Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; Palm Sunday; Matthew 21:1-11

Scriptures for this Sunday: Matthew 21:1-11

You can read these Scriptures here: {NIV and ESV}

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2001 and 2002 were frustrating years for me. God’s call on my life was becoming more and more pronounced, but I was scared to step out on faith and cut the umbilical cord that connected me to the world of software engineering and process design. You can even say that I was hedging my bets. I felt God’s presence with me, and I was scared. I wanted to serve God, and I wanted to do it on my terms because I was too scared to make the necessary changes in my life. Although I did not recognize that at the time, DCOM saw it. That is why they did not recommend me for an appointment; I was not ready yet.

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Today is Palm Sunday. We just heard the story of Jesus entering Jerusalem. We love this story. When we were kids we learned the larger narrative of events that took place during Holy Week, and that story brings memories of Easters gone by. Those memories infuse our lives with meaning.

Because we live almost 2000 years after the events of the first Easter, we know the rest of the story. That knowledge has an effect on what the Triumphant Entry mean to us.

On Palm Sunday we remember Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem in the past, and we also celebrate His entry into our future, the hope of our Salvation and the joy of our Redemption. If we could tell the people in Jerusalem 2000 years ago what the Triumphant Entry means to us today, they would not believe us.

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Passover was the festival to celebrate the freedom from oppression in Egypt. It also had undertones of winning freedom back from the Romans. And what the people of Judea understood about the coming Messiah was very much influenced by what we call the Apocalyptic writings of the Hebrew Scriptures. The people of Judea were expecting that the Messiah would come and smite the unrighteous, destroy Roman oppressors, restore Israel to the golden days of King David, and that Israel would rule the rest of the world. Emphasis was on “the Messiah will do lots of things” and “we will enjoy the results.”

When crowds shouted “Hosanna,” that was their understanding of the role that Jesus would play in the celebrations of Passover and in the earthly story of descendants of Abraham.

Those who shouted “Hosannas” that day looked on Jesus as God’s anointed from the house of David, of whom the prophets had spoken. People had definite messianic expectations about who Jesus is. However misguided their particular expectations may have been, their actions were based on the belief that Jesus is the promised son of David, through whom the redemption announced by God’s prophets would come. They understood who Jesus is; their conclusion was that God would do what they would have done.

In modern English, “Hosanna” roughly translates as “Hurrah!” or “Praise the Lord!” In first century Aramaic, the word “Hosanna” meant “Lord, save us!” with the added connotation of “by obliterating our enemies” / “by leading us to victory.”

There is a concept called “research bias.” Simply stated, it says that we believe what we want to believe, not what the evidence or data tells us. We make our findings fit our wants, hopes, and preconceived notions. Because of the “research bias” many people in Jerusalem and Judea totally overlooked that Jesus’ ministry was not that of a general who will lead the country in a coup against the Romans. Because of the “research bias” everyone on the streets overlooked the fact that Jesus entered Jerusalem riding a donkey, not a war horse. People’s expectations were set and they wanted to fit God into their expectations.

So what’s in all this for us? What can we learn from the story of Easter, and more importantly from the events of that day when Jesus entered Jerusalem?

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It is a scary feeling when we do not understand something. When we do not understand what is happening we feel out of control, we feel helpless and powerless. People of first century Judea did not like that feeling any more than we do today.

That is why they tried to fit Jesus into their worldview and understanding. When Jesus did not start a military coup, they were disappointed and angry with Jesus, crushed in spirit, scared, frustrated and demoralized. They did not understand what was going on. I wonder if at least some of them expected that threat of death on the cross would force Jesus to act in a manner that they wanted?

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To me personally, Palm Sunday is a reminder that God is more complex that I can imagine. To me personally, Palm Sunday is a reminder that God is not just with me, but also with people I do not like. To me personally, Palm Sunday is a reminder that God is always with me but that I am not always with God. God was with me in 2001 and 2002 challenging and encouraging me to go into ministry and I was waving my hands, singing “Hosanna!” and “Praise the Lord!,” not willing to take responsibility for what I was called to do, refusing to take the responsibility of the call that God put on my life.

Am I the only one who has experienced such a conundrum? Have you ever wanted to force God into doing something? Have you ever hoped that if you pray hard enough or say just the right words, you will be blessed or whatever it is you wish for will come true? Have you ever said “God is in control,” when what you really meant to say was that you wanted to absolve yourself of any responsibility for what was happening?

Invite

{Invitation to place palms at the foot of the cross.}

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