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Sermon for April 10, 2022 – Liturgy of the Palms (Palm Sunday)

Speaking Of Life 4020 | Going-away Party

When Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem, people were celebrating because they thought he came to end the rule of the Romans. Hardly did they know that they were giving him a going-away party. A celebration that is worth praising til today! Jesus didn’t come to conquer an oppressive government. Jesus came to overcome death with light and love!

Program Transcript


Speaking Of Life 4020 | Going-away Party
Greg Williams

I have a friend who worked for a manager known for making the whole department miserable. The manager was such an oppressive boss that when she announced she would be leaving the company, the staff struggled to hide their joy as she served her two-week notice. But they were able to secretly plan a going-away party for the manager’s last day on the job. Only, they did not invite the manager. Once she went away, they threw a party.

Well, that’s not usually what we are trying to do when we throw a “Going Away Party.” Typically, we mean to celebrate the person who is going away, not the relief of their going.

But consider this! When we celebrate Palm Sunday and Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, we are in a way doing a little of both. If you remember the story, Jesus is entering Jerusalem when the city erupts into celebration as they think Jesus is coming to overthrow the Romans. So, they are celebrating the person of Jesus. But Jesus did not come to Jerusalem to conquer the Romans. He came to die on a Roman cross. Little did the inhabits know, they were throwing Jesus a “going-away party.”

And, it’s a going-away party worth throwing. When Jesus died on the cross, he gave the oppressive rule of evil, sin, and death its “two-week notice.” This present evil age is on its way out. Halleluiah! Like those who celebrated the departure of an oppressive boss, we can celebrate the departure of the oppressive rule of evil and sin that has long tormented our souls. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, he entered to triumph over the devil’s rule of darkness and fear, bringing us into his Light and Love. Listen to these words of celebration often read on Palm Sunday:

the LORD has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes.
The LORD has done it this very day;
let us rejoice today and be glad.

LORD, save us!
LORD, grant us success!

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.
From the house of the LORD we bless you.
The LORD is God, and he has made his light shine on us.
With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession
up to the horns of the altar.

You are my God, and I will praise you;
you are my God, and I will exalt you.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever.

Psalm 118:23-29

As we celebrate Palm Sunday, may our praise and joyous worship be a response of overflowing gratitude for who Jesus is and what he has done. Not overthrowing cities and rulers but conquering sin and death and reigning in our lives. Hosanna, hosanna!

I’m Greg Williams, Speaking of Life.

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29 • Luke 19:28-40

This week’s theme is the gates of praise. With a chosen focus on Palm Sunday for the Sixth Sunday of Easter Preparation, there are only two passages in the RCL. The call to worship Psalm presents a liturgy of entrance to the temple courts that is paved with praise and rejoicing. The Gospel reading in Luke echoes this theme with Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, where his disciples shout out with praise and rejoicing.

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 chapter 9 verse 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 ridden. Untie 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 are “sent.” 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 time. We should not overlook the many opportunities Jesus gives us to participate in his “sending” ministry all around us. The “village ahead of you” may be 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 praise. The 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.

Extravagant Worship w/ Dan Rogers W2

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Extravagant Worship w/ Dan Rogers
April 10 – Palm Sunday
Luke 19:28-40 “Blessed Is the King”

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Program Transcript


Extravagant Worship w/ Dan Rogers W2

Anthony: Let’s move on to the next pericope, which is going to be Luke 19:28 – 40. It is the Revised Common Lectionary passage for April the 10th, which is Palm Sunday. Dan, would you read that for us please?

Dan:

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!”

“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.” [NIV]

Anthony: Dan, what’s the big deal about Palm Sunday? And what is significant about Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem as we’re thinking ahead about Holy Week?

Dan: In all four Gospels, the significance of Jesus entry into Jerusalem is his triumphal royal entry into the city, leading to his enthronement as King. Now for the Gospel writers, the lifting up of Jesus on the cross was the Ascension of the King to his throne. And in one sense, the first step in Jesus’ Ascension to the Father.

Anthony: If you preach this passage, Dan, (which you most likely will, and we’ll be listening) what’s going to be your main teaching emphasis?

Dan: In my over 51 years of ministry, I’ve preached on the triumphal entry many times and will continue to do it many times, but my teaching emphasis varies a bit, depending on which Gospel account I’m preaching from.

The triumphal entry is found in all four Gospels. And that indicates its importance to the story of Jesus. Now, if I’m preaching from John’s account, I note a lot of John’s use of biblical imagery to show Jesus as the Messiah, the prophesied King of Israel, the King of the Jews who was to come and bring in a new age of peace and freedom.

And the concepts of peace and freedom were very important to John’s readers who are probably enduring a great deal of persecution at the time they read his Gospel. John especially, though, draws on imagery from the Jewish feast of Sukkot or Feast of Tabernacles, as it’s sometimes called. And though this festival came in the fall of the year, John moves many of its symbols to the springtime story of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.

Now the Feast had become separated from its original agricultural roots and had come to be seen in the days of the Old Testament prophets as a celebration of the enthronement of the Messiah, the King, and the beginning of the Messianic Age. And thus, John uses the festival’s imagery to illustrate this is what’s happening with Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.

