Palm and Passion Parades

Easter Series  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  23:06
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Palm and Passion Parades Matthew 21:1-11, Luke 23:26-33 We have two parades that we are recognizing today: one a celebration and one of tragedy. The first one is the parade that happens as a triumphal entry into Jerusalem beginning the high holy days of Passover. Here, Jesus is cheered and adored as He rides through the gates of Jerusalem, only to go to certain torture and death. The crowds are fickle crowds, ready to cheer Him now only to crucify Him later. They will turn from Jesus and run. Can you imagine if Jesus had been treated like a 21st-century celebrity as He rode into Jerusalem? • David Muir of ABC Nightly News might have reported on rumors that Jesus planned to disrupt temple business. • Political pundits would have argued about who He "really" was. • Dr. Phil would undoubtedly have interviewed a disciple to proffer a psychological profile for his show. • Some tabloid would investigate Jesus' relationship with "the woman at the well" or, even better, Mary of Magdala. • There would be in-depth analysis by cult specialists and modern-day Pharisees on MSNBC. • A council of church officials would be in place to study the authenticity of Jesus' feeding the multitudes and walking on water. • As He entered the dusty city, hundreds, if not thousands, would have used their iPhones to capture the parade to post later on social media and surely a hoard of newscasters would have been shoving their cameras and mics into Jesus’ face and asking Him, “How do you feel being such a celebrity… But it was not like this at all, was it? While the celebrities of today are famous because they have hired promoters and agents and have the media promoting them and their selves, Jesus was celebrated by a relatively small number of followers who were not quite sure why they were there, except for the fact that something drew them to this teacher, this holy man. He could heal them. He spoke in enigmatic parables. He was very different from anything or anyone they had seen before. And He loved them in a way they had never before experienced. There was something about Him. In a cruel and violent world, where most people kept their heads down and were interested in just basic survival, Jesus regularly stirred up enough trouble to risk His safety. In a culture where 2 people shamelessly promoted themselves, then and now, Jesus told those He healed to "tell no one." He was not swayed by current trends. He was not concerned with money. He had no problem with challenging those in power. His ministry was guided, nourished and planned by the only Power that really matters. People responded to Him jubilantly, for the moment. The second parade is the walk to Golgotha. Here, those who walk with Jesus will serve Jesus until the very end. The disciples, though afraid, will go on to start the Church and the women will be the first at the tomb and the bravest in those last moments of Jesus' life. They are with Jesus to the very end. Having experienced the triumphal entry, Jesus now experiences His passion for the people. Before we go further, we need to define what passion means. You probably would define passion as a hunger or craving or a strong and barely controllable emotion. However, the passion of Christ means "having to endure, undergo, experience" or “the state of being affected or acted upon by something external" such as being passive on the one hand, and imposed upon, brutally and mortally, on the other. Jesus’ passion is both – He experiences the passion, having to endure the suffering of being passive in the presence of evil, AND doing that because of His awe-inspiring love for the very people who caused His suffering and even more, His love for all the world, for all generations, for all their sin, for all time. He stands before the Pharisees, Pilate and Herod and the crowds and says barely a word. He is passive and also much desires to see this parade through to its end, even to death. He is sentenced to death, tortured, mocked and paraded before the same people once again as a convicted criminal, finally being crucified. Today's story is more about struggle, not celebration. Passion, not palms. A cross, not a crown. At various points in the passion story, the story of His suffering, a hand is put to the throat of Jesus, and He is threatened with destruction. The elders bring Jesus to the Roman governor Pilate and accuse Jesus of perverting the nation. When Pilate says that he can find no basis for an accusation against Jesus, they insist that He has stirred up the people to a riotous fervor. The elders want Jesus to be convicted of sedition ― the crime of speaking in a way that incites people to rebel against the Roman emperor. The painful and visible punishment for this crime is crucifixion, the ultimate hand to the throat. But Pilate is not convinced that Jesus must die. Pilate announces that Jesus has done nothing to deserve 3 death and says, "I will therefore have Him flogged and release Him." But the elders and the people shout, "Away with this fellow! Release Barabbas for us!" They want Jesus to be convicted of both sedition and blasphemy, for they claim that He is committing blasphemy by calling Himself "the Son of God." The elders and the people are furious that Jesus is being hailed as the Messiah, the Son of Man, the Son of David and the Son of God. Pilate wants to release Jesus but is overwhelmed by the crowd which continues to shout, "Crucify, crucify Him!" Giving in to their demands, Pilate releases the criminal Barabbas and hands Jesus over to be crucified. Ironically, the man who gets released is one who "had been put in prison for insurrection and murder." Barabbas walks away from the charge of sedition, while Jesus gets crucified for it. The hands of Rome and Judea are put to His throat. When they come to the place called The Skull, Jesus is crucified. And, after being put on the cross, He says, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." What an amazing accomplishment this is, being able to forgive the very people who have unjustly accused you, mocked you, treated you with contempt, tortured you and are crucifying you. In this case, forgiveness is more than heroic. Forgiveness takes power. Such forgiveness knows that evil is best overcome by good. Compassion and forgiveness can be shown by people who believe that God is the ultimate judge of each of us, the God who knows what is in each of our hearts. When Jesus forgave His tormentors, He released them from their sins and turned them over to God. We can do the same with the people who hurt us. Today, we are called to come out of the crowds, those that are fickled about their beliefs, who follow current trends, the latest crave, who run at the first sign of trouble; and become a part of Jesus' on-going procession in this life. We know that to follow Christ, to become a part of His procession, may mean that there are certain things that we are expected to be involved with. 1. We are expected to be part of the procession of Christ that involves pain and suffering and cross-bearing, for Jesus said, "Take up your cross and follow Me." Yet, that same procession that sounds so difficult to travel promises triumph over anything difficult in our lives. We can live victorious in our walk with Christ. 2. We are expected to be part of the procession of Christ that involves the need for courage and soul, because walking with Christ is not for the coward. It takes courage to stand against the wind and waves of the world and yet, that very walk with Christ promises strength for everyone and everything we may have to face. 4 3. We are expected to be part of the procession of Christ that may involve giving up the things that we hold dear and yet, that very walk with Christ promises us that all of our needs will be supplied. Don't worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will take care of itself, Jesus says. So, we follow the Christ of Today. 4. We are expected to be part of the procession of Christ that may seem to be confusing and puzzling, with mysteries that we cannot answer and yet, in our walk with Christ we are given the assurance that we are walking in the True Light, and are no longer in darkness. 5. We are expected to be part of the procession of Christ that looks like it is marching to a dead end. To believe in the world is to believe that Jesus Christ is dead and gone and will never be able to help us again and yet, we know that walking with Christ opens everything up for us, with abundant life on earth and eternal life in heaven. We are called to be part of the procession of Christ that marches to the cross; to take our places in the parade to Calvary. When Christ came into Jerusalem through the crowds, heaven’s Prince of Peace passed by, but the crowds chose to ignore Him. When Christ died on the cross, the day darkened, the curtain in the temple was torn in two, the presence of God was opened to all the people, the earth shook and the dead were raised and heaven became a reality. Let us shout with hearts that may have been hurt and wounded, with lives that may seem to be tattered and torn, let us sing, "Alleluia, Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord."
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