Holy Week Monday 29th
The chosen hymns can be found below along with a transcription of the sermon for those who prefer to read.
It is an ordinary day in Jerusalem, with all the usual business and trading; folk doing all the ordinary things, then people in the city begin to notice a large, noisy group approaching. The leader of the group is mounted on a colt, and his followers are praising God and shouting. Naturally, people stop what they are doing to watch this spectacle, and to ask what is happening. All sorts of people were there, most were ordinary folk from the city and the surrounding countryside, but there were also some very religious folk, including a few Pharisees in the crowd.
The Pharisees were a very prominent and influential religious group. They were very strict observers of the Law in its smallest detail, and they carefully followed the unwritten Jewish oral traditions. They were often offended by Jesus’ teaching and behaviour.
How do you think these events may have appeared to a strict, law-abiding member of the Pharisees?
Some of the crowd are saying that this is the Messiah. What a lot of nonsense! The prophets tell us that the Messiah will be the king who will set Israel free, but that Jesus fellow there on the colt doesn’t look like a king to me, and that scruffy bunch of followers is certainly not an army, they couldn’t free anyone.
Listen! They are shouting that he is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Surely, they can’t seriously be thinking of trying to make that Jesus
the king of Israel. How stupid can they be? The Governor, Pilate, will soon put a stop to that. Have they forgotten that the Romans have a large occupying force here? The local garrison would have no trouble dealing with that undisciplined lot.
I wish they would calm down and make less noise. This could become dangerous. The people hate the Roman occupiers, and all this shouting that Jesus is their king could start a riot. If the crowd gets out of hand the soldiers will be sent in to restore order, and people will get hurt.
This Jesus of Nazareth is just another wandering preacher going about, teaching all sorts of rubbish, and encouraging people to ignore the Law of Moses, and our long-standing traditions, he is neither law-abiding nor respectable. He does things that no proper Jew would do, and some of his friends and followers are really undesirable types; I wouldn’t want to be seen with any of them.
I’ve heard lots of stories about him. Did you know that he actually breaks the Sabbath? Even his own followers will tell you that he has healed people on the Sabbath, and they are proud of that! No proper Rabbi would break the Sabbath. I don’t believe the bit about healing folk, but I do know that they have done many other things. I’ve been told that they even picked some grain on the Sabbath.
They really are a despicable lot, and that Jesus is the worst of all. The Law is perfectly clear, and not only does he break the Sabbath, but he has actually shared a meal with tax gatherers and other sinners! His behaviour is almost unbelievable; he touches the unclean, and, did you know, he has even let a woman anoint him with perfume? Would the real Messiah allow that?
Worst of all, he is a blasphemer, he says that he can forgive sins! Who does he think he is? Only God can forgive sins. Also, when he preaches, he deliberately undermines the authority of the authorised Teachers of the Law by telling folk that he is the one who has come to fulfil the scriptures. I can’t understand why any decent person would want to follow someone like that! He is a real problem, and it would be good if we can find a way to get rid of him.
I suppose that some people will believe anything! All that stuff about healing people, and raising the dead, is simply fake news. It just didn’t happen. Nobody can do those things.
“Teacher! Tell your disciples to be quiet!”
Anne follows on from here:
‘Teacher, command your disciples to be quiet.’
Commanding people to be silent is a hot topic today. The phrase Fake News has entered our vocabulary and censoring of Free Speech is continually debated – even the former President of USA has had his megaphone removed for incitement to violence.
There is also the cancel culture - a modern form of ostracism – whereby someone is thrust out of social or professional circles for heretical views.
There are many reasons why we may have to hold our tongues – or be silent.
An important one could be that telling the truth could lead to undesirable consequences.
Growing up, we learn that some things are better not spoken about – perhaps shame could result.
Or we can avoid conflict when we are silenced.
Or perhaps speaking up could change how we or others are seen or treated.
Or sometimes it is just not safe to speak, and we need to protect self or others.
Or those in authority want to avoid wrong teaching, or avoid challenge.
Keeping onto power is an important reason for silencing others.
It’s not new – in fact we hear the Pharisees plead with Jesus:
‘Teacher, command your disciples to be quiet.’
What’s this about?
If Jesus is a respected rabbi then why would other teachers want learning to be stopped?
