This fourth Sunday of Lent we continue our sermon series on “Giving It Up.” This series invites us to consider giving up more than just candies or social media; it asks us to give up particular ways of being in the world. Check out our intro video here:
This week we tease Palm Sunday a bit, but don’t get too excited! We only tell the tail end of that story alongside Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem. It may be something to consider that Jesus rode into Jerusalem with full knowledge that it would be his final week in the city. Near the end of this passage, there is an exchange that – I imagine – to be somewhat heated.
37As Jesus approached the road leading down from the Mount of Olives, the whole throng of his disciples began rejoicing. They praised God with a loud voice because of all the mighty things they had seen. 38They said,
“Blessings on the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heavens.”
39Some of the Pharisees from the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, scold your disciples! Tell them to stop!”
40He answered, “I tell you, if they were silent, the stones would shout.”
41As Jesus came to the city and observed it, he wept over it. 42He said, “If only you knew on this of all days the things that lead to peace. But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43The time will come when your enemies will build fortifications around you, encircle you, and attack you from all sides. 44 They will crush you completely, you and the people within you. They won’t leave one stone on top of another within you, because you didn’t recognize the time of your gracious visit from God.”
Consider these questions:
- Why do you think Jesus weeps over Jerusalem?
- Knowing how the leaders of Jerusalem – and even many of its citizens – will treat Jesus in the coming days, does Jerusalem deserve this grief?
- Jesus predicts destruction, and some academics read this as a prediction of Jerusalem’s fall to Roman armies in roughly 70CE. What do you think?
Post-sermon update on 3/28
Audio from the sermon can be heard below, and video can be found by clicking this link (will open in a new tab).
Follow-up by Dr. Christopher Carter
Sunday’s sermon was the fourth in our series “Giving It Up,” which focuses on the Lenten theme of giving up something that we feel has control over our lives as a means of discipline, in order to encourage us to practice a more disciplined faith in our journey with God. This past Sunday pastor Bob spoke about the importance of giving up our enemies.
In one of his most radical sermons, the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus exhorts his listeners to love their enemies and pray for those who harass you. At first reading this may seem either crazy or impossible – or perhaps both! But, I think if we delve a bit deeper into the entire sermon, this radical statement begins to make more sense. In this sermon, Jesus is speaking to a crowd of disenfranchised and disempowered Jews. Jews who had lost their political freedom through Roman colonization and were suffering from economic marginalization. In short, Jesus’ friends and family were being dehumanized by the occupying Roman government. As a response to this dehumanization, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is his attempt to encourage his followers to recapture their humanity – we are most human, and reflect the image of God, when we love.
If we take this radical teaching to its logical conclusion, if we as followers of Christ are to be about loving others so that they can see themselves as fully human, our enemies must be included among those whom we love! Indeed, if we dehumanize our enemies, we are guilty of being complicit in the social structure that made it ok for our enemies to dehumanize us. As Christians we can’t defeat dehumanization with dehumanization. Or to paraphrase Martin Luther King Jr., darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. In this way, giving up our enemies could be understood as giving up on the idea of enemies. We are all on the same team and have the same collective goals, every human being wants to flourish. The key then, is to love those whom we disagree with and engage them in loving conversation about our disagreements rather than disparaging or dehumanizing them. We refrain from dehumanizing those whom we disagree with because we know through our own experience that dehumanization does not move us toward our long-term goal of creating the beloved community. If our short-term goal is to convince them to change their behavior or opinion, how would dehumanizing them help? It might make us feel better…for a moment. But it would not lead to substantive change. Secondly, we refrain from dehumanizing those whom we disagree with because we know they too are children of God and created in God’s image. I believe that this is why Jesus’ proclamation actually makes more sense than it appears at first glance. When we love someone we humanize them, and in humanizing them they move from being seen as an “enemy” to a brother or sister in Christ. By loving our enemies we truly do “give them up.”
Questions to consider:
- Is it a realistic expectation to love our enemies or should this passage be thought of as a goal or ideal?
- How might your opinion of your “enemies” change if you saw them as fully human; as people with fears, longings for unmet needs, aching wounds, and grief?
- Pastor Bob noted Dr. Martin Luther King’s first step in loving your enemies, to look at oneself and examine the reasons why we feel they are our enemy. If you have someone that at times feels like an enemy, do this. Examine yourself and what is going on within you that is so triggered by the behavior of your enemy. What is the source of your frustration and how might you be able to tend to that wound with love?
The phrasing of this scripture sounds as though God is planning to punish the Jews again for not bending to his will. Are we still in an Old Testament mode? When does the new covenant begin? I cringe whenever the Bible talks about God’s acts of punishment and war. Is this the Christian God of love we like to worship?