‘hard times require furious dancing’

Palm Sunday
City Centre Church
April 13th, 2014

(Matthew 21:1-16 NKJV)

Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me. And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.” All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: “Tell the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your King is coming to you, Lowly, and sitting on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.’ ”

So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them. And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying:

“Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Hosanna in the highest!”

And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, “Who is this?” So the multitudes said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.”

Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’ ” Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant and said to Him, “Do You hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes. Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise’?”

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today is the day the church has historically celebrated as palm sunday
palm sunday is known as the triumphant entry into Jerusalem

palm sunday is a day of spontaneous and extravagant praise
it was a day when Jesus entered the city of jerusalem — the city he stayed away from during the majority of his ministry

as he entered his disciples broke into spontaneous praise. the kind of praise that was normally reserved for a triumphant emperor

in one culture palm trees were associated with nike, goddess of war and victory.
a goddess that was associated with and reserved for the roman emperor
so, to observing romans, Jesus’ followers seemed to be declaring a new King had arrived

in jewish culture, palm was one of the four species reserved for sukkot (the feast of tabernacles)
during this feast it was used to signify the moment of great joy and rejoicing (leviticus 23.40) & zechariah 9.9 also made it clear that jesus was declaring himself to be king

fulfilling prophesy jesus turned the cult of empire on it’s head.. his triumphant entry wasn’t as a warrior king, but as a saviour-king
the donkey in most eastern cultures and traditions is an animal of peace. the horse is a animal of war (he came as the prince of peace, not a war waging king)

jesus’ triumphant entry was dripping with prophesy..
prophesy that spoke to both the dominant culture of empire, and prophesy that spoke to the temple institutions and their dreams of power and control

in the middle of this were his followers.
they sparked a day of extravagant praise that spontaneously swept the city

palm sunday can be viewed as a pre-celebration of resurrection victory
through the history of the church, it has been the day of praise

in historic liturgy, palm sunday the praises sung on that day are seen to

‘confirm the resurrection of the universe
wherefore, we like children,
carry the banner of triumph and victory,
and we cry to thee, o conqueror of love,
hosanna in the highest!
blessed is he that comes
in the name of the lord’

palm sunday was the culmination and fulfillment of jesus’ earthly ministry
everything thereafter was related to his final assignment — which was more spiritual then earthly — the call to go to the cross

so if palm sunday, this time of extravagant and spontaneous worship, was the completion of jesus’ ministry — let’s look at what he came to do:

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(Luke 4:18, 19 NKJV)
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

and a fuller picture of it:

(Isaiah 61:1-11 NKJV)
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, And the day of vengeance of our God;

To comfort all who mourn, To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning,

The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” And they shall rebuild the old ruins, They shall raise up the former desolations, And they shall repair the ruined cities, The desolations of many generations. Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, And the sons of the foreigner Shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers.

But you shall be named the priests of the Lord, They shall call you the servants of our God. You shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, And in their glory you shall boast.

Instead of your shame you shall have double honor, And instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion. Therefore in their land they shall possess double; Everlasting joy shall be theirs. “For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery for burnt offering; I will direct their work in truth, And will make with them an everlasting covenant. Their descendants shall be known among the Gentiles, And their offspring among the people. All who see them shall acknowledge them, That they are the posterity whom the Lord has blessed.” I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness,

As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the earth brings forth its bud, As the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth, So the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.

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prophetically our praise on this day marks the dawning of resurrection in us
the completion of jesus’ earthly ministry is marked in our lives through an outward display of praise

there are so many interesting parallels here
the garment of praise parallels the garments of praise the multitude of disciples spread on the road — garments of extravagant worship symbolizing jesus’ ascension to the ‘throne of victory’ in their hearts, further: his ascension to both emperor and triumphant king of their city

jesus has always wanted to ascend the throne of your heart — to bring you into a place of praise during your struggle

“hard times require furious dancing”
what we sometimes fail to understand — is not that we praise only during the good times,
we sometimes feel that praise is a denial of the realities we are facing
there is a false joy — a put on mask. this kind of praise is not that.

the other thing this passage tells us is that in praise, we dance with jesus, our saviour-king who came to be our shame-bearer.

often the greatest thing holding us back from praise is shame
shame is the swamp-land of the soul
shame has nothing to do with guilt — it tries to speak to identity
shame will try to tell you: ‘who do you think you are?’ and that you are never good enough

jesus’ came to break shame off us. he came to be our shame-bearer
‘instead of shame you will have double honour’

outward praise is the manifestation of a joy-filled soul
you were created to be clothed in the garments of salvation and praise
shame is an ill-fitting garment /// but praise looks good on you (psalm 33.2)

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imperial church, state religion & christendom

“The development toward an imperial Church and finally toward a state religion was almost a matter of necessity, given the constellation of late antiquity. Perhaps the Church had to take that road. It was a grandiose attempt to create a Christian ’empire’ and thus to unite faith, life, and culture…Only a careful look at the people of God in the Old Testament, their experiment with the state and the collapse of the experiment, could have preserved the Church from repeating the old mistake. But it was not possible in late antiquity or in the Middle Ages for people to read the Old Testament so analytically. Political theology was, instead, enraptured with David and Solomon. Only the history of the modern era shattered the dream…Today the experiment is truly at an end and can never be resumed.”

Gerhard Lohfink, Does God Need The Church? pp. 217–218 /// via Brian Zahnd

Robert Farrar Capon (1925-2013)

The Reformation was a time when men went blind, staggering drunk because they had discovered, in the dusty basement of late medievalism, a whole cellar full of fifteen-hundred-year-old, two-hundred proof Grace–bottle after bottle of pure distilate of Scripture, one sip of which would convince anyone that God saves us single-handedly. The word of the Gospel–after all those centuries of trying to lift yourself into heaven by worrying about the perfection of your bootstraps–suddenly turned out to be a flat announcement that the saved were home before they started…

Grace has to be drunk straight: no water, no ice, and certainly no ginger ale; neither goodness, nor badness, nor the flowers that bloom in the spring of super spirituality could be allowed to enter into it. read more here