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Palm Sunday

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Mark 1:1-11
SMAS 10.30 Morning Worship
(1.4.2012)

In a small mining village, a stranger walked into the pub. After obtaining a drink and sitting down, he noticed another man sitting in the corner. This man had the flattest head he had ever seen and cauliflower ears. He asked one of the other locals about this and was quickly encouraged to say nothing against the strange-looking man.

It transpired that there had been a roof-fall in the pit and in order to let the miners escape safely this strange-looking man had taken the whole weight of the roof on his head to prevent it from falling.

Impressed, the stranger decided to say nothing further, but then realized he hadn’t had an explanation of the cauliflower ears. ‘Ah!’ said the man. ‘That’s where we hit him when we hammered him into place.’

Jesus did take the whole weight of human sin on himself, but willingly, not forced into position. And today marks the beginning of His willing obedience in this. For Jesus the entry into Jerusalem signified His entry into the very painful and difficult task that he was called to do. And as we read about Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem it should mark our own entry into a very special week for those of us who follow Christ.

Jesus went to Jerusalem knowing it was dangerous because He had many enemies there. His miracles and healings meant He had gathered supporters and friends but in Jerusalem there were many religious leaders who were jealous and afraid of Him, especially since He had raised Lazarus from death. We can’t know how much Jesus knew and understood of God’s plans for Him during most of His life but we can be sure He was fully aware that going to Jerusalem was a dangerous thing to do.

Riding in on a donkey is often equated with humility but this is not really what’s happening here. It was customary for pilgrims entering Jerusalem to walk in and Jesus had hitherto walked everywhere. Riding in on a donkey was the prerogative of a king, there wasn’t such a distinction between donkeys and horses, except that horses were used for military purposes. The fact that it is an un-ridden colt also signifies kingship for no-one else was allowed to ride a kings animal. There are other connotations surrounding it being un-ridden possibly linking it with the virgin birth and the unused tomb?

The whole city already excited and in party mood for the Passover, was thrown into uproar. The Old Testament told them that the coming Messiah, or King of the Jews would enter Jerusalem riding on a donkey, and, having seen the miracles he performed, especially the raising of Lazarus, made them believe that Here really was their king.

The Roman and the Jewish leaders were all jealous and worried for their positions in life, the Romans had their king, Caesar, and the Jewish religious leaders wanted to stay in control. Neither of them needed a new ruler or king in their lives. Angry, shocked, horrified; over the course of the next few days, they got louder and gained more support, until eventually most of the people in Jerusalem turned against Him. The shouts of ‘HOSANNA’ turned into shouts of ‘CRUCIFY’ and the waving of palms turned into the waving of swords.

Maybe we can understand the leader’s reaction, acknowledging Christ as King would have turned their whole world upside down in a way they didn’t want. But why did other, more ordinary people, particularly friends and supporters change their allegiance after the seemingly triumphant Palm Sunday? For some it may have been partly because they didn’t have much courage and strength and so gave in and joined in with what others were saying and doing. For others it could well have been because they didn’t actually understand WHO Jesus really was.

Sometimes we’re like that. Let’s imagine the triumphal entry in a different way - not Jesus entering Jerusalem - but our hearts and lives. Here we are loving and cheering Jesus - but what about later this week? Will we really keep Jesus in His rightful place as King of our lives throughout all of Holy Week? To keep Him as King of our lives for a whole week might prove a little difficult. It might mean having to give up other things in our lives that are important to us. But when we think of how much He gave for us is it really too much for us to give up time for Him in during this special week?

Let’s try and encourage ourselves along a little by thinking about those who threw their cloaks down in front of Jesus. Cloaks were extremely important, probably peoples most important possession. They were cloaks by day and blankets by night. In fact if someone owed someone else some money and gave them their cloak instead then by law it had to be given back to them at night so they could stay warm.

There’s a precedent in the Bible for the putting down of coats under a kings feet - it happened in the Old Testament when Jehu was crowned. It’s happened in this country too with Sir Walter Raleigh and Queen Elizabeth. It signifies the one putting their cloak down being prepared to be subject to the rule and authority of the monarch.

When the people thought that Jesus was their King and very important to them they were prepared to give up their valuable coats by throwing them in front of Jesus and allowing His donkey to trample all over them on that dirty and dusty road. But, of course they did get their cloaks back. That's very often what its like with Jesus. When we do decide to make Him No.1 in our life to the point of being prepared to give up what is most important in our lives, then He usually gives it back to us to use in His service.

Finding extra time to read the Bible and to pray more than usual as we approach Easter can be difficult but will be rewarded. It’s important to remember that everything we have is not really ours and that its borrowed from God anyway. Have you noticed how, whenever Jesus needs anything He always borrows it, his crib, the donkey, the boat He borrowed to preach from, the loaves and fishes from the boy that fed the 5000. He even had to borrow His tomb from Joseph of Arimethea.

Both our time and our life are not ours to keep, they belong to God, and its only when we realise just how important Jesus is that we will be prepared to give them up for Him. Jesus doesn’t just want to be King of our hearts today. He wants to be king of our hearts all of the time. Holy Week is the perfect time to really make an effort with this because of the extra opportunities there are to come together at church everyday this week.

But, as in the story I told earlier, not because you have been hammered into that position by me or anyone else. It must be something that we do out of a willing obedience. I don’t want to give anyone ‘cauliflower ears’, rather that we have a full sense of just how much Jesus did for us - and then think about how we feel about entering into Holy Week. When we see how He went willingly into His terrible ordeal can we really say we can’t, or won’t, be bothered to make extra time for Him this week? We read about the crowds acclaiming Him as king, just as we do today. In reality are we more like those religious leaders who knew that following Jesus was more costly a price than they wanted to pay?

We need to know that we have not been hammered into doing it but loved into doing it. William Barclay says that we should note where our worship comes from:

It comes from love. Jesus won the hearts of men, not by blasting them with power, but by showing them a love they could not resist. At the sight of this person who laid his glory by for men and loved them to the extent of dying for them on a cross, men’s hearts are melted and their resistance is broken down. When men worship Jesus Christ, they fall at his feet in wondering love. They do not say “I cannot resist a might like that,” but, “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my life, my soul, my all.” Worship is founded, not on fear, but on love.

Let’s pray that this Holy Week will be a time when we allow Jesus to enter into our hearts in a new and much deeper way. Amen

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