Palm Sunday - Rock Hard Listening

Palm Sunday
March 20, 2016
Rev. Mark M. Vickers
St. Timothy’s UMC

“Rock Hard Listening” 

Luke 19:28-40New International Version (NIV): 28 After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30 “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’” 32 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 They replied, “The Lord needs it.” 35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. 37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: 38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”[a] “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” 40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

__________________________________________________________________

We are almost there! We are almost there! Lent is just about over, and we are just about to the pinnacle of our Christian year. I know I have, several times, over the past week, thought, “wow” I am so ready for this Lent to be over and for Easter to arrive. Why are we like that I ask myself? Why are we so ready for the hard inward journey of looking at ourselves come to an end? You might say, “well preacher, don’t know about you, but my Lenten journey has not been the most pleasant. I have had to do some things I really didn’t want to do, I had to sacrifice some things I really didn’t want to sacrifice, and it made me face who I really am.” Let me suggest to you, yes, it probably did all of those things that I mentioned, but ultimately, it has reminded you, “whose you really are.” By that I mean, a strong Lenten journey reminds us that we are Jesus’ people! We are really “not ourselves” in the sense that we have any control over our identity and our make-up as Christians.

Several years ago one of our well-known political figures in the world said, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I, likewise, parallel this with the notion that “it takes a Lenten journey to make a Christian.” Hence we are almost there! We have one more “hard” week to go. 

Today in the scripture from Luke we have a somewhat joyous occasion at hand. Jesus has come to Jerusalem, a chastised, modified individual who is followed by some and rejected by others. Yet, He is coming to the end of His earthly journey, yet He comes triumphantly on a donkey. You know the donkey gets the short end of the stick so to speak. Two of the disciples are told to go and untie this beast. When they do that, they are asked “why” are you getting this little beast? They do as they are told by Jesus, they say, “the Lord needs it.” There was no rebuttal, the colt was taken to Jesus, draped with the cloaks and garments of those who followed him, and he rode it toward the city. As the procession, and you had to imagine it was a procession, neared the place known as the Mount of Olives, the people came forward and shouted, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.” They were gathered to make claim for Jesus the King!

Now, there is always a “party pooper” in the crowd. Thus we have the Pharisees who raise their ugly heads and tell Jesus, “You had better ‘rebuke’ or in modern language, “shut your disciples up.” Stop them from making these claims that you are a King. To which, Jesus replies, “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out!” What a slam! Basically, Jesus is saying if “the followers” (His disciples and us today) remain quiet then even the inanimate objects of God’s creation will make the claim! Now, in the Greek it comes across a little hasher. It comes across with the notion that “look you fools, this claim they are making is stronger than anything you can throw against me, death included.”

This is the beginning of the grand journey–the procession into Jerusalem where Jesus was hailed as the King. It is the place where we are now! As we approach Holy Week, which starts today, we too are in the position to lay claim to the one we call King! To the one who governs our life! To the one who instructs us through His teachings as to that which is right and wrong! But also the one who comforts us in time of death and grief, sickness and health, despair and agony. The one we call King is the one that remains with us no matter where we are in life and what we endure. That was exactly what the disciples and the crowds on those streets of Jerusalem were claiming. 

I believe that some of them knew what the most likely outcome was going to be, but there were also those who had no idea. We have both the advantage and the disadvantage to know how the story turns out! We have the disadvantage that there is no mystery in the journey during Holy Week, but in the same breath we have the wonderful advantage of knowing what we have to look forward to on Easter Morning. My friends–let us not be like the “shouting stones,” let us not be the ones who remain quiet in this world, let us not be the people who run away from the parade of palms, let us be the people who proclaim Jesus as King in a world that is struggling to find its source of power and authority. Let us be the ones to claim that power and authority! Let us not allow “the rocks to shout” because we have grown quiet, let us be the ones who shout in order to silence the rocks! 

Amen and Amen!