Message Supplement for 20 March 2016 (Palm Sunday) –“Joy Ride”

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

Jesus’ highly public entrance into Jerusalem encouraged his supporters, who recognized in him a man of promise and hope. 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.

The Jewish and Roman leaders would take notice of a fervent crowd. 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 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 within that cheering crowd later felt betrayed that Jesus didn’t leverage his power for dramatic political changes. Perhaps this is why people later seemed to have 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 focused on worldly things. Once it was clear that Jesus would not fulfill populist aspirations the fickle rabble abandoned him and moved on.

Fast-forward nearly two-thousand years and Jesus continues to make entrances, only this time into peoples’ hearts. As in ancient times, the way people view Jesus can vary wildly. There are casual observers, true-believers, people who want to manipulate sentiment, and just about every shade of opinion in-between. Those of us who seek the Jesus of love and truth can celebrate with an exuberant “Amen!” We embrace the indwelling Jesus, the Lord of all spiritually-awakened individuals who’ve invited him in. 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, etc. Then as now, there’s nothing quite like a true, consistent believer.

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 momentum. We must be careful not to let the progress collapse after Easter. The tendency is for people to drop off and drop out after Easter next Sunday. Don’t let that happen to you. Stay-tuned and remain alert and joyous 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