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Sun, Apr 10, 2022

"Into Jerusalem"

Duration:14 mins 14 secs

“Into Jerusalem”

Luke 19: 28-40

April 10, 2022

Palm Sunday

            Each year on Palm Sunday, we read one of the gospel accounts of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.  All four of the gospels tell of the triumphal entry and the way it fulfilled prophecies of the coming Messiah, but each emphasizes slightly different details.  Luke alone records the exchange between Jesus and the Pharisees that we heard in verses 39 and 40.  The Pharisees told Jesus to “order [his] disciples to stop.”  Jesus answers with this wonderful response:  “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout.”

            The stones would shout.  In his entry into Jerusalem, Jesus was fulfilling the purpose for which he came.  The religious authorities had put out orders for his arrest, but even knowing that, Jesus set out for Jerusalem for the Passover festival.  Now he is preparing to enter the city, knowing what awaits him, knowing that the road leads to the cross.  Arrangements had been made for a colt that had never been ridden to carry Jesus into the city. This humble way of entering the city was to fulfill prophecies about the way the Messiah would come.

            As he rode along, people spread cloaks---their most valuable garment—on the road in front of him, a sign of honor, like rolling out red carpet for a royal arrival.  And as he rode down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of disciples praised God joyfully, saying, “Blessed is the king, who comes in the name of the Lord!”

            Into this joyful scene come the Pharisees, earth-bound like clumps of clay, refusing to raise their voices with the rest of the crowd.  Why did they tell Jesus to order his disciples to stop?  Remember what we learned last week from John’s gospel: after Jesus raised Lazarus from death, when word spread about Jesus’ deeds of power, the Pharisees feared the Romans would come down hard on the Jewish people, would see Jesus as an insurgent fomenting rebellion against the Roman government. 

            For Jesus to come into the city of Jerusalem being heralded as king was a dangerous thing.    The Pharisees feared reprisals from the Romans, the people in power, who could disrupt the comfortable and ordered life they were living.

            They had become complacent, satisfied with the way things were, forgetting the way things could and should be.  They were more concerned with their own comfort and safety than with the words of the prophets; their eyes turned inward rather than outward, so that when the long-awaited Messiah appeared right before their eyes, they did not have eyes to see.  They were blind to his miracles and deeds of power; they were deaf to his teachings. 

            Jesus himself said right after this passage, “If only you had recognized on this day the things that make for peace, but they are hidden from your eyes.”  And he wept over the city of Jerusalem.

            When we read the Palm Sunday accounts of Jesus’ entry into the city, we usually picture ourselves with the disciples, singing Jesus’ praise.  But I wonder if sometimes we are more like the Pharisees---afraid to acknowledge who Jesus is.  It is dangerous to proclaim Jesus as Lord, and still more dangerous to live it.  When we live in the reality that Jesus is our king, that he is the one to whom we owe our greatest allegiance, the powers of the world are threatened.  The foundations tremble, as the stone the builders rejected becomes the cornerstone. 

            On this day, we are reminded that we must choose.  Will we live as Pharisees or as disciples?  Will we seek to be on the side of earthly power, or will we be on the side of the powerless?  Will we try to protect our comfortable way of life, or will we go outside our comfort zone?  Will we try to preserve the status quo?  Or will we work to be part of God’s transformation of creation and humanity?

            Make no mistake.  The kingdom of God is coming.  It comes all around us every day, if only we have eyes to see.  It comes whenever and wherever disciples acknowledge Jesus as Lord, and live according to his way, rather than the way of the world. It comes whenever we work for justice and speak truth.  It comes whenever we choose love over hate and forgiveness over vengeance.  It comes when we join our voices with the voices of all creation in singing praise to the Lord.

            Listen again to the praise of the people:  Luke says, “The whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice, saying, ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!  Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!’”

            What does that remind you of? 

            Luke describes the praise of the people in words that deliberately echo something earlier in this gospel.  Luke chapter 2: “The angel said to [the shepherds], Do not be afraid, for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people.  To you is born this day a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord….And suddenly, a multitude of the heavenly host [is there] praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom God favors.”

            The “multitude” of disciples echoes the “multitude” of the heavenly host, in both passages, “praising God,” and “saying,” “Peace!” And “Glory to God in the highest heaven!”  And both passages speak of the joy that comes with the coming of the Lord.

            Luke makes unmistakably clear that the one whom the angels proclaimed was fulfilling the role for which he had come to earth.  Heaven and earth would meet in Jerusalem, when the sinless one bore the sins of the world, not to his destruction, but to his glory.  Not to defeat, but victory.  Not ending in a final death, but eternal life.       

            When Jesus entered Jerusalem, he began his final parable, his greatest teaching, his ultimate act of love in laying down his life to take it up again.  The willingness of the Holy One to go to Jerusalem, knowing what awaited him there, willing to undergo pain and suffering and even death, demonstrates his love for us.  But he knew that death would not be the end, but the way to life, for sorrow lasts for a night, but joy comes in the morning.

            That is why the stones would shout.  The stones recognized the step of their Creator, knew that this one was the Word who was in the beginning with God, the one through whom all things came into being. How could the stones not shout?

            This is what we praise on Palm Sunday.  That the stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. The one the world thought was nothing is really everything.  Jesus, the only sinless one, took upon himself our sin.  God in human form gave up life so that we might have life. The one reckoned of no account accomplished the greatest deed ever performed.  Not through power and might, but through meekness and humility, going to the cross out of love for us, and being raised in the joyful morning beyond all mornings, when all hopes are realized, and even those without hope are surprised by joy.

            Palm Sunday depicts once again the great reversal at the heart of the gospels.  Earthly powers are not really powers.  They are feints, futile graspings that will one day be overturned, when the meek inherit the earth. When the poor in spirit receive the kingdom. When those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled. When the lame walk and the blind see and the prisoners are freed.  When voices long-silenced will sound forth, and the outsiders, the poor, the persecuted, the marginalized, will be seated at places of honor at the table, to enjoy that great banquet of rich foods and fine wines.  When the first shall be last and the last shall be first, and the one greatest in the kingdom of heaven is the one who serves.

            And so the stones would shout. 

            On this day, when we stand at the brink of this most Holy Week, let us leave behind the way of the Pharisees---the way of complacency, and comfort, of silence and security.  And let us follow Jesus on the road to Jerusalem.  When we do, we cast our cloaks before him, offering him our greatest allegiance.  When we follow him, we choose the way of the kingdom rather than the way of the world.  When the world’s voices tell us to stop, we must go on. When the voices of power feel threatened, we must speak on.  When things seem dark around us, we will sing on.  For we know the one whom we follow.  Let us walk with him to the end.

            In the name that is above every name, Amen and amen. 

Rev. Dawn Mayes

Manassas Presbyterian Church

Manassas, Virginia

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