Message for Sunday 5 April 2020 –PALM SUNDAY– : “What Jesus Do You See?”

This is Palm Sunday, a time of welcoming Jesus. Today’s celebration begins with Jesus’ journey on a donkey through Jerusalem’s gate. Ultimately, what you’re encouraged to celebrate God’s grand entrance into your life.

Jesus’ odd ride into the ancient capital city of Israel encouraged his supporters, many of whom recognized him as a pivotal figure. The crowds adoring Jesus might have also known him as the populist, healing prophet from Nazareth in Galilee. Some of his admirers considered Jesus to be a messiah who would set them free from Roman occupation. Whatever those onlookers perceived was based on their opinion of that controversial, donkey-riding man. A relevant question for you is what type of Jesus do you perceive?

Amid the parade-like atmosphere of Jesus’ arrival, all was not well. The Jewish and Roman leaders realized that a fervent crowd could get out of control and cause mayhem. From the perspective of the authorities, the crowd could foment a riot, possibly sparking a revolt against the Roman occupiers (which eventually happened a few decades after Jesus’ death). Whether intended or not, both Jesus and those gathered to watch him were contributing to escalating political instability. Yes, it’s all about perception. With the Romans, even a parade led by a peculiar holy man aroused dangerous suspicions.

What if Jesus had leveraged his popularity to initiate insurrection against the Jewish priestly oligarchy and the Romans? Jesus didn’t accomplish such a scenario because he was emphasizing a spiritual revolution over a political one. It’s not surprising then 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 who holds the privileged reins of power. Jesus did not exploit opportunities for changing the political map of ancient Palestine.

Some of those people cheering Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem likely felt betrayed because he didn’t instigate the anticipated political changes. Perhaps this explains why many abandoned Jesus during his trial and execution. Initially buoyed by high-hopes, people who shouted praises during Jesus’ triumphal entry would soon be appalled by Jesus’ apparent capitulation to the Roman government. It’s unfortunate that public opinion was so fickle and focused on worldly things. Once evident that Jesus would not fulfill nationalist aspirations, his base of cheerleading supporters abandoned him. Such is how peoples’ expectations about political messiahs leaves them unfulfilled.

Fast-forward nearly two-thousand years and Jesus continues to make entrances into peoples’ hearts and minds. As in the past, peoples’ views about Jesus vary across a broad spectrum. So many different views of Jesus are possible that some have suggested that it’s like a spiritual cafeteria or religious smorgasbord, where you can pick and choose the Jesus you want based on your prejudices, circumstances, and cultural expectations. As always, those who think about Jesus can be casual observers, hardened skeptics, true-believers, people who want to manipulate sentiment, and just about every shade of opinion in-between. Your task is to cut through the noise and embrace the Jesus of love and truth, thereby welcoming the God who brings life renewal and wellbeing.

Today, it’s not about a literal, triumphal entry through a city gate as much as it is a spiritual entry of God into your life. Are you on this type of journey? Is God your guiding force and are you enthusiastic about your spirituality? The point is to get you to the place where you can follow God authentically, not out of habit, fear, social pressure or anything less than a transforming embrace of the Almighty.

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. Move forward courageously and continue the positive spiritual momentum through the rest of the year. The tendency is for people to drop off and drop out after Easter. Don’t let that happen to you! Avoid the slow death of apathy and remain motivated as you share your faith. We need you to be that person who embraces God as the ultimate, enlivening force.    –Reverend Larry Hoxey

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