Friday, February 19, 2010

Turning His Face Toward Jerusalem

Sermon at Smith Chapel, Feb 14, 2010. Beginning of our Lenten sermon series. I'm indebted to Adam Hamilton for the theme of the series, taking a day of Christ's final week for each Sunday in Lent. Follow the series. Prepare yourselves for Holy Week.

(Luke 9:51-52 NIV)

A. Introduction
Jesus resolutely turned his face toward Jerusalem. Today we begin our Lenten sermon series. A series that will prepare us for Holy week. Jesus, today, begins that preparation for us. The Bible says, “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven.” Jesus knew full well what awaited him in Jerusalem, yet he resolutely set his face there. Jesus had three months to live, but he knew he had work to do. We have work to do before he arrives six weeks from now.
Today we’re going to talk about Jesus’ journey from Galilee, where he had spent most of his time in ministry, from Galilee to Jericho, where he had arrived a day or two before Palm Sunday. Today we begin to follow Jesus. Then beginning next Sunday, we are going to take each day of Holy week in turn, next Sunday, Palm Sunday, the following Sunday, Holy Monday, the third Sunday, Holy Tuesday, and so on, until we arrive at the Good Friday, the crucifixion of Christ on the Passion Sunday of Holy Week.

This is my purpose. Holy Week is a special week. It is unlike any other week in the Christian calendar. It is a week in which Christians all over the world follow in the footsteps of Jesus. All of us. We are with Jesus as arrives in Jerusalem and palm branches are laid at his feet. We are with him as he goes to the Temple and overturns the money changers, We go to the Mount of Olives to pray with him. We are with him when he teaches. We are with him when he washes the disciple’s feet and institutes the Last Supper. And we follow him to the cross and his body to the grave.

This year, by taking each day of Holy Week in turn, we prepare ourselves, we are reminded of Jesus’ steps so that when Holy Week arrives, we may better follow him, we may better learn from him, we may better come to realize from him, what he has done for us. We may better learn of the grace of God, poured out for us and for many for the forgiveness of sins and be thankful.

B. Body
So that’s where we’re going. Today, Jesus resolutely turns his face toward Jerusalem. This trip could have taken a week, we believe it took somewhere between three and six months. Jesus had things to do during this journey. He was not only turning his face toward Jerusalem, he was about to turn the world upside down. In Luke, this journey takes from chapter 9 to 19, over one third of his book. Jesus had things to do and things to teach us during this journey. And that’s the wonderful thing about these passages: we are able to not only witness his teaching, but be witnesses to his doing, his example, during this journey.

It’s in these passages that he teaches us about the kingdom of God, he tells us about the Good Samaritan, he tells parables that teach us the nature of God like the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the Prodigal Son. These are the stories we hear with our ears.

But Jesus also does. He enters Samaria and breaks down old hatreds, he invites women to become his disciples and defeats old cultural barriers, he heals lepers, the outcasts, those thought to be the dregs of society, and he eats with sinners. That’s what Jesus does. That’s what he shows us. These are the things that we witness with our eyes when we follow Jesus.
Now, we said that Jesus would be teaching us during this journey about the Kingdom of God. I have three questions that I want us to wrestle with each week during this series:
One, What kind of King is this?
Two, What kind of kingdom is this?
Three, What does he expect of us, his subjects?
King, kingdom, subjects; Jesus, kingdom, disciples; Jesus, our world, us.

Some brief background on Jesus’ world, the world in Jesus’ day.
First the Samaritans. The Jews viewed them as heretics. There were centuries of hatred and animosity between them. The Jews and the Samaritans truly hated one another. Think of the Palestinians and the Jews today. Why would anyone even talk to those people? We need to build walls. We need to be separate. Pure hatred.

Second, women, third class citizens. Property, a decent man never talked to a woman not his wife or mother or sister. You just didn’t associate with them outside the house. Even the synagogues were split with men on one side and women on the other.

Third, lepers, lame outcasts. They had sinned or so it was thought. They had brought whatever they had on themselves. Outcasts, cast them outside the village, outside of society. You never touched them, it would make you unclean. Think of it, people deprived of human touch.

Four, tax collectors. Jews that were representatives of Caesar, Rome, taxes collected to support the oppressive Army. And not only that, the tax collectors extracted more to enrich themselves. They were as despised as the Roman Army itself, maybe even more because they were betrayers.

This was Jesus’ world, one of separation, segregation, and animosity.

Jesus was probably right on the border of Galilee and Samaria, when “a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, ‘Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘What is written in the law? How do you read?’ The lawyer said, ‘Your shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.’ Jesus said to him. ‘You have answered rightly, do this and you will live.’But he, the lawyer, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ Jesus replied, ‘A man was going from Jerusalem to Jericho when he fell among thieves who stripped him and beat him and left him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion, and he went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. The he set him on his own beast and took him to he inn and took care of him. The next morning, he took out two denari and gave them to the innkeeper saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I return.’ Which of these three proved neighbor to the man who fell among thieves?’ He said, ‘The one who showed mercy on him.’ Jesus said, ‘Go, and do likewise.’ (Luke 10:25-37 RSV)

Ask yourselves, what kind of King is this?
What kind of kingdom is he ushering in?
What does he expect of his subjects?

Jesus not only teaches but he does. In the area between Galilee and Samaria, Jesus encounters 10 lepers, outcasts, Jews and Samaritans, and what does he do? He heals them, and in so doing draws them back into the mainstream of society, allowing them to be touched by others once again. What do you suppose he expects of us?

Then Jesus tells another story, (Luke 18:10-14) “Two men when up to the Temple to pray, a Pharisee and a tax collector. The Pharisee standing by himself, was praying thus, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give a tenth of all my income.” But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” I tell you (Jesus said), this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exult themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be justified.”
What kind of King is this?
And who will be in his kingdom?

But then there was the Jesus who does. (Luke 19: 1-10) He entered Jericho and was passing through it. 2 A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. 5 When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. 7 All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” 8 Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” 9 Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”Jesus, the King who does, who seeks and saves, the king who does.

Finally, between Jericho and Jerusalem is Bethany, the home of Mary and Martha. Mary sits at the feet of Jesus, as one of his disciples. You remember the story. Martha was in the kitchen, too busy. I’m sure one day she realized, “the king of the universe was in my front room and I stayed in the kitchen.” But Mary was a disciple. We know too that Jesus welcomed other women as his disciples. It was Mary Magdalene who first visited the empty tomb, who first encountered Jesus in the garden. There was the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. The woman who anointed Jesus with the costly nard. And others. Who is this King and what kind of Kingdom is he calling us to?

C. Close
Jesus is preparing a nation, Israel for Holy Week. In this series, I would hope that we would be preparing ourselves once again, too.

What can we learn from the journey of this King from Galilee to Jericho?
Who are the Samaritans in our lives? Our polar opposites politically? Are they our Samaritans? People of other religions or races or sexual orientation. Are they the ones? The rich, the poor, the lame, those we call lazy? Are they the ones?
Who will be in Christ’s kingdom? Will there be people there who will surprise us? Will they be surprised to see us there? How accepting are we?
Who might we be called to heal?

What is it we are to learn from Jesus this Lenten season?
Will we walk with him? We learn from him by following him, by being his disciples in this Lenten journey. So may it be with all of us. Amen.

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