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Posts Tagged ‘Palm Sunday’

Today is Palm Sunday, so named because the crowds placed palm branches on the path before Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem. Let’s read this story, as it’s found in Mark 11:1-11.

This is sometimes called Jesus’ triumphal procession. It was quite a sight – Jesus on a donkey, crowds putting clothes and branches on the road and praising God, saying “hosanna,” which means “praise God for salvation.”

But –

What does this all mean?

We have six clues:

1. This event comes right after the story of the healing of blind Bartimaeus, where Bartimaeus called Jesus “Son of David;” a royal title in reference to the Messiah. And Jesus accepts this.

2. That Jesus rode a donkey connects to when Solomon was anointed King of Israel – 1 Kings 1:33-34. David said, “have Solomon my son ride on my own mule . . . And let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet there anoint him king over Israel.” Jesus presents himself to Jerusalem as David’s son, come to be king, just as Solomon did.

3. Riding on a donkey connects to Zechariah 9:9, a prophecy that talks about the coming royal Messiah. This verse says, “Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Jesus is saying, “I am the one spoken of in this prophecy.” Matthew and John make this connection explicit by quoting this verse.

4. That people laid down their cloaks connects with the anointing of king Jehu – 2 Kings 9:12-13. Jehu said, “Thus and so the prophet spoke to me, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord, I anoint you king over Israel.’ ” Then in haste every man of them took his garment and put it under him on the bare steps, and they blew the trumpet and proclaimed, “Jehu is king.” The crowd knew this custom and so understood and accepted, at least here, that Jesus was coming as the king of Israel.

5. The words of the crowd in v. 9 are a praise to God for the king/Messiah. They say, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” This comes from Psalm 118:25-26, which says, “Save us (Hosanna)! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” The crowd is applying this royal, Davidic, Messianic psalm to Jesus. He is the one who comes to save.

6. The words of the crowd in v. 10 show that they are expecting David’s kingdom to be established. They say, “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” – Mark 11:10.

So what is going on? Jesus is presenting himself as Messiah and King to Jerusalem. “Here I am ,your Lord” If he was cautious before, because it wasn’t his time. Now it’s all out in the open. “I am the promised one, long predicted in the Scriptures, and I have come.” He has come to be received as king and Lord. A response is expected.

But let’s also notice that –

Jesus is a different kind of Lord

Most kings (dare we say politicians, even today?) are power hungry, arrogant, self-interested and try to get what they can get out of their power and position. Right before this parade into Jerusalem, Jesus said, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them” – Mark 10:42. They seek “to be served” – Mark 10:45.

But Jesus is nothing like this. And this is why Jesus was so careful with the imagery of kingship. He didn’t want people to misunderstand what kind of Messiah and king he is.  We can see this difference, even in this triumphal entry.

  • Most kings are proud, but Jesus is a humble king. He came riding on a donkey. He didn’t even have his own animal. He had to borrow one.
  • Most kings seek to be served, but Jesus is a servant king. In contrast to the rulers of the Gentiles, Jesus said, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” – Mark 10:45. He is not in it for what he gets out of it. He is in it for us; to save us.
  • Most kings use force to ensure their will. But Jesus is a vulnerable king. He could have come with angel armies to take the city. But he used no force. He let people choose whether they would accept him or reject him. And sure enough, just as he predicted most eventually did reject him.

Well, just as he presented himself to these people 2,000 years ago –

 Jesus presents himself to us as our Lord

He continues to seek those who will receive him as king. And he is here among us to present himself to each of you this morning. How will you respond? Will you receive him as king? Or reject him?

Jesus is the king of kings and the Lord of lords, who sits at the right hand of God in glory. 1 Peter 3:22 says, Jesus “has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.” As Philippians 2:9-11 says, “God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord

Jesus is indeed the king of kings. But remember what kind of King Jesus is:

  • He is the alpha and the omegathe first and the last, but he is also humble. He will not try to impress you or make a big show of things.
  • He is the Lord of glory, but he is also a servant. He has given you much more than you will ever give him having laid down his life for you.
  • He is the bright morning star, but he has made himself vulnerable before you. So you can choose. And you can reject him if you like.

