Sermon: Jesus’ Parade for All

April 14, 2019
Passion/Palm Sunday (Sixth Sunday in Lent)

Luke 19:28-40
RUMC, Pastor SeokCheol Shin

Jesus’ Parade for All

Palm Sunday
“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” (v. 38) Today all Christians celebrate Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem and into our lives, which we call “Palm Sunday.” But we don’t just watch. Ever since we accepted Jesus as our Lord, we have wanted to follow him. We want to walk with him. We want to join in his parade.

What kind of parade is it? It’s not of a fun, pretty, or patriotic parade like our July 4th parade with people shouting, laughing and singing, and tossing candies to little children. Jesus’ parade on that day caused a trouble to himself and division to the crowds. Only a few days after this parade, Jesus was arrested, convicted, and executed by the Roman and Jewish authorities. So what kind of parade is it? Are we willing to join in his parade?

Refusing to Take One Side
Riding on a humble donkey, Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and people welcomed him with the joyful shouts of Hosanna! They greeted him as their king. They walked with him. They waved and threw palm branches in his path, expecting Jesus would bring them a new era. They thought that he would be their new leader and sit on the throne of Israel. They thought that this man of God with his great powers was an answer to defeat the Romans and lead them out of their bondages. They thought he was on their side.

But to their great discouragement, that was not why Jesus had come. They wanted Jesus to be on their side, but soon they discovered that he came to be on the side of everyone – even on the side of their enemies! “Jesus, you can’t do that in this world. You have to choose which side you want to support, and we want you to be on our side. We don’t want you to be on their side.” But Jesus refused to be on their side and fight against the Romans. They were very disappointed.

Iscariot Judas believed Jesus would be their military commander to lead the holy war. As a member of the Zealots, Judas wanted to fight against the Romans; he probably had many courageous comrades hiding all over Jerusalem, just waiting for Jesus to command his troops to attack. But apparently Jesus had no intention of leading the Zealots. Later on, Judas betrayed Jesus and handed him over to the Jewish hands for thirty silver coins (Mt. 26:14-16).

Peter, James and John wanted a successful outcome to this movement they had joined. They wanted him to lead them in overthrowing the Roman oppressors and restoring David’s throne. But instead of leading them toward the glorious kingdom of Israel, he led them into a dark garden of Gethsemane only to pray. He was sweating in prayer all the night, but the disciples were so bored and tired that they could hardly keep their eyes open. In the end, they all ran away when Jesus was arrested by their enemies.

There were crowds ready to proclaim Jesus as King, ready to follow his lead, and even ready to fight for his sake, but he did not lead! He just stood there when their enemies came to arrest him with swords and clubs. They were disappointed with him that they shouted when Jesus was tried, “Crucify him, crucify him.”

Even Pontius Pilate was also ready, even eager, to save him out of his trouble. But strangely, Jesus rejected Pilate’s favor and even allowed him to crucify him according to the Jewish leaders’ plot. How could you help someone who wouldn’t help himself?

People might wonder why he didn’t use his great powers. Why would he cast away demons, calm down storms, and bring the dead people back to life if he wasn’t going to use his power to help himself? Was he playing them for suckers? He shouldn’t give us certain hope if he was going to let us down like that. Looking at pathetic Jesus on the cross, the crowds mocked him, “He saved others but he can’t save himself” (Mt. 27:41), and the Roman soldiers also mocked him, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself” (Lk. 23:37). But Jesus was only silent.

What is Jesus’ problem here? Why did he choose to be alone as he rejected his people’s welcome, his disciples’ approval, and even Pilate’s help? Why did he give up a palm-carpeted passageway leading to a royal throne, instead choosing a desolate path to a cross? Why? It is because he refused to be on a side of one or the other but tried to be on the side of everyone.

