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Ben Fleming: Palm Sunday, Luke 13:1-5, 18:21

April 3, 2023

Audio Recording

On His way to Jerusalem, Jesus boldly overturns convention to express the mercy and welcome of the Father to broken, hurting people.

Encounters Along The Way
Ben Fleming: Palm Sunday, Luke 13:1-5, 18:21
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Sermon Transcript:

:00 You're listening to a live recording from Westside Church in Bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us.

00:07 well, it is Palm Sunday as we referenced earlier, and so we're gonna talk a little bit about what that means for us, what that tells us about Jesus and how that informs us as a church movement. Excited to have Easter this next weekend, and I've heard it's gonna be 70 degrees. I don't know if that's possible. that's, I need more of a ramp up, I think. I don't know. I don't know if I can go from puffy jackets to board shorts that fast. I coach my son's eight year old little league team, and we have our first practice this Tuesday, and it's supposed to be 33 degrees, I think. I look forward to teaching eight year olds how to swing while keeping their core warm, which is not usually half my team's. Just like, I'm just too, I just wanna go home.

00:50 And I go, no, this builds character. It's good for you. Baseball in Central Oregon is good for you. happy baseball season, by the way, to all of those of you who celebrate and go Mariners. and if you missed opening day, it's okay. There's 159 more games left so you can check on. some people look at me and go, the season is so long, and I go, the season is so long. I love it so much. Okay, to the Bible. Here we go. Matthew, chapter 21 is where we're gonna start, and this is gonna be the story of the triumphant entry into Jerusalem for Jesus. And this is significant for a lot of reasons, but ultimately I believe that this passage along with several others that will read today, this is Jesus expressing how humility and sacrifice are the center points of this kingdom.

01:43 Now we call this Christianity, but at that point, it would've just been Jesus trying to express to his followers and especially to the place of Jerusalem, that humility and sacrifice is the way forward, out of their political trouble, out of their societal trouble, as well as their faith in spiritual trouble. So Matthew chapter 21 in verse one, it says, now, when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethpage, so to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples saying to them, go into the village in front of you, and immediately he will find a donkey tied and a cult with her, untie them, bring them to me. And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say the Lord needs them and he will send them at once. This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet saying, say to the daughter of Zion, behold, your king is coming to you, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a cult, the full of a beast of burden.

02:37 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them, and they brought the donkey and the Co and put them on their cloak, put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them and most of the crowds spread their cloaks on the road. And the others cut branches from trees and spread them out on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, Hosanna to the son of David, blessed as he who comes in the name of the Lord, Lord hosanna in the highest. And when he entered into Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up saying, who is this? And the crowd said, this is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee. Jesus, in many ways is taking on the form of a king. This isn't that far removed from one of my favorite scenes and songs in all of the movie Aladdin, where Prince Ali makes his entrance, prince Ali, fabulous, he 75 golden camels.

03:31 And you know, that's not exactly how it went with Jesus, but there's the chanting and the shouting and the elation and the excitement. And yet he approaches the city on something as humble as a donkey. Now, this is still a very kingly move, even if it's not the one that the people in Jerusalem were probably looking for. Now at this moment, the political and cultural tension is so high in Jerusalem. They're occupied by the nation of Rome, which is so uncomfortable for everybody, not just in a religious way, but just in a, in a lifestyle way. There's been a lot of violence. There's been attempted insurrection, there's been riots. And the people of Jerusalem, the Jewish people are looking for a king. And so when Jesus enter into the city to much fanfare, it's an exciting moment for many who are probably wondering, not only could this be a king who could lead us to a, a win on in battle, but it could be the Messiah that we've been looking and waiting for as well.

04:38 And Jesus checks a lot of those boxes, and yet he rides in on a donkey. Now, like I said, this is a kingly move as well, but it's probably not the one that many of them are looking for. Kings would often ride in on donkeys into, cities that they were visiting or even their own city. And it was a specific gesture, and it was a gesture of peace. When you wrote in on a donkey, it was a sign that you were coming in peace. Sometimes donkeys were even used by kings after a battle where one king had been defeated by another, and they would send a donkey laden with all of these gifts as essentially a surrender and hope for peace and mercy from that other king. So Jesus checks all of these boxes. But at this time of incredible tension, like I said, violence and riots, the king, if you are in Jerusalem that you are hoping for at this moment is not just one with incredible influence, not just one that they would sing songs and chant about, but one that would come in not on a donkey, but on a horse because of a king wrote into a city on a horse or rode around their own city on a horse.