I put it before you today – How will you respond to Jesus?

Some of you need to respond to Jesus as your king and Lord, because you’ve never done it, or you haven’t gone public with it. Jesus waits for your response, even this morning.

Some of you have responded to Jesus in the past, but you have walked away from him. You may have claimed him as Lord at one time, but you know that you’re not living like he is Lord. Jesus is right now waiting for your response

What will it be?

If this is your situation, I want to invite you to pray this prayer. Listen to it first – “Jesus, I acknowledge that you are Lord and I want to submit my life to you. Cleanse me of my sin where I have not followed you and guide me in your ways. Give me your power so that I can live like you want me to live from now on. Amen”

This is the right response to Jesus. This is where to begin.

 

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Today is Palm Sunday, the day that Jesus entered Jerusalem, several days before he died on the cross. I want us to think about this story today, as it is told in Matthew 21:1-10. And I want you to reflect on how you fit into this story – ‘What character would you be?’ ‘What role would you play?’ [Impromptu acting out of Matthew 21:1-10]

Jesus comes to Jerusalem as king

This event has great significance, because this is the first time that Jesus explicitly and publicly proclaims himself king. This whole scene is an intentional enactment of Zechariah 9:9 which says, “Behold, your king is coming to you . . ..” Jesus is here coming to his capital city, the city of Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, as Zechariah said, presenting his claim of kingship to Jerusalem and to Israel.

I want to focus first on how Jesus makes his claim of kingship. Kings rule and people obey them. That’s how kingship works, right? Now we know that in the world kings rule through the use of power. That is, because they have power, people are forced to submit. In Matthew 20:25 Jesus speaks of this. He said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them . . ..”

But Jesus doesn’t operate this way. Jesus doesn’t force Israel to submit to him. And so when he enters Jerusalem as a king, he does not come with trumpets blaring, or troops of warriors exercising power to coerce submission to his rule.

Jesus comes in humility, peacefully, and without force – riding on a donkey. He could have come with legions of angels (Matthew 26:53), but instead he simply presents himself and makes his claim on the people – “I am your king.”

And then he lets the people choose how they will respond. This is how Jesus makes his claim to be the rightful king of Israel.

Next, as we look at the story, both of the entrance into Jerusalem and how it plays out leading up to Jesus’ death on Friday, I want us to focus on three responses to Jesus’ claim of kingship. There are three different responses that are illustrated in this story.

1. The disciples – who are very few in number. They choose to submit to Jesus as king.

2. The religious leaders – also few in number. They openly oppose Jesus. Not only do they reject his claim of kingship, they are offended by it and seek ways to get rid of him.

And then we have 3. the crowd. This is where most people are. Those in the crowd are not sure where they stand with regard to Jesus’ claim of kingship:

  • On Sunday, when they thought Jesus could help them they claimed him as king. They formed a huge procession and said, “Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is the one who come in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest heaven.” Yeah, Jesus, you are our king. Praise God for a Savior!
  • On Friday, when the religious leaders had Jesus at their mercy, and Jesus was not so appealing anymore, they turned on him and disowned him. “Pilate said to [the crowd], ‘Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?’ They all said, ‘Let him be crucified!’ And he said, ‘Why, what evil has he done?’ But they shouted all the more, ‘Let him be crucified!’” – Matthew 27:22-23. And they were so worked up that Pilot was afraid of a riot.

So the crowd was fickle, at one time leading a parade to have Jesus be king; at another, nearly rioting to have him killed.

Ever wonder what you would have done if you were there in Bible times? How you would have responded to Jesus? Well, in this case you really don’t have to wonder, because Jesus still works in the same way today.

Jesus comes to us as king

He comes to each one of us and makes his claim on us, “I am your king.”

  • He wants us to recognize that he is our rightful king.
  • And he calls us to complete submission and obedience to him in every area of our lives.

But just as we saw before, he is not like the world’s leaders. How Jesus makes his claim of kingship on us is different. He doesn’t force us to submit. He doesn’t use coercion. He is a different kind of king.

He comes to us humbly to make his claim upon us. He doesn’t overwhelm us. He allows us to choose.

