Just what is going on in this world? Sometimes it’s hard to fathom and wonder of what awaits us in the future.
It’s the year 2020 and things have changed. Our country has been annexed by a brutal adversary. Our individual wealth has been taken, our right to free speech and travel is monitored and acted on should the government deem us a risk and daily we are humiliated that our spirit be broken and fall into line and for us in the Church, our last bastion of safety and identity is under attack in that if we persist to adhere to our principles of marriage, right to life and of the one true God and Saviour then first the Pastors and priests, and then those still holding firm will at the least be confirmed as a terrorist to the “state” and thrown in prison without the need for a court of law or any proof other than our statements of faith.
There seems no hope until we hear that finally, an allied nation of great strength is storming towards us with a great flotilla of warships laden with a vast cargo of highly trained and equipped military service men and women and as they arrive in Botany Bay our jubilation cannot be contained.
Finally we will be free again. But then nothing and our cheers turn to despair, confusion, fear and anger.
Best not to throw stones when we live in glass houses because should we be there in this fictional future day, would we any different from those of past.
Those of past who see their own flotilla of hope arrive at their Botany Bay that is Jerusalem. A Flotilla of twelve led by the promised one that is a man named Jesus Christ and alongside them we sing and voice with great joy “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord” while shouting our customary cry of desperation of “save us now” in the form of the word “Hosanna.”
Hosanna, save us now-a word for those searching and confused people who knew one thing: that they wanted to be saved.
A word that gives voice to Israel’s anguish and misery and its hope too. Israel which had been ground into the dust by the brutality of the Roman Empire. They had been taxed into poverty by Caesar. They had been humiliated and had their pride taken away from them. And they wanted somehow to be rescued and restored. They wanted to see God’s power crush those who had crushed them. They wanted God’s might and majesty to destroy those who had destroyed their nation and their spirit. And they had seized on the promises of God in the prophets that He would send them a saviour who would do all this.
Singing and shouting: Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. But just a few hours after this, Jesus, who is carried into Jerusalem in triumph will walk through the same streets, this time himself doing the carrying – the cross.
Instead of a warrior king, what did they get? A man on a cross – somebody who was apparently as easily crushed as they were, somebody who (very soon after entering Jerusalem as a king) let himself be arrested, scourged and beaten and condemned to death.
Instead of a powerful rescuer who punished God’s enemies and expelled them from the land God had given them, they got a weakling – a king who would not even pick up a sword to defend himself, but instead hung pathetically on a cross and prayed that God would forgive his murderers. What power is there in that? How was that going to save them? Jesus was a victim. They wanted a warrior. Jesus was all love. They needed power.
And in their frustration and contempt, they shout at Jesus on the cross with the words “Come on you claim to save others but you cannot save yourself!”
If we enter their time we can see how they had no idea that all the time there was something much bigger and much more important than the fate of their little country at stake. They had no idea of the salvation being hammered out for the world, no idea that God’s power was being revealed here on the cross once and for all and can see the truth in Paul statement that “God’s wisdom in sending Jesus to die for all people seemed like foolishness to the world. “
At least the people of those times had a good excuse because they did not have the benefit of hindsight like we do in the books of the New Testament.
Yet if we look around at how lives are lived today we see the same thing going on – now as then.
People want to be saved. We live in the grip of the same fears and struggles and burdens as the people who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem. We want understandably to be saved from the threat of terrorist attack. We want to be saved from illness and death. We want to be saved from unemployment and financial problems and poverty in our old age. We want to be saved from loneliness and grief. We need a powerful saviour – somebody or something who can beat all our enemies. “Hosanna!” we yell. “Save us!”
And just like Israel, the natural thing is to turn to some source of power. Maybe we need to turn to the kind of power that comes out the barrel of a gun and declare war on terror, and kill all the terrorists before they kill us. Eradicate our enemies. Or there’s the power of money in that if we have enough security and protection and possessions, perhaps we will be safe.
And yet, sooner or later we face up to the fact that no matter how much we surround ourselves with the arsenal of the world and its comforts and protectors, we will never be safe for eventually death will still find us and tragedy’s can still knock on our doors.
Yes, we were in those crowds and we still are. “Blessed be the Lord” and then in confusion and hurt “why Lord?”
Yet hear our Saviour beaten and bruised by us and for us ask His Father to “Forgive them they no not what they do. “
To stand alongside Paul and know that we do what we don’t want to and don’t want we want to do and cry to the Lord “to take these thorns from our flesh” only to hear “my grace is sufficient for thee”
The words of God that seem to deride and ridicule. Words that in our hardest of situations seem foolish. “She’ll be right mate” or in contemporary society “to suck it up,” and so fall to our knees like Jesus in agony and prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane before His arrest, torture and death and ask God the Father is there another way? And then see not ridicule and derision but see our God of all wisdom and love proclaim that “my grace is sufficient for thee.”
His grace given to us through his Son Jesus Christ who after crying for another way finished with “but not as I will, but as you will.”
The will of the Father that when the cheers and joy around us fade we still kneel at the foot of the cross and see his grace that lets us stand with the resurrected Christ.
The will of the Father that as we travel through our valleys in the shadow of death see we are not alone, but with by our resurrected saviour who guides, strengthens and in need, carries us that we not perish in our sins, but reside in the grace of God the Father.
The will of the Father that does not unleash his wrath on our world, but his will that we accept his Grace won for us through his Son and with the apostle Paul profess like him: that
I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. 6 Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, 7 or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2nd Corinthians 12:5-9).
The Lord’s grace is most sufficient for us and in that when we are weak we are strong. Weak in self, yet strong in Christ that we fight our thorns of the flesh that they be not a wall between His grace, but a bridge to safety.
A bridge that we cross carrying our thorns yet leaving them behind as we instead bear our crosses as we follow Jesus. Fighting the good and running the good race in faith that come what may; His will has been done in you when you came to faith.
And in that faith, let us all pray for the help we need today, not that boast in ourselves, but that in the power of our Lord and Saviour we heed His wish that:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
And so today. Though weary and burdened we may be-we put our todays in the Lord’s hands as we have put our heavenly tomorrows and know, that there is no other way, for on our travels and in the grace of God, both kneeling at the Cross and standing in exultation with the risen Christ, we have been brought to see, trust and be thankful that yes, Jesus Christ is our only way, our truth and our life. Amen.