05:47 This was indicative of the fact that they were ready to go to battle. They were ready to kill and destroy any enemy that got in their path, . And so Jesus is celebrated even with this peaceful gesture in this moment, but it wouldn't last all that long. But the thing that has lasted is our understanding of the kingdom of God. Because of this moment and of this story, the Jewish leaders are longing for a subversive power, and they're getting one in Jesus, just not what the military might that they had probably hoped for.

06:28 But the beauty of all of this is that it tells us something about the sacrificial nature of the kingdom of God. Now, most people believe that if there is a God that you relate to God by being good. It's a little bit of a Santa Claus version of God that he sees you when you're sleeping and he knows when you're awake. He knows when you've been bad or good. So be good for goodness's sake. And then eventually you'll have this connection at this moment of the year where you come and you get gifts be based on how good or bad you've been during that year. Now, it sounds silly, but it's not that far removed for how many of us maybe even feel about Christianity, but certainly how many of us feel in all kinds of religions. But Jesus sets a different standard for this new religion, this new faith, this Christianity that he is bringing into the world.

07:19 Now, some religions are nationalistic where essentially they're saying, come into our group, adopt our ways, and God will bless you. Just take on our characteristics and come and live where we live and live how we live. Some religions are, are spiritualistic. If you evolve through these different forms of consciousness and you achieve the peak form of consciousness, you'll have this communion and relationship with God. And some religions are formally legalistic. There's a list of rules. And if you keep the rules exactly how they're lined out, then you'll be considered to someone that has someone that has a relationship or a connection with God. Some religion juror a combination of many of these things. But Christianity as Jesus proves, as he rides in on this donkey into Jerusalem, is absolutely opposed to that. Instead of riding in a warhorse with weaponry and an army behind him, he comes in with humility that is indicative of the kingdom of God. Experience God through Jesus Christ gives us salvation. And in religion, we're often saved by being better than everybody else. But in Christianity, we're saved when we admit that we are no better than anybody else, that the playing field is constantly leveled, that God has created us all equally and loves us all equally, and that we have all been offered and given the grace of God, which is an incredible never ending gift.

08:48 We don't do good so that we can experience God because of the gift that God has given us and the experience that we are all even given as we are birthed into this world because of that experience, then we have a desire to do good, to love well, well, this is a consistent messaging, this humility and this sacrifice from Jesus. And I could imagine that it would be so frustrating if you're just someone that wants God to come in and just get everything done. God, just come handle your business. Come figure out everything, fix everything, heal everything. Am I the only one who is so frustrated that we have all these stories of Jesus and how he comes into the world and he spends 30 of these years of his life not really doing anything publicly or in the public eye, no healing to speak of?

09:40 There's one story of him hanging out in the temple and teaching the teachers even at the age of 12. Then I'm going, this is nice, Jesus, it's wonderful that you were so much smarter than the rest of your class. Why didn't you come in and heal everyone? Why didn't you stay longer? You're gonna show up and really start doing your thing at 30 years old, and you're gonna kind of go slowly through your area. You didn't come when television was around. We have this international communication platform. You came when people are just really trying to find scraps of papers to write down your little stories. Why didn't you just come and fix it? Do better, do the big thing, multiply this kind of minute. Why? Why didn't you do it in this way? And Jesus is so consistent with this humility, so consistent with this slow message that even comes out in Luke in chapter 13.

10:27 Now, these people are experiencing these difficult current events that are happening in, in real time to them. And Jesus who rarely does this, gives them direct answers to these things that have happened immediately around them. So I'll, I'll try to explain it more as we go. So Luke chapter 13, it says this. Now, there were some president at the time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood pilot had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered, do you think that these Galilean are worse sinners than all the other Galilean because they suffered this way? I tell you no. But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those 18 who died when the tower in Salom fell on them, do you think that they were more guilty than the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no. But unless you repent, you too will all perish.

