Preparation: Final Checklist

Heritage Presbyterian Church http://heritagepresbyterian.org

April 14, 2019
Palm Sunday
Scripture reading: Luke 19: 28-40

Think about the last time you went on a BIG trip somewhere… somewhere that was not close to home, so you had to pack carefully to make sure you didn’t forget anything important… like medicines, pants, or your ticket.  Chances are you made some type of checklist; perhaps you actually wrote it down or you just reviewed it your head – or you used some ap on your cell phone that made it all so very easy…

In any case, at some point you had to make sure you had done everything in order for the trip to be a success.  You can’t get it perfect – we all know something will be forgotten – but you can do a pretty good job if you review that checklist before going.

I was thinking about this as I read over the well-known story of Jesus entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.  If you thought that trip just…HAPPENED, then you weren’t paying attention to the previous Gospel pages that preceded this account.  Jesus planned for this day to occur, and I’ll bet he took care of all that was necessary in order for this special trip to go just right.

Let’s see what Jesus checked off on his checklist:

First, the preliminary items:

  • Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River.  This marked the beginning of his ministry here on Earth. From that day forward, Jesus began his work.  Also, the Baptist faded into history because his good work was done.  So, Jesus started strong.  CHECK
  • Jesus experienced and survived the 40-day trek in the wilderness where he was tormented by the devil.  Jesus had to face human weakness and human vulnerability and human temptation before he could accomplish anything.  So, Jesus tempted by the devil.  CHECK
  • Jesus called his 12 Apostles…his inner circle.  If we view this collection of misfits through a human lens, we would obviously miss a lot.  Jesus saw into their hearts, he saw into their minds and souls, and he recognized that they were going to be perfect for the work ahead.  They didn’t need to be biblical scholars or world-class theologians or religious leaders.  Jesus needed people who were open to brand new thinking and people who could be taught to become effective leaders.  Despite our limited human view of the Twelve Apostles, remember that the Son of God chose them. So, Jesus lined up his inner circle. CHECK

Now, Jesus began working on the major items:

  • He began preaching, teaching, and interpreting Scripture in new and eye-opening ways.  The people had been led by so-called “scholars” who were more interested in the letter of the Law than the spirit of the Law.  The Law had become something ugly, something useless to the people of God. They saw hypocrisy in their religious leadership, they saw brutal occupation by the pagan Roman army, and they saw their lives ruined by the crushing taxes imposed by both groups. Jesus’ words fell softly on their ears and their hearts.  Jesus also taught this Good News of God’s love and forgiveness with great authority. Not only did he know his materials well, he was also a master teacher who could even teach other teachers.  So, Jesus brought the Good News and he worked to spread it effectively.  CHECK
  • Jesus healed the sick, made the lame get up and walk, gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and speech to the mute; he cured the lepers so they could rejoin the people of God and worship and celebrate with others; he even raised the dead to new life again.  In doing these things, Jesus revealed himself to be so much more than just a gifted healer; he demonstrated that he was the Son of God, and that the Father he served was loving, tender, and merciful.  So, Jesus healed the people.  CHECK
  • Jesus practiced radical inclusiveness to everyone.  Think about who Jesus hung out with – sinners!  But among those sinners, do some of us see glimpses of ourselves?  Yes, he always engaged the Jews, but he also loved the Samaritans, the Centurion, the ten lepers, the pagan Greeks, the “unclean” woman who had bled for several years, the unaccompanied woman at the well, the Pharisees such as Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, and even hated the tax collectors!  Jesus practiced inclusiveness and demonstrated that his Father in Heaven loved all his children – no matter who they were.  So, Jesus showed God loves everybody.  CHECK
  • Jesus established his authority from God by casting out demons and by forgiving sins.  When he did these two things, he really freaked out the people and the religious authorities.  First of all, casting out demons proved to them that he was working with the devil! Not true!  Jesus asked what possible good it would do for him to work with the devil, while at the same time work against him… he got no answers because his accusers knew he was right.  When Jesus forgave sins, he was again demonstrating the tender nature of the Father.  Those who hated him saw this as blasphemy – since only God could forgive sins.  Their futile grasp of the obvious was almost comical…only God can forgive sins…Jesus can’t forgive sins…except Jesus was indeed the Son of God…    So, Jesus established his authority over demons and sin.  CHECK

Now it’s time to get to Jesus’ “other” checklist…the one that really meant something in the story of Palm Sunday:

  • Jesus had to make sure that everything he did demonstrated his love for the Father.  In his previous checklists, Jesus did many things that revealed the love of the Father to his people; and these people needed to see that side of God.  They only seemed to grasp the ceremonial God in the Temple and in the Law of Moses, the vengeance of God, the supreme punishment of God, the desperate “Where are you, God?”in their lives.  The people of God needed more.   Jesus loved because of the Father.  CHECK
  • Jesus made sure that everything he did was done out of obedience to the Father. He didn’t question it, even though in his agony, he cried out from the cross.  He knew what the Father wanted him to do.  Jesus acted out of obedience.  CHECK
  • Finally, and here’s the one that all of us would rather forget: Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, Jesus confronted the religious authorities, Jesus stood unblinking in front of Pilate, Jesus went to the cross on behalf of the Father…Jesus did all of this because of his courage.  We never stop to think about this, do we?  Jesus of Nazareth was very, VERY courageous.  As a non-believer once asked me, “You mean, he knew what was going to happen – and he went anyway?”  Yes, exactly. During the season of Lent, we church folks say pretty, theological phrases such as “a death he freely accepted…” and “he never said a mumbalin’ word…” and “he took all our sins upon himself and sacrificed himself for us.”  It makes it easier to look away from what actually happened.  The Son of God died in our place, and the death he suffered was a horrible one, inflicted with no mercy.  That took courage that we can’t truly imagine.  Jesus was courageous.  Truly courageous.  CHECK

So…that’s the checklist that perhaps Jesus went through as he entered Jerusalem on that fateful Palm Sunday; facing what he knew was coming, enduring the shouts of the people and their jubilation, and all the time knowing how it would end in just six short days.

So…what’s on YOUR checklist as we approach Holy Week? Church?  Bible study?  A new heart for mission?  Extra love in all that you do and say?

Obedience?

Courage?

Whatever you may be thinking, all of us are on a journey of faith. We may not know exactly what is going to happen next or what we are going to do.  We may not understand all that comes our way.  We may doubt and rage and cry – and then do it all over again.

Or we may be loving, obedient, and possibly even courageous as we face the future…but we do so in the full knowledge that the Son of God died for us and loves us.

We are loved. CHECK!

Amen!