Note: This series is based on the 1970 rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, by Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice.
This Sunday, we celebrate Palm Sunday. Yes, this is earlier than is the tradition in many congregations. This is not the first time we have celebrated Palm Sunday early (we did so in a 2016 sermon series exploring the book The Last Week by Marcus Borg), and doing so gives us more time to explore Jesus’ final week in Jerusalem.
As Jesus approaches the city, disciples are sent in preparation. I wonder if they understood the preparatory nature of what they were told to do – or more specifically what it is for which they were preparing. And as we are in this season of Lent, how well do we understand our own preparations?
Jesus’ presence in Jerusalem was so worth celebrating that – had the people been silenced – the shouting would not have been diminished. We might consider whether our own preparations are toward something so profound that our own voices could endure beyond criticism and obstruction.
Luke 19:28-40 (CEB)
28After Jesus said this, he continued on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.
Procession into Jerusalem
29As Jesus came to Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives, he gave two disciples a task. 30He said, “Go into the village over there. When you enter it, you will find tied up there a colt that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31If anyone asks, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say, ‘Its master needs it.’” 32Those who had been sent found it exactly as he had said.
33As they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?”
34They replied, “Its master needs it.” 35They brought it to Jesus, threw their clothes on the colt, and lifted Jesus onto it. 36As Jesus rode along, they spread their clothes on the road.
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.”
Consider these questions:
- The Palm Sunday procession may be seen as the beginning of the end. In the Gospel narratives, it seems to clearly mark the last days that Jesus will spend in Jerusalem. What do you think this meant to the disciples? Did they even understand? What do you think it meant to Jesus?
- In the preparations, some people are asked for something without much reasoning. In your own faith/spiritual life, have you ever felt asked for something without understanding its reasoning? How did you feel? How did you respond?
- What moves you so profoundly that you can’t help but talk about it or show it or point it out? Is that a part of your faith/spiritual life, or something else? If something else, what part of your faith/spiritual life might be like this? If nothing, why do think that’s the case?
Post-Worship Update on 3/26
Audio from the sermon can be heard below, and video can be found at this link (will open in a new tab).
Sunday’s message focused largely on the idea of planning and the presence of the Holy Spirit in both the planning phase as well as implementation phase. This can be seen in the text above as Jesus plans ahead for the upcoming entrance into the city.
If you recall (or have revisited) the exploration of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem in contrast to Pilate’s entry – explored in a sermon in 2016 – the need for preparation seems obvious. As one of my sisters has reminded me, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
We also recognized that some people plan in great detail, while others plan in broader stokes. In both cases, I believe that there is room for the Holy Spirit to work in those details (or not-details) and there is even the possibility of being inspired to set aside those plans because of the Spirit’s movement.
All this is to say that we must open hearts and minds to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Consider these questions:
- What kind of planner are you? Detail? Broader framework? Neither? None at all? How does this shape you and your ability to be successful in your vocation, your spirituality, your life?
- Have you experienced the guidance of the Holy Spirit in any situation brought to mind in the previous question? Have you experienced the guidance of the Holy Spirit in implementing any plan or preparation? Explore your experience with this and (if possible) talk it through with others.
- What ways do you intentionally leave room for the work of the Holy Spirit? If you don’t, what can you do to invite the Spirit’s participation?