Summary: Prepared for Palm Sunday 2010 but also focusing on the Cross and beyond, this sermon affirms the fulfilment of prophecy on ’Palm’ Sunday and suggests that Jesus was fully prepared to fail in the eyes of the world, as he knew God would ultimately vindicate
About six years ago a friend of mine said, “The trouble with being a leader today is that you can’t be sure whether people are following you or chasing you.”
Jesus was in his early 30’s and he was heading towards Jerusalem (19:28). Three years of ministry had catapulted Jesus into the limelight. He taught with authority (Luke 4:32). Sometimes he healed physical illness (4:39). Sometimes, aware of a person’s faith he would tell them their sins were forgiven (5:20), much to the annoyance of the religious leaders (5:21). Jesus sat down to dinner with agents of the occupying army and with sinners, again upsetting the legalistic religious men (5:30). He healed a man on the Sabbath (6:10) – the Jewish Day of rest that runs from Friday evening until Saturday evening – and that really began to annoy the muttering, grumbling, grumpy old men of the religious establishment.
Jesus was really upsetting the apple cart. He was far too radical. He was going against everything they had ever known. The Synagogue wasn’t like it used to be 30 years ago when Jesus was a ‘nipper’. He was doing it all wrong; and the Bible says those legalistic religious people ‘were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus’ (6:11).
Jesus was reaching out with compassion to the sick, to the lost, to the trouble makers, to the prostitutes, to the young people, and the grumpy old men of the Synagogue didn’t like it one bit. I have some Vicar friends who are reaching out to the lost, to the trouble makers, to the troubled, and to young people, and because their methods are different, and because they are ‘changing things’, changing the way the Church operates, grumpy old men (and just occasionally grumpy old women) are furious, and they have begun to discuss how they might get rid of their Vicar. Please do pray for them!
The trouble with being a leader today is that you can’t be sure whether people are following you or chasing you.
Jesus was forging ahead. Literally in verse 28 of our Bible reading we are told that Jesus ‘went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem’ (19:28). He was leading the way, even though an order had been issued for his arrest! In John’s gospel – one of the books telling us the story of Jesus – we learn that the religious leaders were looking out for Jesus, waiting for news of his whereabouts so that he could be arrested (John 11:55-57). He was a marked man, and yet Jesus was putting into action a plan he had hatched earlier. He was not going to be deflected from the path God had for him – the path to Jerusalem and confrontation.
Jesus tells two of his disciples exactly what they need to do, where they need to go, and what they need to say in order to obtain a donkey for the journey.
Jesus was well prepared. The password had been pre-arranged. ‘If anyone asks you why you are untying [the donkey] tell them the Lord needs it’ (Luke 19:31); and when they went for the donkey that is exactly what happened. The donkey is handed over by the owners (19:32-34) without further question because Jesus had prepared the ground.
What situations are we facing where we need to prepare the ground? Where is Jesus at work in our community, preparing the ground, preparing the way, opening doors for the Good News of God to break in? Where is Jesus making preparations in your life or in your family?
One of my favourite Christian authors on leadership is Bill Hybels, Senior Pastor at Willow Creek. He once wrote that as a leader ‘if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail. If you fail to plan then you plan to fail’. Planning is a key role in leadership and Jesus had his plan.
The owners of the donkey were ready, waiting for the day to come when the Lord would need their donkey. The disciples threw their cloaks on to the animal and placed Jesus upon it (19:35); and ‘as [Jesus] went along, people spread their cloaks on the road’ (19:36). Many times in his life Jesus fulfilled ancient prophecy. Yes, he probably planned to fulfil some of those prophecies, but many he had no control over; such as the place of his birth, his ancestry, his execution, and the dividing up of his clothes by the soldiers as he was crucified – all of those fulfilled biblical prophecy! And as cloaks are spread out on the road, Jesus’ disciples were declaring him to be a King. In the Old Testament (2 Kings 9:13) Jehu had been anointed King of Israel by God; and in response Jehu’s fellow Army Officers ‘took their cloaks and spread them under him on the bare steps. Then they blew the trumpet and shouted Jehu is King!’ Something similar was now happening with Jesus. Preparing to descend the Mount of Olives, joyful praise erupts.