Monday Reverb – 11April2022

GCI Sermon Review

 

The Entry of Departure

Luke 19:28-40 (NRSV)

 

Today marks the end of our journey through the Season of Easter Preparation (commonly referred to as Lent) and it launches us into the beginning of Holy Week.

In Holy Week, we are invited to praise and worship Jesus as the one who is faithful to his word to us, even at incredible cost to himself.

The liturgical calendar gives us this special day known as Palm/Passion Sunday which begins what is commonly called Holy Week.  Some churches will focus on the Passion of Christ while others will focus on Jesus’ triumphal entry by celebrating Palm Sunday.  Both focus on Jesus and the culmination of his ministry that takes place in Jerusalem.  Either path gives us the opportunity to hold to what Jesus revealed to us during the season of Easter Preparation while entering Holy Week with a response of praise and worship for who he is as our Lord and Savior.   Last year we focused on Passion Sunday … This year, we will be focusing on Palm Sunday and Jesus’ triumphal entry as it is told in Luke’s Gospel.

The story begins in Luke 19:

 

After he had said this, he went on ahead, going to Jerusalem. (Luke 19:28 NRSV)

We should ask, “after he had said what?”  As Luke tells the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, he does so by linking it to the parable of the pounds that Jesus just told in the previous section of Luke 19.  According to Luke, Jesus told this parable “because he was near Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately” (Luke 19:11 NRSV).  If we were to revisit that parable, we would see that Jesus is trying to correct some faulty assumptions of his followers.  They were ready for Jesus to overthrow the Roman Empire and rule as their new king immediately.  But the parable sets up a time between a ruler becoming king and that king returning in “royal power.”  The time between will be a time where the subjects of the king will either faithfully serve him or rebel against him.  We will see both in our story today.

But first, let’s explore what light the parable of the pounds shines on the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry.

  • First, we are to understand that Jesus is not coming to Jerusalem to become king just as the nobleman in the parable did not go to a distant country to become a nobleman.  Jesus is already King.  Other ancient triumphal entries were understood in this manner.  It was the victorious kings who would enter a city in a procession of celebration as a way of claiming that city as their own.  You can see the paradox set up in the way Jesus enters Jerusalem.  He does not enter in the same manner as other kings of his time would.  For example, victorious Roman generals would enter a city wearing a crown of laurel and riding a chariot pulled by mighty war horses as symbols of military victory.  Jesus enters on a humble colt and ends up wearing a crown of thorns.  The symbols of his victory point to a royal power from a decidedly different source.
  • Second, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is not Jesus’ entry into his royal power.  That takes place at Jesus’ ascension.  With Jesus’ parable as our guide, his entry into the city equates to the departure of the nobleman.  Jesus is not entering the city as a place of arrival but as a place of departure.  This also fits with how Luke has been telling the story.  Luke began a section in his Gospel back in Luke 9:51 where Jesus “resolutely set out for Jerusalem” that is known as the “travel narrative” or as the “journey to Jerusalem.”  Luke spends ten chapters on this journey narrative, and it ends just before the triumphal entry.  The whole journey is a journey towards Jesus’ exodus — his death and crucifixion that will take place in Jerusalem.
  • Third, we should note that this story does not actually end with Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.  In fact, the next verse after our story has Jesus still coming near Jerusalem.  In this way, here on Palm Sunday, we stand at the entrance of Jesus’ crucifixion and death which will be visited throughout Holy Week.

Let’s look at the story as disciples who are called to enter these gates with him.

When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been riddenUntie it and bring it here.  If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’”  So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them.  As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”  They said, “The Lord needs it.”  Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. (Luke 19:29-35 NRSV)

The location of the story takes place near Bethphage and Bethany, two neighboring towns that are on the Mount of Olives, which according to Zechariah 14:4 is where the Messiah was expected to arrive.  It is here, before descending the mountain into Jerusalem that Jesus directs his disciples.  In this case, two disciples to be exact.  This is an interesting way Luke begins the story.  Typically, Luke is full of explicit details throughout his Gospel, but in this case, he seems to go out of his way to keep the identity of these “two disciples” hidden.  We don’t even know if they are two of the twelve disciples or just two disciples in general.  It’s possible Luke does this to invite us into the story.  For today, the two disciples are you and me.  Notice Jesus gives us a part to play in his ministry.  Even at this climatic end of his long journey, he still invites his disciples to be involved, to participate in what he is doing. And these two disciples are called to participate as disciples who aresent.”  Sent to do what, we may ask?

