Sermon March 25, 2018 (Palm/ Passion Sunday)
Take Up Your Cross with the Prince of Peace
When I was reading and meditating on the stories of Jesus’ last days, I remembered a TV show episode where a boy named Will from a tough neighborhood, who was sent to live with his rich relatives after getting into a fight, comes back to his old neighborhood to visit after several years, and discovers that he has a reputation for being a “chicken boy” who ran away from a fight. To recover from that reputation, he prepares himself to confront the same tough boy. But now the tough boy has changed and matured and doesn’t want to fight. Will asks him, “What about your reputation, man?” The former tough boy points at the group of young boys who are with him and says, “See those guys over there? They are my reputation.” He leaves with his friends with mature dignity, and Will is left alone in the playground feeling stupid. I think it takes more courage to refuse to fight.
Jesus entered Jerusalem for the last time, riding on a donkey and was greeted by an enthusiastic crowd. I have told you a lot of times now that the Israelites had been waiting for a special king anointed by God to save his people. Several hundred years is a little bit too long to suffer under foreign invasions. They have been fantasizing about how God would end their suffering and bring a spectacular defeat to their enemies. Then here comes Jesus with his great teachings and powerful healing power. Oh, he HAS to be the one! There is only one problem. Jesus is not the kind of powerful political and military king that the people expect. Well, they should have gotten a clue when they saw him entering Jerusalem on a donkey. The donkey was not only a symbol of lowliness, but also what kings rode when they came in peace. They rode horses to go to war, and donkeys to proclaim peace. For Jesus, the first Palm Sunday was the final ride on a high road of principle, obedience, and faith, that would lead to his death. His disciples and followers may have wished otherwise and didn’t understand his purpose; but eventually, a long, long time afterwards, they got it. Everybody is cheering as he enters Jerusalem in high anticipation. They cry out, “Hosanna! Blessed be the one who comes in the name of the Lord”, which will later turn into an angry cry of “Crucify him” when he turned out to be a disappointment to them.
The journey to the cross has started. Jesus will be betrayed, arrested, humiliated, and bear the trauma of being crucified. The Romans sure knew how to inflict pain and control the rebels with fear. But where are we in this scene? Are we shouting Hosanna? Are we shouting, “Crucify him”? Are we the soldiers who mock God’s anointed one? Are we running away for fear of being arrested as his followers? Or are we weeping at the foot of his cross? The answer to these questions might be, “all of the above.” This week, let us spiritually follow Jesus to his cross. Think about how his conviction about the reign of God that he has preached never faltered even in the fear of one of the most gruesome ways to die in human history. He had the courage to live and die for his principles, and also, he had the courage to say no to the fight. Cowardly for not fighting back? Where’s my reputation? He accepted his death claiming, “Look to God. God is my reputation.”
Jesus is the model of the ultimate peacemaker, always turning to God for the source of peace, love, and justice. He obeyed God and stood up for his principles to his death; and this Jesus is inviting his followers to do the same. We are invited to follow Jesus in his faithful life and ministry to God’s kingdom. We are called “take up our cross and follow him”, and to be God’s peacemakers in this world full of violence, hatred, and strife. This week, as we follow Jesus to his cross, I pray that we will seek a closer relationship with God and receive the courage to say down our personal desires and greed, and follow Jesus’ example to live the kingdom lifestyle, spreading God’s radically inclusive love, compassion, and social justice.
Rev. Sunny Kim