“Hosanna, Hosanna” is what the people cried as Jesus made his entrance into Jerusalem. It looked like a parade, but to Jesus it was a funeral march. He knew that those same cries of “hosanna” would soon turn to “crucify him.” This same pattern can even happen to us today. Do you shout “Hosanna,” only to later say “crucify him,” when it’s convenient or is Jesus really Lord Almighty? When you give at Harmony, you are investing in life change and are Advancing the Kingdom! GIVE TODAY, text any amount to (859) 459-0316 to get started (or give online @ my.harmonychurch.cc/give .
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I grew up in a fairly contemporary and modern church. Our worship center looked a lot like this one. We had the lights like we do in here. Instead of pews, there were chairs. The worship songs we sang were similar to the ones we sing here. It was your standard modern sort of church. When I went off to college, though, I was fortunate enough to be exposed to multiple different ways of having church. There were people at my school from all different backgrounds. One of my roommates actually grew up with the total opposite church experience. He was episcopal. For those that are not familiar, the episcopal church is what we often consider “high church.” This is a church experience that is much more “classical” if that makes sense. It’s the stained glass, wooden pews, hymnals, and stuff. People might consider that “old school.” I was actually invited a few times to attend service with him and it was so wild seeing how they do church. I knew what hymns were and all that stuff, but there was an entirely other level To their services that they called “liturgy.” The liturgy was just the way that they had service. It was always the same. Every week they said the same prayers, said the same words before communion, and there was this call and response part. They would say stuff like, “May the Lord be with you,” and the people would respond, “and also with you.” There was what they called “pew aerobics” where they do things like stand, they may kneel for a part of service, and then stand again, they might sit for a while, but it was just constant movement.
Now I am not going to be running off and joining an Episcopal church any time soon. It was cool but it still wasn’t my thing, but there were a few things that they did that I thought were just awesome. One of them is what they call a liturgical calendar. Their entire denomination keeps the same calendar. This means that if you were traveling away from your home church, you could stop by any episcopal church on a Sunday morning and basically have the same service you’d have at home. You’d sing the same hymns, in the same order, with the same prayers, and the sermon would even be based on the same themes and Bible verses. It was crazy to me! The liturgical calendar also has it’s very own seasons. This was the coolest part for me. My roommate would share with us what season we were in. The neat thing is that the seasons come with special emphasis so it tells you how you should prepare your hearts and minds as you live through the year with Christ. For example, near Christmas time is the season of Advent so you’d focus on the coming of Christ and prepare his way in your life. He would remind us of the season and it would help me focus on different aspects of my relationship with Jesus. It was actually really helpful for me.
Even though we don’t really use it here at Harmony, I still keep one eye on the liturgical calendar so I can sort of feel how Christ moves in my life throughout the year. Right now, we’re in the season of Lent. Unlike Advent, lent is not what I would call a happy and joyous season. While Easter Sunday is always a celebration and is like a party, Jesus has to die first in order to be resurrected. That is not so fun. The entire point of lent is preparing ourselves to die with Christ on Good Friday. We focus on his death and the reason he had to die. So it’s a pretty rough season where we deny ourselves and focus on our own sinfulness and repentance. That’s what I’m hoping to do over these next two weeks. I’m wanting to help you prepare your heart for Easter but to do that we have to really get ready to die. It’s not necessarily going to be fun or joyous, that’s what Easter is for. Instead, these sermons are going to be a bit rough and convicting, but just know I’m not just trying to beat you up. God has already worked me over as I’m writing this sermon, so if you’re feeling a bit sore after this sermon, I’ve been going through the same thing all week, but it’s important because I want to fully experience what God wants me to have on Easter and to do that we have to get ready.
So we’re going to look at a story of how an entire city prepared for Easter and how they really messed it all up to use as a warning for us to not make the same mistake.
(Proof 1) – Do you treat him like a king?
