Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord
Matthew 21: 1-17
Welcome to our time of reflection for Sunday 5th April.
Today is Palm Sunday, the day that we celebrate Jesus coming into Jerusalem for the last time and how the crowd celebrated his arrival by tearing off palm leaves and scattering them on the ground in front of him like a modern day celebrity would get the red carpet treatment.
I don’t know about you, but I feel that we are beginning to create a new rhythm for living. So maybe we should start with a prayer that reflects how things have changed for us recently...
Life has changed so much for us in the last few weeks.
The way we shop, the way we exercise, the way we greet people in the street.
The rhythms of each day have changed as well.
For some it has meant very little or no work and trying to fill in the day with things that are meaningful.
For others it means an increase in workload and the expectations and responsibilities that sometimes feel overwhelming.
The news never really changes.
Politicians telling us what to do, those on the front line struggling to cope with the resources they have.
Sometimes it is as if the world is going on around us and we are but observers.
Sitting, waiting, unsure of our place, unsure of our purpose.
As we try to seek meaning and purpose for ourselves may we never forget those that are around us.
May we have a greater love and care for our neighbours, ensuring that they are safe at this time.
May we have a greater patience with our leaders, hoping that as time goes by that their wisdom and direction has greater focus.
May we have a greater appreciation for those things that we have.
Instead of struggling with the things that we miss, letting our hearts sink because of the people we can’t be near just now or activities we can't do,
may we rejoice in the greater opportunities for contact that our technology has given us.
And may we have a greater tolerance for ourselves. Understanding that we are more stressed, that these are unparalleled times, and that we will make mistakes,
and not to be so hard on ourselves, but instead be quick to learn the lessons of our mistakes and to do better.
Take these prayers, and any others we have in our hearts, and assure us that they are answered in love.
Last week I talked about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.
I talked about one of the worries Jesus would have had was how people understood that miracle.
What if they saw Jesus as a warrior Messiah ready to strike against the Roman Empire; that he was able to feed his army with a couple of loaves and some fish,
if he healed the wounded and raised the dead, then what an army that would be.
And sure enough, the rumours of what had happened in Bethany have spread to Jerusalem.
Jesus has come to celebrate the Passover, which in itself is a celebration of the Jews freeing themselves from the tyranny of slavery in Egypt.
There are probably about 5 million Jews in Jerusalem, all thinking of how God freed them from tyranny in the past, and when will God free them from the tyranny of the Roman Empire.
All they need is a leader and they will follow
And then they see Jesus...
Reading today is from Matthews Gospel 21: 12-17.
I have always wondered at the crowd.
In the space of a week they go from
‘Jesus is our Messiah. Let’s conquer the Romans.’
Doesn’t it seem a bit fickle to you?
I know I always thought so.
It never really made sense to me.
Until I realised that in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke this triumphant entry into Jerusalem is always followed by Jesus going into the Temple and chucking out the stalls that sold animals for sacrifice.
Just to give you a bit of background here.
The Temple was made up of different layers, or courts, that got smaller and smaller as you entered into the temple.
And each court became more exclusive than the court before.
The first court was the outer court, or the court of the Gentiles, where anyone could go.
Then you had the women's court, where any Jew could go,
leading to the court of the men of Israel,
leading to the priest’s court,
leading to the Holy of Holies where only the High Priest could go into, and then only once a year, at Passover.
Now the outer court was the noisiest, because not only was anyone allowed in that court, it was also the place where there were a lot of transactions taking place.
You couldn't give normal money to the Temple because on that money was the face of the Roman Emperor who some thought of as a god. That made that money impure. So that money had to be changed into temple money. And people would haggle about the exchange rate.
Then people would come with their sacrifices, and the priests might not be happy with the quality of that sacrifice, so then the animals for sacrifice had to be changed,
or you hadn’t brought a sacrifice because you wanted to buy it fresh at the temple but you weren’t happy at the quality of animal you were being offered for the price you were willing to give,
and people would haggle about the price of those as well.
