Sunday’s sermon: Jesus Who Comes

Text used – Luke 19:29-44

  • I want to tell you about a movie this morning – a movie that, if you haven’t seen it, you need to. It’s a movie called The Way.[1]
    • Written and directed by Emilio Estevez
    • Starring Estevez himself and his father, Martin Sheen
    • Story of a father who make an impromptu decision to walk the Camino de Santiago when his son is unexpectedly killed on his first day on the Camino
      • Camino de Santiago (also known as The Way of St. James)
        • Network of pilgrimages roughly 500 miles long that lead to the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain
        • Many starting points and different paths to take → one of the most common starting points: St. Jean Pied de Port on the French side of the Pyrenees Mountains
      • The Way = story of the journey that the father makes
        • Journey he makes with his feet
        • Journey he makes with his heart
        • Journey he makes with a ragtag band of other travelers collected along the way → people he at first can’t seem to shake and, by the end, can’t seem to do without

    • I won’t tell you much more because it truly is the kind of film that you need to see and experience for yourself. But as I was thinking about this week’s text – about all that it entails and about all the lies before us in the week to come – the parallels between our text and this movie kept playing through my mind. Throughout Lent this year, we’ve been talking about some of the roles that Jesus plays in our lives and in our faith.
      • Jesus as one who shows compassion
      • Jesus as one who calls us to repent
      • Jesus as one who finds us
      • Jesus as one who brings justice
      • Jesus as one who lifts us up
      • Today’s role = probably the most important: Jesus who comes
        • Comes to our world
        • Comes to our humanity
        • Comes to our side in brokenness and blessing
        • Comes to our hearts, both when we need him most and when we don’t even know that we need him at all
        • It’s also one of the most interesting roles because it’s an infinite role. Today’s Scripture reading is a finite event, but it encompasses the power of the Christ who came for us, the Christ who comes to the cross for us, the Christ who comes to us in the midst of our faith journeys even this very moment, as well as the Christ who we trust and believe will come again. It’s a passage that makes clear the need for that coming, the promise of that coming, and the price of that coming.
  • Begins with the portion of Scripture that has traditionally been called “The Triumphal Entry” – Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem that ushers us into Holy Week, leads up to his betrayal, his trial, his crucifixion and death, and his resurrection → This is our Palm Sunday text, right? This is the story we read every Palm Sunday. Yes … and no. Interestingly, there are two things missing from Luke’s version of the Triumphal Entry. Let me read a portion of our text again and see if you can catch it. – text: [His disciples] brought [the colt] to Jesus, threw their clothes on the colt, and lifted Jesus onto it. As Jesus rode along, they spread their clothes on the road. As Jesus approached the road leading down from the Mount of Olives, the whole throng of his disciples began rejoicing. They praised God with a loud voice because of all the mighty things they had seen. They said, “Blessings on the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heavens.”[2]
    • Got the colt for Jesus to ride on
    • Got the clothes spread out along the road
    • Got the cheering and praise: “Blessings on the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
    • But what are we missing? [PAUSE] No palms … and no massive crowd. There are no palm branches waved and spread along the road with the clothes in Luke’s version of this scene. And while there is shouting and praise and a large group of people, it’s not a huge group of strangers shouting their “Hosannas!” but “the whole throng of [Jesus’] disciples.” → makes Lk’s Triumphal entry simultaneously more intimate and more eerie
      • Remember that “disciple” essentially means follower – Gr. = learner, adherent, general word used for “Christian” later on in the NT after the early church has been established in Acts
        • Far more general term than the specific disciples – the original 12 who formed Jesus’ inner circle
        • By this time in Jesus’ ministry, those who were following him were certainly large in number → Lk tells us plenty of times at the end of a healing or teaching story that the one who encountered Jesus in that story chose to follow Jesus after that encounter → sometimes even convinced their families or friends or villages to follow, too → So while there’s no way to know how big that crowd was, we can still guess by the way Luke describes them that they’ve all had some sort of positive interaction with Jesus prior to this particular parade into Jerusalem. That’s what makes Luke’s version of this story more intimate. It’s not a crowd of strangers and looky-loos craning their necks for a first glimpse of this Messiah character that they’ve heard about. It’s a group of people who have followed Jesus, listened to Jesus, had their lives and their souls and their hearts and even some of their bodies touched by Jesus. It’s people who are with Jesus and the Twelve because they believe … or at least because they want to believe.
      • Despite this devotion and fervor, we still must hold the joyous “Hosannas!” and cried of “Blessing!” that we hear in our text today with the blatant denials and vicious cries of “Crucify him!” that will echo throughout Good Friday in just a few days time à the intimacy of Lk’s crowd is exactly what makes those Good Friday cries all the more eerie, all the more heartbreaking
  • But in truth, while today’s text is a journey in and of itself – a short journey but a significant journey into the city limits of Jerusalem itself – we know well that it’s a journey that started long before Luke 19:29.
    • Begins back in Lk 9
      • Jesus tries not once but twice to explain to the disciples what is to come about his betrayal and torture, his death and resurrection[3]
      • Jesus sets out on his final journey toward Jerusalem – text: As the time approached when Jesus was to be taken up into heaven, he determined to go to Jerusalem.[4]
    • Begins back in Lk 3, 4, & 5 → beginning of Jesus’ ministry
      • Baptism by John – Lk 3[5]
      • 40 days of temptation in the wilderness with Satan – Lk 4[6]