  • First, they are sent “into the village ahead of [them].”  Often, ministry with Jesus is right in front of us.  We do not need to set our eyes to some distant destination on the horizon, rather we are sent to the next town or person we encounter.  This doesn’t mean we will not be sent to distant lands, but the emphasis is on carrying out Jesus’ ministry one step at a timeWe should not overlook the many opportunities Jesus gives us to participate in his “sending”  ministry all around us.  Thevillage ahead of you” may be (the person) lying next to you when you awake in the morning.  Or it may be in the breakroom of your workplace as you make your lunch. Maybe Jesus sends you to a “village ahead of you” located in the grocery store or gas station on your way home.  Whatever village you encounter “ahead of you” may be a place Jesus is calling you to serve him.
  • Second, the two disciples are serving Jesus in a specific way.  They seem to be aware of how they are serving, as they return with excitement “throwing their cloaks on the colt” and setting Jesus on it.  Let me explain!  These disciples obviously knew their scriptures.  They knew how untying a colt, a new colt that had never been ridden at that, would serve as a sign laden with messianic expectations. The passage in Zechariah 9:9, for example, would be easy to see as taking place in the very event these disciples were caught up in.

“Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zechariah 9:9 NRSV)

There are other Old Testament passages, along with this one, that would let these disciples know they are playing a key role in Jesus’ ministry as the Messiah.  The disciples know that they are sent ahead as a witness of who Jesus is.  In the words Jesus gives them to say, along with the actions they are told to take, they become participants in the signs the scriptures have set out to point to Jesus.  In their particular situation, Jesus tells them to untie a colt.

Luke mentions this detail of tying and untying five times, so it must be an important detail he doesn’t want us to miss.  We can note two things that this act may symbolize in addition to the messianic themes associated with the colt from Zechariah.  First, the colt is tied.  And Jesus didn’t say to the disciples that they might find a colt tied in the village or that they need to look for a colt tied in the village, he says “you will find tied there a colt.”  Remember, Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem to go to the cross.  What he is about to do is untie all creation from the bonds of sin.  Jesus is the one who will set the captives free, and the disciples in this act will serve as a witness to who he is and what he will do at the cross.

We too, will find “colts” still tied in the villages ahead of us that need to know who Jesus is as the one who sets them free.  Any “untying” we do will only be as a sign of the ultimate freedom offered in Jesus.  Also, the colt is untied for the purpose of being brought to Jesus.  Likewise, our acts serve a greater end.  For example, if Jesus directs you to help someone break free from an addiction or abusive relationship, you can do that as a witness of the greater freedom Jesus brings to them in the Gospel.  The act only has minimum benefit  if it doesn’t serve in bringing that person a little closer to Jesus.  So, anything we do to bring others into some experience of freedom in this life, can be used to bring people to Jesus where their ultimate freedom is found.

Jesus also gives them words to say as they untie the colt. If someone wants to know why the colt is being untied, they are to say, “The Lord needs it.”  Notice, the words and the act go together.  The colt is untied for the Lord.  Setting the colt free just to roam the hills on its own would be a bondage of another sort.  The colt is made to have a master to whom she belongs.  In a similar fashion, people are set free, not just from something, but for something.  Namely, they are set free for the Lord.

Jesus doesn’t explain all the details or the symbolism.  So while we throw out a disclaimer that these are just pictures or analogies to help us unpack some of the realities Jesus brings with his “departure,” we know he is always intentional.  With this in mind, let’s look at another detail concerning the colt …

The colt had “never been ridden.”  This means it is a new colt that its master has not yet broken in.  This could be another reference to messianic themes, and it can serve as another witness to who Jesus is and what he is doing.  Jesus’ death on the cross will not end his ministry.  There will be a resurrection which ushers in a new creation.  Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a symbol of the newness he brings to all creation.  Jesus is the true Lord and Master of his creation and creatures.  Did you notice that the owners did not resist the disciples untying the colt when they were told the Lord needed it?  Jesus as Lord means that all ownership must be denounced, and we are to be stewards instead.  When the Lord comes calling, as stewards, we will have no problem letting go of that which has been given to our care.  We are not owners, but stewards.

Again, these are not meant to be an exact parallel to how Jesus relates to us as his people.  We are not actual colts tied to posts … and we are not to equate such imagery that would see Jesus relating to us as we would to an animal.  But hopefully, you get the picture.

