Summary: Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem teaches us some important lessons about a life committed to God.
Today we celebrate what is commonly called Palm Sunday, which is interesting, because if you noticed, there was no mention of palms in the Mark reading. In fact, palms are only mentioned in the gospel of John. But early Christians quickly figured out that “Branches Cut from the Field” Sunday wouldn’t fit on their church sign, so Palm Sunday became the accepted name.
Palm Sunday is not the only thing we are celebrating today. We are also celebrating the confirmation of six of our youth. What confirmation means is that they are making the decision to confirm their faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and one of them, Andrew Wright, is solidifying the commitment through baptism this evening. The other five, like me and many of you, were baptized as infants. Luckily, this church doesn’t get hung up on whether you were sprinkled or dunked; what’s important is that you got wet.
It’s actually kind of odd that we’re celebrating these two events on the same day. Palm Sunday and confirmation. Consider what they mean. Palm Sunday foreshadows Jesus’ death, and Confirmation Sunday celebrates life, a life committed to God. I think it’s actually fortuitous that these two events are happening on the same day, because I believe this story in Mark has a lot to say to our young people. There are some important lessons to be learned from Jesus’ arrival to Jerusalem, so the rest of this sermon is only for the confirmands, but the rest of you all can listen in if you want.
The first thing Jesus teaches us is to plan ahead. Jesus knew this day was coming, and he knew how God wanted it to unfold. Jesus wouldn’t be galloping into Jerusalem on a white stallion surrounded by a Holy Army; instead, he would ride a lowly donkey, a sign of humility and peace. It’s the equivalent of our troops strolling into Baghdad on tractors instead of storming in on tanks.
Jesus already had made arrangements for his transportation. So the lesson we can take from Jesus is this: when you plan on traveling, make sure to call the airline first to see if your plane is on time. Make sure you pack your bags the night before, and you put the tickets somewhere you won’t forget. But more importantly, as you look ahead to what’s coming in your life, there’s going to be a lot of things you won’t be able to plan for, so the firmer a foundation you can establish in your own life and faith, the better able you’ll be to handle whatever life throws at you. Plan ahead by strengthening your relationship with God.
The next lesson we can take from Jesus is to be considerate. Jesus knew he would be needing this donkey, but he didn’t put his own needs about someone else’s. He said to the disciples, “Tell the owner of this donkey, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’” Now, if I’m that donkey’s owner, and Jesus wants to borrow it, do you think I’d say, “Well, OK, but that donkey has a curfew, so you make sure you bring him back!” If Jesus asked to borrow your car, would you tell him to make sure he brought it back with a full tank of gas? Of course not! Jesus wants the donkey, you give him the donkey and don’t expect anything back. He’s Jesus!
But Jesus never thought so much of himself that he stopped thinking of others. Anyone here doubt that the donkey was brought back shortly and without any scratches in the paintjob? As I look over our group of confirmands, it’s easy to see they’re smart, they’re motivated, the young men are incredibly handsome and the young women are strikingly beautiful. You all going places in this world. And as you grow and mature, you’re also going to grow in status, in power, and in notoriety. You are the kind of people that other people will want to know. Now, sometimes it’s easy to let that kind of thing go to your head, to forget about the little people around you. If the son of God has the presence of mind to return a borrowed burro, I know you all can have the presence of mind to be polite, to say “thank you,” and to keep your word when you give it. Everyone is a child of God, and it’s up to you to treat them that way.
There’s another lesson we can learn from Jesus that’s related to the last one. There weren’t a lot of fence-sitters when it came to Jesus. People back then either loved him or hated him. If they loved him, they worshipped him with every ounce of their being. And if they hated him, they wanted to kill him.