We’re going to start with a story that happened right at the end of Jesus’ life on Earth. He and his disciples were approaching the town of Jerusalem. This was the capital of the Jewish world. Instead of just strolling right on into the city he decides that he needs to really make an entrance. Jesus knows that his time on earth is running out and he wants to make an important statement about who he is. Also, he needs to still fulfill a prophesy as well. He tells the disciples to go to a village and there they will find a donkey tied up with her colt. They are to bring them back to him and if anyone asks just say, “The Lord has need of them.” They go ahead and do this and brought the donkey and the colt back to Jesus. They laid their coats over the animals and Jesus sat on them. Word had spread that Jesus was entering the town, so a large crowd had gathered to see him. They began taking off their cloaks and spreading them on the road. They were also cutting down palm branches and spreading them before Jesus on the road as well. The entire time the people celebrated the entrance of Jesus and shouted “Hosanna!” which was a cry of praise. This is actually the sort of welcome that a king would receive upon entering a town. This must have been an amazing moment for the disciples. All these people are praising Jesus and treating him like the King that he is. For the disciples, it must have felt like the people finally understood. Jesus is their Lord and King! For Jesus, though, what appeared to be a parade for a king was really a funeral march. He knew what was going to happen to him. In a week’s time, he would be arrested, tried, tortured, and crucified. He would be abandoned by everyone. His own disciples will fall away from him. Even worse, these people who are shouting “Hosanna” and praising him, in just under a week would be shouting “Crucify him” instead.
It can be shocking to view it in that way. These people who seem to be affirming that Jesus is their Lord and God can so quickly turn on him and call him a criminal and call for his death. It’s like getting whiplash. How do the hearts of these people change so quickly? First, you have to understand that this isn’t really anything new for Israel or for God. They have constantly struggled to recognize God as their king. That may sound weird, because of course God is our king. There is no one higher or greater than he is. It seems like a pretty simple thing to grasp, and it is, but it’s a totally different thing to say God, or by extension, Jesus, is your king and to treat him as such. That was Israel’s problem. They did a great job at declaring God as their king with their mouths but they failed to do so with their hearts and actions. When you read the Old Testament, you can very clearly see this sort of pattern emerge among God’s people. They praise God and keep his word, but then something draws them away from God. They live apart from God and dishonor him. God sends the Israelites into exile under another country. They cry out to God and turn back to him. God saves them from exile. Then the cycle repeats over and over again. Eventually, God has enough. In Malachi, the very last book of the OT before Matthew, God addresses his priests about this. Look at Malachi 1:6
Malachi 1:6“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. But if I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is your fear of me? says the Lord of Armies to you priests, who despise my name.” Yet you ask, “How have we despised your name?”
You all play really good lip service to me. You say I am your father and your master, and yet you don’t treat me like that? You don’t fear me or respect me. I am your Lord only in word, but not in your hearts. Jesus mirrors this same sentiment later in the gospels during his ministry. Look at Luke 6:46
Luke 6:46“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and don’t do the things I say?
Jesus has just gotten done teaching some of his most important lessons in his ministry. He just finished this amazing sermon and begins to close it with this saying. Just like everything that Israel had done before, they listen to God’s word and hear it, but they always fail to follow it. So Jesus hits them with this. You call me Lord but you still don’t do the things I tell you.
