Summary: Palm Sunday wasn’t just about the "triumph". It speaks directly to our feeling like we want to give up in the face of struggle
Get A (New) Grip: Hearing God Through Hebrews 12
Apr 1, 2007 Palm Sunday
Not so long ago, late last fall, I felt like I wanted to quit. It was a Sunday morning, and I was sitting right over there where usually sit, and it was during our time of worship through song, and I sat there feeling completely empty. Discouraged. Weary. And wanting to give up.
I looked around at you, my friends and brothers and sisters in Christ, and my deep love for all of you made me want to quit even more, because I want you to have a better pastor then me. Someone better able to care, and nurture, someone better able to make our church grow and reach out to a world that is hurting and dying, someone who could inspire and motivate and rally us to “go into all the world and make disciples”.
And so I did the only thing I could think of, I poured those feelings out to God. My prayer, as we sang songs of worship, was “Jesus, help! I need You, I need to know this is worth it, I need to be filled, encouraged, and I need You. Help, please.”
We started singing some song, I don’t remember which one, but it was about the cross, and us being at the cross, and so I imagined myself being there, and continued to ask Jesus to meet me. And as I prayed and sang, imagining myself kneeling at the foot of the cross with my head bowed low in discouragement, I saw in my imagination a pair of feet come and stand next to me. And then a hand reached down, it was a brown hand, and it was open and reaching towards me. I imagined myself grabbing hold, and this hand grabbed hold of mine with a strong grip and helped me to my feet, and I looked at this man and I knew in my heart that it was a Bolivian man.
Then, of course, our worship time ended and I had to get myself together so that I could share the message… but it was the beginning of the answer to my prayer. It felt like a promise, and it was enough to keep me going a little longer.
A Strange Intro?
Does that seem like a strange introduction to a Palm Sunday sermon? Palm Sunday – the day of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, with the crowds welcoming the Messiah, shouting praises, a moment of victory, right? “Hosanna! Hosanna!” Jesus the King, entering His Kingdom. Shouldn’t I begin a Palm Sunday sermon with some great inspiring story of victory and celebration?
Maybe. Some years, definitely. But as I look at the story in the broader context, knowing what comes next (namely, the crucifixion), it is a story with some bitter irony. I see some similarities between the struggle I felt, and how Jesus felt.
In Luke 9:51 (NKJV) it says, “Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem.” It’s a picture of Jesus gritting His teeth, and choosing to go. On the way into Jerusalem, while the crowds were shouting their praises, Luke reports: “Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it.” (Luke 19:41 NLT). When Jesus arrives, John tells us about the conversation that comes next where Jesus says, “27 “Now my soul is deeply troubled. Should I pray, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But this is the very reason I came! 28 Father, bring glory to your name.” (John 12:27-28 NLT).
Every single one of us has had to struggle. I shared my story, we looked at Jesus’ story, you know your story. There are things, situations, relationships, that are a struggle. Sometimes, they become overwhelming and we feel like quitting, we want to pray “Father, save us from this hour”, we want to throw in the towel. It is hard, it is work, it is draining, and in a culture that has a pill or a product that promises to bring change in an instant, we sometimes wonder what is possibly wrong with us, that we should have these struggles.
The chapter we have been studying this Lent season speaks directly to our feeling like we want to give up in the face of struggle, and here is what it says: “So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.” (Heb 12:12-13 NLT)
These are two mighty powerful verses. Are you facing a struggle at work? “get a new grip”. A struggle with some teacher at school, or a group of friends, and you’d love to just run away? “get a new grip”. A struggle in your marriage, or with your children, or with some close friend that has let you down, “get a new grip”.