April 10, 2022 ~ Palm Sunday ~ ROLL DOWN JUSTICE
Rev. Beckie Sweet
A man bought a donkey from a preacher. The preacher told the man that this donkey had been trained in a very unique way (being the donkey of a preacher).
The only way to make the donkey go, is to say, “Hallelujah!”
The only way to make the donkey stop, is to say, “Amen!”
The man was pleased with his purchase and immediately got onto the donkey to try out the preacher’s instructions.
“Hallelujah!” shouted the man. The donkey began to trot. “Amen!” shouted the man. The donkey stopped immediately.
“This is great!” said the man. With a “Hallelujah!” he rode off very proud of his new purchase.
The man traveled for a long time through some mountains. Soon he was heading toward a cliff. He could not remember the word to make the donkey stop. “Stop!” said the man. “Halt!” he cried. “Whoa!” he pleaded. The donkey just kept going.
“Oh, no! . . . Bible! . . . Church! . . . Please Stop!” shouted the man.
The donkey just began to trot faster. He was getting closer and closer to the cliff edge. Finally in desperation, the man said a prayer. “Please, dear Lord. Please make the donkey stop before I go off the end of this mountain. In Jesus name. AMEN!”
The donkey came to an abrupt stop just one step from the edge of the cliff. “Whew! Hallelujah!” shouted the man. The rest of the story is history! (pause)
Have you ever wanted something, I mean really, really wanted something, but it turned out it wasn’t what you needed? Maybe you wanted to buy a big house, with a pool, and a large yard. So, you bought it. Then you had to take on an extra job to pay the mortgage, and found that you didn’t have enough time to care for the yard, the pool, and the house. You wanted that big house, but what you needed was a smaller house without a pool!
Maybe you wanted to retire early, but you find in retirement you were going stir-crazy because you cannot afford to do the activities you had always dreamed of doing. What you needed was to continue to work for a few more years. And you can just imagine the long list of wants verses needs that we could all make.
When we have these thoughts, we think that we have it all figured out, we think our wants and our needs are the same thing. I am so grateful that GOD knows the difference between the two. What we want is not always what we need, and what we get is not always what we want.
The Jews of Jesus’ generation thought they knew what they wanted. What they wanted was a KING who would take care of all their earthly concerns and problems. What the Jews didn’t understand was that the king they wanted was not the king they needed.
As we listen to our scripture text for today, it might not seem as if the entry into Jerusalem was very triumphant. A donkey, coats, palm branches, and a dusty road leading to Jerusalem, do not seem to live up to the types of parades we witness with pomp and circumstance, fancy cars, bands, fire trucks, floats, politicians and a grand marshal. Still, what Jesus experienced WAS a celebration fit for a king!
The donkey doesn’t seem very kingly, but a donkey has been a highly prized pack and riding animal. The sure footedness of this animal on small, mountain passes with rocks and drop offs, made it much more valuable than a larger horse. King David and Solomon were both known to ride donkeys in royal procession!
While a red carpet might seem more fitting than a carpet of coats, how many of you would be willing to take off your coat and lay it under the tires of the grand marshal’s limousine? Taking off one’s coat was very personal, it was a sign of love, honor, and respect for the person for whom it was done. This was a path made personally for Jesus. Palm branches, mentioned in the other gospel accounts of Jesus’ triumphal entry, were also tied directly to the prosperity of the royal ones. The presence of palm trees signified the presence of sufficient amounts of water, and water was life.
This was a celebration meant for a king!
Even their cries were fit for a king’s coronation. They did much more than applaud and whistle and shout, “Hip, hip hooray!” They yelled, “Long live the Messiah!” All four gospels record this kingly praise. In Matthew: Hosanna to the Son of David! In Mark: Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! In John: Blessed is the King of Israel. And here in Luke: Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!
But not everyone was shouting, not everyone was pleased that this man was being celebrated as a king. This was such an outpouring of emotion and praise, it was too much for the Pharisees. They didn’t want to hear another word. They asked Jesus to silence the people. Jesus responds, “I tell you if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
The question is often asked, Why would these people praise Jesus on Sunday and then be yelling, “Crucify” by Friday? Did the people know who they were praising? People had been praying for a king of great military might and proportions, for over 300 years. They wanted a king that would build a great army that would drive the Romans out. They wanted a king who was good with foreign policy and trade, who would make their land an economically thriving land, giving them more money in their pockets. This would mean more food on the table. They wanted a great military king, a great and powerful king who would bring other nations to their knees.
People were remembering Jesus’ teachings, healings, miracles, and assumed that he could and would also become a military leader. The people were praising Jesus, hoping that he would become the earthly king they wanted, but this was not the king they needed.
We may think that we would never praise Jesus as anything other than our Savior from sin, but if we listen carefully to our community today and to our private prayers, when we observe our expectations and desires, there are times when we lose sight of the MESSIAH that we really need. We treat our Savior as one who will care for all our earthly desires: a nice car for every driver, a home that conveys our worth, retirement funds that allow for unlimited travel, and the list goes on.
And now people are literally asking why our Savior has not wiped out the Corona Virus! When troubles come into our lives, many quickly turn from celebration and say this is not the King we had prayed for. Our sinfulness is clear when we don’t get what we want. We don’t praise the Messiah when things are not going our way. We sound like the Pharisees, grumbling that Jesus should not get people’s hopes up. Like the parade-makers in Jerusalem, we so quickly change our “Hosanna’s” to a shout of “Crucify Him!” We so quickly turn away from Christ’s church when OUR wants are not met by the “hypocrites” there!
We need a reality check here. What kind of Savior and Messiah do we want? What kind of Savior and Messiah do we need? Jesus went to Jerusalem to be the Savior and king that people needed. He would give his life, he would suffer and die for all. He would take to himself all of their sinfulness, even if they didn’t know who he was, or didn’t understand him and his mission. Jesus was the One they needed! Jesus is the one we need. May we join with all creation in singing in praise of the Messiah: “Holy, holy, holy, blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”
Mike Hamby, in his book titled, “The Triumphal Entry,” tells the story of Corrie Ten Boom, a famous Christian, who with her family had helped more than 800 Jews escape the Nazi’s. She and her entire family were then incarcerated during WWII, and she offered her testimony of suffering in Nazi concentration camps and God’s grace through it all. That testimony touched millions of lives. Many years ago, in a press conference following a ceremony in which Corrie Ten Boom was given a prestigious honorary degree, one of the reporters asked her if it was difficult remaining humble while hearing so much acclaim. She replied immediately, “Young man, when Jesus Christ rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday on the back of a donkey, and everyone was waving palm branches and throwing garments in the road and singing praises, do you think for one moment it ever entered the head of that donkey that any of that was for him?” She continued, “If I can be the donkey on which Jesus Christ rides in his glory, I give him all the praise and all the honor.”
“Holy, holy, holy, blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” The Day is Coming! ARE WE ONE?