And so the question, like in the story, is, ‘Will we recognize his claim and submit?’ It is in our hands. And we have to choose.

And like in the story, in our lives there are three responses to Jesus’ claim of kingship. And certainly we know from the Scriptures that we are to be like the disciples, because they chose to submit to Jesus as king. They failed for sure, and we will also, but their commitment is there. We are to choose to be obedient to Jesus – our rightful king.

And for sure, we are not to be like the religious leaders, who chose to oppose him, tear him down, cast him aside. This much is clear.

It is the third category – the crowd that is such a stumbling block to so many people. And for this reason I am highlighting it.

  • For here, as in the story, you are with Jesus (at least for a time), when it suits your needs, or if the circumstances are right, or if you are in the right mood, or if it’s the fad of the time and everyone else is doing it. If one of these things is true, then yes, you are for him: “Hosanna! Hosanna! Jesus is my king.”
  • But you are not with Jesus, when it doesn’t suit your needs, or the circumstances are not right, or you are not in the right mood, or if it isn’t the fad anymore and you are the only one. Then you are not for him. He is not your king. And you cast him off, so you can go your own way.

Just as in the story, so today, most people take the way of the crowd. It seems safer because lots of people are with you. It is not so radical, like the religious leaders or the disciples. And if you are wrong, at least you are not a religious leader who completely rejects Jesus.

But there’s a serious confusion here. For in this story both the religious leaders and the crowd made the wrong choice. It is only the disciples, and them only waveringly at times, who chose correctly.

The way of the crowd may seem safe and appealing, but in reality it is no better than the way of the religious leaders. For neither obeyed Jesus as king. This is their common choice. The crowd tried to have it both ways. And you can’t have it both ways with Jesus.

The words of Jesus in the vision of Revelation 3:15-16 speak clearly to the place of the crowd: “. . . You are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”

So the exhortation today is “Don’t be the crowd!” Don’t be in the middle with regard to Jesus. Don’t try to have it both ways. Don’t go the lukewarm route.

Don’t be fooled by the idea that at least sometimes you like Jesus and claim him as king. Because part-time submission to Jesus, when it suits you, when it fits your needs may sound better than open and constant rejection, but it really isn’t.

Part time submission is actually a rejection of Jesus’ claim of kingship over you. For submission that is based on your terms, is not submission at all. You are still calling the shots. You are still seeking to maintain control of your life – only going with Jesus when that meshes with your choices for your life.

You can’t have Jesus on your terms. You can only have Jesus on his terms. And he demands everything. This is how kingship works. So I implore you this morning, give yourself fully and completely over to Jesus as king.

He is here among us right now and he comes to you this morning to present his claim on you as your rightful king. Will you choose the right way? Will you give yourself fully to him?

William Higgins

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Today is Palm Sunday, the day that Jesus entered into Jerusalem. And it marks the beginning of holy week.

We are going to look at a story from the Gospel of Mark, sometimes called the widow’s mite, or we can call it the widow’s offering. This story is a part of the holy week drama. It is Jesus’ last public appearance in Jerusalem as a free man, a few days before he’s killed. And this is a story that will challenge some common assumptions that we have about giving.

I would like to acknowledge the middle school Sunday school class who studied this passage with me for the last few weeks and helped me with this message.

Alright let’s break down the –

The Story

v. 41 – “And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box.”  The “he” is Jesus. And he is in the Temple complex.

“The treasury” probably refers to one of the 13 trumpet shaped chests that were used to collect offerings (not a building; see also John 8:20). The box would have a trumpet shaped opening to receive the offerings. (Something like an old gramophone?) It’s called “the offering box” later in our verse.

These offerings were most likely free will offerings given for sacrifices and the upkeep of the Temple.

This scene took place in the court of women, or the outer precinct of the Temple complex. Jesus was in this area sitting and watching. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I like to sit in the Mall and watch people. And like a mall, there would have been crowds in this place moving about, doing various things.

In v. 41 it says literally that the people were “throwing” their offerings in the box. And this would have made noise as the coins went into the metal trumpet shaped opening of the chest. Maybe like the sound when you throw change into a toll booth receptacle.

vs. 41-42 – “Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny.”