More importantly, why would we want God’s message to be silenced in our heart?
Under what circumstances do we not want to hear God’s message to us?
That He asks too much from us, that what he asks is too embarrassing or too costly?
What does it say about us when we keep God at a distance?
Hymn: Love divine all love’s excelling
Let’s look at the story of Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem on what we call Palm Sunday with fresh eyes.
A good place to start is to notice what Luke does not include.
If Luke were the only gospel we had to go on, we would not call this event Palm Sunday because he never once mentions any waving of palms.
Maybe we'd call it "Coat Sunday" because that is about the only detail Luke does give: people laid their coats down for Jesus to ride upon.
If Luke were the only gospel we had to go on, we also would probably never have learned the word "hosanna," because Luke never has anyone using that word.
And if Luke were the only gospel we had, we would never picture little children singing to Jesus because Luke has no children around, either.
In fact, you could even wonder, based on Luke's portrayal of this event, how big the crowd was at all. Twice we are told that the people doing the cheering were only Jesus' disciples.
So let's take a couple of steps back from the mental image of this day that most of us probably carry with us today. Let's try to see what Luke is actually showing us.
Jesus rides a colt, not a stallion or even a grown horse.
And if Jesus was an average-size adult, you have to think he looked a bit ridiculous with his feet nearly scraping the ground as the colt lumbered along.
And although the disciples were indeed cheering and hailing Jesus as a kind of king, there is something almost a little desperate about it all.
I think that perhaps this is what Luke wants us to sense, too.
Palm Sunday in Luke is bracketed by some dark events: ominous words about his enemies in Luke 19:26-27 and outright weeping over Jerusalem on Jesus’ part in Luke 19:41-44. So as Jesus allowed the Triumphal Entry little parade to continue, did his eyes betray the real truth?
Today is the first day of Holy Week for Christians around the world.
-a week when the Lord of Life will face death,
-a week when he will cleanse the temple of the moneychangers
-and when he will teach those who will listen.
A week when he will explain about authority that comes from God
-and he will admire a widow who puts two pennies into the offering box because it is all she had.
A week when he will break bread and offer the cup of forgiveness to his little band,
-knowing even as he does that one will betray him
-and another will deny he ever knew him.
He will be arrested, tried, beaten, spat upon, convicted, and sentenced to death as a common criminal.
The Pharisees, who were in touch with the people of Jerusalem as well as the authorities, did they know? Could they sense the coming trouble? Did they try to warn Jesus?
Or did they want to silence him – a disrupter who would lead people from the true path, the true religion?
Were they frightened for themselves and their position?
The road to Golgotha is lined by human frailty and tragedy, and our service today is a way for us to open ourselves to this story in our lives.
On Good Friday we will have the opportunity, if we wish, to come to the foot of the cross.
However we explain it, the cross is the place where the Son of God suffered and died, the beloved son sent by God for God’s people.
What happens when you re-frame human suffering as Jesus' suffering?
What difference do you imagine that it makes to millions of Christians in the Sudan, in Syria, in Pakistan and in other places of persecution, war, violence, and degradation around the world as they gather today to hear this story?
What does it mean to those one in eight people on this planet who live with the pain of hunger? Or the more than 2 million children who die every year because they can’t get enough to eat, and millions more who face a life of lost potential, stunting and pain?
Where is this story in our lives?
Do we recognise betrayal and fear, confusion, having our world turned upside down while no one seems to care?
How do we think about and pray about the burdens we find ourselves carrying? Does Jesus' way of the Cross help us enter into the story of God's extravagant love for every human being?
If we believe that God has come among us and that God in Christ has reconciled the world to himself, then we must give a commitment to God and a commitment to seeking the coming of God's kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven.
And that calls us to prayer for God's world and commitment to engagement within it.
As we walk through Holy Week, consider this to be a wake-up call to action, to changing the world and its injustices, to bring God's kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven.
Jesus approached Jerusalem knowing the worst that people could do.
As we approach this Good Friday the question for us is still the same as ever:
How far do we love God and love our neighbour as ourselves? Are we faithful disciples of Jesus? Or is God’s message to us too hard for us to hear? Too embarrassing? Too costly?
Will we be like the disciples and fall away from Jesus, on the night of his betrayal?
Will we too be silent and silenced?