11:18 Now again, this idea of humility and sacrifices, the center of this religion, the center of our belief as Christians and Jesus' disciples, very much like you and me, often do the very, very best that we can to ignore the difficult and deep and meaningful thing that exists at the center for the sake of distractions that happen around us. My son is eight years old again, and he's not eight years old again. I just told you that earlier. Anyway, he just, we keep making him mate. You know, he's, he's really gonna have to talk to that therapist about that when he gets older.

11:56 And but he's just, he's full of energy. So a lot of us come to spring break and we go, oh my gosh, a break. And I come to spring break and I go, oh, no , what am I gonna do? Because he's up at six 30 going, all right, I want breakfast and then I wanna play baseball outside, and then I want to go and I wanna run and I want you to be involved in all of it, dad. And but sometimes I try to get his attention, he's running around, he's playing and whatever, and I go, Joel, I need to talk to you. Joel, come here. I got something to say Joel. And it could be a good thing, it could be a teaching thing, whatever. But his body, he's just moving all over the place. And so I'll have to go to him often and all kind of grab him by the shoulders and I'll be like, I need you to look at me and what do, what do kids do? But especially what does my son do when I, when you grab him by the shoulders and say, look at me, they go,

12:42 .

12:45 Hey, I'm talking Joel. Okay, look, look up here. Okay, so when you talk to Joel, look at me now when you relate to your sister, here's what I look at me. Are you listening? Yeah. What'd I say? Ah, , the conversation is here. It's here. Here. Look at me. And Jesus is trying. He's so many times have this conversation with these disciples about this idea of humility and sacrifice. And I get it, the story's not complete. And all of us would find ourselves being the disciples just like this in this case. But something has happened in that poncho pilot who is the governor of Jerusalem many, many times has been poking and prodding at the Jewish people so that he can incite more violence and he can terrify the Jewish people. At one point he even wants to build an aqueduct in the area, and he takes money from the tr treasury of the temple and he uses that money to build the aqueduct. And of course a huge rebellion among the Jewish people because of how he's used these funds rises up and pilot using as an opportunity to just destroy the lives of people.

13:56 He would poke at their culture and he would poke at their religion. And in this case, for fear of another Rio or potentially another insurrection, he hears that these gal and pilgrims are coming to the temple to worship. And he sends his own men to kill them, but not just to kill them, but to intentionally mix their blood with the blood of the sacrifices. Not only horrifying the people around, but polluting the sacrifice and the religious experience in and of itself. And so when something that awful, when something that sinful and evil happens, the disciples do something that they've even done before. Some of you know the story about the disciples in Jesus encountering a blind man along their walk. And the disciples walk up to the blind man, almost like he's an exhibit at a zoo. And they say, this blind man, whose fault is it that he's blind, his mom and dad or him who screwed this whole thing up?

14:54 And Jesus is saying, I want you to look at the center. I want you to focus on the thing that I came here to do. You're asking these crazy, weird theological questions that actually have nothing to do with the thing that's at the center. And he's doing this again. He's saying, look, you guys are asking these questions about does God even care about or does God love these people who were slain inside the temple? Or does he care about the people who died tragically beneath this tower? He's saying, you, you think that this is a conversation about, is the God above the tower so evil? Or is it the people who got crushed below the tower so evil? The thing is he's trying to teach them is that if you don't repent, now, Jesus isn't talking about a repentance that gets you into heaven and saves you from hell. I thought that about this passage for a long time. But I've come to a different re realization. Jesus is saying, if you don't repent of how you're handling this Roman occupation thing, if you guys don't stop trying to gather up armies and incite violence and fight back in the capitol and outside our own temples, you will end up dying just like all of these people have.

