>The following was preached at Veedersburg and Hillsboro UMC on Sunday, March 28, 2010 (Palm Sunday). The text for this week’s message is Luke 19:28-40.

We are continuing our journey towards Easter today with the event that signals the beginning of Jesus’ final week prior to the crucifixion. Jesus comes into Jerusalem with the people shouting, “Hosanna in the highest!” In just a few short days, some of those same people will be shouting, “Crucify him!” I think it is so crucial for us to observe this week with a sense of the reality of what is going on.

I really want to encourage you to attend some of the other worship services that will be going on this week. Because one of the biggest traps that we find ourselves in is not realizing what is going on during this week. Sure, we acknowledge it, but do we really get it? We have Palm Sunday, and it’s a big celebration. People shouting, throwing their cloaks on the ground, rejoicing that Jesus has arrived. It’s awesome, and it’s important for us to remember this story.

And then next week, we have Easter – another major celebration in the life of the church. What can be better than to remember the resurrection of Jesus? It’s like the Super Bowl of churches – the big Sunday, the day when family from all over come in and we eat food together. But what about the week in between? Do we even really know why we celebrate in the first place?

Maundy Thursday and Good Friday are significant dates on the Christian calendar as well. On Thursday night this week, we will remember the Last Supper, the last meal that Jesus had with his disciples is so full of meaning and significance, and sometimes we just forget about it. Yeah, we celebrate Communion on the first Sunday of just about every month. But is it just a part of the service that morning, or is it truly a remembrance of what Jesus did?

And Good Friday? That’s really the center of our faith. No Good Friday, no Easter. No Good Friday, no sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins, and we are stuck exactly where we have been without Jesus in our lives. We are separated from God until Good Friday. Jesus came to usher in the kingdom of God, and he does so on Good Friday by willingly giving himself for the forgiveness of our sins. But if we just go from Palm Sunday to Easter, we don’t realize this. Jesus’ ultimate destination was the cross. And we get to the cross by remembering the story. We get to the cross by traveling alongside Jesus as he enters Jerusalem on this day. And this week, we are not just celebrating Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, we are seeing the beginning of the end of his journey.

As we read through the Gospel of Luke, whether we realize it or not, we are reading a travel narrative. We get some background, such as Jesus’ birth, the calling of the disciples and some basic teaching and recording of the things that Jesus did through the first several chapters, but in 9:51, a very significant phrase lets us know that we are about to embark on a journey that will end with Jesus being “taken up,” as Luke writes.

Luke 9:51 says, “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” We get a sense of resolve on Jesus’ part here. “He set his face to go to Jerusalem.” Jesus is on a journey that will end with his death and resurrection, and it all centers on the city of Jerusalem. To top it off, Jesus knew what was going to happen. Along the way, he tells his disciples what will happen, but they either don’t believe him or don’t think that it will really happen.

Let’s stop right there for just a minute. If I were to tell you that if you go to a certain place, then your life will end, what are the chances that you are going to “set your face” to go there? I’m guessing that they are pretty slim, unless there is something larger than yourself that is compelling you to go there. That was the case with Jesus. It wasn’t just about him. Jesus was determined to go to Jerusalem in spite of the fact that he knew was going to happen.

So, before we even get into today’s text, we get something major thrown our way. When God calls us to do something, it doesn’t matter where the road leads or what is waiting for us. When God calls us to do something, we need to “set our faces” in that direction. It’s not an easy thing to do, and I’m not going to stand here and tell you that following Jesus is a piece of cake because we all know that’s not true. Yet, we, as a congregation, are spending this year praying, learning a little more about ourselves spiritually and trying to discern God’s will.

But I have to be completely honest with you here. We can’t do that unless people are really longing after God. We can’t do that unless people desire to follow Him. I know it’s been a while since I’ve mentioned it, but the Bible reading challenge isn’t just so that you can say that you’ve read through the Bible in a year. The Bible reading challenge is to get you to read God’s word, to get you to spend time with God. It’s to help you grow closer to God, and consequently, to help us as a congregation draw closer to God. Because it is only when we are consistently listening to God’s voice that we begin to discern His will for us.

One thing we know about Jesus, simply by him coming into Jerusalem in the first place, is that he was listening to God. He was obedient to his calling. Even in the garden, before he is arrested, Jesus surrenders his will to God. That’s why he comes into Jerusalem in the first place. And what we see in reading this passage is that even the nameless people surrounding Jesus offer some sort of obedience, whether they realize it or not. So, how do the people in this story respond to Jesus, and what does that mean for us?

