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F. Earle Fox
St Luke's REC, Santa Ana, CA
Sermons -- Audio Version
Palm Sunday - 3/28/10 Is. 52:13-53:12; Ps. 24; Phil. 2:5-11; Mt. 27:1-54
Let us back up to the days leading up to Palm Sunday.
Jesus had gone away from Jerusalem, the center both of the Jewish religion, and at the same time, the center of the vested interests of the establishment which had sold out to the world, the flesh, and to Satan.
Certain of those who had been offended at Jesus had threatened to stone Him. He answered (in the Gospel of John): "If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me, but if I do them, even though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me and I am in the Father."
Then He departed across the Jordan, out of the country of Judea.
News then arrived that a certain man, Lazarus of Bethany, was ill. Bethany was a small village near Jerusalem. After two days, He said to His disciples, "Let us go into Judea again."
The disciples listened, questioning in unbelief -- back to Judea??? Back among those who were just now seeking to kill Him, and perhaps them to???
But Jesus goes, because He knows what He must do. And He knows who is in control, whose purposes command all things. Many of His followers perhaps wait behind across the Jordan, uncertain, fearful. Is He the messiah, or is He mad?
Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with Him...." What would death mean to Thomas? And what would death mean to those who remained behind across the Jordan? And what would death mean to Jesus?
What would death mean to Jesus, "who, being in the form of God thought it not robbery to be equal with God...., but became obedient unto death....," who was even then leading His small, insignificant band back over the Jordan to raise a man from the dead?
In the midst of a spiritual wasteland, a man is raise from the dead, whose very raising brings the established powers of death the more hotly breathing behind Jesus.
"Let us go that we may die with Him" falls on many a deaf ear. It falls on friendly ears, friendly but uninvolved, friendly but uncommitted, who will wait to see, and then be friendly again. It falls on the ears of those who desire no enemies, who compromise and manipulate to appear friendly to all, and so are friends to no one.
Back across the Jordan Jesus and His band go. And Lazarus is raised, as Jesus knew he would be. Jesus knew who was in charge. And He knew when the time would come for the Son of Man to be lifted up. The night had not yet fallen, except for the disciples -- who could see no light but Jesus and so followed Him -- to die with Him.
Larazus was raised. The pillars of the Temple establishment were duly infuriated. And Jesus departed into the wilderness with His disciples to a small town called Ephriam.
And then, six days before the Passover, Jesus once again set His face toward the dreaded city, the hopeful city, the city of David, a city in bondage to Satan and the forces of this fallen world.
Many of the troubled disciples must have wondered, "Why do You keep antagonizing? Why can’t You take it easy? Why must You ask for trouble? And do You really have to call them devil worshippers?"
The news, no doubt, reaches those disciples who hesitated to follow Jesus back to Judea. "Jesus made a fool of Himself in the Temple. Of course it is not right to sell doves in the Temple, but you can be tactful about it. You must know that Temple leaders are touchy about things with the Roman rulers, and that the last thing they want is to offend them by a disturbance."
The last thing they want is to offend.
The Temple leaders, the Pharisees and Sadducees and Scribes, a fear-filled lot, worshipping a fearful god, living in terror lest the balance of hostile powers be disturbed between Imperial Rome and the god of legalism. The Scribes are forever calculating to make their god smile at the end of the legal ledger column, knowing in their hearts that their god despised their moral bribery and their flattering lips -- forever defending against their own self-despising by accumulating flattery from their fellows.
Jesus set His face toward the dreadful, hopeful city, riding into the heart of danger -- on a donkey. "Ride on! Ride on in majesty! In lowly pomp, ride on to die: Oh Christ, thy triumphs now begin O’er captive death and conquered sin." He knew who was in charge. The disciples did not know who was in charge, except that Jesus was in charge of their lives; and so, they too went. And the friendly people showed their friendliness "with palms and scattered garments strowed." And shouts of "Hosanna!"
It is supposed by some that the Zealots, those who violently opposed Rome, were there when the disciples went to get the donkey on which Jesus would ride, and that they had also war horse to choose. Which Jesus chose would be the signal to them whether He would join them in military war to throw off the Roman domination. But He chose a donkey, a lowly beast.
Jesus rode into Jerusalem to conquer sin, to destroy the work of Satan, to prove to people that not God, but only man's sinful imagination and sinful will had closed the way to return to the Garden of Eden.
God is not the tight, twisting moral miser who haunts the imaginations of the Pharisees and of so many of the people of God. He is not the fearful, accusing demon who twists our souls. God is not the blue-nosed, prudish accuser who tyrannizes over the Satanic heaven imagined by the pillars of the worldly establishment, frightened of joyful living, openness, and freedom. Jesus rode into Jerusalem with the premeditated purpose of destroying that sinful image of God which reigned in the hearts of His own people.
Come the wrath of Caesar, come the judgment of the pillars, come the desertion of the friendly ones, and even His disciples, He would expose and destroy the power of that distorted image of His Father. If the demonic images which lurk in our hearts are not destroyed, we cannot be saved. If we do not allow Jesus to ride into our hearts and destroy the false and fearful gods we worship, we shall be damned by those very false gods.
"Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be lifted up, ye doors of our hearts..., and the King of Glory shall come in! Who is this King of glory?" It is Jesus, Son of the Living God.
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Jesus rode into Jerusalem on His donkey long before our time. That was His war horse. The Suffering Servant of Isaiah was the aggressor, not the Pharisees. They were on the defensive, not Jesus. Jesus, the Suffering Servant, was showing us how to attack the strongholds of the Enemy, how to neutralize the powers of Satan.
So, if we value our lives, we shall pursue His path on our Lenten pilgrimage along the Way of the Cross..., to the Resurrection, to the Ascension, and to the Coming of the Holy Spirit. We will learn how to be the aggressors, the attackers against evil.
"Let us also go that we may die with Him..." Let us also go in heart and mind and imagination, dying to self, and ascending to the heavenly throne. What would we have done if we had been there? What would we do today if He should appear in our midst? Would we pick up our cross daily and follow Him?
And why do we even ask "IF"??? Did He not promise to dwell in our hearts and minds? Are not we the visible Body of Christ today? Is He not intending to be visible to the world through us today? Do we not at the altar give Him our bodies and blood in which to dwell when we receive His body and blood? Do we not make our bodies a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice unto Him so that the fullness of the power of God can walk out the church door after the service and aggressively take on the world?
If we do not make our bodies a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice at the altar, we are treating the Holy Eucharist as merely a memorial, and no real presence. We are merely remembering something that happened long ago, not living in something that is happening among us today. Let us also go that we may die with Him....
Of course, the Eucharist is as memorial. But it is much more,
the transforming power of God to remake us in His powerful and life-giving
But Jesus has left, and we have tarried long. We must hasten if we are to catch up with Him. There are no crowds at the gates shouting "Hosanna!" now. Just, perhaps, the evening dust settling from the traffic of a busy city street.
We inquire: "We are looking for Jesus of Nazareth..!"
"Jesus of Nazareth.."
"You are late. I fear He is no longer here."
"But we were told He came this way. It is important that we find Him at any cost. Our lives depend upon it. Which way did He go?"
"You are too late. He has left Jerusalem. He went down the road to a place called Golgatha."
We know what they do at Golgatha. "But He was going to save us..., and turn us into His soldiers. He is the Savior...'"
"Yes, that is why He went to Golgatha. Do you still want to find Him? You can..., if you follow in His steps through Jerusalem to Golgatha."
"Show us the way."
It is getting darker. And it would be tempting to lodge with friends for the night.
"Not that Golgatha," he says, as if reading our thoughts, "Your Golgatha. That was their Golgatha. You have your own path to Golgatha to follow today."
And then he is gone. It must have been an angel.
To those who cannot see the pharisaism and devil worship in our midst today, the spectacle of Jesus riding into Jerusalem deliberately to expose and destroy the Satanic vested interests looks as absurd today as it did 2000 years ago, for us moderns, a mere Sunday School tale of palm branches and children dancing. To those who see God, it is Christ riding into Satan's strongest hold to destroy his work -- then and now.
"Let us also go, that we may die with Him..." What would death mean to Thomas? And what would death mean to a Pharisee or a Scribe, held in the grip of his pitiless god, fearful of joyful living, openness, and Godly freedom? And what does death mean to us? Does it mean leaving the ways of self-destruction and finding the way to life?
You have your Jerusalem and I have mine. Jesus rides into Santa Ana, into La Habra, into where you live. There are works of Satan for you to challenge and expose, and there are works of Satan for me. If we to not pursue Satan to Golgatha and defeat him there, then there is no hope for us. If we will not stand for God, if we will not be counted as followers of Christ, if we will not acknowledge His name in public, then He will not acknowledge us before the Father. It is that important.
If you do not see Jesus riding into your town, your neighborhood, if Christ never rose for you where you are, then fear for your soul, and pray that He will. If Christ has not yet risen for you, then you have not yet died for Him. Pray that you will. Follow Jesus through His death that you may die and rise with Him.
St. Thomas was right. Let us go and die with Him -- so that we might rise with Him. Thomas would not have understood the "rising" part because he said those words before the resurrection. But we have no excuse.
We have to do our dying and rising here, where we live and play and work. Here in Santa Ana on Fairhaven Avenue, in La Habra on West Lambert Rd., in your town on your street. Imagine Jesus riding in on a donkey and ministering where you live. What would that look like in our time and situation? How would the Incarnate Son of God deal with us in our circumstances? Jesus might not use a donkey because He used symbols which those of that time and place understood.
But the cross we still understand. So how can we here today pick up our crosses and follow Him on our streets in our homes?
Our fellowship here is the place where God will teach us how
to do that with truth and grace.
Lord Jesus, King of kings, and Lord of lords, high and mighty ruler of the universe, yet who comes to dwell with us in our homes, on our streets, in our towns -- dwell, we pray, in our minds, our wills, our feelings and relationships. Manifest your glory through us as we give over ourselves to You, that we may be counted Your faithful servants -- in whose name alone we stand.
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