Jesus takes notice of the “rich” giving offerings. They were probably well dressed. And they put in a lot. He would have heard this by the sound made as they threw their coins in.

And then he notices “a poor widow.” Widows were typically poor. They relied on their children or charity for whatever they had. Her clothing would have reflected her poverty. She put in very little. Again, Jesus likely would have heard the slight sound of her offering.

How much did she give? The “two small copper coins” she gave were two Lepta. It was the smallest denomination of coins in Israel at this time.

  • Each Lepton = 1/64 of a denarius – or a day’s wage for a laborer.
  • Her two Lepta equaled one Roman penny.

Now admittedly it’s hard to do accurately, but to put it in our terms, based on the cost of bread then and now, if my math is right, she gave something like 8 US cents; eight of our pennies. In her day, she could have bought 1/3 of a loaf of bread. [A loaf of bread cost 8 Lepta. (1 loaf bread = 1 As; 4 quadrans = As; two Lepta = a quadrans). Today a loaf of bread is around $2.50.]

v. 43 – “And he called his disciples to him and said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box.’”

The disciples were probably close, but Jesus is getting their attention. He wants them to take notice of the poor widow. She is an example to them.

The phrase, “Truly, I say to you,” or it can be translated, “Amen, I say to you,” is unique to Jesus. He uses it 13 times in Mark.

First of all, no other Jewish teacher used “amen” like this. When it was used, it was used the way we use it. The “Amen” came at the end of statements or prayers. It means “yes,” “that’s right,” “so be it” or “truly.” You are making the statement or the prayer your own when you say “amen.”

The whole phrase “truly, I say to you” means something like, this is really important! It’s a way of invoking divine authority. It’s like in the Old Testament when the prophet said, ‘Thus says the Lord,’ but it’s more direct and powerful.

And then Jesus says something that is quite amazing. He tells us that she put in more than all the others combined. How much did all the rich people put in? Thousands and thousands of dollars? She only put in 8 cents. But it was more than the thousands and thousands. How can this be? Jesus tells us in –

v. 44 – “’For they (the rich) all contributed out of their abundance, but she (the widow) out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.’”

The contrast is clear. The rich gave out of their abundance. They gave much more in total, but it involved no sacrifice to them. They still had lots more left over. More for food. More for clothes. More for shelter. And good food, clothing and shelter at that.

She gave all she had. The repetition makes the point clear, “everything she had, all she had to live on.” Once she gave, she had nothing left for food, clothing or shelter; even lousy food, clothing or shelter.

[How does he know that this was “all she had to live on”? Not sure. He knew her; he asked her; supernatural knowledge; perhaps the attending priest asked her, “Is that all you have?” and Jesus heard this.]

Jesus teaches an important lesson here. It’s not how much you give that matters. It’s how much you keep that matters; how much you have left over after you give, that you keep for yourself.

The widow gave more because she gave sacrificially. In fact, she gave everything. She held nothing back from God. The others did not give sacrificially.

Now this widow is not just an example to the 12; she is an example to us. So let’s look at –

Some lessons for us

1. Our assumptions about giving are often wrong. In this story we have yet another example of how God’s ways are different than our ways. And how the coming of the kingdom turns things upside down from the way we naturally think.

When giving to the Lord, we think it’s all about how much you give. And we are quite impressed with people who give large gifts. We honor them and we name buildings after them. We say, wow, they gave more than anybody else!

But as we learned in this story it’s not how much you give, it’s whether you gave sacrificially. So when the person gives thousands of dollars to the church  out of their abundance – that’s great, don’t get me wrong – but the poor person who gives very little money, but gives sacrificially, has given more.

And, in contrast to our way of thinking, it is this one that Jesus takes special notice of and honors, just as in our story.

Connected to this we can ask 2. How generous are we? And what is your standard that you measure this by? Is it tithing or giving 10%?

Now there isn’t anything wrong with using the tithe as a guide. But if that is all we use we are missing the true Christian standard. We should measure our generosity by how much it costs us.

The problem is that most Christians don’t even tithe. Churchgoers give under 2.5% of their income (CT 2/11). So to tithe would be an act of faith for most.

