Fifth Sunday after Lent

The Text: Mark 11:1-11


This coming week we will be commemorating the greatest week in the history of our world. The events of the first Holy Week are still being re-enacted andallanb remembered all over the world because of the lasting impact they’ve had on the lives of so many people. Can you remember a pre-Easter week that stands out in your memory still today? The atmosphere of today, Palm Sunday, anticipates the even greater joy of Easter Sunday, the greatest Sunday of the Church Year. Our Lord’s opponents were concerned that, if they didn’t get rid of Him, everyone might come to faith in Him. Such was Jesus’ impact on huge numbers of people. The Pharisees and their supporters said, “What are we to do? This man is performing many miraculous signs. If we let Him go on like this, everyone will believe in Him (John 11:48).” They then plotted to put Jesus to death.

Jesus was aware of what His enemies planned to do with Him. He could therefore have easily entered Jerusalem quietly. Instead, He deliberately enters the centre of opposition to Him publicly to reveal who He really is. So He enters the city with immense courage, in order to make one last appeal to the people there to believe in Him. People might not bother listening to Jesus, but they could hardly fail to see the humble way He was coming to them. No doubt Jesus was remembering Zechariah’s prophecy: “Your king comes to you … humble and riding on a donkey (9:9).”

Kings rode on donkeys when they came in peace. Jesus enters Jerusalem claiming to be our King, but as the King of Peace, to bring us peace such as this world can never give us. He enters Jerusalem deliberately refusing the role of a political saviour. He came appealing for a throne; the throne of our hearts. He is in control of the events of this special day. He sends two of His disciples to borrow a young donkey that had never been ridden before. Jesus regularly sends His followers on errands, two of them together, no doubt to cheer each other up and support each other, and then to share the load of the task. Each and every Christian needs the support and encouragement of a fellow Christian. When Jesus’ disciples are asked why they want to borrow a donkey they reply “The Lord needs it.” The fact that Jesus needs it was reason enough to agree to their request.

Your Lord needs you too. No one else can replace you. Jesus needs you, your time, your talents and gifts, and above, your prayers for others. Please don’t be tempted to say to Jesus: “I’m not very gifted. After all, what difference can an ordinary individual like me make?” Christ’s cause in this community is suffering because of those who think they have nothing worthwhile to contribute to the work of His Kingdom. Jesus needs the contribution of every one here today. To paraphrase J.F. Kennedy, “Ask not what your church can do for you, but rather what you can do for your church.”

This week is a superb time to pray for the return to God’s House of your prodigal relatives, family members and friends who have drifted away from worshipping God. Pray that they will be sitting here with you Thursday evening, Friday or Sunday. Not only does Jesus need your loving devotion and service, Jesus loves it when you need Him more than anything else. He treasures your company and loves listening to your prayers and praises. Your Lord will multiply with His blessing whatever you do for Him or give to Him. Treasure the fact that He needs you and your unique contribution.

In an age when people around us are reluctant to commit to anything long-term, lifelong commitment isn’t praised and commended as much as it deserves to be. It’s so easy in our modern environment to be lukewarm about life’s most important matters. Jesus wants you to be fair dinkum about your faith. Whole-hearted commitment to Christ can work wonders for Him. We fulfil God’s plan and purpose for us when we’re committed to Him, “for better, for worse, in sickness and in health, as long as we live.”

Recall a time when you were full of enthusiasm for Jesus Christ. Wouldn’t it be great if that could happen again this Holy Week? Why is it, for example, considered to be okay to be enthusiastic about your favourite sport or hobby but not about your Saviour Jesus Christ? Enthusiasm for Jesus has a wonderful way of diminishing your worries and anxieties. “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say, rejoice!”

There was no shortage of joy and jubilant acclamation on that first Palm Sunday. Those round Jesus spread their garments on the road before the donkey He was riding. To do so was considered an act of homage to a King, as also were the waving and spreading of palm branches on the way ahead. The people shouted a royal acclamation from Psalm 118, a psalm every child learned back then: “Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord.” “Hosanna!” is a petition to God to “save us now!” It could even be translated as “three cheers for Jesus!” The crowd was so enthusiastic because it saw Zechariah’s prophecy, “Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem. Lo, your King comes to you” being fulfilled before their eyes.

The story is told of an American travelling on a bus in Sweden. He was bragging to the Swedish man sitting next to him, how accessible, in theory, the American president was to his citizens. After the Swede got off the bus, someone else said to the American: “In Sweden, its King rides on a bus with his subjects.” The American tourist had been talking to the King of Sweden.

Jesus is a humble King, who loves spending time with those who need His healing power and help most of all.  He is as accessible to us as that Swedish King riding on a bus was to his people. Jesus lets Himself be vulnerable to ridicule and rejection Instead of being aloof and above the hassles and frustrations we face from week to week, He is thrilled to be with us amid the mess and muddle of daily life. Jesus redefined kingship in terms of loving service, humility and accessibility.
He is
“the Servant King
He calls us now to follow Him
to bring our lives as a daily offering
of worship to the Servant King.” 

If our Lord enters Jerusalem with a ragtag group of tax collectors, poor people and fishing folk, who can tell with whom He might associate next? He’s likely to be with the most unlikely of people, those neglected by the high and mighty but greatly treasured by Him. He shares common cause with them and doesn’t act as if He’s better than they. He went out of His way to go to the remote towns of the land to meet the needs of the disabled and the mentally distressed, to widows uncared for by others. All these people saw in Jesus their only hope for a better future.

Gandhi, the great leader of India, was asked, “If you were given the power to remake the world, what would you do first?” Following Jesus’ example, Gandhi replied, “I would pray for the power to renounce that power.” He preferred to be a servant of his people rather than a power-broker, and operate by the power of love.

So then, the best title for our Palm Sunday King is “the Friend of Sinners.” Jesus’ friendship with you makes you one of His Church’s living treasures. He invites you to treasure those He calls you to serve and see them as His gifts to you. Make the joyful discovery of how, as you help others carry their burdens, your own become lighter. May you be Jesus’ “donkey” carrying Him to the people who need Him the most.

Jesus has promised to remain faithful to you, even when you find being faithful to Him tough going. Faith and faithfulness belong together like a lock and a key. Acts of faithfulness like regular prayer, worship, receiving Holy Communion, keep faith alive and thriving. It is faithfulness in these things, rather than success, that our Lord looks for from us. Jesus has promised that the blessings received from our faithfulness will be infinitely greater than all our acts of faithfulness. As far as our Lord is concerned, faithfulness in small things is indeed a great thing. 

This Palm Sunday let the words of The Prayer of St. Francis be your prayer of recommitment to your Lord:

  Make me a channel of your peace: where there is hatred, let me bring your love;  where there is injury, your pardon, Lord, and where there’s doubt, true faith in you. Make me a channel of your peace: where there’s despair in life, let me bring hope; where there is darkness, only light, and where there’s sadness, ever joy.

  O Master, grant that I may never seek so much to be consoled, as to console,  to be understood, as to understand, to be loved, as to love with all my soul.

 Make me a channel of your peace; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, in giving to all men that we receive, and in dying that we’re born to life.

We pray:
Come, Lord Jesus, come.
Come to us through the word of the cross, the word of reconciliation, and the Gospel of peace.
Come to us with wisdom from above to enlighten and inspire us, so that all we say or do may be solely to Your glory, in Your holy name. Amen.

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