Why Are You Doing This?

If anyone says to you, "Why are you doing this?" how will you answer? Doing what? You know what! Worshipping. Believing. Following Jesus. Leading the way for others, sometimes. The week before he dies, Jesus sends two of his friends into Jerusalem. "Fetch me a donkey." Not just any one. A particular one. He's arranged it in advance. He knows full well; there will be questions. Christ supplies his own with ready answers. Well, this is Palm Sunday. And we do gather, complete with palm. Oh, we won't be copping anybody's donkey. But those folks we passed on the ball fields still wanna know. And those headed for the Seven Eleven and Starbucks. Our kids wanna know. Classmates wanna know. We… wanna know. Why Jesus… especially this week… when the passion of the parade turns south to the crisis at the cross. Why worship, believe, follow, lead? How you answer will make all the difference in your week this week, in your life and in your eternity.

We do, because we are friends of Jesus. Disciples even! Truthfully, I'm not just sure how many Bible translations I own. I just know I love them all, for different reasons. 'Most every one says Jesus sent two disciples into Jerusalem to claim that donkey for his Palm Sunday ride. (Actually, Mark's exact words are he sent two persons-with-authority, to get the job done.) But as for me, I like the translation that says Christ sent two friends to get him a ride. Why did they do what they did way back then? They did it because they were friends of Jesus. Isn't that where the deeper relationship as disciples begins? In friendship? Mutual affection, a desire to please and serve, a trustful understanding of each other? I think so. Palm Sunday's ride begins with an act of friendship to Jesus. If somebody asks you today, why you do what you do in your faith-life, in your everyday life, are you ready to answer, "Because I am a friend to Jesus?" May it be so! 'See, this Palm Sunday depends on it, as surely as the first. God in Christ is counting on us!

"Greater love has no one than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." That's what Jesus says. And that's what Jesus starts out to do, this very day. Jesus goes on to describe the holy bond we share with him. "You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant doesn't know what his master's doing; but I've called you friends, because all that I've heard from my Father I've made known to you. You didn't choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, fruit that lasts…. (Jn. 15: 14-16) Before you get in line along the parade route today, before you grab some palm to wave, I invite, I urge you to decide to be a friend to Jesus.

Maybe then, you and I will go a little farther, choosing and chosen to be his disciples. Disciples are more than just followers. They're folks who want to be like the Master. 'Who want to love like he loves. 'Know God like he knows God. 'Serve as he serves. 'Even risk as he risks because they trust Heaven like the Master trusts Heaven. Why, folks like this get to go to town and get Jesus a ride into the Holy City. Are you ready to go to town for Jesus? Palm Sunday asks us that question. 'Asks, every time we read the story of those who prepare the way for Christ to saddle up. 'Asks every time, for the sake of saving us from sin and sorrow. And all the world with us.

Why do what we do? Because the Lord has need! Jesus' saving work is so crucial, nothing is left to chance. He appears to have worked out this ride long before. Now, all he needs is a couple of courageous souls, willing to go ahead of him. 'Willing to go and give the password at the appointed time and place. And just so there's no misunderstanding between them, and no confusion when the question comes, "Why are you doing this?" Jesus gives them and gives us the answer! "Because the Lord has need." Just say that, and those who believe will know just what to do.

So, what do you figure Jesus needs today? Just like that first Palm Sunday, Christ riding to the cross needs our praise. I love it. The authorities bid Jesus to rebuke his disciples and tame them. He replies, "If I told them to cool it, even the rocks would ring out with rejoicing!" He is listening today. Listening for you. Wanna know what love is? Ask your kids or grands. When they asked Cindy, age 8 about love, she said, "During my piano recital, I was on a stage and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling. He was the only one doing that. I wasn't scared anymore." That's love. That's the kind of praise we need today. The kind that says, "Go ahead. We're with you. No matter what." It's just the kind of perfect love that casts out all fear.

"The Lord has need of it." That's the Palm Sunday password. I don't think Jesus needs a donkey today. But what he does need from us is trust. Complete trust. "Lean on me," trust. "Lean on me when you're not strong, and I'll be your friend. I'll help you carry on," trust. "If there's a load you have to bear that you can't carry. I'm right up the road, I'll share your load if you just call me," trust. (Bill Withers) Every year we hoist up our hosannas on Palm Sunday. It's like they're mere hoorays from fair weather fans at Oriole Park on opening Day. They are not. The word is a plea for help. It is a placement of trust. It means, "Save now, save us now." It is drawn from Psalm 118, the heart-felt appeal of those who cast their lot entirely on the One who is coming. They trust him to lift them from the terrors of the day into the promises of God for tomorrow. Mark couples this word with the image from the prophet Zechariah (9). Here's the king, come on a donkey to sue for peace (not to make war on some white charger of a horse). Here is the perfect statement of our trust in Jesus. When he comes to our little city, even as to the Holy City, we lean on him and him alone for security on earth and peace in our souls with Heaven. Trust. That's the Savior's need among us. Utter trust.

O, why do this week? Because of his promised return! Jesus tells his friends. "Go get me a donkey to ride. And should anyone ask, 'Why are you doing this?' just tell them, 'The Lord has need of it, and he will send it back here immediately.'" Whoa! 'Startling news back them. 'Startling news today! Getting hit up for stuff was nothing new in Jesus' day. (Or ours!) The occupying Roman army requisitioned stuff all the time. Your water, your grain, your flour, your cattle, your horse, your donkey: whatever. 'Nothing new here. Those folks on the corner who saw Jesus' friends untie that colt were accustomed to such sights. What was astonishing was the message. "You give this to our master, and it will come back to you straight away." And in fact it will come back to you with glory now affixed, forever! An unridden colt returns as the ride Christ rode to glory! Wow. Last weekend, we publicly kicked off our "Envision the Dream, Building the Future Campaign." You've heard the first encouraging results today. We wait for your prayers and pledges. We envision a Family life Center here, to help ourselves and our neighbors develop Christ-centered families. I was struck to learn that at least 9 of our youth, I don't know who, just how many, have already pledged. What trust? These kids already believe that when you allow Christ your best, he returns it better still. Multiplied and glorified. They already get it that the cross is not the end, but the opened tomb and the life eternal that wait for us a week from today. "Give this to our master, and it will come back to you straight away."

Do you know why you're doing what you're doing this week? May it be that you are walking as a friend to Jesus? May it be that all of us will know what Jesus has need of, even from us? Unrestrained praise! Unbridled trust. May it be that we will hear what sets him apart from anyone and everyone else who asks of us. What Jesus does is return to us all that we have surrendered to him. And it is made over, made new, and made whole. Not easily or cheaply. It will require a cross and a crown of thorns. But still, it is coming. Even as he is today. Blessed be he who comes in the name of the Lord.

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