But we can’t conform the teaching of Scripture to our failings; so that we lower the standard. We need to conform our behavior to God’s truth. The true test of generosity is giving sacrificially.

3. We can give sacrificially in other ways. Rightly understood, this woman foreshadows Jesus on the cross, a few days later. Just as she gave sacrificially, Jesus will give “everything he has.” He will do what this widow has done with his life.

This shows that this principle of giving sacrificially goes beyond just giving money. We can give sacrificially in many ways: our time, our homes in terms of hospitality, sharing other things we own, and our lives – serving God and possibly persecution or death.

Here are some examples mentioned in our Sunday School class:

  • Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son in obedience to God. Even the son of promise. He held nothing back from God.
  • Steve Kimes, who has a ministry to the homeless and mentally ill, and who invites them to live with him. He and his family have given up much to minister to them – time, privacy, their home, their lives.
  • Gary and Denise Williamson, who have given six years of their lives to go and live in Africa in a different climate, and culture and without most of what we take for granted in our country. They left family and friends behind. And it has been hard at times.

Finally, is God calling you to give sacrificially to him? Your money, your time, your possessions, your life? What might God be calling you to?

William S. Higgins

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Well today is Palm Sunday, the day we remember when Jesus presented himself to Jerusalem as king. 

We are looking today at “How to be ready for the great gathering” that is, the resurrection of the righteous. I think that this is a timely topic for Palm Sunday. Consider this: 

  • At Jesus’ first coming, he presented himself as king, but very few were ready
  • At Jesus’ second coming, when he appears in glory as king, will we be any more ready?

Review

We saw last week why we need to be ready for when Jesus returns and sends out his angels to gather those who claim him as Lord. We need to be ready because the unfaithful will be separated out from the faithful.

We saw how Jesus talks about this a lot. Here are just two examples:

  • Matthew 25 – parable of the bridesmaids: five make it in, five don’t
  • Matthew 25 – parable of the talents: two make it in, one doesn’t 

So there is a sorting process, and some who are gathered, or who seek to be gathered, will not make it into the eternal kingdom. While those who are found faithful will be gathered to Jesus, will be resurrected, and will receive eternal rewards.

Now we know that . . .

The foundation of our salvation is the gift of grace in Jesus 

It is based on what he did for us through his life, death and resurrection. To receive this gift, we must:

  1. Acknowledge that Jesus is the Messiah, whom God has sent to be the Savior of the world.
  2. Turn from our old life of sin and wrongdoing, and commit to live a new life just as Jesus has taught.
  3. Ask for and receive the new life that comes through Jesus. This includes the forgiveness of our sins and also new life by the Spirit; new birth.

Without this you don’t get anywhere! This is the foundation. And this is all assumed in what our Scriptures talk about today, for Jesus is speaking to his disciples – Christians. 

The question that is focused on in our scriptures today is: Have we been faithful with the grace we have received?

It’s one thing to receive the mercy of God’s salvation. It’s another to continue on in that mercy until the end; to be faithful. It is as Jesus said, in the midst of the trials and testings of this life, “The one who endures to the end will be saved” – Mark 13:13

And on that day of sorting we want to be found among those who are faithful! So here are . . .

Three marks of faithfulness 

. . . that Jesus speaks of, that show us how to be alert and ready for his coming.

#1. Be Dead To Your Earthly Life. This comes from Luke 17:28-35 –

“Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all— so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.”

Jesus teaches us here that the great gathering of the resurrection will be like when the angels gathered Lot and his family out of Sodom. Jesus said, “Just as in the days of Lot (v. 28) . . . so it will be when the Son of man is revealed” (v.  30). So lets look at this comparison:

The Gathering from Sodom:

  1. Angels were sent to gather Lot and his family
  2. Lot’s wife longingly looked back to her home in Sodom
  3. She was attached to her life in Sodom  and was judged. She was sorted out of the faithful remnant.

The End Time Gathering:

  1. Angels will be sent to gather us (as we saw last week)
  2. We should not tarry or turn back. This is what Jesus is talking about in v. 31. In that day don’t seek to grab your possessions, or if you are in the field don’t turn back toward your home.
  3. So this raises the question for us – Are we attached to our earthly life?

