Destination Phillipians 2: 1-12; Luke 19:28-44

Phillipians 2 Christ encourages you, and his love comforts you. God’s Spirit unites you, and you are concerned for others. 2 Now make me completely happy! Live in harmony by showing love for each other. Be united in what you think, as if you were only one person. 3 Don’t be jealous or proud, but be humble and consider others more important than yourselves. 4 Care about them as much as you care about yourselves 5 and think the same way that Christ Jesus thought:

6  Christ was truly God.
But he did not try to remain
    equal with God.

7  Instead he gave up everything
    and became a slave,
when he became
    like one of us.

8  Christ was humble.
He obeyed God
and even died
    on a cross.

9  Then God gave Christ
    the highest place
and honored his name
    above all others.

10  So at the name of Jesus
    everyone will bow down,
those in heaven, on earth,
    and under the earth.

11  And to the glory
    of God the Father
everyone will openly agree,
    “Jesus Christ is Lord!”

12 My dear friends, you always obeyed when I was with you. Now that I am away, you should obey even more. So work with fear and trembling to discover what it really means to be saved. 13 God is working in you to make you willing and able to obey him.

Luke 19: 28 After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.

29 When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, 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. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” 32 So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 They said, “The Lord needs it.” 

35 Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36 As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. 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, 38 saying,

“Blessed is the king
    who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
    and glory in the highest heaven!”

39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” 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.”

+++ 

What is the difference between a parade and a procession?  That is the first thing we need to figure out when we try to reconstruct Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem.

A parade is organized, planned, scheduled.  A procession can be planned and scheduled.   

So what is the difference?  As the director of DeWitt’s Fourth of July parade, I can tell you that a parade is about showing off and celebrating. A procession is about getting from one place to another.

Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem was not scheduled. It was not organized.  Jesus was not showing off.  If he had been, he’d have found something besides a donkey to ride into town.  A chariot would have been the choice of some of his contemporaries. In fact, there was a procession entering from the opposite side of town, at the same time, a procession of Roman soldiers and dignitaries.  People watching that were getting a bigger bang for their buck with all the imposing chariots and the beautiful horses draped in metal and leather.  And the soldiers themselves would have been dressed uniformly, much better than Jesus and his followers.  

So, if a procession has a beginning point and ending point, what were those points for Jesus.  Exactly when did this procession start?  On a morning a few days before Jesus execution? Or did it start earlier?

I propose that it started at Creation.  Jesus, as part of the Trinity, as God the Son, was present at Creation.  Jesus was present when sin came into the world.  The minute sin became an option for humans, Jesus was on a mission.  God so loved the world that God gave us Jesus.  So that procession began before time. It continued, through eons, through the years of God’s people turning to God, turning from God, returning, rejecting, forgetting, returning.  

And when the time was right, or when we humans were in so much hurt and chaos and misery, when we humans were so lost and careless and a danger to ourselves, Jesus arrived, not in a parade with angels riding on silver-white horses, but in the form of a tiny baby.  He did not arrive int the middle of a governmental body but in the middle of a family, just like you and I did. 

We are in a procession, not a parade. We do not show off.  We follow.

We are able to follow because our sins have been erased.  There is no barrier to our participation except our own sinful will. Jesus has lifted that barrier so that we can love like Jesus loves.

 2 Christ encourages you, and his love comforts you. God’s Spirit unites you, and you are concerned for others. Now make me completely happy! Live in harmony by showing love for each other.  

Because we are freed from sin, we are freed to love each other. We are freed to be a part of the procession of Jesus Christ our Savior. 

Live in harmony!  What a beautiful concept!  Harmony does not just happen.  Living in harmony has to be intentional.  

Harmony is something we long for.  How do I know?  Because everyone I know complains about the lack of harmony.    

Our inability to reconcile is a symptom of our fear. It is a symptom of the very thing against which Paul warns us.  Don’t be jealous or proud. Jealousy makes us unstable; when we are unstable, we are afraid of losing our balance, our possessions, our safety.  Pride makes us a threat to the neighbor who is jealous.

But be humble and consider others more important than yourselves. True humility is measured, not by low self-evaluation, but by active concern for others.

This does not mean that you should think less of yourself.  Paul does not mean that you lower your self-esteem. You are encouraged, instead, to raise the esteem of your neighbor in your own eyes.

  Paul admonishes us to always see everyone as deserving of our esteem, not because of their talents or their social connections or their personalities, but because they are our brothers and sisters in Christ.

In our broken world, we often learn the hard way who is important and who is not.  In Jesus’ world, in the world God created, everyone is important. Is this pandemic teaching us the lesson Paul was trying to teach to the Phillipians?

Christ was truly God.
But he did not try to remain
    equal with God.
Instead he gave up everything
    and became a slave,
when he became
    like one of us.

He became like one of us.  So let us, as we continue this procession, become like Him. Through His death and resurrection, we are freed to follow Him with humility, with joy, with anticipation. We are released from jealousy and pride to care for each other, for all the others.

I still stumble into sin—I can wrap myself in the chains of disapproval and judgement at the mere mention of an event or a person. But Jesus takes care of that. Jesus forgives me.  Jesus pins a note to my back—”this one is forgiven”—and lets me join the procession once more.

So, dear friends, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as we process through Holy Week, as we look forward to a different way to celebrate Easter, let us walk in humility, not because we are ashamed, not because we want to show off our Jesus-side, not because we want to hide, but because we are walking with Jesus, not admiring Him from afar, but walking right next to him, emulating what he does.  

As you walk, invite the bystanders, the onlookers to join in the procession 

This is our destination on this Palm Sunday, during this Holy Week, on every Sunday, on every day God has given us. We are headed toward the day when we will all bow down, with all the saints, declaring “Jesus Christ is Lord!” Amen.

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