Who is Jesus to you? I suspect if I was to ask you to describe Jesus you could come up with any number of the words. And if I was to ask you to describe your relationship with Jesus some of you would say that your relationship is like brother and sister, others just friends and others would have king and subject. Some might even say Master and servant.
The problem of how to relate to Jesus has always been. Human beings are naturally complicated. We are built to live in relationships and over the years we will have experienced a variety of relationships. Parent/child, employer/employee, manager/staff, teacher/pupil, husband/wife, brother/sisters and of course friendships from the positive close ones to the ones that slowly fall apart over the years. We know what it is like to be part of a selfish relationship where we give and the other takes. And sadly some people know what it is like to be part of an abusive relationship.
Todays story is an eye opener about how people understand the position of Jesus.
And we have a perfect way of understanding their position. I doubt any of us can escape from the Royal Wedding that takes place next week. Now I want you to think about how you really feel about the wedding, especially if were to take place in Forth. Some people are excited. Some people are curious. Some people genuinely dont care. Some people have already suggested that Prince William should become the next king rather than Prince Charles. Some have always said we should get rid of the monarchy.
These different reactions to the Royal Wedding are indicative of what it was like 2000 years ago when Jesus rode in on his donkey. Jesus had been travelling around for the best part of 3 years working with the marginalised women, children, lepers, tax collectors and more. He has proven that he can teach with authority, command crowds and work miracles. Now here he is riding into Jerusalem being welcomed as the one who will overthrow the Romans.
The fact he is riding a donkey and not a war horse we could explain that away by suggesting the donkey is all that is available to Jesus. The people didnt mind what he was coming in on as far as they were concerned here was the one who would restore Israel to the Jews. Something we all like to do in our faith ignore the bits we dont like. We can explain away anything that doesnt fit with what we expect to happen. The crowd did it that day a donkey is not what a warrior king needs. If anything that image would make the big scary Romans laugh. But the people wanted Jesus to be their King of Israel in a human sense a new King David.
For sure Jesus arrival in Jerusalem was deliberately provocative. He knew that the Pharisees and Jewish leaders were struggling with him. He knew that his time was near and he made sure everyone knew that he was there. He didnt sneak in by the back gate, or under the cover of darkness. Even though the time was coming for Jesus to face the music for his belief in God he still went with style.
Sometimes we avoid those situations that ask us to be explicit with our faith. Jesus wasnt trying to offend people but to honour God. God doesnt sneak around. He doesnt necessarily follow our rules but he doesnt sneak around. The birth of Jesus was told to shepherds, angelic choirs filled the heavens, a star was given to those from other nations, and more. God doesnt sneak around and he doesnt expect us to either. There are times when we have to be willing to be obvious with our faith. Yet somewhere along the line we have been taught to hide our faith perhaps because we live in a multi-cultural world. Shall we ignore the ignominy that many fear the Islam faith, avoid the Jehovah witnesses like the plague and yet take the mickey out of the Christian faith?
There are Pharisees in our world too. They tell us that we shouldnt talk about Christ. We cant tell people about Christmas and Easter in our terms yes presents and chocolate eggs we are allowed those. But can we broadcast that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life?
Yet lets not get downhearted for 2000 years later, we are still gathering to worship our God. The stories of Christmas and Easter are still told, if only because someone figured out how to make money from it, for the presents and chocolate is the donkey of the day. Jesus is Lord over all and even creation knows it and the stones would cry out. If no one proclaims Jesus is Lord then creation will.
For a few moments I wanted us to focus on the humanity and emotions of Jesus. Part of the reason for this is simply to remind ourselves that we are dealing with a human being one who is most certainly divine but one who lived his life as a human being.
Over the years many stories have been written and films made about the real Jesus Christ. Some have tried to be faithful to the stories if a little gory, whilst others have added to the stories, not least The Last Temptation of Christ or the Da Vinci Code. Jesus with a lover, Jesus married or Jesus never died. What we do know from Scripture:
· Jesus was charismatic and able to draw people to himself. Jesus didnt always tell people what he was up to or ask their opinion or even seek a general consensus.
· Jesus taught his disciples and had 3 close friends Peter, James and John of whom one was to betray him.
· He delegated work and waited for the results.
· Jesus stood up to bullies, he challenged those in leadership often outsmarting them, he made people think and he worked miracles.
· He was often moved by great compassion for those suffering, he wept, he went off to pray because he was often spiritually exhausted by the work he did, he was practical and resisted being constrained by laws, though he acknowledged the laws of the land and kept them.
My personal favourite is his willingness to aim beyond the human and firmly into the divine court.
He sent out the 72 with nothing but a message. He fed the five thousand with 5 loaves and 2 fish complete with leftovers, and he turned water into the best wine. He trusted God fully and proved Gods ability and willingness to provide again and again. Jesus was fully human yes with an undeniable link to his father but human none the less. Jesus gives us permission to be fully human
· to cry because there are those who cannot hear the message of love God brings.
· to be angry because there are those who still abuse the privileges of God even today, and we must be wary of them.
· but we must also recognise that just as Jesus demanded from God so too can we. Because of Jesus we too can aim for the divinely possible.
Our relationship with God our father, our mother, our creator, is allowed to be on a par with Jesus because of what Jesus did. We are not called to have some lukewarm relationship with God. We dont have the perfection of Jesus though we can aim for it. We might not have his ability to perform miracles but I suspect that is more to do with our belief systems than the reality of Gods willingness to enable miracles to happen.
What is your relationship like with God? Do you see it as something that happens at a distance, perhaps only relying on God when crisis hits? Or can you identify with Jesus his Son someone who wept, laughed, got indignant even angry, who partied and prayed, who slept rough and ate with prostitutes?
In order to fully appreciate the wonder of Holy Week and Easter we must remind ourselves of the humanity of Jesus.
Jesus did not give up despite everything and at the very start of Holy Week we are reminded that he started with huge compassion and sorrow for his own people and righteous anger, even frustration at their lack of understanding and selfish motives. And still he continued to the cross and beyond. This is proof Jesus loves you. This is proof God loves you.
How awesome, how amazing, how life changing it is to know that God loves you that much.
Dont shy away from Holy Week I hope you will share with us on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday at 7:30pm in the Church, and there is worship on Wednesday as normal at 6:45pm. And then of course Easter Sunday. If you cant share with us take time over this week to read on to the end of Luke 23 slowly or use one of the other gospels, prayerfully and aware of the fact this happened to a real human being for you.
Get emotionally involved with Jesus this Easter.