“Hosanna!” & “Betrayal”

April 9th 2017

6th Sunday in Lent / Palm Sunday

Matthew 26: 14-25, Mark 11: 1-11

Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard

 

Scripture:

Hear now the Gospel According to Mark, Chapter 11, verses 1-11.  Hear how Jesus came into Jerusalem and how he was joyfully welcomed.

11 When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples 2 and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it.  3 If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’”  4 They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, 5 some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?”  6 They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it.  7 Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it.  8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. 9 Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna!  Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!  Hosanna in the highest heaven!”  11 Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

Now hear the accounting from the gospel according to Matthew, chapter 26, verses 14 thru 27.  Listen, as we hear of the betrayal, by one of his own; and hear the retelling of that last meal, before Jesus is arrested.

14 Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What will you give me if I betray him to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver.  16 And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him. 17 On the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?”  18 He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is near; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’”  19 So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover meal.  20 When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve; 21and while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”  22 And they
became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, “Surely not I, Lord?”  23 He answered, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed!  It would have been better for that one not to have been born.”  25 Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?”  He replied, “You have said so.”

Sermon:

“Hosanna!” & “Betrayal”

Jesus came riding into Jerusalem to the joyful shouts of Hosanna, Hosanna!  Did the crowd know to whom it was speaking?  Did they shout: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!  Hosanna in the highest!”  Did the crowd knowingly shout these blessings upon Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem, or where they shouting with a different understanding?  We want to celebrate with the people who welcomed Jesus that day with the blessing of the Palms.  It feels good!  It’s like standing on the edge of a new era.  Jesus is going to be on our side!  Jesus will be our new leader!  He will take up our cause.  We want him to be our Messiah and we understand what that means.  Yet, did they shout blessings or pleas for help?  “O Please, Lord, save us now!”

It is more likely that the cry which was raised by the crowd, as Jesus entered Jerusalem, was used in the traditional Hebrew expression meaning save with a note of urgency making the plea “please save us now.”  Jesus was hoped to be the anointed king and they were crying out to him for deliverance from their enemies and their troubles.  This understanding of the word Hosanna does not diminish the excitement of the occasion.  The shouts of Hosanna clearly proclaimed the people’s hopes for Jesus as Messiah, Son of David.  What it does diminish is the clarity by which we can say they understood what kind of a ‘king’ Jesus was to be.

At the time of our gospel lesson, people only came to know of God through their religious leader.  They knew… that ‘if’ they kept the people under control, by

stifling any hint of rebellion or unrest, then their Roman oppressors would leave them and their people alone, while giving the religious elites some nice perks, like a nice home, land and a bit of wealth.  So, they stressed things… like the ten commandments and religious obedience.  Emphasizing, of course the Omnipotent authority of the Heavenly Father, ‘up-above’, in the kingdom of heaven.  Failure meant, obviously, one would not make it to heaven and be sent straight to hades, to suffer through eternity for their wrongs!  Not a very loving and forgiving teaching. 

The teachings of Jesus are, without a doubt, revolutionary!  Through Jesus, we have come to understand how God, incarnate in Christ, came to be here with us, not up there… separate from us!  This is a very major shift in our understand of who God is!  God is with us, loving us and not sitting up in heaven on a large throne judging us!  Essentially, Jesus has invite us to shift our whole understanding of God, away from the understanding of an ‘up-above-us’ authoritarian God, to a personal, down to earth, loving, compassionate and forgiving God.  Very different; radically different!  With Jesus quietly coming into Jerusalem on a simple donkey, being praised by a modest gathering of folks as the Messiah, was a ‘really’ big deal.  And it was sure to insight the wrath and rage of the religious authorities of that time-period!

There is a lot of reason to believe Jesus understood the significance of his festive procession.  He had usually walked those last two miles into town, but he chose to ride the young donkey that day instead.  He was fulfilling the Old Testament prophecy of Zechariah.  The significance of the event was heightened by the fact that he had chosen such a lowly beast to ride on.  No Jewish king since Solomon had even ridden upon one in public.  They expected a conquering king.  One that would raise up a great army to: over-throw the Romans, who ruled them.  Yet, they beheld their new king as he stressed humility and love to them, and they did not understand.

Like us, the hopeful waved palms that day.  We waved them today as well.  They were not sure if their hopes were to be filled.  Neither are we.  They sang “Hosanna!  Save us now!”  Perhaps more out of tradition then recognition of whom Jesus was.  The words come from a song often used at a Passover celebration.  It was a traditional song, often sung to God asking for saving assistance to come now.  Underneath our celebration, we harbor reservations.  I do.  You do as well, or you are unwilling to acknowledge them.  If God is with us, we ask, why are we still feeling oppressed and pushed aside?  Why do we still find ourselves praying

someone will come and save us from the unrest and in-fighting: within our government, within our communities, and even within our own churches.  It is plainly seen by outsiders.  Can we not see this for ourselves?