As he says in v. 33, in the context of his second coming, “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.” This is a warning. Don’t be attached to your earthly life! That is, to your family, possessions, status and earthly plans.  

If you cling to your earthly life on the day of gathering, you will be sorted out, just like Lot’s wife. That’s why Jesus said, in v. 32 – “Remember Lot’s wife.” That’s the lesson here. She sought to preserve her life and so she lost her life. Don’t be like her.

We have to be able to let it all go, to lose it all in a moment – unsaved loved ones, our possessions, our projects and our earthly dreams. 

And the way to prepare for this is to choose now to die to your earthly life. In the words of Jesus “to lose your life.” Already now put God first above all else on this earth. Then you will be ready and not hesitant on the great day of gathering when the angels come for you. 

#2. Do the will of God, just as Jesus teaches. By far, Jesus talks about this the most when he speaks of being ready for the great gathering. 

We will focus in on one example: Matthew 7:21-23 –

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” 

  • Notice that they confessed Jesus as Lord. They looked to him as the Messiah.
  • They did works by the Spirit of God – prophesying, casting out demons and performing miracles 
  • And they ministered in the name of Jesus

These are disciples that thought all was OK in their lives. Indeed they thought that they were outstanding followers of Jesus, waiting for their commendation. But they don’t make it in!

Why? They did not obey the will of God. Jesus has just taught about this in the Sermon on the Mount, right before this passage – much of it focused on what it means to love our neighbor. They didn’t practice this.

As Jesus says in v. 21 it is “the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” who “will enter the kingdom of heaven” on that final day of sorting.

But these people knowingly allowed sin to remain in their lives. They chose not to deal with it. This is why Jesus said, “depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” They are sorted out due to continued unrighteousness in their lives.

What do we learn about being ready for the great gathering? Obey God in every part of your life. Put into practice all that Jesus has taught and modeled for us. Hold nothing back; no part of your life. 

And when you fail, repent and find forgiveness and move forward again. Endure in your obedience until the end.

#3. Do your work for the Kingdom. That is, whatever God has called you to do, whatever God has gifted you to do, make sure you do it.

Jesus speaks of this in several passages, but we will focus on the familiar Matthew 25:14-30, the parable of the talents. Here’s a summary:

  • Jesus, the master is going away 
  • And so he gives to his servants specific tasks to do according to their abilities, while he is gone
  • Two worked hard at their tasks and were blessed when the master returned
  • One didn’t work. He was lazy and did nothing and was judged. Jesus says about him, “Cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” – Matthew 25:30.

It will work the same way for us on that final day when Jesus returns. If you do nothing to work for the kingdom, you will be sorted out as well.

What do we learn about being ready for the great gathering? Serve Jesus with your life, your gifts, your time, your resources. Find out what Jesus wants you to do, and then get busy! Work hard to advance the kingdom.

A final note

Now, I know it can be a somber thing to think about this business of being sorted, and some being sorted out. But we are given this teaching (and there is a lot of it) so that we can examine our lives and make the changes we need to make in order to be ready. So that we can indeed be found faithful. 

But, having said that, lets end on a more joyful note. For if you:

  1. Die to your earthly lives so that you are ready to go
  2. Do the will of God and 
  3. Work hard for the kingdom – you will be blessed! 

You will hear these words from Jesus, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” We will have Jesus’ seal of approval before all of creation.

He will say, “You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.” We will be rewarded for our faithfulness; for all of our troubles and sacrifices for him. It will all be more than worth it.

And he will say, “Enter into the joy of your master.” We will have joy with Jesus for eternity in the kingdom of God. (Matthew 25:21)

William Higgins

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 In the story of the triumphal entry, on Palm Sunday, Jesus is presenting himself as a king to the capital of his people – Jerusalem. But then, in Luke’s telling of the story, Jesus pauses before he enters the city and speaks. And this is what I want us to look at today under the title “Are You Ready for a Visit from God?”

Luke 19:41-44 – “And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.’”

I would like to pick up on this last phrase “the time of your visitation”  to make the point that . . .