This lesson is illustrated in our own lives in no better place than with those parents out there with teenagers. You know exactly how this feels, right? I work with teenagers, I have for even longer than I worked here at Harmony, so I know the frustration that Jesus is feeling here just like you do. I’m sure you’ve caught yourself saying something like, “I am your father, and you will listen to me! As long as you live under my roof… It’s my house and my rules… I pay the cell phone bill so I can…” all these things follow the same thought. I am the one who has authority over you! You have to listen to me. Well, if you’ve been there, then you know that your kids actually do not have to listen to you. They constantly push boundaries, disobey you, and disrespect you. I remember the summer after I just graduated High School. I always volunteered at this Summer camp that was put on by the denomination that I grew up in. It was a great week-long summer camp and I usually served in the tech booth. I shot and edited videos and did some other production work for the camp. It was great and I always had an awesome time doing it. Well, this year it turns out that they did not necessarily need me in the video booth. Instead, they needed camp counselors. These are the people who lead the groups of campers and are responsible for them. I had just turned 18 and since I was finally a fully functional adult, that’s not even remotely true, I was not deemed responsible enough by the camp’s insurance to care for a group of ten middle schoolers. I remember having a pretty positive outlook going into the camp that morning. I was like, “Yeah, I’m gonna be their friend and we’re going to have an amazing camp and they’re going to have a life-changing experience.” I’m going to be in their testimony one day. They’ll be like all weepy and stuff talking about how I was so lost without Jesus and then my camp counselor, Mr. Robby, showed me who Jesus was and prayed with me and I have him to thank for being where I am today.” How naïve I was. I got there that morning before the campers and went by the front office to grab my roster for my cabin. I took a look at the names and started trying to memorize them. Then the camp nurse gave me another sheet. “Uh, what’s this,” “That’s the sheet that shows all the medications that the kids need to take.” I’m pretty sure just about every kid I had except a few needed some form of Ritalin or another ADHD medicine. That should have been my first warning. I waited in the cabin and talked to the parents and campers as they were dropped off. Everything was going just great until the last parent left. The chaos began almost immediately. They saw my young beardless face and the glimmer of hope in my eyes and starting at that moment they did everything they could to try and crush my spirit. I constantly fought with them all week over taking showers, making their beds, behaving during service, and on and on. I had one kid who literally would just sneak off after breakfast and do just whatever he wanted all day and show back up for dinner. They didn’t listen to a word I said all week. It was a horrible experience for me and what it really showed was that they didn’t respect me at all. I kept saying that “I am your counselor. You have to listen to me.” But I might as well have been just another kid like them. I never volunteered as a camp counselor again.
But that should give us some idea as to how Jesus must have felt in that moment. He knew that all those people cheering for him would simply turn on him. It’s because it’s simply what we do as humans. Our rebel hearts can’t help but tear God down off his throne. How many Christians attend church on Sunday morning and sing songs about how God is so great and awesome and then not even the next day but that evening, they’re caught up looking at porn on their cell phones. How many people who claim that Jesus is their Lord turn around that Monday at work and gossip about others. They nod along and shout “amen” during the sermon but they go off and continue their affair that week. How many of those who glorify God turn around and say things that tear down the very people that bear God’s image, even posting it publicly on Facebook? How many claims God is holy and righteous, but that very week they get around their friends and the things they say would make a sailor blush? You’re really doing exactly what Jesus is saying. Why would you call me Lord but not do anything I say? Clearly, I am not your Lord, at least not in your heart. If I was you would respect me as such, you’d honor me with your actions, you’d do as I say.
(Proof 2) – Is it all Jesus’?
Hopefully, your desire is that Jesus be your Lord, but how do we do that? How can we avoid what the crowd that day did and turn on Jesus ourselves? How can we keep him as our Lord? The crowd didn’t just change their mind overnight. They started out really excited for Jesus to be in Jerusalem. Maybe he’ll heal people or perform some other crazy miracles like he’s known for. Perhaps he’ll give us a teaching about the Kingdom of Heaven or he may even bless us! Unfortunately, that’s not what happens. It starts with Jesus entering the temple. He sees all these people selling things in the temple, a place that’s supposed to be holy, so he throws them all out. Some of the people go, “Hey, I make my money by selling stuff in the temple. Who does this Jesus guy think he is?” Then he challenges the Pharisees and the other religious elite. This ruffles more feathers, “Wait a minute, I like how they teach. He messing with my traditions!” He even predicts that the temple is going to be destroyed, “What! The temple is a sacred place. What authority is he doing all this on?” Jesus continues all of this and calls religious hypocrites out on their hypocrisy, he fails to denounce the Romans who are occupying and oppressing the Israelites and teaches all these things that threaten to upend the social order of the time. This Jesus guy has gone too far. If only he just stayed in his lane then he’d been ok, but he’s going too far. Now we have to crucify him. Turns out that Jesus can be Lord, just not Lord of everything!