The first people that we see are two of Jesus’ disciples. We aren’t told which ones, and the truth is, it’s not that important. It’s not important that we know who they are; it’s important that we see what they do. You see, the most important thing for us to learn here is that following Jesus is not about making a name for yourself. Because, quite frankly, it’s a whole lot easier to make a name for yourself by not following Jesus, than by following him. Think about music artists that you listen to on the radio. Chances are the ones that are the most popular in the realm of Christian music are barely known in the secular world. They may not be well-known in the secular world, but they are still faithful to their call. Because following Jesus is not about making a name for yourself. It is about making a name for Jesus.

Their task is pretty simple, and it is kind of odd. Jesus tells them to go into the village ahead where they will find a colt that nobody has ever sat on, untie the colt and bring it back. Many times, what we are called to do is not that difficult. People are afraid that answering God’s call means you have to end up on some island in the South Pacific proclaiming the gospel to indigenous tribes. But that’s usually not the case. Often we are called to share the gospel right where we are – in our hometown, in the workplace, at school. God puts us in positions so that we can share the gospel; it’s not difficult to find the situations.

In a different vein, sometimes, what we are called to do just doesn’t make sense. Jesus is about to make this triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and this is the animal that he is going to ride into town? What? A colt could be a horse or a donkey, but it is clear in the other gospels that this is a donkey that Jesus is going to be riding into Jerusalem. A donkey, really?

Kings don’t ride donkeys. Donkeys are small, stubborn, unresponsive. A king wouldn’t ride a donkey into battle. A king would ride a tall, strong horse. This would be like the President coming into town in the station wagon that I drove in high school. A king would want to ride into town on an impressive stallion. People think twice about attacking a man on a strong horse. People aren’t afraid of a man riding a donkey. They laugh at a man riding on a donkey. Jesus, the king of the Jews, is not a king that has come to conquer his enemies. Jesus is a king who comes into town on a humble, little donkey. He comes not to bring battle, but to bring peace.

It doesn’t make sense, but the disciples follow his directions anyway. Sometimes, God calls us to do things that don’t make sense. Sometimes, God calls us to do a simple task that will end up signifying more than we could ever imagine. It’s not up to us to improve on His plan; it’s up to us to be obedient to His call.

The next person that we see is the donkey’s owner. The disciples come up and start to untie it, and he comes out and says, “Hey! What do you think you are doing?” And the disciples say exactly what Jesus tells them to say, “The Lord has need of it.” And it’s just like the guy says, “Okay. Have fun.” Are you kidding me?

If two strangers came up to your house, got in your car and started it up. You’d probably be beside yourself trying to get them out of the car, or on the phone calling the cops. But, let’s say, you confront them about it, and they say, “Oh, God needs it.” How likely are you to just let them take it? I’m guessing that none of us would be that willing.
Now, we don’t know if Jesus arranged something ahead of time with this guy. But Luke doesn’t tell us that he did. As far as we know, the disciples simply told the owner that the Lord needed his donkey, and he let them have it. Because what we can learn from this guy is that, in the end, everything we have belongs to God. Ultimately, this building is not the property of Veedersburg/Hillsboro United Methodist Church. Ultimately, this building is not the property of The United Methodist Church. This building, like everything else around us, is God’s.

As hard as we work for stuff in this life, we can’t take it with us. Maybe this is a perspective that we need to take more seriously in our own lives. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen a U-haul following a funeral procession. The Egyptian pharaohs tried to take it with them, but when their tombs were cracked open by explorers, they found all that stuff sitting next to mummified remains. In the end, everything belongs to God, and when he calls us to use our possessions for his glory, then maybe we would do well to remember the story of this nameless man who let the disciples take his donkey.

One last point to pull out of the text today. After the processional, the Pharisees come up to Jesus and tell him to rebuke his disciples for their proclamation of Jesus as the Messiah. And Jesus’ response is simple. “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” We can’t be silent. We can’t ignore Jesus. Because if we do, the very rocks will cry out. You see, we really have two options when it comes to proclaiming the message of the gospel. We can be a part of it, or we can get out of the way. Because if we don’t take part in the proclamation of the gospel, creation itself will.

We, as a church, have a decision to make. We can insulate ourselves. We can fail to share the gospel with the world around us. But that’s not going to stop the gospel. We can be on board with what God is doing, or we can get out of the way because it is going to get done one way or another. Now, I don’t know about you, but I would much rather be a part of what God is doing than be a roadblock. And the truth is, whenever we decide not to be obedient in proclaiming the gospel, we set ourselves up to be roadblocks.

Our faith really comes down to this week that is facing us. In the midst of the celebrations, let’s not forget about why we are celebrating. If Jesus was just another guy, there is no reason to celebrate. If Jesus wasn’t the Son of God who died to redeem us from our sins, why are we bothering to come here every week? Celebrate the risen king this week, but also remember. Remember that being a follower of Christ is not about making a name for ourselves. Being a follower of Christ is about remembering the story of the Christian faith, being obedient to the call that God has placed in our lives and proclaiming the message of salvation for all people.