Being Part of the Crowd - But Which One?
Let me just say what a beautiful thing it is to have so many with us this morning. Like children who accepts their father’s invitation to dinner, so many of us here who call this our spiritual home, have come to honor our heavenly Father with our presence, to not only accept the invitation but to be obedient to and honor Him as children of a loving Father.
Now, what is it that the Church wants to take away from this Palm Sunday, besides the palms themselves? Three things: #1) the need and the appropriateness of glorifying God. There is nothing that we do as a church that is more important to our spiritual well-being than worship. Someone once said that worship to the Orthodox Christian is like calisthenics for the body. If you stop moving, you will die. Likewise, if you stop grafting yourself onto that vine that has all of the life-giving nutrients, you will die as well.
#2) I want you today to remember who it was that abandoned Jesus just a few days after His triumphant Entry into Jerusalem: it was those same people that praised Him, that waved the palm branches and wanted Him to be more than what He was – more than God essentially. And don’t we do the same thing? Don’t we want more signs, more favor, more good health, more wealth, and more answers to our questions? I often think of what this means when we feel like God is so lacking in what He does and we are so much more logical and aware of people’s true need than He is. So, #2, the lesson is this: don’t be one of those people. When we praise Him, we accept Him as He is.
#3) This is one of the most interesting things. From the time we are teenagers, the last thing we want is to be incapable of caring for ourselves. As Christians, on the other hand, our dependence on God is a sign of maturity. In fact, being needy, knowing you need assistance from God, and admitting your deficiencies (sin) is the only way you can possibly have a real relationship with Him. What’s the problem today? Wealth. Our wealth is like an opioid giving us a false impression of who we are. Money acts like dopamine on our brain telling us we are better people simply because we have money, in no need of a Savior. The fact is: as soon as we begin to believe that God isn’t necessary, we’re already on the slippery slope.
Now, I’d like to tell you about what Jesus has done for us, something that you perhaps have never heard before. Jesus’ life and ministry gives meaning to things that we have never considered before and it makes it all the more meaningful when you realize that He did everything for you. As you listen to this short passage that you’ve probably heard 100 times, imagine Christ praying this to God the Father on that first Palm Sunday, as He passed through the valley from Bethany and entered the city knowing what was about to happen to Him:
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup runneth over" (Psalm 23:4,5).
† Today Christ fulfills these words in His actions. He walks through the Kidron Valley (valley of the shadow of death) and so, we ask ourselves two questions: why and how.
• Why does He make this fateful trip? To show us who He is. Just as His forefather, King David, made the trip, so Christ fulfills the prophecy and completes the process of bringing us salvation. It was David who wrote the psalm as a prophet foretelling that the Messiah would make the same trip through the Kidron Valley and enter the walled city through the gate reserved for the Messiah.
• How does He make the trip? Riding a donkey, to prove He is the prophesied Messiah of peace and humility that the Prophet Zechariah wrote about. Kings and military leaders rode chariots and horses in those days but Christ rides in this way to show that that His kingdom is not of this world.
† Today, Christ enters the city of Jerusalem and He fears no evil. In fact, He accepts it, as difficult as it is, because He understands better than anyone the significance of His saving actions. He knows that He must be the first in all things.
† His disciples prepare a table for Him, the Last and Mystical Supper, in the presence of His enemy, Judas, who betrays Him.
† It was only yesterday that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and it’s his sister, Mary, who anoints Christ with costly ointment to prepare His body for burial. In doing that, His cup of life overflows: His tremendous love overflows for us, His forgiveness overflows for us and His blood overflows into every chalice ever consecrated to remember His death and Resurrection.
† Why does He do all this? Why is it necessary for the Christ to suffer? It’s not only to fulfill the Scriptures but also because we needed God to redeem us, to buy us back from sin and evil, to make us His own, to pay the ultimate price for us so that in losing His life, we would gain ours. As we say, He trampled down death by death.
So, today, as His servants, we accept and welcome our King and we seat Him on the throne in our hearts. We accept Him as his children, as loving and obedient children welcome a loving father home where He belongs. And as His Bride, with our wedding garments prepared, we look for our Bridegroom to take us away and to give us the new life that He has prepared for us. May God bless our journey this week and may our hearts and minds be filled with faith and love for our Savior.