This was a visitation from God

God was coming to Jerusalem in the coming of Jesus. Now this idea is not new. God “visiting” people is a regular theme in Scripture:

  • The exodus – when God came to see Israel’s suffering in Egypt and deliver them – this is called a visitation of God in Genesis 50:25.
  • The return from exile in Babylon is a visitation of God. Jeremiah 29:10 says, “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.” And God brought them back to Judah.
  • The second coming – when Jesus will return and all humanity will stand before him is called “the day of visitation” in 1 Peter 2:12.

God doesn’t just visit in these big kinds of events. God also visits people throughout the course of history, even just individuals:

  • Ruth 1:6 says, Ruth heard that  “the Lord had visited his people and given them food” – at a time of famine. God provided for his people in a specific situation.
  • Luke 7:16 notes that the people said “God has visited his people!” when Jesus raised a young man from the dead.
  • Acts 15:14 speaks of the giving of the Spirit to Cornelius and his family as a visit from God. 

As you can see, God does various things in his visits – acts of mercy and salvation, the giving of the Spirit, miracles, and provision of needs. In other places, that we could look at, God even comes to visit judgment on people. God does various things when he comes for a visit.

In our story, on Palm Sunday, God is coming to give them “peace.” This word means wholeness and blessing; it means salvation. Jesus is coming to fulfill the promises of God to his people. But . . .

Jerusalem wasn’t ready for God’s visit

They were clueless. Jesus already knew this. He had already predicted before – “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed . . .” – Luke 9:22.  And all this in Jerusalem.

So he knew they weren’t aware of what God was doing:

  • As he says in v. 42 –  “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.”
  • And he says in v. 44  – “you did not know the time of your visitation”

They didn’t know what was going on.  As a result of this, they don’t receive Jesus, or the peace he brings. As the story goes on to tell, they oppose what God is trying to do through Jesus.

Instead of peace (because they weren’t ready and opposed Jesus) they receive God’s judgment. Luke 19:43-44 says, “For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you . . ..”

This is a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD about 40 years later. This was a horrendous event where many hundreds of thousands died and the city was destroyed. This is prophesied here by Jesus and carried out by the Roman armies.

And this causes Jesus to weep, as v. 41 says, “when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it.” He knew what was coming.

This is a sad story from history, but we shouldn’t let it stop there – thinking only of the past and of other people. Because this has to do with us. And we can learn from this. That’s because –

God still visits us today

I am sure we can each testify of times when God has visited our lives. How God has come to us in a powerful way and has blessed us. But God doesn’t just visit us as individuals. God also visits churches. And this is what I am focusing on today.

An example of this is Revelation 3:20. Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” This is a familiar passage. This is not talking about an individual being saved (despite any sermons you may have heard or tracts you have seen). This is Jesus talking to a whole congregation – the church of Laodicea. His purpose is to get them back on track again with their Christian lives and to remold their Christian community.

And this is framed in visitation language. Jesus is visiting them – coming by for supper – as it were. God visits us as congregations.

And so I ask – “Does God want to visit us at Cedar Street?” I don’t know what you believe, but I believe the answer is unequivocally – yes!

As we pray and seek the Lord, I believe that God has something for us.

  • I believe that God wants to bless us and give us more of his Spirit.
  • I believe that God want to show us more of who he is and do great things in our midst.
  • I believe God wants to bring his salvation to us and through us to others.
  • I believe that God wants to challenge us, to move us out of our ruts and comfort zones and push us forward.

But, after reading the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, we have to ask ourselves – 

Are we ready?

We are not different than the people in our story – the people of Jerusalem. That is to say, we are just as capable of blowing it as they were.

The people of Jerusalem were busy with their schedules and so are we. The people of Jerusalem were satisfied with the way things were, by and large, and don’t need Jesus coming in and changing things. And so often we are satisfied with the way things are.

So what I am saying is that we need to be alert and not just coasting in our Christian lives and in our congregational discernment.

May we not be caught unaware as God seeks to move among us, as I believe he will. May God’s visit not be hidden from our eyes so that we don’t know the time of our visitation.

In the language of Revelation 3:20 May we hear Jesus’ voice when knocks on our churches door and may we let him in.

Let us be alert and let us receive what God has for us as he moves in our midst. William Higgins

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