Message for Sunday 9 April 2017–“Enter Gloriously” (Palm Sunday)

Welcome to the joy ride of Palm Sunday, a time of great celebration as we welcome Jesus through Jerusalem’s gate (and more importantly into our personal life).

Jesus’ highly public entrance into Jerusalem encouraged his supporters, who recognized in him a man of promise and possibility. The crowds adoring Jesus might have known him as the populist prophet from Nazareth in Galilee. Perhaps these admirers even considered Jesus to be the Messiah who would set them free from Roman-occupied rule.

But all was not well. The Jewish and Roman leaders would take notice of a fervent crowd and perceive it as a political and military threat. From the perspective of the authorities, the Jerusalem populace might get out of control and this could lead to a riot, possibly sparking a revolution against the Roman occupiers (which eventually happened a few decades after Jesus’ death).

The biblical text does not suggest that Jesus’ actions were intended to cause political instability. Yet, it’s all about perception. And with the Romans watching, even a parade led by a peculiar man on a donkey could have dire ramifications. What if Jesus had leveraged his popularity to initiate insurrection against either the Jewish priestly oligarchy, the Romans, or both? Jesus didn’t accomplish such a scenario because he was focused on spiritual issues rather than political power. It’s not surprising that Jesus chose to present himself as the spiritual King of the Jews. Earthly kingdoms come and go, but God’s eternal presence doesn’t depend on politics.

It seems like some people who were part of that cheering crowd later felt betrayed because Jesus didn’t make the expected changes. Perhaps this explains why many abandoned Jesus during his trial and execution. Initially buoyed by high-hopes, those who shouted praises during Jesus’ triumphal entry later cried for his execution. It’s unfortunate that public opinion was so fickle and focused on worldly things. Once it was clear that Jesus would not fulfill populist, nationalist aspirations, the deplorable crowd abandoned him and moved on.

Fast-forward nearly two-thousand years and Jesus continues to make entrances, only this time into peoples’ hearts and minds. As in ancient times, peoples’ views about Jesus vary wildly. There are casual observers, true-believers, people who want to manipulate sentiment, and just about every shade of opinion in-between. Those who seek the Jesus of love and truth welcome the God who brings life renewal and wellbeing.

Then as now, true seekers embrace the indwelling Jesus, the Lord of spiritually-awakened individuals who’ve invited him to be the Lord of light and life. Today, it’s not about a literal, triumphal entry through a city gate as much as it is a spiritual entry into the lives of those who yearn for righteousness. Are you on this type of spiritual journey? Is God the guiding force in your life and are you joyful about your faith? The point is to get you to the place where you can follow God enthusiastically and not out of habit, dread, coercion, or anything less than a transforming embrace of love and truth.

As you prepare for Easter, hunger and thirst for God’s Spirit. Allow yourself to be filled with meaning and hope. Don’t let Lent end in vain. Take the lessons and strength you’ve gained and continue the positive momentum. The tendency is for people to drop off and drop out after Easter next Sunday. Don’t let that happen to you or those you love. Stay-tuned and remain awake and alert as you share your faith. Join the hearty party of faith and don’t give-up. We need you to be that person whom God is renewing. Do I hear an “Amen!” out there?

–Reverend Larry Hoxey