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The Final Countdown

The Final Countdown

Mk 11:1-11

We’ve come to the final stage of Jesus’ journey. He’d spent time in retreat in Caesarea Philippi to the far north – he’d been in Galilee & the hill country of Judaea – he’d walked the road through Jericho – the mountain top transfiguration experience with his mates James Peter & John when his mission was confirmed by the Father – & now he’s finally arrived in Jerusalem for the showdown with the religious authorities who want his blood.

 

It’s the Feast of the Passover – Jerusalem – the holy city – is crammed with perhaps 2 million pilgrims & tourists from all parts of the Roman Empire – all heading for the Great Temple where worship is big business. They know Jesus is in town – the healer – the miracle worker – everyone’s talking about his antics a few days ago when he kicked over the tables of the moneychangers & now they want to see him do just one more trick so they can believe he really is the Messiah who he claims to be. Who they hope he is.

 

But unlike a politician or military leader who might have carefully orchestrated such a public spectacle of entering the city – waving & smiling to the crowd from an expensive chariot – surrounded by security thugs with showers of confetti raining down from 2nd storey windows – kissing babies & shouting slogans that will hopefully whip the crowd into a frenzy. Jesus will have none of that! Being popular isn’t what Jesus came for.

 

No chariot of war – instead Jesus rode in silence on the back of a borrowed colt – an animal of peace – organised well beforehand – the password “The Lord needs it” [v.34] was all it took to set the wheels in motion. The donkey was a deliberate claim to his kingship of the heart – a fulfilment of the OT prophecy in Zech 9:9 [Matt 21:5].

 

No waving – no baby-kissing – no cheesy grin – no slogans – just the crowds pushing & shoving & cheering loudly “Hosanna! Hosanna! Save us!”

 

Here was their long-awaited hero – their king & Messiah – the promised one – who would lead them to victory against the Roman oppressors & restore Israel to the Jewish people – they hoped.  For a brief moment in time the crowds did accept Jesus as their king & the anointed one.

 

But how quickly things change! A week is a long time in politics. Look at the media circus in our own Federal leadership over recent weeks. In just one short week the joyous shouts of ‘Hosanna! Save us!’ changed to grumbles & murmurs of discontent – only to rise again as hysterical screams of ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’

 

If we were there amongst the crowds – we too would be shouting & waving palm branches & crying ‘Save us! Save us from the brutal Romans! Save us from the taxes & the ripoff merchants at the Great Temple! Save us from poverty!’

 

If Jesus were to ride into Lismore today – would it be on the back of donkey? Or in a truck headed for Brisbane?

?What would the crowds shout if Jesus came today?

?What would we expect of him?

?What would we want Jesus to rescue us from?

?Would it be from cancer? Or any of the many diseases that elude modern science?

?Would it be from a government that seems more interested in backbiting & internal squabbling than doing what they were elected to do?

?Would it be from credit card debt? Or loss of hard-earned retirement savings?

 

?Perhaps we’d hope Jesus could save us from fear or loneliness?

?Or from a dysfunctional family? Or from addiction or substance abuse?

Or homelessness? ?From unemployment?

 

Jesus knew full well what agony awaited him in Jerusalem. With a price on his head he’d carefully planned this grand entrance as an act of defiance & courage.

 

And then something incredible happened – which Matthew & Mark leave out – but is told by Luke [19:41-44] – something which didn’t fit the joy of the occasion & which seems to have escaped the attention of the disciples altogether:

Jesus wept – lamenting the inevitable fate of his beloved Jerusalem.

 

History tells us that just 40 years later – Jerusalem & the magnificent Great Temple – would be burned & levelled to the ground by the power & might of Rome.

The Jewish uprising was mercilessly crushed by General Titus son of Emperor Vespasian.  600 thousand Jews – incl. women & children – died in the slaughter.

All that remained of the Temple is what we know today as the Wailing Wall – a sacred place of pilgrimage for modern Jews.

 

Luke [19:44] records Jesus’ warning – how the destruction of Jerusalem would be a consequence of the people not recognising him as God in the flesh – God incarnate.

 

If only they had understood that his mission was to establish God’s kingdom on earth – a kingdom ruled by a heavenly King – not a military leader – then perhaps such destruction & violence could have been avoided.

Jesus came to offer peace with God – the Jewish people wanted war with Rome!

 

Jesus’ tears are the tears of God when he sees the needless pain & suffering & brokenness that results from people foolishly rebelling against God.

 

And so today – Palm Sunday – we remember this noisy – colourful – exciting – poignant entry into Jerusalem – as marking the beginning of the 7 Days of Holy Week leading up to the cross of Easter.

