Written Sermons & Bible Studies

Give Your Life | Place of Grace Fellowship

Give Your Life
Today we celebrate Palm Sunday. This is the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem and was greeted by a crowd of people waving palm branches. Scripture tells the story of the crowd’s love of Jesus. It illustrates their belief in Jesus as their Messiah. Their love is exuberant. They throw down expensive clothing in Jesus’s path and heap praises upon Jesus. They celebrate the miracles that he has performed. Their love is on display. 

 

Also present are the haters. The Pharisees ask Jesus to silence the crowd because they fear the Romans. They do not like the popularity of Jesus. Jesus tells them that their request is folly, because even if the crowd was silenced, the inanimate creation would cry out and worship Jesus as the Son of Man, the Messiah, God. 

 

Today, I want to explore love. The kind of love displayed by the crowd. The kind of love that the disciples Judas and Peter had for Jesus. The kind of love Christ Jesus has for us.

 

Our reading is from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 19, verses 28-40:

After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.
29 When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, 30 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. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’ ” 32 So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 They said, “The Lord needs it.” 35 Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36 As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. 37 As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, 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,
38 saying,
“Blessed is the king
who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
and glory in the highest heaven!”
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.” 

 

In our Scripture passage, Jesus rides in on a colt. To the crowd and disciples gathered, Jesus fulfilled the Jewish prophecy of Zechariah. He is the Lord of Israel and the Messiah of God. He is the Son of God.

Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!
Lo, your king comes to you;
triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 

 

When Jesus rides into Jerusalem, the people demonstrate their love of Jesus. The praise and glory they give Jesus is real. 

 

When the Pharisees ask Jesus to still the crowd, he tells them that the praise will not stop. The creation will praise him. 

 

The silent stones will praise Jesus.  Even the dead will praise Jesus. To Luke, stones represent death and silence. Jesus is so worthy of praise, that if those gathered become silent, silence itself would cry out in praise of Jesus. Death and the grave would cry out in worship of Jesus. 

 

The crowd’s great love for Jesus will turn to burning hatred in one short week—even less, in a few days. The crowd will demand Jesus be put to death on a cross. How does such a great love turn to burning hate? 

 

Judas Iscariot, like the crowd, loved Jesus deeply. Yet, he will betray Jesus for the cost of a slave. How did this disciple’s love turn to hate? 

 

Peter also will betray Jesus, but his love is very different than the crowd’s and Judas’s. Peter never stops loving Jesus. His love never turns to hate. Peter’s love of Jesus is true and complete. 

 

Before continuing with our Biblical story, I want to share with you an amazing example of love that happened this past week. It happened on American Idol. American Idol is a singing contest where people from all over the country compete to be the next American Idol. The contest will often find stars from the least likely of places. 

 

This year, one of the least likely contestants surfaced in Appalachia. She had never sung in front of an audience. She hadn’t even sung in church. She showed up for her audition in Muck boots. That is not typical of American Idol contestants, especially the women. Her voice was amazing! She was gifted by God with some serious vocals. She was chosen as a contestant and was entered into the duet contest. She was paired with the 2016 Miss America winner.

 

The 2016 Miss America was put in a challenging situation. This duet would not show off her talents. Her partner had a beautiful voice, but the Muck Boot girl was shy and insecure. She had no stage presence, and because of her inexperience, she was difficult to work with. Miss America was in a no-win scenario. The Muck Boot girl could not help Miss America, she could only hurt her. Miss America could have complained, been surly or acted like a martyr. She didn’t do any of those things. Instead, she gave herself completely to the Muck Boot girl. She led her through the duet practice. She led her through choreography. She taught her the song. She endured working with an inexperienced, young, insecure, often difficult partner.

 

When they performed their duet, it was beautiful. Spectacular, in fact. Judge Lionel Ritchie broke down in tears. They both moved on to the next round. What struck me wasn’t the performance; there were better performances. It wasn’t an Appalachian girl advancing; there have been plenty of people that came from unlikely places to shine on the idol stage. I think Lionel believes he cried because of how much the Muck Boot girl had changed. I do not think that is why he cried. I think he cried because he witnessed the power of love. The kind of love when another person gives their whole self to another. What was extraordinary in that moment was the love shown by Miss America. She gave her whole self to the Muck Boot girl. Her love made the Muck Boot girl shine. And her love didn’t stop with the performance. After the performance, Miss America gave the stage to the Muck Boot girl. 

 

The gift of oneself to another goes beyond sacrifice. A sacrifice can be done out of necessity, out of duty, and out of love. Without diminishing the sacrifices people make in their lives, I want to distinguish between sacrifices that are made out of necessity or circumstances or even forced upon people and the sacrifice of giving oneself to another. In the Biblical context, an animal was sacrificed on an altar, but the animal wasn’t a willing participant in the sacrifice. What I am lifting up is the loving gift of self. Miss America didn’t sacrifice her efforts for Muck Boot girl. Miss America gave herself in love to Muck Boot girl. Lionel Ritchie cried because he witnessed real, powerful love on that stage. 

 

I tell you this story to highlight the power of love when it is given without a selfish motive. Miss America had nothing to gain. When love is given completely without labelling it a sacrifice. The moment was powerful because of the character of Miss America.    

 

Returning to our Biblical story, let’s talk about love. How did the crowd, Judas and Peter love Jesus? How did Jesus love us? How do we love others?

The crowd loved Jesus deeply. They got excited about his miracles. They believed that their Messiah had arrived.  Finally, they would be free of Rome. God would show them favor again. Their years of occupation and suffering would finally be over. Wow, they had a lot of expectations about Jesus. Jesus had the weight of all of Israel on his shoulders. Unfortunately for the crowd, Jesus did not come to deliver Israel from Rome. He did not come to restore the once glorious Israel. He did not come to fix Israel’s relationship with God. The crowd’s love was based on what Jesus would do for them. He was their national Savior. When he failed them, their love turned to hate, and they turned against Jesus.

 

Judas’ love was much like the nation of Israel. Jesus was the Messiah, as Judas understood. Judas loved Jesus deeply on his terms. Judas was a zealous activist. Judas wanted Jesus to deliver political and social results. When Jesus asked Judas to love him and not some idealized expectation of him, Judas turned on Jesus. Judas’ love turned to hate. Jesus had profoundly disappointed Judas. Judas felt betrayed and betrayed Jesus in turn. He sold Jesus for the price of a slave. 

 

Both the crowd and Judas had what I will call a cookie jar love. As long as Jesus delivered the promised cookies, they loved him. Once Jesus was revealed to be different than what they expected, they turned on Jesus and betrayed him. The love Jesus showed them and the miracles he performed could not match their disappointment when they didn’t get the cookies they wanted. They wanted a king of Israel that defeated Rome. Instead, Jesus was the Messiah that defeated death and sin and reigns over a spiritual kingdom full of grace and peace.

 

Peter’s love was different. Peter loved Jesus completely. He loved Jesus for Jesus and not for some desired outcome. Peter loved the person and the God of Jesus. Peter’s love was true. He loved Jesus fully. He was also fearful and weak, and his love was fragile. He feared that the Romans would kill him. Peter betrays Jesus out of his very real humanity. When he betrayed Jesus, Peter wept bitterly and sought forgiveness. His failure revealed the depth and fragility of his love. The love of Peter was embraced by Jesus. Jesus felt and understood Peter’s fear and weakness. 

How often is our love like Peter’s? We have doubts, fears, and weakness. Our love can seem fragile. I pray for a love like Peter’s love. It was complete and real. It was received and honored by Christ. If we seek a loving relationship with Jesus Christ and not the cookies in our imagined Jesus cookie jar, then our love can endure weakness, doubt, fear and fragility.

 

Jesus loved us completely. He gave fully of himself for us. He continues to give fully of himself for us. Palm Sunday moves begins our journey with Jesus to the cross. We reconsider the journey of Jesus from celebrated hero to abandoned despot, would-be king. We watch as Jesus goes from exalted honor to humiliated naked man hanging on a cross of wood.

 

It has been said that Jesus was a sacrifice for our sins on the cross. Technically that is true. However, sacrifice does not fully express what Jesus did for us. I have never seen a lamb that climbed on the altar and said, slit my throat and burn me up. However, Jesus was a willing sacrifice. Jesus gave himself completely and freely to humanity to free us from death and Satan.  

 

Jesus gave us his all that we might receive God’s grace and become children of God. We are free of sin and death. We have good work given to us. We are loved fully and completely by Christ. Our cookie jar is filled with the Holy Spirit.

 

Now that we have received the love of Jesus, what kind of love do we give to each other? The love Miss America showed the Muck Boot girl was beautiful because she gave her whole self to the Muck Boot girl. The love of Jesus, because it was so complete and without reservation brought us the grace of God and salvation.  A wholehearted love can work miracles. It made an insecure Appalachia girl into a star. God’s love brought us salvation. What can it bring to the people in your life?

 

Jesus was so worthy of worship that the silent stones would sing out if the crowd was silenced. Today, the stones still sing out. Do we sing out the worship of Jesus Christ? We are no longer stones; we have life in the Spirit. As Place of Grace Fellowship, we are a community alive in Christ. We can be silent like the silent stones on the ground, or we can sing out and worship our Savior. The story of Palm Sunday asks us to model the love of Jesus and love each other. It asks us to worship and sing Hosanna! Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.

About Pastor Tim

Tim Holmes

Senior Pastor

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