“Explicit and Dangerous”

Luke 19:28-40, 41-44

14 April, 2019 - Palm / Passion Sunday

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

West Walworth: Zion & East Rochester United Methodist Churches

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Luke 19:28-40, 41-44 (http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=421815235)

 

After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he 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.”

(Video of Sermon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KwLC9hLqBQw&t=6s )

Prayer.

 

Blessed Palm Sunday, everyone.

Blessed Palm Sunday from the one and only Gospel

That fails to mention palm branches

Being used for our Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

 

Blessed Passion Sunday, everyone.

Blessed Passion Sunday because every word and act of Jesus,

Moving forward,

Will explicitly bring into focus

God’s miraculous, cosmic plan for humankind.

 

Over the course of the next seven days,

All will be revealed:

The enormity of God’s love,

An invitation to embrace his suffering by sharing his bread and cup, and

The Lord’s deepest desire for our future;

Reconciliation with God,

The salvation of the world.

 

Holy week has begun.

Let us enter humbly, modestly, prayerfully.

 

Unlike other years,

When I’ve been content to not preach on the Gospel and

Allow the reading of the Passion to do the heavy lifting,

A number of details from the Triumphant Entry

Have caught my eye.

I believe they deserve to be lifted up and examined more closely,

That their truth might be revealed.

 

Let’s talk about secrecy, contrast, and visitation.

 

1. Secrecy.

 

I’ve taken a lot of psychology classes,

Family system theory classes,

Marriage and family counseling courses,

Classes on crisis response and intervention,

And courses on mental health assessment, diagnosis, and treatment.

 

Universally, scholars from such disciplines agree:

Where there are secrets, there is dysfunction.

 

A lifetime of experience confirms their academic insight.

Where there are secrets, there is dysfunction.

 

Secrets reveal dysfunction

And invites the observant to deeper exploration.

Locating the source of dysfunction is just the beginning of understanding the character or nature of the dysfunction;

As well as the intensity, duration, and other vital issues.

 

The Gospel narrative of Jesus making his triumphant entry into Jerusalem

Is packed full of secrets. 

The action of Jesus is explicit and dangerous,

Much more so than most of us recognize.

 

Secret number one:

Jesus made arrangements for a secret code phrase to be used

To arrange for transportation into the city.

“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.” (19:30)

This is the secret phrase: “The Lord needs it.”

 

It’s almost as if this is taken out of the Cold War and Spy vs Spy.

 

Secret number two:

The crowd is comprised mostly of his disciples

And fellow Galileans who had traveled south with Jesus

As he taught, healed, casts out demons, and made his way to Jerusalem.

The majority of the crowd weren’t from Jerusalem.

 

Passover had drawn them.

Jesus had inspired them.

The thought of Jesus leading a revolution impassioned them.

 

Secret number three:

His own people proclaimed Jesus king who comes in the name of the Lord.

The inhabitants of Jerusalem already had a king, thank you.

Those with power, authority, and wealth

Were quite satisfied with maintaining the status quo.

 

Had they come out of the city to join the parade,

So too would word have spread to the authorities and

Roman Legions would have been dispatched.

Jesus would have never made it beyond the city gate.

 

It is no surprise

Pharisees told Jesus to have the crowd lower their voice.

 

Jesus correctly recognizes

That ship had already sailed.

The cat was already out of the bag.

There was no more hiding the truth: the king had arrived.

“I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.” (19:40)

 

The dysfunction Jesus exposes

Is that of a corrupt religious system

That favored Law over Grace,

Judgment over Love,

And Death over Life.

 

The dysfunction Jesus exposes

Preyed on the poor, widows, and vulnerable;

Placed artificial barriers between the Creator and the created;

And exposed the abuse of power, authority, and wealth.

 

The secret subversion of Jesus

Is revealed the moment he walks through the city gate.

Jesus marches right over to the Temple and

Turns over the moneychanger’s tables.

 

Yet, the criticism of oppression and injustice Jesus wields

Isn’t shallow and superficial.

He actually brings to the table

A creative, constructive way forward;

One that reflects the character of our God,

Peace, love, forgiveness, and grace.

 

If you or I are staking the claim

That we are following Jesus

But we fail to take on corruption, injustice, and oppression of this world …

We’re doing it wrong!

 

If you or I aren’t tearing down barriers of wealth, power, privilege, authority,

We’re doing it wrong!

