Saturday, March 31, 2012

Fools for Christ

Palm Sunday Sermon: 1 April 2012
Wesley Methodist Church

Text: 1Co 4:10  We are fools for the sake of Christ, but you are wise in Christ.

Jesus was a fool. In fact the story of Palm Sunday tells of a moment when it looks like He completely missed the moment… Let me explain: The first 11 Chapters of Mark tells us that Jesus spent his time in the rural areas.
The children of Israel were mostly rural peasants living in the Roman Province of Judea : they were under Roman authority. There were two capital cities: Jerusalem and Caesarea.
Caesarea was a Roman city: a playground for the wealthy, and the garrison for the Roman soldiers – keeping the Jewish people subservient.
Jerusalem was the administrative capital: made the laws and controlled the population through the temple leaders.
The rest were small scattered villages – and Jesus grew up in the hill country of Nazareth, on the fringe of society, and at the age of 30 began his career as a wandering rabbi / teacher. Matthew Mark and Luke tell us that he lived in the rural areas for most of his ministry: travelled around the Sea of Galilee, and then moved further north to Tyre and Sidon, and then went to Decapolis – all outside of the Holy City of Jerusalem

Then comes a moment when we see Jesus choose to leave the edges and travel to the Capital City:
Luk 9:51  When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.
Mark 10:32  They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem,
This is a deliberate decision to confront the centre of power:

The Disciples knew that he had changed direction, and the Crowds knew that something had changed. Jesus began to move south to Jerusalem…. Through Samaria, to Jericho where he healed two blind men and confronted Zacchaeus: We can sense a kind of gathering momentum: with meticulous planning –

Jesus planned to arrive at Jerusalem in time for the Passover. This is the moment when people are reminded of the way they resisted Pharaoh in Egypt. They come to Jerusalem to celebrate a time when they were set free – and to dream of a time when this might become possible again. Estimates are that a million pilgrims travelled to the city for Passover. This is perfect timing for the people to throw out the foreign rulers and take control of their own destiny. And it seems that Jesus had prepared for this moment: this was not just some random / spur of the moment activity. Jesus had clearly arranged for a donkey to be ready and waiting…. We cannot seriously think that he stole the donkey… or that someone would just let strangers walk off with their donkey.

So why did Jesus use a donkey?

Because it had deep revolutionary symbolism:

·        1 Kgs 1:33-44 tells of King Solomon riding to his coronation on his father’s donkey: riding David’s donkey was a clear sign of claiming authority as a son of the King. And here is Jesus riding a donkey – in the tradition of King David!

·        2 Kgs 9:11-10:28 tells of King Jehu who rode a donkey rode into Samaria over the garments of his followers in order to destroy the temple of the false god Baal. Here is Jesus deliberately choosing to use this image as he rides into Jerusalem to confront the leaders of the temple.

·        Finally the prophet Zechariah wrote: "Behold, your king comes to you, triumphant and victorious. He is humble and riding on an ass, on a colt the foal of an ass." (Zech 9:9)  Here is Jesus deliberately identifying with the prophesy of Zechariah.

 People knew that Jesus was coming into Jerusalem. He was not just another random traveler… there was preparation … news was out that something special was to happen…all the scriptural signs were in place. And so they poured out into the streets to welcome the man who would make everything right.
Mar 11:9  Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, "Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Mar 11:10  Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!"
And just when Jesus has everything right – he loses the plot: did you spot it?
Mar 11:11  Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve

This is a complete anticlimax…… This is a classic case of “How to fail as a revolutionary” In fact at first glance it would seem that everything went downhill from here on:
-      Jesus goes to the temple the next day – and instead of taking control of the temple council … he begins preaching
-      Instead of action he tells stories
It seems like his revolution is losing steam – so much so that in Mark 13 the disciples begin to panic:
Mar 13:3  When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately,
Mar 13:4  "Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?"
And then disillusionment sets in with everyone else – and by Friday the crowds who had cheered for Jesus now reject him.
Even his own disciples have lost faith in him: Judas betrays him, Peter denies ever knowing him, and the other 10 simply run away.
And then he is crucified and people mock him:
Mar 15:31  In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, "He saved others; he cannot save himself

Jesus was a fool…. And it is appropriate that we use this language today: because today is April Fool’s Day!
In fact this is not my language – it is the language of St Paul.
In 1Co 1:18  Paul says that the message about the cross appears to be foolishness.

But Jesus persevered – even when it made him look foolish.
He persevered - even when everyone around him told him it was stupid
He persevered - even when people called him an April fool.
You see: Jesus had a bigger dream:
·        He resisted the political gain of a regional ruler – and instead dreamed of a world-changing faith.
·        He gave up the temporary satisfaction of a change of rulers so that the whole world could experience the life-transforming rule of God.
Jesus was ready to look foolish – in order to obey the will of God.

And here is the essential challenge of our foolish faith:
How often don’t I think I know better?

·        I see Jesus on the messianic donkey and think I know how he ought to solve my problems. And instead he chooses to do something else altogether.

·        I invite Jesus into my life – and I tell him how to save me: “Hosanna Jesus” I cry: only to find Jesus taking me off in an entirely new direction.
And how often is this not the moment when I get angry
How often is this not the moment when I shake my fist at heaven and tell God he has got it wrong
How often is this not the moment that I tell God he is foolish for not doing it my way

Here is the truth for today: there are moments when we human beings think we know everything – but God knows better:

St Paul says it like this:
1Co 1:25  For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength.

My question for today:
-      are we willing to risk living our life God’s way
-      are we willing to live God’s way, even when the people around us think it is stupid
-      are we willing to become God’s April fools?
Allow me to challenge us to trust God’s way of living – risk becoming become April fools for God – and May fools and June fools!.

1Co 4:10  We are fools for the sake of Christ, but you are wise in Christ.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Pete
Thanks for this I have never thought of it like this.

Love to all

Mark and Amelia