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Sermon for Palm Sunday:

             Luke 19:28-40  -  When The Cheering Stopped
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Some years ago a book was written by a noted American historian entitled "When The Cheering Stopped." It was the story of President Woodrow Wilson and the events leading up to and following WWI. When that war was over Wilson was an international hero. There was a great spirit of optimism abroad, and people actually believed that the last war had been fought and the world had been made safe for democracy.

On his first visit to Paris after the war Wilson was greeted by cheering mobs. He was actually more popular than their own heroes. The same thing was true in England and Italy. In a Vienna hospital a Red Cross worker had to tell the children that there would be no Christmas presents because of the war and the hard times. The children didn’t believe her. They said that President Wilson was coming and they knew that everything would be all right.


The cheering lasted about a year. Then it gradually began to stop. It turned out that the political leaders in Europe were more concerned with their own agendas than they were a lasting peace. At home, Woodrow Wilson ran into opposition in the United States Senate and his League of Nations was not ratified. Under the strain of it all the President’s health began to break. In the next election his party was defeated. So it was that Woodrow Wilson, a man who barely a year or two earlier had been heralded as the new world Messiah, came to the end of his days a broken and defeated man.


It’s a sad story, but one that is not altogether unfamiliar. The ultimate reward for someone who tries to translate ideals into reality is apt to be frustration and defeat. There are some exceptions, of course, but not too many.


It happened that way to Jesus. When he emerged on the public scene he was an overnight sensation. He would try to go off to be alone and the people would still follow him. The masses lined the streets as he came into town. On Palm Sunday leafy palm branches were spread before him and there were shouts of Hosanna. In shouting Hosanna they were in effect saying “Save us now” Jesus. Great crowds came to hear him preach. A wave of religious expectation swept the country.


But the cheering did not last for long. There came a point when the tide began to turn against him. Oh, you didn’t notice it so much at first. People still came to see him, but the old excitement was missing, and the crowds were not as large as they had been. His critics now began to publicly attack him. That was something new. Earlier they had been afraid to speak out for fear of the masses, but they began to perceive that the fickle public was turning on him. Soon the opposition began to snowball. When they discovered that they could not discredit his moral character, they began to take more desperate measures. Before it was all over a tidal wave welled up that brought Jesus to his knees under the weight of a cross.


Why did the masses so radically turn against him? How did the shouts of Hosanna on Sunday transform into the shouts of crucify him on Friday? I am not just talking about the immediate events that may have brought it about, but the deeper root causes. What were the underlying issues? In five days it all fell apart. Why? That is the issue that I would like for us to concentrate on this morning. Why did the cheering stop?


1. Jesus Began to talk more and more about commitment.

2. Jesus dared to suggest that all people are worth loving.

3. Jesus began to talk more and more about a cross.

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Another Sermon For Palm Sunday:

      Luke 19:28-40  -  The Passion Of The Christ: His Triumphal Entry
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Seven days changed the world. These seven days have been the topic of a million of publications, countless debates, and thousands of films. These seven days have inspired the greatest painters, the most skilled architects, and the most gifted musicians. To try and calculate the cultural impact of these seven days is impossible. But harder still would be an attempt to account for the lives of men and women who have been transformed by them. And yet these seven days as they played out in Jerusalem were of little significance to anyone but a few people involved. What happened on those seven days? During the next seven Sundays of Lent and Easter we will look at these seven days in depth but for now let’s summarize:

1. On Sunday the first of the seven days, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey to the shouts of Hosanna, fulfilling an old prophecy in Zechariah 9:9.
2. On Monday he walked into the Jerusalem Temple overturning tables where money exchange occurred, Roman drachmas were being exchanged for Jewish shekels. Roman coins were not allowed. The image of Caesar was a violation of the second commandment. But the Temple authorities were using the Commandment as means to cheat the people and making the Temple a place of profit rather than a place of prayer.
3. On Tuesday Jesus taught in parables, warned the people against the Pharisees, and predicted the destruction of the Temple.
4. On Wednesday, the fourth day, we know nothing. The Gospel writers are silent. Perhaps it was a day of rest for him and his weary and worried disciples.
5. On Thursday, in an upper room, Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with his disciples. But he gave it a new meaning. No longer would his followers remember the Exodus from Egypt in the breaking of bread. They would remember his broken body and shed blood. Later that evening in the Garden of Gethsemane he agonized in prayer at what lay ahead for him.
6. On Friday, the fifth day, following betrayal, arrest, imprisonment, desertion, false trials, denial, condemnation, beatings and sentencing, Jesus carried his own cross to “The Place of the Skull,” where he was crucified with two other prisoners.
7. On Saturday, Jesus lay dead in a tomb bought by a rich man named Joseph.
8. On Sunday, his Passion was over, the stone had been rolled away. Jesus was alive. He appeared to Mary, to Peter, to two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and to the 11 disciples gathered in a locked room. His resurrection was established as a fact.

Back then these seven days were called Passover, as it is still called today by the Jews. Christians around the world know these seven days as Holy Week, the Passion of the Christ. This week Mel Gibson’s film was released. Let me tell you why I think this film is important. In our culture the emotion, pain, and passion of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ has been lost. Let me tell you what I mean:

The next time you go into a Christian bookstore find some artwork of any kind that depicts the death of Jesus. They will not reflect the horror of the crucifixion. If you find a piece of art that reflects the piercing of his side it will probably be a trickle of blood. Not at all the reality that John records, “One of the soldiers stabbed him in the side with his spear. Blood and water gushed out. (John 19:34)." Watch any of the Hollywood produced films of the past. They will not do justice to the painful death on a Roman cross as mentioned in Scripture: "Around mid-afternoon Jesus groaned out of the depths, crying loudly, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" (Matthew 27:46). Rarely in artwork, film, or sculptures will there be evidence of the beating at the hand of the cruel Roman leader Pilate, who had Jesus flogged. (John 19:1)." History records that roman floggings with lead-tipped whips were so severe that sometimes the victim would die before they were crucified. And I don’t think I have ever seen a depiction of what is recorded in Matthew. The Gospel records that when Pilate’s soldiers mocked Jesus putting a staff in his right hand (meant to be a king’s scepter) they then took it from him and struck him on the head with it “again and again.”

Is it any wondered that Gibson’s film has been rated R? The Gospels themselves should be rated R. We have sanitized the crucifixion so we can hang pictures on our walls and show it to our children. All in all the death of Jesus was a horribly violent event. But the violence and realism is not the great achievement of Gibson’s film; rather, its great achievement is the redeeming power of love. As you watch Jesus’ body being crushed you see there is more to the event then violence. That Jesus is acting out of a sacrificial love and it makes you want to act sacrificially.

We will talk more about the film in the coming weeks. Let’s turn now to how it begins. It was Sunday the first day in Passover. Jesus is preparing to make his triumphant entry into Jerusalem. It was a strange kind of a day, a day of contrasts: of climax and anti-climax, of fulfillment and frustration; of hosannas and tears, of tragedy and triumph.

1. First let’s look at why Palm Sunday was a tragedy.

2. Second Palm Sunday was also triumph.

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What Is Unique About Christianity?

The story of Jesus sitting and debating the Law with rabbis reminds me of another debate that took place in a comparative religions conference, the wise and the scholarly were in a spirited debate about what is unique about Christianity. Someone suggested what set Christianity apart from other religions was the concept of incarnation, the idea that God became incarnate in human form. But someone quickly said, “Well, actually, other faiths believe that God appears in human form.” Another suggestion was offered: what about resurrection? The belief that death is not the final word. That the tomb was found empty. Someone slowly shook his head. Other religions have accounts of people returning from the dead.

Then, as the story is told, C.S. Lewis walked into the room, tweed jacket, pipe, armful of papers, a little early for his presentation. He sat down and took in the conversation, which had by now evolved into a fierce debate. Finally during a lull, he spoke saying, “what's all this rumpus about?” Everyone turned in his direction. Trying to explain themselves they said, “We're debating what's unique about Christianity.” “Oh, that's easy,” answered Lewis, “it's....


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