And while all this is going on rabbis are trying to teach and people are trying to pray.
Why is this important?
Well it has to do with expectation.
As we have mentioned before, a lot of people have a lot of expectations that they have placed on Jesus.
He is going to be the warrior Messiah.
He is going to change their world for the better.
He is going to get rid of those Romans and begin the new Kingdom of God where Jesus will rule the world the way King David had done in the past. He would defeat all their enemies.
The people declare Jesus as their king.
‘Praise to David’s son. God bless him who comes in the name of the Lord! Praise God!’
They don’t say, ‘Praise Jesus.’
The say, ‘Praise David’s son!’
Praise to David’s heir, David the warrior king who defeated Goliath,
who led the Israelite armies to victory after victory,
who killed tens of thousands of Israel’s enemies.
And as Jesus enters Jerusalem he heads towards the Temple.
Now the Romans hated the Temple. The problem with the Temple was it was one of the few places that they couldn't enter, so anyone wanting to talk about rebelling, it was the ideal place to meet.
In response to this the Romans had built a garrison that literally rose above the walls of the temple, so they could look down into the Temple and try to hear everything that was going on.
I expect that what the people were expecting was that Jesus would go to the temple and start is revolution from there. He would cry out against the Roman garrison and condemn the Roman Empire and all that it stood for.
But Jesus then did the opposite.
Instead of condemning the Romans he condemned the Jews and what they had done to the temple, making a place of prayer more like a shopping mall.
‘What did Jesus think he was doing?
How dare Jesus attack them instead of the Romans.’
Which is why I think we struggle with accepting Jesus into our lives.
Like the Jews we think Jesus is wonderful if he is going to change our lives for the better.
We think the idea of Jesus being in our lives is wonderful if he changes our world.
And if we are honest most of the times we pray we want him to change the world.
Make my mother better.
Help us with our finances.
Let my son do well in the job interview.
Make my wife stop nagging.
Make my teenagers more obedient.
Make the neighbours less noisy.
It is a whole different ball game when Jesus then comes into our lives and says,
‘You’re not as patient with your children as you should be.
You’re not as loving to your neighbour as you should be.
You’re not as generous to others with your money as you should be.’
We are more than happy for Jesus to change the world so that it is better for us.
We are a lot more uncomfortable with Jesus changing us so that we are better for the world.
Unfortunately that is what Jesus wants to do.
Jesus doesn't promise to change the world.
Jesus promises to change us so that the world is changed.
And that is a lot more scary.
It explains why the Jewish people went from loving Jesus to hating him so quickly.
It also explains why we struggle with Jesus so often.
On the plus side, if we are willing to try it,
we find God’s love is on our side,
we find God’s patience and forgiveness and tolerance.
We may even begin, with God’s strength and courage, to show that forgiveness and tolerance and patience...and even love, to others.
And with that the world does change.
Let us pray.
Save us from ourselves at this time.
Save us from the temptation to blame others for the mess we are in.
Save us from the temptation to ask you to change the world so that it is easier for us,
or the temptation to change others so that our lives are easier,
Instead, help us to change the one thing we are responsible for, ourselves, and how we react to the world.
Help us to be more open to the needs of others, to be kinder in all that we say and we do.
This we ask in Jesus name. Amen
Thank you for being here and listening to us today.
Remember you can ask the church to pray for people you care about through the web page.
Don’t forget to donate to local foodbanks in your area.
For those who don’t have access to the internet we have a telephone number where you can hear the latest sermon for free. The number is 01259 606 303 Please pass that on to anyone you know who would benefit.
Lastly, it is our intention to have reflections for every night of Holy Week leading up to Easter Sunday. So if you look on our web site or facebook page you will be able to access those meditations there.
Until next time...
We hope we have been a blessing to you, try to be a blessing to others.