16:01 Well, but is the God bad above or the people? D No, that's not it. You need to repent of your desire for violence and for killing in and of yourselves, or you're gonna lose this entire city and this entire tradition that you have. And of course, only about 30, 40 years later, Jerusalem itself falls beneath a siege. And it's not just this one tower that falls and kills people, but it's many, many more. It's Jesus encouraging a repentance and prophesying about the future all at once. And I would encourage us in the same way, we are often met with this opportunity to live in a humble and a sacrificial way. But when we're put under the pressure, when we feel attacked in and of ourselves, we will abandon the way of Jesus for the way of the world. And we will embrace the exact same results that the world gets when violence and fighting back becomes the centerpiece of our faith.

17:00 Unless we repent of this reactive, angry way of going about our faith and living in our world, we too shall perish in the same way. Now, are we comfortable with, this is the question, when pressure comes and we're actually asked in a real moment with our real families and with our real city, what will we do in difficult situations? What is our answer? Are we comfortable with the humble and the sacrificial way? Well, I would make the argument that naturally without deep formation in our lives, we are not at all comfortable with that. And here's a story that expresses that. It says in Matt, very early in the morning, the leading priest, the elders and the teachers of religious law, the entire high council meant to discuss their next steps. This is after Jesus has entered into Jerusalem, he's been arrested and now he's being brought before P.

18:03 That same poncho pilot that wanted to irritate and cause more violence against the Jews says they bound Jesus. They let him away and took him to pilot the Roman governor. And PIL asked Jesus, are you the king of the Jews? And Jesus replied, you have said it. And then the leading priest kept accusing him of many crimes and Pilot asked him, aren't you going to answer them? What about all these charges that they're bringing against you? But Jesus said, nothing much to pilot's. Surprise. Now, it was the governor's custom. Each year during the Passover celebration to release one prisoner, anyone the people requested, one of the prisoners at that time was Barabbas, a revolutionary who had committed murder in an uprising. The crowd went to pilot and asked him to release a prisoner As usual, would you like me to release to you this king of the Jews pilot asked for, he realized by now the leading priest that arrested Jesus out of envy.

18:58 But at this point, the leading priest stirred up the crowd in demand to demand the release of Barabbas instead of Jesus. Pilot asked them, what should I do with this man? You call the king of the Jews. And they shouted back, crucify him, why pilot demanded, what crime is he committed? But the mob roared even louder, crucify him. So to pacify the crowd, pilot released Barabbas to them, he ordered Jesus flogged with the lead, whip tip, and then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified. So the crowd is in real time faced with this choice. Many of the same people who not long ago had lauded him as he entered into this kingdom, to this city on a donkey, are now fat. Faced with a vote. You can have this one, this king of the Jews who entered into your environment with humility and peace on his mind. Or you can have Barabbas back, a known murderer who has incited many of these riots and insurrections. He's known as a member of the rebellion who will do anything at any cost in order to usurp the Roman government in a militant way. And of course, when the crowd not long ago had just been chanting hosanna, the crowd now chants to crucify him.

20:30 Something happens to human beings in our bodies and in our minds when we're faced with difficult and pressure-filled situations, we do see this play out in in sports all the time. And, in comparison, certainly a silly way where a player will make a decision to call a timeout at a terrible time or to to shoot or to change the plan because well, the clock was running out, somebody was in my face. And whenever I'm in practice, that's not exactly how the experience goes. And how many of us that our parents of young kids had this great plan for how we would handle our children before the children came? Oh man, we were good moms and dads then , oh Jesus, all be a parent of peace and of kindness and availability. And before you know it, we're going to the bathroom for 20 minutes just to get some peace and quiet Speaker 3

21:32 ,

21:37 Tmmi, Speaker 3

21:38 .

21:41 But we do, we do this thing. We, we make crazy decisions. We abandon even things that we believe because we're scared, because we're frustrated. And it's tempting. It is so tempting to even change what we believe about Jesus or to shift what we believe about Christianity when times get tough.

22:11 But the greatest thing, the greatest gift in all of this story is Jesus's willingness to continue on with humility and sacrifice even in the face of that pressure and fear. Scripture teaches us that in the garden of Gethsemane, before he's arrested and before he is taken before Pilate and before he is crucified, that Jesus is even pleading with the Father saying, there's gotta be another way for this sacrifice to happen. I don't want to go die. I don't want to be whipped. I don't wanna be nailed to a cross. I don't wanna walk through this process in yet. Because he knew what sacrifice and humility would do for the world, for all of eternity. He continues to walk to that cross anyway. I wonder under what west side would look like, what it would sound like. And it would feel like, I wonder what you as a mom or a dad or a friend or a brother and a sister would sound like and look like if we continually allowed ourselves to place humility and sacrificed at the center of our lives and of our faith, if Jesus chooses nonviolence in this incredibly violent era, I wonder if we can too.