 

If you or I aren’t inviting the world to repentance

With an invitation to follow Jesus into the Kingdom of heaven,

We’re doing it wrong!

 

Be the hands and voice of Jesus for the transformation of the world.

 

Bring peace to conflict.

Replace hatred with love,

Judgment with forgiveness,

Punishment with grace.

 

2. Contrast.

 

In Roman culture

Whenever a victorious general came to town

They were given a triumph in his honor.

 

They would be welcomed into the city with a parade;

A triumphant entry, as it were,

Which would lead to

Ceremony, Recognition, Celebration and Glory.

 

Wikipedia reports

“The Roman triumph (triumphus) was a civil ceremony and religious rite of ancient Rome, held to publicly celebrate and sanctify the success of a military commander who had led Roman forces to victory in the service of the state or, originally and traditionally, one who had successfully completed a foreign war.”

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_triumph)

 

The triumphant

Would be crowned with laurel and dressed in royal purple.

 

If the victorious king came to town,

A royal welcome awaited him.

If the Son of God came to town,

A triumphant entry was a Messianic act.

 

Jesus lived in a culture of honor versus shame.

Honor and shame served as social currency;

Depicting a person’s relative value.

On one end of the spectrum was the Roman triumph,

At the other end was the shame parade

Of the condemned carrying his cross to his own crucifixion.

The shamed would be crowned with thorns

And be stripped of all clothing,

Exposed for all the world to see.

 

Perched precariously this day,

Teetering between Palms and Passion,

Between Triumph and Failure,

Between Honor and Shame,

We cannot but help to see this contrast

That reveals the glory of the Lord, Jesus Christ.

 

Sunday’s entrance is book-ended with Friday’s exit,

As if capital punishment was the final chapter in the narrative.

It wasn’t. It isn’t.

Death doesn’t win.

 

The real contrast is not between Sunday and Friday,

But between this Sunday and next Sunday.

The triumphs of this world pale in comparison with the triumph of God!

 

This world can only take one so far.

We are limited by the laws of nature and

The mortality of life.
One can only have so much success,

Accumulate a finite amount of wealth,

Obtain a big enough trophy case.

 

In contrast

The triumph of God is eternal!

Repentance, baptism, and conversion

Begin the eternal journey towards God

That transcends this mortal life and

Is perfected in eternal life.

 

3. Visitation.

 

Jesus makes his way down the steep path from the Mount of Olives.

People kept spreading their cloaks on the road before him. (19:36-37)

Luke makes intentional effort to place Jesus outside the city.

Jesus is still approaching Jerusalem

When the triumph parade takes place.

 

Jesus is still outside of the city,

At the bottom of the Kidron Valley;

An ancient garbage dump with a working cemetery built on top.

At the bottom of the valley,

A place symbolized by stench and death,

Jesus looks up at the Golden Gate through which he would pass

And ascend the Temple steps.

 

Looking up, Jesus wept.

Jerusalem is a city that “kills the prophets

And stones those who are sent to it.” (Matthew 23:37)

 

Jesus wept.

He could foresee

The destruction of Jerusalem,

When walls will be toppled, and

The children inside will be hemmed in and crushed.

His prophecy of lament and tears

Was not only due to the death and destruction that was coming,

But “because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.”

(19:44)

 

The City of Jerusalem, was, and remains to this day, a character;

A city, a place, an event, a time

Where prophets are killed,

Opposition is overcome,

Where forgiveness is given,

And salvation breaks forth.

 

Jerusalem is where the Holy Spirit

Breaks through the divide between heaven and earth,

Empowers and deploys the Apostles,

Giving birth to the Church,

Spreading the Body of Christ like wildfire to all the world.

 

Through God’s love and humanity,

God visits Jerusalem,

In the nature of Jesus Christ, and

Establishes it as our ecclesiastical anchor, our foundation,

From which God’s kingdom is grown and spread.

 

….

 

The secret is out:

Jesus has arrived.

The time for celebration has ended.

 

Tears of lament flow freely when sitting vigil,

When watching and waiting for a loved one to die.

Life is held in contrast with death.

Anticipate wearing emotions on the sleeve these next seven days,

And keep the tissues close at hand.

 

Jesus, whom we love,

Will suffer and die.

 

Remain by his side.

Keep alert.

Remember, God has a habit of visiting Jerusalem.

Watch for signs

Of God presence and

Our Lord’s resurrection.

Amen.