St. Matthew’s Sermon 04-14-2019


St. Matthew’s Sermon 04-14-2019

Misunderstanding

Isaiah 50:4-9a, Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29, Philippians 2:5-11, Luke 19:28-40

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen

It’s one of the stories that is told in all four of the Gospels. Though each writer presents Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem from his own point of focus; every one draws in the Old Testament writing from Zechariah 9:9 that reads…

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey”.

Rejoice… shout aloud… your king comes triumphant and victorious, not on a war horse but humbly… on a donkey.

This part of ancient scripture being fulfilled is easy enough to see and it makes all four accounts seem exactly the same. But there is more to the writing that should also come to mind when imagining Jesus riding a donkey toward the capitol city amid the shouts and rejoicing. Zechariah continues…

“He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double. (vs. 10-12)

Will cut off the Chariot, the war horse, the battle bow; peace from sea to sea, even to the ends of the earth. Blood of my covenant (sound familiar?), hope, restore!

We begin to see that there’s more being drawn in from ancient scripture than just the vision of a victorious king riding humbly toward his throne.

But then the reading from Zechariah continues…

 

For I have bent Judah as my bow; I have made Ephraim its arrow. I will arouse your sons, O Zion, against your sons, O Greece, and wield you like a warrior’s sword. (vss.13)

Placed together we see tension, contrast, perhaps even conflict. Arouse Zion against Greece, wield you like a warrior’s sword! Is this peace one sided; only for Zion. or is it for all nations from sea to sea?

 

It’s not unusual for us to notice what seem to be conflicting messages in the Bible. In the Old Testament or in the New we can find mixed messages and they often really stand out when we compare the New and the Old.

I have spoken before of such contrast in the Nativity story as presented by Matthew where we hear of the Magi following a star, a heavenly sign, which they interpret to announce the birth of a new king. Yet any scripture-reading Jew would know that God warns against divination and astrology. (example; Isaiah 47:10-15) Their misunderstanding was that this birth was that of an earthly king; they left gifts fit for an earthly king; but Jesus was no earthly king, he was the son of God most high. Hearing of this, Herod has his own misunderstanding. He becomes concerned that his earthly kingship is about to be challenged, leading to the slaughter of the innocent.

But Luke, in his telling, points out the misunderstanding in a different way. With the four verses that I added to today’s assigned reading he emphasizes the misunderstanding of, and the difference between, earthly kings and the king from heaven, earthly understanding of power and heavenly power, earthly pursuit of peace and heavenly pursuit  of peace.

The people were expecting a different kind of messiah; a battle-victorious king who would lead them in the fight against their oppressors, liberate them from the abuses of those who held power over them, and “restore them double”; twice what they had and what they were before.

But Jesus predicts, not only the destruction of the Temple as the other Gospel writers do, but the total destruction of Jerusalem.

 

Jesus wept over the city and its people. He knew that they didn’t understand what kind of king, what kind of savior he was nor did they understand peace in heavenly terms…

“If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace”!

And he knew what the future held for them when they would rebel in battle against Rome in just a few decades…

“They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.”

 

It did happen. In the first Jewish revolt against Rome; when the city fell the slaughter of the rebel army and the citizens, (old men, women, and children) was so great that the streets ran with blood. When the fighting was over the Romans tore down what had not already burned. not only the temple, but every house, and every fortification save a few battle towers, spared to show what a well fortified city they had conquered, and a string of buildings against one wall to house the garrison that would remain on guard; all “because [they] did not recognize the time of their visitation from God.”

 

Today we celebrate in remembrance of our kings “triumphal entry” into the capitol city; we remember the crowds that thronged toward him; and we imagine them believing that this is their messiah, their savior, the one who will deliver them from their enemies. But we must also be aware of their misunderstanding “of the things that make for peace”; the misunderstanding that will lead them from shouting “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” when they imagined him to be their hero, to shouts of “crucify him, crucify him” when they see him as a failure by the end of the week.

With this, we must be aware of our own propensity to misunderstand “the things that make for peace.” Jesus is our King, but not an earthly kind of king who will lead in bloody battle; he is our Savior who does deliver us, not in earthly terms of fighting to the death but passively, without resistance, walking toward the cross.

Amen.

 

Isaiah 50:4-9a
50:4 The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens– wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught.
50:5 The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward.
50:6 I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting.
50:7 The Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame;
50:8 he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me.
50:9a It is the Lord GOD who helps me; who will declare me guilty?

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29
118:1 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!
118:2 Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”
118:19 Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD.
118:20 This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it.
118:21 I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.
118:22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
118:23 This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
118:24 This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
118:25 Save us, we beseech you, O LORD! O LORD, we beseech you, give us success!
118:26 Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD. We bless you from the house of the LORD.
118:27 The LORD is God, and he has given us light. Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar.
118:28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you.
118:29 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Philippians 2:5-11
2:5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
2:6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,
2:7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form,
2:8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death– even death on a cross.
2:9 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name,
2:10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
2:11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Luke 19:28-40 Adding vss. 41-44
19:28 After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.
19:29 When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples,
19:30 saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here.
19:31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’”
19:32 So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them.
19:33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”
19:34 They said, “The Lord needs it.”
19:35 Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it.
19:36 As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road.
19:37 As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen,
19:38 saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”
19:39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.”
19:40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

41 As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it,

42 saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.

43 Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side.

44 They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.”