Luke 19:37, 38 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
Back in 1980 Darrell Griffith was the top college basketball player in the country and was leading Louisville University to the national championship. To promote their TV coverage of March madness CBS repeatedly showed montages of Griffith performing acrobatic dunks while in the background a popular Kenny Logins song of the time proclaimed “This is it! Make no mistake where you are.” You can still find the song on Youtube. It was dynamic and tied the whole season together thematically. As I looked at Luke’s description of Palm Sunday this year, I kept coming back to the line the crowd was shouting “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Where had I heard this before. Finally, it dawned on me; Christmas. Found only in Luke we read each year that the angles declared “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Glory and peace. That was the promise of Jesus’ birth and now at Palm Sunday, this is it- make no mistake where you are. The line pulls together the whole story and focuses on the fulfilment to be accomplished in this Holy Week starting with Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on a donkey. Rejection, death and resurrection. Glory and peace. This is it. Where are you this Holy Week?
John 12:4, 5 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor?”
John goes on to explain that Judas wasn’t as interested in the poor as he was in adding to the bottom line of the group’s reserves because he sometimes helped himself to those funds. But he was a disciple. He had left all to follow Jesus just like Peter and James and John. There may have been some genuine concern about the integrity of the ministry in his question, we might never know. It makes Jesus’ response all the more startling. Jesus implied that his death was in some way more important than feeding the poor. I guess great cathedrals have been constructed and personal jets bought for preachers when the money would have been better used to feed the poor. But Jesus elevates himself here, at least in connection with his death. All four gospels focus on the cross and the events leading up to it. Why was it so important? How would answer that question this week?
Luke 15:24 “this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” So, they began to celebrate.
I lost my son once at an amusement park. We had three young children who wanted to go on different rides, the park was crowded, I wasn’t being as attentive as I should have been. We searched and searched and finally had to bear the indignity of reporting him as missing to the security folks. It seemed like forever when finally, over the radio of one of the guards I heard a voice say, “we’ve got a boy here.” In a minute more another guard came around the bend with a boy by the hand. Only it wasn’t my son. Up until that point I been embarrassed and annoyed. Now I was panic stricken. What if the unthinkable had happened and I had seen my son for the last time. Soon yet another guard came with my son in tow. The above verse is a quote from the father in the Prodigal Son story. If you don’t know it, read Luke 15 starting at verse 11. I think of the incident with my own son often when I read this story. If that is how God feels about us being lost, then it would be grand to be found. Are you lost or celebrating?
Luke 13:4-5 Those eighteen in Jerusalem the other day, the ones crushed and killed when the Tower of Siloam collapsed and fell on them, do you think they were worse citizens than all other Jerusalemites? Not at all. Unless you turn to God, you, too, will die.”
People have always been fascinated by the misfortunes of others. Just listen to or read the news reports. They love to highlight plane crashes and fires and murders. I’ve never been sure why we find these so fascinating. If you have an idea I’d love to hear it. From the passage above we know it was happening in the 1st century. Jesus seems to imply that we feel better about having escaped such tragedy by examining those of others, as if there is a scale and we are a little higher on it than the poor souls who have such troubles. But Jesus reminds his listeners that they are all in it together. I believe he is talking about the destruction he sees coming, and did come, by the Romans as they put down the rebellion in 70 A.D. In war people are killed indiscriminately, even non-combatants, even children. We live in a world that has so often failed to turn to God resulting in death and destruction where there is no distinction between the good and the not so good. All we can do is trust the hand of God to provide what we need in the midst of such things and faith that God will provide mercifully a future beyond them. Where do you feel vulnerable this Lent? How will you turn to God in the midst of your vulnerability?
Luke 13:34 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.
When Jesus talks of Jerusalem here, he is using it as a symbol of the whole nation just like when we talk about trade talks between Washington and Beijing. He is probably also speaking in unity with God the Father who had a long history of being rejected by the people he longed to care for. When someone cares deeply for another who does not return the sentiment, we call it unrequited love. Literature is full of stories of such relationships. I found one website that listed their top twenty-five stories in this category and another that went to 50. Who didn’t have a crush in their youth that was not returned (remember Charlie Brown and the Little Red-Haired Girl?). But we seldom think of God having his heart broken by the disinterest of those he loves- us. Is it possible that the above verse indicates that God “longs” for an intimacy with us that we leave unrequited? This week, how will you respond to a “longing” God?
Luke 4:1-2a Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.
I left the footnote in the text on purpose. Most of the times we don’t bother with them, but I think this is significant. If you go to the bottom of the page in this version of the NIV bible you find “a:Luke 4:2
Luke 9:41 Jesus said, “What a generation! No sense of God! No focus to your lives! How many times do I have to go over these things? How much longer do I have to put up with this? Bring your son here.” (The Message Bible)
Ever get frustrated with other people- your kids, your parents, the neighbors- or even yourself? If so, it may comfort you to know that even Jesus got frustrated at times, as the verse above indicates. He had just been up on the Mount of Transfiguration and met with Moses and Elijah and then he comes down to a scene where his disciples could not heal a man’s son. I’m not sure if Jesus is frustrated with the father or his disciples but I think it is likely that it’s the whole bunch and Peterson does well with his translation of “What a generation! No sense of God!” One of the difficulties with aging is that you become aware of how many times you have made the same mistakes, succumbed to the same temptations, or failed to make the changes to your life you know you should and believe God would want. It is frustrating! But Jesus heals the man’s son. Jesus continues to teach his followers. Jesus keeps going along the road to Jerusalem, suffering and death. Faithfulness trumps frustration. As we begin Lent this week, how will you embrace the faithfulness of God even in the midst of your failures?