23:37 And I wonder if it's compelling when we remember that everyone around us, in our community, in this world has been created in the beautiful image of God. Nobody was created without God's seeing and, and knowing and envisioning and, and even more than that, loving them desperately. Every single soul. I'm the youngest of three kids. My brother was nine years older than me. he still is nine years older than me. And he loved pro wrestling, Hulk Hogan. And I was a big sting fan personally. . And my brother would, he would try out these wrestling moves. and I know I learned later on as I get older that the wrestling was fake. It was very real when it got put on me, Speaker 4

24:26

24:29 All the real blood and the real breaking and hurting. And, and he was just a lot bigger than me cuz he was a lot older than me. I remember I reached, 11 or 12 or 13. Nate came back from college, started wrestling me like he had, and I finally had had enough feeling that pressure and I punched him right in the face. And I thought it was gonna be this moment of yes, after all these years finally. And really it turned into a moment of, oh my gosh, I just punched my brother. I think I drew bread on blood on my brother. I hurt my brother. We're, we're together, we're family. We're all a part of this, this house and this little world that we built together. And Jesus would remind us of that today, that Barabbas who is released instead of him, Jesus loved Barabbas so much that pilot who had annihilated so many Jews that the Roman government that was taking control not only in that part of the world, but trying to take over the whole world by violent force, that the governors and the generals were created in the image of God. And that Jesus in those moments, even as they nail him to a cross, looks out upon them and goes, I love them so much.

25:55 Humility and sacrifice is the centerpiece of our religion, of our belief of this Jesus whom we follow is essential. It's not just a peace and a part for a season, but instead it should be the Speaker 4

26:10 Whole.

26:13 And I'll finish this, this as an example. Jesus says again in Luke 13, after he show shares that story about repentance after what Pilate's done in the temple says, then Jesus asked, after all this, what is the kingdom of God? Like, oh, they wanted to know. We wanted to know what is it like, what shall I compare it to? Is it like, it is like a mustard seed which a man took and planted in his garden and it grew and it became a tree in the bird's perch in its branches. And again, he asked, what shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It's like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about 60 pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough again, I don't know if you're anything like me that even looks at the stories of Jesus and goes, you could have just done so much more. You could have fought and you could have won. You could have stayed. It could have been so different. And yet, and I gotta be honest with you, I am not always sure why God calls us into this long deep formation process with him again and again centered on sacrifice and humility. So what, what should this church look like? What, what value do we have? It's that we can be the yeast that levins the flower of our community.

27:42 We can be like the tiniest seed, this mustard seed that eventually grows and it can support all the birds of the air. What value does a conversation that you have with a stranger on the street have that lasts a minute and a half? It can be this moment, just a small, tiny seed of care and of love and at the Holy Spirit that changes the world. So what are we asked to do? We're asked to live humbly and sacrificially and believe that even these small moments that exist in our lives carry this incredible weight of eternity. We're gonna take communion together here in a moment. And as we do, I just want you to meditate on those things.

28:35 I realize we taught a a few weeks ago about this idea of, of we do this, we do this communion moment in remembrance of Jesus. Now that doesn't mean a, a recalling in our mind where we grab a memory and we install it again and watch it through, but instead it means we reattach Jesus to ourselves again. As we ingest this bread, it becomes part of us again. May humility and sacrifice be remembered reattached to our lives and to our souls today. So Jesus, we give this time to you. We give our hearts and our souls. Lord, we approach you and our world today with humility and sacrifice. Lord, we believe that there is a, a victory to be won, but it rides in to this world on the back of a donkey and not a war horse. We want to be like you continue to shape us. Our desire is to be deeply formed by all that you are In Jesus' name. Amen.