Jesus knew why God sent him to the world. He knew what mission he had to carry on. He came to break down the walls of hatred that humanity had built against each other, and he came to unite people into a fellowship of love, love with God and love with one another. For this great mission, he had to choose the way where he would lay down his life for all humanity. But people just said, “You can’t get along in this world if you won’t choose sides. If you are for everybody, you end up with nobody.”

The Savior of All
So what kind of parade is it? It is a parade that leads us to serve others; it is a parade that brings people to forgiveness and reconciliation with one another; it is a parade that celebrates the love of God who is the Father of all creation. Still, we may turn away because we want our own success and victory but don’t want to get along with our enemies (or someone who doesn’t follow us or belong with us). But it was, and it is and, it will be the Father’s will that He doesn’t want to lose any one of us.

Where are we in this Palm/Passion story? On this Palm Sunday, we are happy to welcome Jesus into our lives because we believe he is on our side. But throughout this Passion story, we learn that he is not going to remain on our side but move on to look after the lost, serve many others, and bring them to God’s love.

Are we also willing to follow him to wash other’s feet? Are we willing to follow him to Gethsemane to pray, not for our own will, but for God’s will? Are we willing to follow him to lay down our lives and pray for the forgiveness of our enemies? As we enter in Holy Week, let us ponder how much we are willing to join in Jesus’ parade that we can also carry on God’s abundant love for every human being.” Amen.

Sermon: Zacchaeus Was a Wee Little Man

Zacchaeus Was a Wee Little Man
Luke 19:1-10
30 October 2016

On Sunday, February 5, 2005, the New England Patriots defeated the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl 42. Three days later there was a championship parade in downtown Boston.  I got permission for my son, fifth grader Benjamin, to miss school for the day.  We drove up to Quincy, MA and took the MBTA to Park Street in Boston.  When we got there, there was a wall of humanity all crammed along the parade route, and we couldn’t see over the heads or the backs of most of the people.  Fortunately we were able to climb a snow bank and onto a small cement platform that housed a gigantic light pole.  We held on to the metal pole, and we were able see over all the people.  We had a great view of the Patriots players on the duck boats as they passed by.  It was uncomfortable, but it was worth it.

Today’s gospel story was similar to our experience. It was a parade story.  The dwarf Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus, but could not because there were too many people in the way.  So he climbed a sycamore tree and after that his life was never the same.

My text is Luke 19:1-10: 19
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.”
This is the Word of the Lord.

The main character in our gospel lesson is Zacchaeus. As chief tax collector in the region, Zacchaeus was the richest man in town.  He amassed his wealth by employing other men to do his dirty work.  He hired them because they knew the language and the customs of the people; they knew all the tricks that the people would use in not paying their taxes.  Picture this:  Whenever there was a major religious holiday, tens of thousands of people would make their way through Jericho to go to the temple.  Zacchaeus and his men waited at the toll booths on the way to temple, and they were not afraid to use strong-armed tactics.  The people had no choice but to pay the outrageous amounts of money, most of which went into Zacchaeus’ pockets.  Because of these abusive tactics, Zacchaeus was looked upon as a thief and conman, a first rate scoundrel, a political untouchable, a skunk, and the worst of the worst type of sinner.

Back in those days, as Jesus traveled through Jericho, he was treated as a superstar. Thousands wanted to see and touch him.  And since Zacchaeus was short of stature, he had no choice but to climb the sycamore tree.  The question that I would like us to ponder is this: Why did Zacchaeus want to see our Lord?

Was it curiosity? Was it spiritual hunger?  Did he sense there was something missing from his life and didn’t know what it was?  Did Zacchaeus know there was a void in his heart and had a sneaky suspicion that Jesus had the answers?

Even today, if people are honest, they will have to admit that there is more to life than just a career, a family, sports, a vacation or a good retirement package, but often times they just don’t know what it is.