But now if I’m preaching from Luke’s account (which is the Lection for this year), I know how that Luke omits most of the Jewish imagery John uses. Perhaps lest his Gentile readers get the mistaken impression that the focus of Jesus is on a nationalistic Jewish kingship. For Luke, Jesus’ enthronement on the cross begins the rule, (basileia, sometimes translated kingdom) the rule of God for all followers of Jesus, both Jew and Gentile, all people.

And I teach it this way as a story of contrast. For his final visit, Jesus enters Jerusalem as the people’s Messiah king and savior, but not in the way most would have expected here. Hear the contrast in this story. We have the Messianic King coming to save his people, riding on a white charger, a battle horse? No, on a donkey. He brings peace, not war against the Roman. He conquers hearts and minds, not nations. He’s not welcome with royal robes, but those of the common people.

His crown is one of thorns. His throne is a cross. His coronation is an execution. His victory is in death, but through his death and resurrection, King Jesus succeeds and in saving his people. And through his death, King Jesus triumphed over all the powers of sin, death, and evil. And through his death King Jesus wins the war. The battles and skirmishes obviously continue, but through his death, victory is assured.

The triumph and victory are ours through our King, our Lord Jesus Christ. And this event of the Triumphal Entry assures us that we can have great comfort and peace because no matter how “wrong side up” things may look in the world around us or in our own lives, we can know triumph has already come.

Eternal peace, eternal joy, and eternal life have been won and secured for us because of the triumph of our King Lord Jesus. So as the crowd said, “Bless it be the name of the Lord.”

Anthony: Yeah, it reminds me how Jesus is our Deliverer, and he is faithful to deliver us ultimately. But often that deliverance doesn’t look the way I anticipate it looking or the way that I think would be best for it to happen – as the people of the day thought as well.

It seems that the Pharisees are trying to shush the multitude of disciples celebrating Jesus. I’m just curious, in what ways do we today need to be on guard that we aren’t hushing those seeking to worship Jesus?

Dan: Let me first speak to the meaning of the passage, and then I’ll comment on your question.

In the Lucan text, the Pharisees ask Jesus to rebuke his disciples for declaring him as king. And as the kingship parable Luke places just prior to the Triumphal Entry states, the Pharisees were determined not to let Jesus rule over them and were determined to have him killed. They are also undoubtedly concerned that the public proclamation of Jesus as king, a Jew as a king, would draw the attention and ire of the Roman authorities.

But your question does give me an opportunity to talk about one of my pet peeves about Christian worship in some settings. As Paul tells us in Corinthians, our community worship should be in decency and order. That is why we must not be disruptive and cause offense and confusion in community worship. Also, we should respect the worship traditions of different Christian tribes.

Now some Christian worship traditions are highly liturgical with lots of pomp and circumstance and some focus more on preaching and teaching. And some, such as the Quakers, emphasize the spiritual discipline of silence. We should respect the varying Christian traditions and not judge, or (to use your word, Anthony) “hush” them because they may be different from our own.

Also, pet peeve! Worship leader, please don’t tell people how to worship! Again, with decency and order, people should be free to worship as is appropriate for them. For example, please don’t tell people to bow their heads in prayer. Some may want to lift their eyes to heaven. Invite people to join with you in prayer.

Don’t tell people to stand; invite people who are able and so desire to stand. Don’t tell people to remain standing; invite them as they are able, and so desire to remain standing. Some of us have physical challenges, especially those of us who are older. And we can’t stand as walk as we used to. So please don’t embarrass us because we need to sit down when you say remain standing.

So, the key is don’t command! Invite people to participate with the worship leader and the worship team in community worship. So, thank you for allowing me to share one of my pet peeves.

Anthony: You are welcome.


Small Group Discussion Questions

From Speaking of Life

  • Can you think of any examples of something that “went away” that was worth celebrating?
  • In light of Jesus’ death and all that he delivers us from, what specific things can you think of that deserve a “going away party?”
  • Although we live in this present evil age, we also know that the devil, all evil, sin and darkness are defeated and will ultimately be removed. How does this shape how we live in this present evil age?

From the Sermon

  • Can you recall some of the ways the sermon related the Parable of the Pounds to the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry? What insights are gained by the context of the parable with Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem?
  • What stood out to you from the sermon and the text about the disciples being sent “into the village ahead of [them].” How did the sermon relate this to participating in Jesus’ ministry?
  • Luke mentions the detail of tying and untying five times in reference to the colt. What symbolic witness of Jesus did the sermon bring out with this reference?
  • The sermon said that setting the colt free just to roam the hills on its own would be another form of bondage. How does this serve as an analogy of what true freedom is for us?
  • The text tells us that the colt had “never been ridden.” Discuss the symbolism you see in this detail, or the symbolism presented in the sermon? Any insights? Any wild guesses?
  • How were the disciple’s actions throughout the story an act of worship? What are some specific ways the disciples were worshiping the Lord?
  • What struck you about the Pharisees resisting Jesus by telling him to order his disciples to stop? In what ways do the powerful and elite rulers of our day try to prevent Jesus’ entry in the world by trying to stop his disciples? How have you experienced this dynamic?

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