One of my favorite things about being a pastor is performing weddings. I love weddings. There’s a big party, lots of dancing, good food, and of course there’s the happy couple. Everything is great. Before the big party at the reception, though, you actually have to do the business of actually marrying the couple. There’s the ceremony where the officiant brings the two people and joins them together as one. Now as far as the government is concerned, that happens when the couple files all the paperwork and stuff. At that point the state considers them married. For them to be married before God, they have to make a covenant. That’s why a significant portion of a wedding ceremony is the exchanging of vows. Normally, you can use the vows supplied by the officiant. These are the good ol’ “to have and to hold, forsaking all others, richer and poorer, in sickness and health, till death do us part,” or if you’re like me and Samantha, you can write your own vows. Either way, the point of the vows is that you are giving everything you are to be joining to your spouse. Oddly enough, wedding vows don’t usually include words like ”but, except, unless,” because that would defeat the purpose. Imagine, I take you to be my wife, forsaking all others unless something better comes along, giving all I am to honor you except my words because I may still talk bad about you to my friends, to spend the rest of my days with you, except on Saturdays because Saturdays are for the boys, until death do us part, unless I get kinda tired of this whole thing before then. Those are totally inappropriate vows for a couple to have on their wedding day. That’s not what a marriage is supposed to be like.
When two people get married, they’re supposed to give everything of themselves over to the other. There’s a reason why Jesus talks about the church as his bride. We’re supposed to give everything over to him, holding nothing back because he gave everything for us. How could we justify holding anything back, and yet, that is the attitude that led the people of Jerusalem to go from Hosannah to Crucify him. They were so excited for Jesus to come to their town. But then he starts kicking money lenders out of the temple, he battles with the religious elite, says he’s not here to remove the Romans, changing all our traditions, and he’s causing all these problems. When I said you were Lord, but I didn’t mean you were Lord over everything! Jesus says I’m either Lord of all or not at all Lord.
Give it all to Jesus
Jesus says the same thing to us today and we have the same response. We decide to follow Jesus, but we try to do it on our own terms. We say, Jesus, you’re Lord. So Jesus says, “I want your time,” and we say, “Yes, Jesus. You are my Lord, I’ll give you my time. I’ll pray and study the Bible and go to church on Sunday mornings.” “I want you to work for me.” “Ok, Jesus. I’ll serve at my church and I’ll even go on a missions trip if that’s what you want.” “I want your family.” “Yes, Jesus, I’ll raise my kids how you say and I’ll treat my spouse how you say I should.” “I want your relationships.” “Ok, Jesus, I’ll try to love my enemies and show my friends who you are.” “I want your money.” “Crucify him!” We all have a limit. We all struggle with giving everything over to Jesus. For you it may not be money, maybe you have no problem giving and being generous, but you have a real hard time behaving like a follower of Christ when you’re around your friends at work. You struggle to trust God with your future and constantly worry about tomorrow. You know Jesus is calling you to go to the next step and serve in the church somewhere, but you’ve been resisting because that means you’ll have to show up earlier or stay later on Sunday. Maybe for you, it’s simply responding to Jesus’ call at all. You’ve been checking out this whole Christianity thing and you’re not sure. Now’s the time to respond to Jesus’ call. The question he asks all of us today is “am I your Lord?” Is Jesus really your Lord, or are you just saying that? Have you given everything to him or are you still trying to hold back? See, Jesus gave everything he had to us when he died on the cross for us, so He demands that we give everything we are to him in return. He won‘t play second to anything else. He won’t settle for anything less than 100%. Either we fall down at his feet and declare, “You are Lord,” and give him everything we have, or we hold back and shout, ”crucify him.” He’s either Lord of all or not at all Lord, there is no middle ground. Today is the day to give it all to him. In a few moments, you’ll have an opportunity to remember how Jesus gave everything for us when we take communion. You can go to those tables and as you take communion remember how he gave it all for us and think about if there’s anything you still haven’t given to him. If you need help or want to pray with someone, we’ll have some people up here you can pray with. How’s the time to either declare that Jesus is Lord or Crucify him.