LAKEWOOD PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
Rev. Terence A. Lucarelli
PALM SUNDAY . April 17, 2011
“Guess who?” I know you’ve played the game. You slip up behind someone, cover their
eyes and say, “Guess who?”
And they always
know! I do that with the preschool kids every once in a
while. It’s such a kick. They know who it is . because they’ve usually seen me walk by them or something. And as soon as I do one, others immediately say, “Do me! Do me!”
They know who I am!
They just watched me play the game and heard my name. But they still
want to play the game
anyway! As I cover their eyes, they begin to giggle, because they know the answer before I even
ask the question. “Guess who?”
And they scream, “It’s Pastor Terry!”
In today’s Scripture passage about the Triumphal Entry
, Jesus seems to be playing a game of
This story for Palm Sunday is ALL
about the identity question
. Verse 10 makes it clear,
“When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, ‘Who is this?’”
“Who is this?”
No hands over the eyes, but still, “Guess who?”
I believe the question helps us understand the fickle
reactions of the people present at that
first Palm Sunday. And so, let’s be real here, the most obvious
question from Palm Sunday is, “How
could the same people who yelled, ‘Hosanna!’ on Sunday turn around and yell ‘Crucify Him!’ on Friday?”
turned into jeers
in an alarmingly short time
How do we solve this mystery? I think we solve it by looking
at how the people responded
that question, “Who is this?”
Everybody was looking for something different
in Jesus, and most were
disappointed in who he really was.
They wanted a Miracle Jesus
. They loved the fact
that he taught in parables that were easier
to understand than the obscure reasoning they heard from the Pharisees. And they loved it
he put the Pharisees in their place
. He was accepting of them ALL
and taught them the true
. But of all the qualities of Jesus that the crowds loved, they loved him best as a miracle man
. always waiting for the chance to see him heal the lame
, the blind
or the sick
must have been really disappointed
on the SEVEN occasions
in the Gospel of Mark when Jesus
performed a miracle, then told them not to tell anyone about it
. The crowds wanted a Miracle Jesus .
They wanted a Ritual Jesus
. They thought the most important matter of religion was to be
in how they believed
, but in HOW
. Their greatest fear was that their whole culture would be absorbed
into the society around them. So they
emphasized the thousand little details
that kept them distinctly Jewish
and thus, kept themselves pure
. But Jesus came preaching that the real way to God
was through having faith inGod
and putting people ahead of ritual
. He tended to break all the rules
that the Pharisees had set
up. He broke the Sabbath
, ate with the unclean
, and defied
the laws of purification. The Pharisees
wanted a Ritual Jesus . but he disappointed them.
They wanted a Military Jesus
. The Zealots were the radical nationalists
who were ready to
, even terrorism
, to overthrow the Roman government. These followers expected Jesus to take up a sword
and call his followers to arms
at any moment. They clearly wanted Jesus to be the leader of their resistance movement.
When Jesus cleansed the Temple, they must have whispered to one another, “It’s time to gather the troops.”
Luke, in his observation of the cleansing of the temple
said, “They supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately”
(Luke 19:11). But Jesus said
to “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s.”
And He said, “All who take the sword will perish by the sword”
(Matthew 26:52). The Zealots wanted a Military Jesus . but He disappointed them.
They wanted a Victorious Jesus
. They had seen it all . the crowds
, the miracles
, the blasting
the Pharisees. It must have been a heady time to be one of the chosen twelve.
I’m sure “What’s in it for
me?” was foremost in their minds. “Which of us will be seated at Jesus’ right hand when he comes
into his kingdom?” was the question of debate in the ranks. They were thinking of the prizes
. Yes, these were the true believers
, and Simon Peter spoke for them all when he boldly
proclaimed at Caesarea Philippi, “Thou art the Christ!”
Jesus to be accepted quickly
every Jewish person . to be greater
than David. But Jesus kept talking about dying
and how they
would be persecuted for following him
. No Victorious Messiah
, rather the Suffering Servant
. And he
made it clear that following HIM
meant taking up a cross
. The Disciples wanted a Victorious Messiah ,,,
All of these different groups were in the crowd that first Palm Sunday, EACH
with their own
private view of Jesus
. As they waved the palm branches and shouted, “Hosanna,”
getting what they wanted.
. more miracles
! The PHARISEES
just knew they would catch Jesus in a misstep
so they could turn the crowds
were thrilled that Jesus was finally bringing on the revolution!
For the DISCIPLES
this was going to be their greatest week of notoriety and glory!
ALL of their private assumptions were quickly dashed as the week progressed.
When we look closely
at the dynamics of that first Palm Sunday, we’re not really surprised
what happens on Friday. On the surface
, it seems like the Triumphal Entry
was a grand celebration
we find the seeds of the crucifixion
lying among the palms.
Fred Craddock says the Triumphal Entry
was a PARADE
, a PROTEST,
and a FUNERAL
. Sure, we’ve all imagined it as a PARADE
. with the crowds shouting “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes.”
as Jesus slowly rides into Jerusalem. I guess we could even understand it as
. But folks, most importantly
, it was also a FUNERAL PROCESSION
. Only Jesus knew that this
was the beginning of the end . the cheering would soon evaporate.
