This is a copy of my ‘sermon’ preached for the online service for An Ordinary Office on Palm Sunday, 28 March 2021. The Bible Reading is Mark 11:1-11.
The Ordinary Office are a praying community of dispersed and disabled people, praying together online five times a day, with a weekly Sunday service on YouTube
There’s no doubt our world has faced unprecedented levels of disruption these past 12 months and the challenges for all of us under Lockdown have been immense. Not least for those of you who live on your own, those who don’t have internet access and not forgetting, of course, our key workers. There are four in my house and, if you count me, that’s five. As you might expect, it’s been pretty stressful at times. And let us not forget, as we heard in our prayers earlier:
The pushers of chairs, the wipers of bums, the makers of tea, the givers of meds, the moppers of floors, the fetchers of shopping, the leaders of faith.
But with many uncertainties still ahead, how can we experience spiritual hope? Where can we find the resources we need to face the future? If ever there was a time to be reminded about what gives us hope and sustains our faith, it’s the story of Holy Week. Holy Week is an emotional rollercoaster. It causes us to rejoice, lament, weep and rejoice again. But it’s a week we, as Christians, should never avoid.
Palm Sunday is the day we remember the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. It’s a story you’ve heard many times before, but there is always something new we can learn in familiar stories. And as we look closer at Jesus’ entry, there are three things, I want you to consider about King Jesus:
1) Jesus is the King who controls his own destiny
It has to be said, as we read through the accounts of Jesus’ final days and hours, that the last thing we might say is that Jesus is the one in control.
Surely, he’s at the ‘beck and call’ of the crowds who are baying for his blood. Surely his fate is sealed by Judas’ betrayal, by the religious authorities’ hatred of him and their plans to kill him. Surely it is the coward Pilate who holds all the cards. Surely Jesus is just a political pawn caught up in a much bigger game. But nothing could be further from the truth.
He’s there because he wants to be, and even more staggering, he’s the one who is actually in charge. And that should be a wonderful reassurance for us.
Even in the darkest times of pandemic, bereavement, depression, illness and long-COVID, he’s got our lives, indeed ‘he’s got the whole world’ in his hands. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know how I would have survived this past year without my hope being in Jesus.
2) Jesus is the King who comes in humility
Kings and leaders of nations are often prone to pride. Power goes to their heads. They make rash decisions. But not Jesus. So how do we know that Jesus is a humble King? Well, we see it in his deliberate decision to ride a donkey into Jerusalem with no guard of honour or triumphant fanfare. If you’re a Roman Soldier, you’re not exactly quaking in your boots at the sight of an unarmed Galilean peasant riding a donkey into town, are you?
You see, if Jesus had really wanted to be thought of as a mighty king, then he would have entered into Jerusalem riding on a stallion or a war horse. Riding a donkey wasn’t a way to impress people. It would be a bit like Prince Charles coming to visit your town and riding down the High Street on a rusty old tricycle. Hardly impressive. But Jesus wasn’t out to impress. No! His kingship is of an entirely different order. He is the king who comes in humility.
3) Jesus is the King who will complete the victory
Now it’s clear that most of the people in Jerusalem had no real idea who Jesus was when he rode into town. In Matthew’s gospel we read how the people asked, “Who is this?” “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” They responded. I guess some of the crowd just got carried away in the moment when enthusiasm and just being there takes over. People often do unusual and strange things when they are excited don’t they?
I’m originally from Sunderland, just in case you’re wondering, but I’m now in the Chelmsford Diocese. But I’ve always tried to watch the Black Cats when I can – usually on TV or an away game. A 600-mile round trip on a Saturday isn’t the best preparation for a busy Sunday. A couple of years ago I was at Wembley to see the lads in the Checkatrade Final.
I don’t think I’ve sang, chanted, and jumped around so much in my life. I got caught up in the exuberance of 50,000 other supporters. A friend of mine broke his ankle with his enthusiastic celebrations! OK, so we lost on penalties, but it was still an exciting occasion.
Have I mentioned that we won the Papa John’s Trophy a few weeks ago ending 48 years of hurt?
Anyway! Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, and it was something to be excited about. So much so, the crowd welcomed him by placing their coats and palm branches on the ground in his path. Then they started to sing:
Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest.
What kind of man was worthy of a welcome such as this? A Prophet? A Priest? A King? A Messiah? And whilst many in the crowd weren’t sure who, or what, he was, we know Jesus was all of those things – and more.
The word Hosanna simply means save us! And to the human eye, the very last thing that Jesus seemed to be bringing was salvation and victory. But that is to look at things at first sight. However, through the eyes of faith, there is so much more taking place.
There’s a well-known saying “There’s nowt so queer as folk!” And that’s so true of this Palm Sunday crowd. Within a week they turned from cheerers to jeerers. From praising Jesus to condemning him. And when you follow the Lord Jesus, more often than not, we face those same jeers. But fear not. Jesus has the victory. It’s been won for us on the cross and he will one day return to complete his work.
For this Jesus is the King who controls his own destiny, and we can trust him with ours. He’s the king who comes in humility, the one in whom we find forgiveness and friendship. And he’s the king who will complete the victory.
Yes, we face the daily challenges of living in lockdown and so many of you, like me, just this past week, on the National Day of Reflection, 23 March 2021 mourn the loss of family and friends in the most painful of circumstances.
However, in the midst of this, each one of us can know the peace and hope Jesus gives when we put our faith and trust in him. Surely our response, on this Palm Sunday, can only be:
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest.
May God bless you at the beginning of this Holy Week and may you know his presence with you as you follow his journey to the cross. Amen.