 

On Monday Jesus drove out the moneychangers from the Temple. In an uncharacteristic display of righteous rage he overturned the tables of those who exchanged Roman drachmas (considered unclean & unfit for use within the Temple) for Jewish shekels. These profiteers charged outrageous commissions – the merchants were ripping off those who bought “clean” animals & birds as temple sacrifices.

 

On Tuesday – Jesus taught in parables – warning the people against the Pharisees & predicting the destruction of the Great Temple.

 

On Wednesday – the Gospel writers are silent. Perhaps it was a day of rest for Jesus & his weary & worried disciples.

 

On Thursday – in an upper room Jesus celebrated the customary Passover meal with his friends. But he gave it new meaning. No longer would his followers simply remember the Exodus from Egypt in the breaking of bread. In what became the Last Supper they would also remember his broken battered body & his shed blood.

Later that evening in the Garden of Gethsemane he agonized in prayer at what lay before him – as he wrestled with temptation one more time.

 

On Friday – he would be betrayed by Judas – arrested – imprisoned – deserted by his friends – tried in a mickey-mouse court – denied by Peter – condemned – flogged & sentenced to die on a Roman cross – alongside 2 other criminals.

 

Just 5 short days was all it took for the joyful waving & cheers of ‘Hosanna!’ to turn into insults & jeering & cries of ‘Crucify him!’

 

On Saturday Jesus’ body lay in a stone tombborrowed from a wealthy follower named Joseph of Arimathea – believed to be also a member of the Sanhedrin.

 

On Sunday – his Passion was complete – the stone was rolled away & Jesustrue to his word revealed himself as very much alive.

He appeared to MaryPeter2 disciples on the Emmaus Road – to 11 frightened disciples hiding in a locked upper room.

His physical resurrection was established as fact.

 

The 7 days of the Passover Feast are still observed by many Jews today.

The Christian church calls this Holy Week – the Passion of Christ.

 

Our Parish is holding special worship services during this coming Holy Week to mark some of these highlights & I invite you to share them with us as we discover the deeper meanings of Christ’s Passion.

 

On Wed morning we’ll gather for the final Lenten 8am Holy Communion in StA’s side chapel.

 

On Good Friday morning – we’ll recount the events of Jesus’ trial & brutal death through the Passion Remembrance in St A’s.

 

In the early hours of Easter Sunday morning we’ll celebrate the empty tomb & the risen Christ through a beautiful service called Lighting of the New Fire – here in StA’s – complete with candles & sparklers.

Then we’ll share a cooked family BBQ breakfast in St A’s hall.

 

Our regular Sunday worship services at 7.30am, 9.30am & 6.30pm St Peter’s –  & also at Dunoon – will focus on the reality of the resurrection & the risen Christ.

 

But today – Palm Sunday – most of us in different ways – are there with Jesus – cheering as we walk through the streets with him – in that triumphal procession.

Or perhaps we’re waving & cheering from the sidelines as onlookers.

 

There’s a line in the 1970s musical “Jesus Christ Superstar” – where the Palm Sunday crowd is singing & cheering – & as Jesus passes by they call out “Christ, you know I loved you! Did you see I waved?”

 

! Love & commitment & true discipleship is far more than simply cheering or waving! It takes more than waving hands & palm branches to bring real change.

! It takes more than spreading clothing on the road to bring about revolution.

! Jesus wants more than our waving & cheering – he asks for our complete devotion & commitment!

Even those who wept for him later that Holy Week – were told not to weep for HIM but for themselves.

Jesus doesn’t want our tears of sorrow or regret – he wants our whole-hearted commitment to discipleship – he wants us to take up our cross & follow Him.

 

Unless WE show the world who Jesus really ishow will they ever know?

To put love into action takes great courage & discipline.

If we’re serious about our commitment to Jesus – then we have an obligation to be his faithful representatives on earth & use every opportunity to offer those we love – & those we meet – the chance to make a decision about how they’ll spend eternity.

 

Yes we may already be doing this through different acts of kindness & generosity & service.  But of all the occasions we have to draw people to Christs love & forgiveness – Easter has to be the most important & most meaningful of all.

 

!Our whole faith rests on the Easter story!

!Without the resurrection Jesus was just another miracle worker!

But WE believe Jesus was God in the flesh – who chose to break through into our earthly life for OUR sake – for the sake of LOVE.

So it falls to US to tell the story of God’s love – over & over again – so it will never be forgotten – so each generation has the opportunity to hear the resurrection story afresh – & choose life instead of death.

 

?So who will YOU invite to church this Easter to hear that amazing story?

?Who will sit beside YOU to hear the Easter story of resurrection & hope & God’s love & forgiveness ?

!We have the best news in town!

!Let’s not keep it a secret!            It’s a matter of life -or death!