      • Calling the disciples – Lk 5[7]
    • Begins back in Lk 2 → Jesus’ birth in that stable surrounded by animals and shepherds, angels and Mary and Joseph, God’s love and glory[8]
    • Begins back in OT
      • Prophets who spoke of the One who would come to save the people – Isaiah and Jeremiah, Micah and Zephaniah, even some of the psalmists
      • Covenants that God made with the people – promises of love and protection and relentless belonging → covenants with Abraham and Isaac, with Jacob and with Moses
      • God who created humanity in God’s own image – poured all of God’s love and creativity and hope and boundless possibility into the tenderness and fragility of humanity only to have humanity turn away from God in disobedience and selfish desire
    • The story of Jesus’ journey on Palm Sunday … the story of Jesus’ intimate, excruciating, heart-rending journey through Holy Week … the story of Jesus’ journey both into and out of that tomb … these are not single events in a linear journey. They’re not plot points on a map that we can simply follow from point A to point B to point C and so on. They’re part of a wider, grander, more cyclical journey that began ages ago and that begins again every single morning.
      • Begins again when we open our eyes each and every morning and choose once more to follow Christ
      • Begins again when we actively try to embody Christ’s spirit of justice and compassion, hope and forgiveness, grace and peace in the world around us
      • Begins again when we worship and when we pray – when we bring ourselves before God, when we make coming to God a part of our own journeys
      • Get subtle hints at this ever-new beginning – ever-renewed journey – in our text this morning → many of them so subtle, they’re easy to miss
        • 1st = so subtle we don’t even see it in the English[9] → You see, there’s actually a very interesting Greek word that’s found in the very first line of our Scripture reading this morning – in verse 29 – that doesn’t even get translated into the English version of the text. It’s not an uncommon Greek word. On the contrary, it’s one of the most common words we find in the New Testament. It’s the word that most often gets translated as “happen” or “become” or “come into being.” It carries an essence of transformation – of moving from one state or condition to another – as well as an essence of intentionality – of coming into being with a specific sense of movement and growth. It’s a word steeped in purpose and scope, and in our passage this morning (at least, in the Greek version), this word is used in relation to Jesus’ journey. This journey that Jesus is making into Jerusalem, this journey that is starting out in Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives, is a journey that will change things. A journey that is intended to change things.
        • 2nd – see it in Jesus’ entanglement with the Pharisees – text: Some of the Pharisees from the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, scold your disciples! Tell them to stop!” He answered, “I tell you, if they were silent, the stones would shout.”[10] → This is one of my favorite passages in all of Scripture because of one small but significant nuance in the Greek. My first exegesis class in seminary was on Luke with one of the most brilliant Greek scholars to date – Rev. Dr. David Moessner – and in that class, when we got to this passage, I remember being totally blown away by what Dr. Moessner pointed out to us.
          • Jesus’ response to the Pharisees: “I tell you, if [my disciples] were silent, the stones would shout.” – Gr. “if” = nebulous little word that can also mean “when” → So in this seemingly-simple statement, Jesus is encompassing all that is to come both in the immediate future and as far out into the future as our very here and now – the betrayal, the denial, the way his followers would turn away from him … even turn on him, the desertion, the brokenness, the echoing silence once the cries of “Hosanna!” had died away and were replaced with nothing but closed mouths and a sealed tomb. Jesus knew all of that was coming, so in this moment, instead of condemning either his followers or the Pharisees, he stretches out the undeniable glory of God like a blanket that covers all of creation, promising that “Even when all are silent, the stones themselves will cry out God’s goodness and praise.”
        • 3rd and final hint at continuous nature of this journey = found in final portion of text – Jesus weeping over Jerusalem
          • Weeps for all that has been lost
          • Weeps for all that is to come
          • Text: As Jesus came to the city and observed it, he wept over it. He said, “… The time will come when your enemies will build fortification around you, encircle you, attack you from all sides. They will crush you completely, you and the people within you. They won’t leave one stone on top of another within you, because you didn’t recognize the time of your gracious visit from God.”[11] → key elements here are Jesus’ two different references to time
            • 1st reference = “The time will come when your enemies will build fortifications around you” – Gr. “time” = period of time, a little indeterminate as far as the length/amount of time but often translated as day, a finite event
              • Implies that the darkness that is to come will not be perpetual darkness but a moment, a time that with a definite beginning and end
            • 2nd reference = “You didn’t recognize the time of your gracious visit from God” – Gr. “time” = much more open, infinite, spiritual reference to time → This is time that comes back around. It’s seasonal. It’s cyclical. It will continue to come back around again and again, presenting ever-renewed opportunities for either growth or decay, either hope or despair, either acceptance or rejection.
  • Friends, our Scripture reading this morning is a story about a Messiah who comes – who comes into Jerusalem, who comes into God’s Grand Story of grace and faith, who comes into our hearts and lives, not once but every moment of every day. And so we raise our own “Hosannas!” for the Jesus who has come, who continues to come, and who will come again. Amen.

[1] The Way, directed by Emilio Estevez (Filmax Entertainment, 2010), digital format (Icon Entertainment International, 2010).

[2] Lk 19:35-38.

[3] Lk 9:21-22; 43-45.

[4] Lk 9:51.

[5] Lk 3:21-22.

[6] Lk 4:1-13.

[7] Lk 5:1-11.

[8] Lk 2:1-20.

[9] Exegesis by Rev. Elana Keppel Levy:

[10] Lk 19:39-40.

[11] Lk 19:41, 43-44.

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