In summary, the two disciples, like you and I, are sent ahead as witnesses to who Jesus is and what he has done.  We do this with the words Jesus gives us to speak along with actions that confirm the words.   Jesus is Lord; and we have the privilege to participate in his ministry by bringing others to him by word and deed.  But, there is another calling we have as disciples that is seen running through the whole story.  Let’s look further:

As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying,

“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” (Luke 19:36-38 NRSV)

The story has a theme of worship running through it.  There is no hesitancy from the disciples regardless of how odd their mission may have seemed.  They are obedient to every word Jesus speaks to them.  Not only that, but they also do it joyfully, gathering with others to sing praises to the Lord.  This is what it means to be a disciple of the Lord who is King of all kings.  Everything we do is done as an act of joyful worship.

Notice how Jesus never had to tell anyone to spread their cloaks or lift their voices in praiseThe presence of the Lord brings out a response of worship from those who know him.

Even in a story that is all about Jesus’ departure, his soon coming crucifixion and death, the author is inspired to write it in a joyful, worshipful tone.  This too, is our response of knowing the Lord, even now as we live between the times of his departure and his return.  That’s what we see in the parable of the pounds. The faithful servants take all that is given to them and serve as stewards who trust in the Lord and his promised return.

But the parable also had one servant who thought the master to be a “harsh” man.  He did not respond as one who trusted in the character and word of his master.  So, Luke has one more detail to share to carry that through.

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.” (Luke 19:39-40 NRSV)

Jesus’ approach to the city is met with resistance.  It comes from the Pharisees, the same opponents of Jesus that have been resisting him the whole journey to Jerusalem.  They are not excited about Jesus riding in as the victorious king that they must answer to.  They’d rather have their own rules and regulations that keep people bound to them.  They also did not want the shouts of praise to reach the ears of the Roman authorities that they were capitulating to. A triumphal entry of a new king could end what little control they thought they had. There is no worship on their lips or joy in their hearts.

Notice how they oppose Jesus. They go after his disciples. They order Jesus to order the disciples to stop being worshipers and witnesses. Everything the disciples are doing points to Jesus as the true Lord and King, and the Pharisees cannot endure it. We can expect the same today as true disciples who follow the Lord. Those who want to keep people tied down for their own purposes will resist those who follow the one who is setting people free to follow him. The more we worship, the more we witness, the more we can expect the powermongers and slavedrivers to try to muzzle us into silence. But Jesus has words for them: “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

In other words, Jesus stands at the gate as King, and he can’t be stopped. He will enter the city as its only Lord and King, and death itself will not prevent him from bringing life and freedom. Even if the whole world falls silent at his departure, the sound of the stone rolling from the tomb will shout his victory. Perhaps Luke intends to leave us with a lingering question.  If Jesus is truly our Lord and Savior, even at the gates of his own departure, how could his followers be silent?  After all, he is a returning King.


A Donkey’s Blessing

Which donkey?

What blessing?

Zechariah 9:9

The donkey of Luke 19 is the donkey of Zechariah 9:9

Imagine how that donkey might have felt if he were human

So … what is the donkey’s blessing?

IF we could switch focus FROM the donkey … TO the “blessing” …

The donkey’s “blessing” was also the “blessing” of the two disciples.

The donkey’s “blessing” is also a “blessing” that rightly belongs to the Church.

Each of us has the opportunity to participate in the (ongoing) ministry of Jesus Christ.

To be successful in sharing that blessing … of participating in the work that Jesus is doing … we need to do two things …

be obedient

be willing to give up anything the Lord asks us to give up

CONCLUSION

I can’t speak for any donkey out there, but … IF I were that donkey in Luke 19, THEN all my children and relatives and friends would be familiar with the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9 … and I’d probably have a licence plate saying, “ONE DONK”.


As we go through Holy Week, the final week of our Easter Preparation …

Holy Week REFLECTIONS  … on The Last Sermon by Jesus of Nazareth

Today we reflect on events in the life of Jesus of Nazareth on His way to the cross.

 

 

2 Timothy 2:8-12   Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel, for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained. 10 Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the [c]elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.

11 This is a faithful saying:

  • For if we died with Him, We shall also live with Him.  12 If we endure, We shall also reign with Him.  If we deny Him, He also will deny us.  13 If we are faithless,  He remains faithful;  He cannot deny Himself.  

 

John 14:19-20    “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. 20 At that day you will know that am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.     

 

Acts 17:22-23, 24-28,29-31   Then Paul stood in the midst of the [i]Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; 23 for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:

TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.

Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: 

24 God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. 26 And He has made from one [j]blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’     29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. 30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

 

Colossians 1:9-14,15-18     For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed  us  into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.     15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers.  All things were created through Him and for Him.  17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.   

Colossians 1:19 -23     For it pleased the Father that  in Him all the fullness should dwell, 20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.    21 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight — 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.    

Colossians 1:24-29     I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, 26 the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints27 To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in youthe hope of glory28 Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. 29 To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.

 

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