I believe that the most IMPORTANT question any of us can ask in our life is the one the people
asked in our passage, “Who is this?”
What kind of a “Jesus” do YOU want?
Phillip Yancey begins his book, The Jesus I Never Knew
, by saying, “I first got acquainted with
Jesus when I was a child, singing ‘Jesus Loves Me’ in Sunday school, addressing bedtime prayers to
‘Dear Lord Jesus,’ watching Bible club teachers move cutout figures across a flannel graph board. I
associated Jesus with Kool-Aid
and sugar cookies
and gold stars for good attendance
. This Jesus,” he
said, “was a lot like Mr. Rogers.”
Guess who? Mr. Rogers?
When Yancey began to watch films about Jesus, he found that the actors often portrayed
Him in stereotypical
, serene fashion
. Yancey says, “In older Hollywood films about Jesus, he recites
his lines evenly
and without emotion
. He strides through life as the one calm character
among a cast
of flustered extras
rattles him. He dispenses wisdom in flat
, measured tones
. He is, in short, the Prozac Jesus.”
(The Jesus I Never Knew, p. 88)
Who is this? Mr. Rogers? Guess who? Prozac Jesus?
In the 1960s movie Cool Hand Luke
, while in prison, Paul Newman learns that his mother has
died, and he sings the song “Plastic Jesus,” while he plays the banjo:
“I don’t care if it rains or freezes,
Sittin’ on the dashboard of my car.
Glows in the dark ‘cause it’s iridescent
Who is this? Mr. Rogers? Prozac Jesus? Plastic Jesus?
I remember a poem I read a long time ago written by a young man. It was about how he
had his Jesus in a BOTTLE
so that he could take him out when it was convenient
and then put him back on the shelf when it wasn’t
WHO IS THIS?
Do we worship the “Plastic Jesus”
or the “Prozac Jesus”
? Do we want our “Jesus
in a bottle”
so we can control him? GUESS WHO?
Why it’s a Mr. Rogers
kind of Jesus, one that won’t
be a threat to us? The problem with ALL these versions of Jesus is that he is so much more .and he has
always challenged people’s misperceptions.
So . if you’re looking for any of those, you’re going to be disappointed. And the reason WHY?
You’re looking for the wrong kind of Jesus.
Tuesday night, at our final “Living the Questions” class, we got into a discussion about
people’s perceptions of God. I can’t remember who said it, but someone mentioned that they have
a friend who shared with them that when someone tells them they’re an atheist, their response is:“Tell me about the God you don’t believe in.”
And when they do
, they usually respond with, “I don’t
think I’d like that kind of God either.”
in God usually come from a wrong view
of God. And the same thing
On that first Palm Sunday, ALL
of those people were looking for the wrong kind
of Jesus .
But when YOU really SEE Jesus . the REAL item . YOU’LL be amazed and certainly NOT
She sat across from me and I could see the pain on her face. She talked of her divorce, her
downward spiral into addiction, her daughter whom she hadn’t seen in nearly three years. Sure,
she had pulled her life together . back from the dead so to speak . but could her daughter forgive
her for the desertion, the horrible way
she had lived her life, the lack of love
? Could God
forgive herself? Brought up Catholic, she could only recall the judgment
, the condemnation
. She was divorced; she had used drugs; she had thrown away her family . all things
damned by her church and therefore damned by God.
I listened and then I simply said to her, “I learned a song when I was a little boy in church. I
bet you know it too.” And then I sang, “Jesus loves me, this I know.” She started to sing hesitantly
with me, “For the Bible tells me so.” Tears began welling up in her eyes. “Little ones to him belong.
They are weak but he is strong.” And now with more strength and conviction, “Yes, Jesus loves
me.” I stopped singing, she continued, “Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me
Two weeks later I received a call from her. She had been to see her now 17 year old daughter
“At first,” she said, “I couldn’t find the words. And then I just started singing, ‘Jesus loves me, this I
know.’ And you know what? My daughter started singing it with me! And when we were finished
. we hugged
. I have my daughter back and she has her mother again. Terry, Jesus loves ME.”
As theologian, Marcus Borg says, “Jesus is, for us as Christians, the decisive revelation
a life full of God
looks like. Radically centered
in God and filled
with the Spirit, he is the decisive disclosure
of what can be seen of God embodied in a human life. As the Word
of God become flesh
, his life incarnates
of God, indeed, the love
God. In Jesus we see and know God’s love.
GUESS WHO? Who is Jesus for YOU?
The real meaning
of Holy Week . indeed the real meaning
of his whole life
, was that Jesus came to show US
how to live
; so much was this his mission that love
took him to a cross
, there to show us how to die
; and then because of love
, God showed us just
how we will live again
“For God so LOVED the world.” that God gave us JESUS.
You know, it really doesn’t matter what
were looking for. It doesn’t really matter
or the ZEALOTS
or the DISCIPLES
were looking for. The real meaning of Palm
What kind of Jesus are YOU looking for?
We still ask the question, “Who is this?”
And your answer . YOUR ANSWER makes ALL the difference.
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