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Sunday Message for 10 April 2022 (Palm Sunday): “Welcome Jesus”

Share in the joys of Palm Sunday, a time of welcoming Jesus. Today celebrates not only Jesus’ historic donkey ride through Jerusalem’s gate but also the promise of God’s entrance into your life.

Jesus’ ride into the ancient capital city of Israel encouraged his widely enthusiastic supporters. Those ancient crowds might have known Jesus as the healing prophet from Galilee. Other of his admirers considered Jesus to be a political messiah who would free them from Roman occupation. Maybe a tiny fraction of those palm-waving fans thought that he was some demi-god superhero. Whatever the onlookers felt was based on their perceptions and assumptions.

All was not well amid the parade-like atmosphere of Jesus’ grand arrival. The Jewish and Roman leaders realized that a fervent crowd could get out of control and attempt an insurrection. From the perspective of the authorities the onlookers could foment a riot, possibly sparking a revolt against the Roman occupiers (which did occur not long after Jesus’ death). Whether intended or not, both Jesus and those gathered to watch him were contributing to escalating instability. With the Romans, even a parade led by a peculiar holy man aroused a dangerous defensiveness.

What if Jesus had leveraged his popularity to initiate war against either the Romans or the Jewish priestly oligarchy (e.g., the Sadducees)? Jesus didn’t directly promote such a scenario because he emphasized 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 sits on an earthly throne. The gist is that Jesus did not exploit opportunities for changing the political map of ancient Palestine.

Some of those people cheering Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem felt betrayed because Jesus didn’t try to oust either the Romans or their Herodian puppets. This may explain why some people abandoned Jesus during his trial and execution later in the week. Initially buoyed by high-hopes, those who shouted praises during Jesus’ triumphal entry would soon be appalled by Jesus’ silent complicity and crucifixion.

It’s unfortunate that public opinion was so fickle and focused on worldly things. Once evident that Jesus would not fulfill nationalist aspirations, most of his base of cheerleading rabble abandoned him. Such is how peoples’ expectations about political messiahs leaves them frustrated and unfulfilled. Consider recent events in America and you begin to appreciate how much trouble a national leader can cause when deliberately feeding a mob’s violent frenzy.

Fast-forward nearly two-thousand years and Jesus continues to make entrances into peoples’ hearts and minds. As in the past, views about Jesus vary widely. So many different views of Jesus are possible that some have suggested that it’s like a cafeteria, a religious smorgasbord where you can pick and choose the Jesus you want based on your tastes, your palette of prejudices and 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 smokescreen and embrace the Jesus of love and truth, thereby welcoming the God of redemption.

Whatever you think of Jesus, the value of the principles he taught remain alive and priceless. People often distract themselves by arguing over how much the historical Jesus was human, how much was divine, or some curious and disputed percentage of each. Such theological disputes seldom accomplish much other than move a bunch of hot air around, especially if the rhetoric and arguments obscure the greater issue: Jesus taught and demonstrated the core of God’s essence, which is love. If the focus remains on Jesus’ one greatest commandment to love God and others then that is the superior way to celebrate Jesus.

Today, it’s not about a religious celebrity making a literal, triumphal entry through a city gate as much as it is a spiritual entry of God into your life. Are you ready for this? Is God your guiding force and are you enthusiastic? 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 God’s loving spirit.

The tendency is for people to drop off and drop out after Lent and Holy Week. Don’t let that happen to you! Avoid the slow death of apathy and complacency. Remain motivated and open to new ways of seeing and doing. Allow God to make the grandest of entrances into your life. You may not sit on a donkey but whatever you ride my prayer is that God will be a driving force in your life.   –Reverend Larry Hoxey

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