Once there was a man named Juan Chavez who was on Mexico’s Most Wanted List. And for many years, Chavez seemed to be beyond the reach of the law.  Every effort to catch him proved unsuccessful.  Then one day, without warning, he showed up at a Satillo, Mexican courthouse and announced, “I am Juan Chavez.”  The presiding judge was aghast.  The name was only too familiar to him.  The judge asked, “Who brought you in?”  Chavez held up a Bible and said, “This book brought me in to pay my debt to society.”  He then explained, “When I got back from one of my raids, I found this book among the loot.  At the time, I was hiding in a cave and had nothing to do.  So I began to read it.  I couldn’t get away from it.  The Bible has changed my life.”  Juan Chavez was now a different person.  Once a hardened criminal, he had found the peace and fulfillment that only Christ could give, similar to what happened to Zacchaeus.

All of us have this God-given need for spiritual fulfillment. We don’t have to be a hardened criminal or hit rock bottom, but if we are open, our spiritual void can be met through a personal relationship with the Lord.

In Luke19:10, Jesus said. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost.”

Jesus came for Zacchaeus, He came for Juan Chavez, and he came for you and me. Jesus is still on a search and save mission today; He seeks out those who look for spiritual fulfillment.  When the opportunity comes our way, we need to respond; we need to make our own profession of faith.  When we have the Lord in our life, He provides this key to our happiness.

Along these lines, there was a Japanese criminal named Tockichi Ishii. Ishii was a dangerous man; his long career of crime included murder.  Eventually he was captured by Japanese police, tried, convicted, and placed on death row.  The turning point in his life occurred when two Canadian Christian ladies came to visit this notorious prisoner.  Ishii was so mean, he would not even speak to them, but just glared and made faces like that of a wild beast.  Before the ladies left, they gave him a Bible with faint hope that he might read it.  But read it he did.  It was the story of Christ’s crucifixion that resonated with Ishii, and he gave his heart over to the Lord.  When it was time for him to die, the commandant came to bring him to the gallows.  But to the commandant’s surprise, he saw someone who was at peace with himself.  Ishii had a nice smile and countenance that was nothing like a hardened criminal.

Again, the reason for this transformation was that Tockichi Ishii had found the Lord. He found the same spiritual fulfillment that Zacchaeus had experienced.

Verse 8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said, “Here Lord. Here and now I give half my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody, I will pay back four times the amount.” 

We cannot help but notice, that in this story, Zacchaeus was a new man. He was transformed from greedy to generous, from selfish to selfless, from thievery and extortion to a thankful heart.  Jesus didn’t just come into Zacchaeus house, but he entered his heart and that is what changed him.

For Zacchaeus, it was a drastic change, not only did he pay back what he stole, but gave an additional 400%. On top of that, he gave ½ of his goods to the poor.  That is a huge change in financial generosity.

When you think about it, no one is ever going to be changed into a thankful and generous person, unless Christ gets into his or her heart. This has happened to many of us.  It is Christ’s presence that makes the difference.

It is Christ’s presence that makes all the difference in the world. It made a difference to Zacchaeus, Juan Chavez, Tockichi Ishii and hopefully you.

Let me close. There is a well-known legend that bears repeating.  We are told that the little dwarf Zacchaeus lived in Jericho to a ripe old age.  Every morning at sunrise he would go out for a walk, and when he returned he always beamed with joy as he began his day’s work.  His wife had become curious to learn his secret and one day followed him.  Zacchaeus went to the old sycamore tree that he climbed when Jesus first saw him.  He took a pail and proceeded to pour water on its roots.  Then he pulled out the weeds.  When he was finished with that task, he folded his hands, stood reverently, and said, “Thank you Lord.  Thank you.”  And smiling Zacchaeus went about his tasks for the day.

I don’t know if that legend is true or not. But it sounds about right.  Zacchaeus had a lot to be grateful for.  And his salvation experience in or on or next to that sycamore tree forever changed his life.

You may not yet know the Savior, but you too can meet him. Your relationship can be just as real and vibrant as it was for Zacchaeus.  My prayer for you is if you are looking for the satisfaction and spiritual fulfillment that Christ provides, that you may find it.