I had a conversation with my friend, Pastor Winston from Zambia, this past Tuesday morning.  We were talking about the differences between the Christian churches in Zambia and other areas of Africa, in contrast to here in the United States.  He was speaking about how vibrant and energized their congregations are.  On Palm Sunday, every Christian church finds their members… out in the streets, ‘parading around’ with palm branches, singing and shouting for joy.  Winston pointed out that the people there need saving so they turn to Christ, they celebrate as believing Christians.  You see, when missionaries from the United States and Europe evangelized them, they took it to heart.  He went on to say: now it us, meaning you and me, folks here in the United States who need missionaries to come and wake us up from our apathy, helping us to realize that we too still need salvation!  From his eyes, he sees great wealth and abundance throughout our country.  Why, we even smell good he said.  Though a compliment to be sure, it was also a stark reminder how things we now take for granted – are still exotic luxuries to the people who live on the African continent!  Little things, like running water in our homes, toilets and incidentals like deodorants!  All of this, he says, seems to have put the need for salvation ‘way down’ on the list of our priorities in life.

It is very important for us to remember, Jesus’ majestic ride into Jerusalem was only the beginning.  It set into motion something that could not be stopped.  As we journey forward we must recognize that something has been started that cannot be stopped.  Our celebration of palms proclaims how we too, have recognized Jesus as the Messiah.  Together, we have done that.  In a sanctuary such as ours, it is easy to shout allegiance to Jesus.  When the time comes to stand-alone will we, will you, fall away and say you do not know him?  Today, our voices ring clear.  Tomorrow, we may be forced to stand-alone.  Then what will our voices say?  It does not stop here.  This is only the beginning.  Can we be the missionaries within our own community, our own church, and even within our own homes and our closest circle of friends?  Can we respond to this challenge to evangelize ourselves?  Let us allow this question to stir us into looking carefully at our own walks of faith.  Where on our priority list does our path of faith fall?

There was no separation of religion and state in Jesus’ time.  This religious holiday was a political event.  The Pharisees became disturbed by this demonstration of support for Jesus’ ministry.  They told him to silence the crowd.  He mocked them by saying that if they were silent the very stones would cry out!  Clearly, the

movement was becoming larger than any one person.  History supports the fact that as Jesus was silenced by martyrdom, the Christian movement took a large step forward.  Likewise, the martyrdom of Martin Luther King Jr., and the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela did even more for their movements than the speeches they made.

We know that Jesus set into motion a political firestorm that would not stop until he was nailed to the cross.  But that was only the beginning.  Jesus died for what he believed.  He died to show us God’s love.  He loved those whom society did not dare love.  He did this through his acts of forgiveness, his healings, and his teachings, to those whom society would not love.  We must turn to Jesus, our Savior, when the price of discipleship becomes too much for us.  Jesus left his example of how to live in-order-to help us, offering us recovery and escape from the earthly and all too human lives we live.  Look within your own family.  Is there any unrest?  Are you and your family united in your devotion to seeking God through Christ?  Are you living in love and harmony like Jesus and his disciples did?  Clearly, this leaves some room for our humanness.  Yet, is faith even something you and your household are willing to openly discuss?  Think about it.  If we cannot take our faith home with us, how will we ever share it with those around us… who may be desperately seeking a loving, caring and compassionate God!

Everyone who drives a car knows the current cost of gasoline.  And the accountants, within us, know the cost of living.  What is the cost of caring, do we know the answer to this?  The men and the women of our armed forces face this question every day.  They put their lives on the line in the belief that this country stands for freedom.  They have made a commitment to follow the lead of their commanding officers.  Firefighters and every form of emergency medical group, including our local and state police forces, put their lives and safety and the wellbeing of others – ahead of their own – every day!  Are we, are you and I, willing to do the same for our beliefs?  What challenge of faith is presenting itself to you today?  Are you willing to make your relationship with God first in your life?  How are you to follow Jesus and make the sacrifices he made?  Look for and find ways to clarify and deepen your personal relationship with God.  This next week is filled with opportunities to join with others whom are seeking chances to enrich their relationship with Christ.   Look for and find ways to live with commitment and integrity as a practicing Christian.

Today is a celebration acknowledging that the kingdom of God is at hand!  The world is in need, you are in need, and Jesus rides into your life.  Jesus chases away fear, triumphs over sin and sorrow, dispelling darkness and shedding new light.  Jesus heals our hurts and brings back dead hopes.  It is in response to the entry of Jesus into our lives that we rejoice today.  During these past weeks, we have tried to understand who Jesus is.  Today, we shout Hosanna with hope alive in our hearts.  We have seen Jesus face temptations in the desert.  We have all been witnesses to God’s love as we have seen the many miracles in our own community.

We all thirst for the eternal life that is offered through Christ, our king.  We have seen Jesus as the teacher, the shepherd, the healer, the storyteller, the miracle-worker, and as our humble leader.

We celebrate with a sense of expectation of better things to come.  We shout Hosanna, much like the crowd that greeted Jesus that day, as he rode into town on a donkey.  Our shouts clearly proclaim our hopes for Jesus as the Messiah, the son of David.  Whether the literal translation of Hosanna is “Save us now, please,” or “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” the message is the same.

We celebrate and welcome Jesus into our lives because we want to believe.  We want to have hope!  We want to continue to have hope and to believe even as the parade ends and the anguish of live overcomes us.

Let us all shout Hosanna together!  Hosanna, Hosanna!

Amen.

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