiah.
Jesus gradually as his ministry neared its climax had been making it increasingly clear that he was indeed the Messiah.
However, Jesus didn’t meet the Jewish people’s expectations of the Messiah
because he made it clear he was going to be the Messiah
not by being a great military leader like King David
but by being
the Suffering Servant described by the prophet Isaiah.
Jesus was going to defeat evil
not by military power
but by a demonstration of love such as the world had never seen.
He wouldn’t kill the Romans instead he would allow them to take his life.
He wasn’t going to lead Israel in subjugating the Gentiles
he was going recreate God’s people so they could reach out in loving service to the Gentiles.
You see Jesus steadfastly refused to meet the expectations of his countrymen and instead told them what his expectations of them were.
In the power of the Spirit they were to become what they always should have been, a light to the nations,
they were not rule over the pagans but to be united with them in a new expression of God’s People.
Eventually it was all too much for the Jerusalem crowd and by Friday when Jesus hadn’t handed out the swords and stormed Roman fortress the masses who had cheered him on, turned on him and bayed for his death.
Most of the people in Jerusalem were disappointed in Jesus
disappointed that He hadn’t given them what they had wanted
, disappointed that He hadn’t met their expectations
disappointed that he hadn’t fitted it in with their agenda.
I have been turning that over in mind and
I am not sure quite how to say this
but I think secretly we all too often can find Jesus a disappointment for the same reasons those Jewish people did 2000 years ago.
I suspect that just like his contemporaries there are times when we want a Messiah on our terms.
We want a Jesus who will meet our expectations and fit into our agenda.
IKEA …. Interview with its founder who said its mission is to enhance people’s lives.
WE WANT AN IKEA JESUS .... A Jesus who enhances our lives.
I have met so many people whose basic expectations of Jesus is that He should guarantee them a happy, trouble free life,
that’s the kind of Messiah and Saviour they want.
Yet Jesus steadfastly refuses to meet those kinds of expectations as forcefully as he refused to meet the expectations of the Jerusalem crowd.
The real authentic Jesus, not the Ikea Jesus didn’t come to enhance our lives but to call us to give our lives for a cause greater than ourselves.
Jesus calls on us to be his disciples
to embrace his mission,
to pick up our cross and follow him daily
to take the path in life that is marked by a cross,
to be committed to the mission of sacrificial service whatever it costs
Jesus calls on us to give our life so we can gain it,
to go into the world as the Father sent him.
Jesus isn’t interested in making our lives a bit better but in calls on us to join him in making this world better.
He won’t enhance our lives a wee bit but calls on us to radically reorientate our lives around the Kingdom of God.
I want to be frank and upfront with you about this as I can be,
whenever we expect Jesus to fit into our agenda for our lives
he will always be a disappointment to us
because he simply won’t meet those expectations.
David Platt in a book called Radical wrote “We are settling for a Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves when the central message of Christianity is actually about abandoning ourselves.”
This Palm Sunday,
just as it did when I was six,
is confronting me with uncomfortable questions again.
It is forcing me to think about agendas,
well actually first of all its forcing me to think of my own agendas in life
. I am wondering if I am guilty of expecting Jesus to serve my agenda for my life?
That just like the Jerusalem crowd I want him to meet my expectations on my terms in the ways I prefer?
Or am I embracing Jesus’ agenda for my life,
am I living to meet His expectations?
I suspect I might not be the only person who could benefit from asking those questions. His promise of course is that when we do that, when we live for His agenda and for his expectations, He will never be a disappointment to us.
HOLY WEEK ….. Palm Sunday is the start of Holy Week when the church has traditionally thought about the incredible cost to Christ of our salvation.
But that is only half of it, in the light of cost of our salvation HOLY WEEK has also been a time for those of us who count ourselves as Christ followers to think about the Cost of our Discipleship.
Church in Nazi Germany …. Wanted a Nazi messiah that supported their agenda. Others didn’t want to pay the cost of following Jesus
Dietrich Bonhoeffer ….. “Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.
Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man’ will gladly go and self all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.
. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”
Craig Groeschell …. American mega church pastor who put his finger on the same problem, the problem of people who want Jesus to fit their agenda, who want cheap grace
He believes most people who attend church have crossed one of three lines
LINE ONE …. I will follow Christ for what I get out of it
“Sadly, many who call themselves Christians live here. If there is a God I want to be on His good side. I want to go to heaven. I want him to bless me with good health, good relationships and a happy life. We want God’s benefits without changing, changing how we life. We want His best without our sacrifice”
LINE TWO …. I will follow God so far but on my terms
” I will follow if I don’t have to change too much. I’ll do some of what God asks me to do as long as its not too inconvenient. I’ll get serious about living for God if it doesn’t cost me too much ”
LINE THREE …. I will follow God whatever it costs me. I will give my life for the one who gave their life for me.
“My whole life, wholly given to following Christ. Not just in words but in the everyday decisions of my daily life”
SO WHICH LINE HAVE YOU CROSSED. . . ?
LINE ONE …. willing to follow Christ, SELFISHLY …. for what you get out of it
LINE TWO …. willing to follow Christ PARTIALLY … as long as it doesn’t cost too much
LINE THREE …. willing to follow Christ WHOLEHEARTEDLY …. whatever He asks. Whatever it takes. Whatever it costs
Make no mistake the real authentic Jesus when he calls on us to follow him calls on us to cross the third line
For whoever wants to save their life
will lose it,
but whoever loses their life for me
will find it.
What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world,
yet forfeit their soul?
Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?
Matthew 16:25 – 26
Then he said to them all:
‘Whoever wants to be my disciple
must deny themselves
and take up their cross daily and follow me.
So will you, if you haven’t already cross that third line today?
Gateway Community Church faces many challenges if it’s to move on but the most fundamental challenge is to become a community of line three disciples.
Paul’s description of crossing LINE THREE
So here’s what I want you to do,
God helping you:
Take your everyday, ordinary life
—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life
—and place it before God as an offering.
Romans 12:1 The Message
If you know you need to,
Will you cross the line and become a line three disciple today?
When we give ourselves wholeheartedly to Christ, when we stop trying to get I’m to be committed to fulfilling. our agenda for our life and instead become committed to His agenda for our world, we will find that Christ will never be a disappointment