Our reading today from Luke’s gospel, tells the story of people lining the streets to cheer Jesus on as he makes his final visit to Jerusalem. What this part of the passion story doesn’t say, is that Jesus comes with not only to bring God’s redemptive grace, but to see how we will respond. Will we accept it or betray it? Read LUKE 19:29-40
...he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” ... As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road... the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” - Luke 190:28-40
People showed up along the parade route to sing Jesus’ praises and let the world know something big was happening. From all different walks of life, they came and got caught up in the excitement of the moment. Some probably showed up because they were aware of Jesus and liked what he was all about - peace and reconciliation.
But did they really know or understand who he was? Did they show up to see the latest prophet God had raised up? Or did they believe HE was the One the prophet’s had promised? The one who God sent to liberate the world from sin and oppression.
Whatever their reason for being there, they showed up. And that’s a good thing. A few even went a little further. One person lent him a colt to ride on. Others lined the road with their cloak as if to give Jesus a royal welcome as he made his way into the Holy City. But like all of us, they also had other responsibilities – stuff to do, lives to live.
Yes, they showed up. But for the most part that was all they did. By the time Good Friday had rolled around, no one was left to lay down their cloaks for Jesus. There was no one chanting “Peace. Glory. Hosannah.” Even the disciples who came to Jerusalem with Jesus went missing. Our Lord was on his own.
It’s easy to show up with the crowd. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement, cheering and singing praises when everyone around you is doing it. It’s harder to commit, to walk alone with one’s cross slung over one’s shoulder.
We commit to all sorts of things without giving it much thought...a sports team or a Netflix series. Other commitments, like marriage or choosing a college, we hopefully take a little more serious. But for the most part we don’t think twice, probably because we aren’t “truly” committed to things. Our hearts are not really vested in any serious way.
Committing to something is a serious, and sometimes dangerous thing. As we’ve seen recently, a person who pledges themselves to a political candidate or ideology might be willing to do unthinkable acts against humanity to show its allegiance to the cause.
To be committed to something is to accept the terms and conditions that come with it. We have lives to live, and other things to do. We don’t have time for that stuff, muchless read the fine print. With that said, I’m pretty sure Jesus is glad you all have shown up today.
But as Jesus begins his walk toward the Good Friday cross, we must ask ourselves: what good is showing up if I’m not willing to commit - to give my heart and faith to God and to one another?
Don’t get me wrong, I love spending this time with you every Sunday. I know the more you tune in, the more chances you have to hear the gospel. While I get you for thirty minutes today, Jesus wants you every hour, and minute and second of every day. This requires some kind of response from us.
Now, it might be a little obvious to say, but Jesus was committed. The cross is our proof of how far Jesus is willing to go for us. Throughout his life, Jesus remained committed to doing the will of God. He was always faithful to God because he knew that God was always faithful to him.
Like Hegedüs realized, this is true for us as well. "From the history to the prophesies, the Bible is filled with examples of how God has remained firmly committed to us with unwavering love. No matter what God’s people have done, or how distracted they became, God held tightly to the covenant promises" that had been made to their ancestors and to all of creation.
Even though his closest friends and companions would fail their faith, Jesus never once did. And He will not fail us. Jesus was committed to God’s cause.
As Paul writes “though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself… and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.” There can be no greater commitment than that.
So, what then does all this mean for us today? To answer that requires us to step back into the story, before the parade, when Jesus instructs his disciples to go into a nearby village and get the colt. He said, “If anyone asks why, tell them ‘The Lord needs it’.” We don’t know which two disciples were sent, but we know that up to this point they were all dedicated to doing what Jesus asks of them.
In the same way Jesus needed the colt, Jesus also needs you and me to be his disciples. The colt is a symbol of God’s shalom, or perfect peace and harmony that says all is right in the world. Jesus needs us to commit to being God’s peace.
If I have read the Bible correctly, the way to peace comes from our willingness to commit to the way of love. The way of love is the way of Christ Jesus, who shows us through his love the way of God’s righteousness.
For just a brief moment in Luke’s gospel, Jesus puts himself in the center of attention. It’s here we are called to notice God among us.
Here in Anamesa, we believe God is always with us in this space between. In this space, we are given a choice. We can simply show up. Or we can stand out. We can make an appearance, or we can take center stage alongside Christ – to love God. Love others. And serve both. Just like he did.
As Jesus told his followers, “The world will know that you are my disciples, by the way you love one another.” It’s one thing to show up for Jesus. It’s another thing to show up for others in his name.
The cheering crowds along this parade route into Jerusalem invite us to join them in this wonderful event. But they also challenge us to reflect on our commitment – the kind that led Jesus to give his life for our salvation.
He didn’t just blow into the city to take down Rome or to upset the way things were. Jesus went to Jerusalem to bring the visible presence of God’s love and glory to them. By going there, he put a choice before the people: “Will you be my disciple, or will you be my executioner?” There is no middle ground here. Will you be the one who says "Yes" or "No"?
As we know, Jesus dedicated his life to saying yes to God. He did this in all the ways he made the very love of God visible and real among us so the this world couldn’t take our eye off God’s promise redemption.This is important because the world will do everything in its power to stop us from living into our Christ likeness. It will do what it can to take God’s glory for itself.
The world will argue that that peace is impossible because war is always inevitable. It will try to convince us that giving handouts to the poor does more harm than good.
The world wants us to believe it’s stupid to love the unlovable, forgive the unforgivable, and put other people’s needs before one’s own.
The world wants us to commit to its way. But Jesus asks us to commit to his way, the way of love.
The brave people who once shouted, “Peace. Glory. Hosannah.” will soon be screaming, “Crucify him.” They showed up, but for whatever reason couldn’t commit.
With this memory still fresh in his head, Jesus will walk alone to Golgotha carrying his own cross. It is there God asks for the greatest commitment of all. And Jesus will submit, giving his life so that we could live.
While those two planks of wood remind me of just how bad the world can treat one of its own, they also remind me of how great God is, and what God is capable of doing. All because God is faithful to a fault.
On the cross, between our showing up and committing, Jesus waits for our response. Thus, the cross is the most common symbol we have to speak of our faith. Perhaps it’s too common that we forget who hung on it. And why?
When we started Anamesa, we committed our ministry to creating a cross-shaped community. A place where love is not only shared between God and us, but between one another.
We cannot, under our own power, do what Christ did for us. It is not our body and blood God reconciles the world through. We can, however, be like him in our commitment to give God glory. And we do that in all the ways we love.
Love is the way Jesus walks into Jerusalem.
Love is the way Jesus carries his cross.
Love is the way that breaks through death and leads us towards our salvation.
Because God first loved us, we can commit to the call to love. And when we commit to love, we can show up when no one else will.
Bartlett, David L. and Barbara Brown Taylor, eds. Ffeasting on the Word, Year C, Vol 2. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2009.
Hegedüs, Frank. Walk The Way of the Cross. March 20, 2016 (accessed on April 6, 2022).
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”