Palm Sunday, year C, 2016 (preached 3/20/16)
procession with palms reading: Luke 19:28-40
first reading: Isaiah 50:4-9a
second reading: Philippians 2:5-11
gospel reading: Luke 22:14-23:56
*because of the lengthy gospel reading, covering the whole “Passion of our Lord,” the sermon is considerably shorter than usual
Today, on this day we call Palm Sunday, Jesus enters Jerusalem in triumph, surrounded by an adoring crowd saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
But in just a few days he will be alone, deserted by those who loved him, whom HE loved, who would say, “I do not know him.”(Luke 22:57) In just a few days Jesus will be betrayed, arrested, beaten, crucified and dead. We read all this in Luke’s account of The Passion.
What changed? How could we go from shouting blessings to the king, to “crucify him!”?(Luke 23:21)
Although Jesus spent his ministry healing, preaching love and proclaiming forgiveness – in the end he was not the “king” the people expected. They wanted him to be a tough guy. A revolutionary. Someone who would rally the troops and make Israel a mighty people once more. Their expectations of the Messiah were very different from the reality before them in Jesus, who would not defend himself.
And this is a challenge for us even today. We like to be winners. We like to appear strong. We like to think we can handle things on our own. We like to believe people get what they deserve.
Jesus stands, or rather HANGS, in opposition to ALL this.
- Jesus HANGS to say that government and faith are two different things – that God loves us whether we live in a wonderful democracy or an horrific dictatorship.
- Jesus HANGS to say that worldly winners and losers ALL have the same seats at his table.
- Jesus HANGS to say that “power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:8-10)
- Jesus HANGS to say that we DON’T get what we deserve – because despite our best or even pitiful efforts we all sin and “fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23)
Jesus’ kingdom isn’t about anything on the OUTSIDE – it’s all about what’s on the INSIDE.
Jesus’ kingdom is about the transformation of our hearts and minds and souls. It isn’t about what we can do for ourselves, but what God has done for us. It isn’t about us being better than anyone else, but in seeing Jesus in the face of everyone we meet.
It’s about recognizing the poor in us, the weak in us, the sin in us, and realizing that Jesus has embraced it all.
It may not mean we live in the biggest house, drive the best car, have the greatest health or the happiest family – but it DOES mean that we have so much more –
- hope for when we fail,
- love for when we fall,
- strength even IN our weakness,
- comfort when we grieve,
- and life even after we die.
NOT what his early followers, (or even WE), expect – but more than we could ever imagine.