Palm Sunday: When Things Don’t Quite Go As We Expect

Palm Sunday: When Things Don’t Quite Go As We Expect

Categories:

Intro – When things don’t quite go as expected…

So the commonwealth games are coming, not long to go now… The Queens Baton Relay will be passing through Cleveland next Saturday and the games will be starting shortly after that.

The relay will be completing a journey around the world that has lasted over a year and its arrival at the opening ceremony will mark official start of the games. All fairly predictable… Someone will running with the torch, everyone will cheer, it will get given to the queen or some representative… Done… This is all well and good until things don’t really go as planned… I’m showing my age here but I remember the opening of the 2018 Sydney Olympics where the end of the torch relay didn’t quite go as planned.

For those who can’t remember, basically Cathy Freeman lit Olympic cauldron, it lifted up around her and got stuck… For something like 5 minutes… It was obvious that it wasn’t just a dramatic pause… I guessing there were a whole bunch of people coming up with all sorts of creative and colourful ways to ask “What happened”, likely followed by “Who screwed up…” Everyone knew how things were supposed to go and we all found ourselves wondering what went wrong…

The reason that I mention this is that we find ourselves here on Palm Sunday. We read about Jesus’ arrival into Jerusalem being celebrated, complete with palm branches and cheering. As we read the Gospels, it is clear that in his journey to Jerusalem, Jesus was heading towards the climax of his ministry. His followers would have had some pretty clear hopes and dreams about how things were going to play out…

Yet, no sooner has Jesus arrived and in Jerusalem and things don’t seem quite right…

At the end of our first reading we heard that:

Mark 11:11 (The Message)

11  Jesus entered Jerusalem, then entered the Temple. He looked around, taking it all in. But by now it was late, so he went back to Bethany with the Twelve.

So his arrival at the temple, the heart of Jewish religious life was a bit of an anticlimax…

Fast forward less than a week and we hear of Jesus before pilate, rejected by the crowds, mocked, humiliated and beaten…

For those of us familiar with the Easter story, this isn’t a surprise, but for those who were following Jesus, this wasn’t how they thought things were meant to turn out….

What went wrong… How did we manage to go from this:

To this:

Looking for people to blame…

What went wrong… What happened… How did God’s people, the ones who should have known better get it so wrong…

I actually think this is an important question as we journey together in this last week before Easter… You see, it can be easy to read the story, to hear the way that the religious leadership treated Jesus and just blame them… To just see them as bad, to see them as evil… To see them as totally different to us…

The thing is, I would like to suggest that when we reflect on what went wrong from Jesus arrival in Jerusalem to his crucifixion… When we ask what happened… A big part of that answer is us… We happened… Humanity happened…

We need to remember that those who rejected Jesus, those who sought to bring about his crucifixion were deeply faithful people motivated by a will to preserve and protect the truth of who God is and what God is like… To them, Jesus was just another crazy person who would lead God’s people astray… They thought that they were serving God, working towards a better world while sending Jesus to be crucified… It was only the resurrection that shattered this idea, but that is a topic for another time…

I would like to suggest that when we look at Jesus journey from Palm Sunday to Good Friday, we shouldn’t be too quick to simply point the finger at the “bad guys” of the Easter story and be happy that we are nothing like them… I would suggest that we take seriously our own brokenness, a brokenness that sometimes makes it difficult to be aware of ways that we wound others and sometimes means that even our best-intentioned choices for good can have unintended consequences that end up being hurtful or destructive…

The question of why bad things happen to good people is hard, but I think a more disturbing question is why good people to bad things…

As a new parent, I have no doubt that I love Eve and want what is best for her, I hope that between us, Shannan and I can help her to know she is loved, help her to grow into all the potential God created her with… The thing is that I also know that while we might try our best, try to make the best choices for her, we won’t always get it right. Some of our actions, even if motivated by love will miss the mark, will be hurtful and maybe even damaging to her…

I have worked in several workplaces where individually, everyone want to do what is right by each other, by our clients and by themselves… Yet people still end up wounding one another, sometimes even making things worse when trying to help or do the right thing…

Even in the church community, a place were we seek to show love, acceptance and grace to one another. There are times when for all our intention to do what is right and life giving, we end up hurting those around us…

Don’t even get me started on politics… It seems that we spend most of our time dealing with unintended consequences of policy which was trying to make the world a better place…

The thing is that if we are honest with ourselves, I’m pretty sure we already know this. I’m pretty sure we understand that this is a reality…

As we reflect on the journey from Palm Sunday to the cross, we are reminded that simply being sincere in our motivations isn’t enough, simply trying to be kind isn’t enough, simply seeking truth isn’t enough… We are reminded that the same brokenness that sent Jesus to the cross is present in each and every one of us… We are reminded how much each and every one of us needs the grace and forgiveness of Jesus… We are reminded how much each and every one of us needs the holy spirit dwelling within us, shaping and reshaping us to be more like Jesus…

God works in spite of us

But it doesn’t end there…

More than anything, as we reflect on Jesus journey from Palm Sunday to the cross, we need to remember that while things didn’t quite go as expected for as far as Jesus followers were concerned, Jesus didn’t seem as worried…

As we journey towards Easter, we need to be reminded of the faithfulness and persistence of God. We need to remember that throughout Lent we have been hearing that as Jesus headed towards Jerusalem, he knowingly headed towards his own death at the hands of his own people… He knew that this would happen yet it was through this that he would ultimately save them… Jesus didn’t head to Jerusalem to condemn and reject his people, but save and redeem them… Through their misguided actions, through their evil and even in spite of it.

As we journey towards Good Friday, we do so and celebrate due to our trust in the faithfulness and power of God. A power that takes our brokenness, takes our evil and transforms it so that through it, life, hope and love can come.

As those who follow Jesus today, we must acknowledge that we are on a journey of restoration with Jesus, that there are times when we will miss the mark and hurt those around us. Yet we also need to celebrate that these mistakes are not what define us and that we don’t need to perfect for God to work through us.

Conclusions

I’m not saying that we are all hopelessly bad, God’s grace available through Jesus and the ongoing work of the spirit helps us to be renewed, body, mind and spirit. But we need to make sure that we have the humility to remember that we still make mistakes. This is why sharing a journey of faith together with the gifts and perspectives of others is important, this is why taking the time to read and be shaped by the scriptures is important. This is why the regular disciplines of worship and prayer are important. They are ways that we take the time to realign ourselves with what God is doing.

This week as we journey towards Easter, may we take heart that even when we mess up, we have a place in God’s family through the grace and forgiveness of Jesus. May we take heart that together, the ministry of Jesus can continue in this place.

Speaker: Rev. Stephen Rothery

I am married to Shannan and we love life in the Redlands.

 

I love tinkering with technology, have spent waaaay too much time in on-line gaming and am an early adopter of virtual reality. (Currently rocking a HTC Vive at home and GearVR for mobile) Before coming into ministry my background was in Electrical Engineering/IT which meant I spent a lot of time working with information systems and automation in factories and industry around Queensland. All of this means that I am basically a huge nerd 🙂

 

In terms of faith, I am passionate about journeying with people as they seek to follow Jesus and understand what this looks like in their family/work/community. None of us are perfect, but through God\’s grace we can make a difference as together we seek to bring hope in places of despair, love to those who feel lost or ashamed and comfort to those who are hurting.