Palm Sunday (B)
March 25, 2018
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text that I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the Gospel, which was read a few minutes ago.
In the last several months, there have been scandalous reports coming out of Hollywood. Actors and directors who have long been liked by the public are being revealed as manipulators and predators. I don’t care overly much, and maybe you don’t either, but the recent revelations have shaken the perceptions of many. People assume if a celebrity is friendly and funny in the movies he must be friendly and funny in real life. Off the screen the celebrity may be completely different, but the fans have made them who they want them to be. Not only does this mentality affect those following Hollywood, it also happens with Jesus. People make Jesus into the person they want Him to be, the question is though, which Jesus do they wish to see, which Jesus do you wish to see?
One kind of Jesus that people believe in is the Cheerleader Jesus. This Jesus just wants them to be happy. He doesn’t really care what they do, and He supports them no matter what decisions they make. They imagine this Jesus is always cheering them on from the sidelines applauding their lifestyle choices, financial decisions, moral decisions, what have you. They do what they want, knowing that the Cheerleader would never boo or criticize them.
The problem with this Jesus is that He’s not the one in the Bible. The real Jesus had no qualms about telling people what they were doing was wrong. He called the religious leaders out for their hypocrisy and he told the adulterous woman to “Go and sin no more”. Not exactly affirming, is He? Jesus is supportive when you take up your cross and follow Him. He does cheer you on when you leave behind your sin and focus on Him. And He absolutely does care about what you do while you’re in this life.
Another Jesus people like is the One of Many Jesus. This Jesus loves everyone so one day He’s going to bring everyone to Heaven. This Jesus didn’t mean it when He mentioned Hell because there’s no Hell and no such thing as being damned. A loving Jesus would never send someone to a place of eternal agony, right? Everyone loves Jesus, they just do so in their own ways and in their own religions, and this makes Jesus happy.
I don’t know where they find this Jesus, but He’s certainly not the one found in Scripture. The Jesus in the Bible says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” This Jesus inspired Paul to write, “There is no other name under Heaven by which we must be saved.” Does this sound like non-Christians are going to Heaven? Not really. And we remember that Jesus said, “Fear [God] who has the authority to cast into Hell”! There is only one way to Heaven, and that’s through Jesus Christ. Those without faith are lost.
The next Jesus is the Good Teacher Jesus. People like this Jesus because He said helpful things like “Love your neighbor” and “Don’t judge.” When the Good Teacher Jesus says things people disagree with, they just ignore Him. That part of Jesus’ teaching is optional because it’s not what they want to hear. Peter is a great example of this. He loved Jesus the teacher and miracle worker, but when Jesus said He had to die, Peter chastised Him. This wasn’t the kind of Jesus Peter wanted.
Do you know what happened after this? Jesus called Peter Satan because he wasn’t focused on the real Jesus, only the earthly Jesus. Jesus did say great things that we can take to heart. His words though are not teachings about life, they’re teaching about Him. He has the words of eternal life and the entirety of His Word is critical, not just the parts where people hear want they want to hear.
Another Jesus people like is the Lawgiver Jesus. This Jesus tells you how to live if you want to get to Heaven. Do this, Do that. All you must do is love your neighbor as yourself, do your best to never sin, and you’ll be good. This Jesus is popular because it’s all about what people can do to be saved. If you do you’re best, you’re set. This Jesus is a bad one to like because it takes the focus off what Jesus has done for us. We can’t rely on ourselves and our own behavior to go to Heaven. We need the Jesus who kept the Law for us so we’re not damned when we break His Law. We need the Jesus who was lifted up on the cross for our failures to keep the Law. We need Him because we can’t get there on our own.
The Social Justice Warrior Jesus wants everything to be fair in this world. This Jesus is popular because He doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Jesus may have said that marriage is between one man and one woman, but He’s changed His mind. This Jesus would never say anything that people might find offensive. There are no safe spaces necessary when Jesus talks. The Social Justice Warrior Jesus wants you to change your perspectives on abortion, same sex marriage, drug use, etc. because He doesn’t want any emotionally attacked.
This doesn’t sound like the Jesus of the Bible. God never changes. He doesn’t lie. We can always trust His Word. He doesn’t change the rules part way through the game, and this is comforting to us. When Jesus says that those who repent of their sins and call on Him will be saved, we’re saved. When Jesus says those who love their sin and don’t repent are not going to enter Heaven, they’re not going to enter Heaven. This is offensive to many, maybe even to you. But listen to His words, not your feelings. Listen to the voice of God not the voices around you. The real Jesus isn’t about changing His Word, He’s about changing us, for when we’re changed, we’re forgiven and we’re transformed into His people.
The most common Jesus is the Special Friend Jesus. This is the Jesus people like because He’s always there when they need Him. Friends don’t need to talk every day and some friends go months without talking, but when they need their friend, He comes running. Special Friend Jesus is always at the other end of the line if they want to talk to Him, but if they don’t need anything, they don’t have anything to do with Him. This Jesus is happy when they post cute little things on Facebook about Him. The Special Friend Jesus though isn’t a friend because He’s not loved. To have the Special Friend Jesus means you don’t have to sacrifice anything for Him because a real friend won’t ask for anything like this. This Jesus isn’t loved because they won’t do anything for Jesus, as long as He’s there for them, they’re happy. But Jesus says, “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot…Because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” Jesus doesn’t want to be our friend, He wants to be our God. And He doesn’t want us to be His friends, He wants us to be disciples.
Everything up to this point is intended to lead you to two realizations. Which Jesus do you wish to see and which Jesus He wants you to meet. The real Jesus calls for us to forsake our fake Christs. The real Jesus draws people to Himself through His death. The real Jesus did what His Father desired so that salvation and forgiveness would be given out. This is why He came! He says, “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.” He’s not about moral teachings, making you feel better, or not offending you. Jesus is about saving you from Hell so that you would follow Him wherever He leads. As He says, “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also.”
The Real Jesus died for you as He was lifted up on the cross. The Real Jesus emerged from the tomb in all His awesome power which showed that the ruler of this world, Satan, has lost. The Real Jesus gives you faith that serves as a light to your feet and lamp to your path. The Real Jesus opens your eyes so that you see the Son of God. Not a teacher or a friend or cheerleader, but the almighty God. The Real Jesus calls you to follow Him and to hate your life. Not the life He has given you, but hate the sin you hold on to, hate the fake Jesuses you prefer, and hate your failures to see Jesus as He really is.
Jesus says things we don’t like. He says things that we don’t want to hear. But He’s the Son of God and we take everything He says as the unerring Word of God. We’re not following a moral Jesus or a friendly Jesus, we’re following the Crucified Jesus who gave up all things for us and who removed Satan’s power. This is the Jesus who we want to see because He’s the Jesus that none of the fake Jesuses will ever be – our Lord and our Savior.
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen