Why Are You Doing This?

Who doesn’t love a parade? Only a scant few of us. We love to watch and cheer and maybe call out to the marchers. And given the right circumstances, it’s even more fun to be in the parade. I guess it’s been true since time began. So, it’s not very surprising that religious and non-religious folk, followers and strangers to Jesus alike, all swing into the grand procession that first Palm Sunday. But there’s always a more reflective soul around. ‘Some serious saint with a penchant for pondering. (Remember some of the faces in the film that opened our worship?) There’s always somebody who surely wants to ask about the parade, “Why are you doing this?” Why?

Mark’s “Palm Sunday” account takes only 63 English words to get us to the question why. Jesus warns those going to pick up his ride, that donkey (from Budget Rent a Burro… Avis and Hertz were closed), “If anyone asks why, tell them the Lord has need.” Let me tell you a little secret. [Whisper.] Things haven’t changed very much from that first Palm Sunday to this one. [More.] You don’t have to be untying somebody’s donkey for folks to notice. [Full] People will know when you do what you do because you are following Jesus! And they will want to know why! What are you prepared to tell them this holy week for his sake? It’s worth noticing. Palm Sunday does not begin on an evangelistic note. Unlike Jesus’ own entrance into the city, there’s no purpose here of winning new converts to Jesus. According to Mark, this holy day begins with a test. It’s about discipleship. Will those who say they believe, those who have followed Jesus thus far, trust and obey him enough to do as he asks (“Go get that donkey.”), simply because the Lord has need? It turns out Holy Week turns on us believers to some degree. We help place Jesus where God wants him to be… so he can do what God calls him to do… that is utterly soul-saving to me and you!

Use the palm we gave you. Or look at it all around today. Or think on the scene we saw on the screen. [Entrance, Jesus of Nazareth] Hear the hosannas. Sing them out strong. But let these symbols touch you and take you back to be a witness. Jesus is coming. Coming to where we are. And by our very presence here today, we have agreed to witness the scene. Only, be prepared for some reflective soul, not caught up in the moment, to grab you and ask, “Why are you doing this?” How will you answer? How will you answer?

Are you here, doin’ Palm Sunday because you feel like a disciple-under-orders, like the two who went to fetch that donkey? If why is the question, is your because because you want to do-for-Jesus., obey him, serve him? With four days of his most famous teaching just ahead, a last supper, a trial, a hill of three crosses, it’s time to be clear about why we’re doing this, coming along with Jesus.

Maybe we answer with some other because. Maybe we’re here, like so many back then and across the centuries, because we’re drawn to Jesus as a great teacher or example for living. He could see. So can we. While some cut palm and others spread their garments at his feet, official Jerusalem greets Jesus with a sign (still there?) that plainly says, “Enter at your own risk!” He comes anyway. So lots follow him, drawn by his courage more than his creed. His brave heart, more than his compelling soul. There’s no commitment to Jesus beyond “leading a good life” like his. Some find him way-more than a swear word, but something less than the heart and soul of our heart and soul. Is that you? Remember the Bible line that at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow and tongue confess? Well, if we’re just in on the Jesus parade because he inspires us, likely we haven’t yet bent our knees!

Why are we doing this? Why are we caught up in the company of those who are welcoming Jesus into our town? Do we just want something of him? In particular? For yourself or your loved one? Do you just want to get close to get his attention? Or maybe you and I are just folks easily swept up in the crowd, easy followers who give our feet away before giving our hearts away. Maybe we’re like so very many, truthfully, who haven’t yet let our tongues confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Old John Wesley, our Methodist father used to say what he feared most. It wasn’t that Methodism would die out, but that it would have the form of [faith but] not the power. Aren’t we in danger this Palm Sunday? Our age calls money, wealth and power Lord, more than Jesus. Sports and leisure, more than Jesus. Family and relationships, more than Jesus. Drugs, alcohol, happiness, self-realization, graduate degrees, careers, 401K’s. These are named Lord more often than Jesus. And all this, among those who gladly swing in line and shout hosanna. But Jesus doesn’t enter our town or walk to the cross for our 401K.

He doesn’t die for our self-image, but for our souls; not for our happiness, but for our home in God’s heart.

Why are you doing this? Surely today of all days, somebody oughta be askin’ Jesus this! We oughta be askin’, because we need to know. O, it’s written, “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow and tongue confess.” Ask Jesus why he’s doing this on Psalm Sunday and he will tell you, “It’s in the name, friend, in the name.” Even from before that birth-at-Bethlehem-we-marked-just-weeks-ago, his name has been called Jesus. “The Lord saves.” That’s his name. It’s his calling. It’s his reason to be. His very own because. [Brinton] Jesus is God’s Plan A. Lives transformed by this Christ, souls saved, Heaven emptied into an earthly life willing to die on a cross. Why is Jesus doing this… coming into town with a price on his head? For the sake of Plan A. And also Plan B. Do you know what Plan B is.? See Plan A! God makes no plan B. “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.” (Peter preaches this, Acts 4: 12) [Brinton] Jesus sits that donkey a humble servant-Lord. Obedient, even to death, because he knows that where there are crosses, resurrection is not afar off. Nails can never hold whom God is determined to lift. And lift us with him.

Dear friends, by all means, get caught up in the grand procession today! And let it lead you, now ‘til Friday. And to Sunday next. And should someone ask you, “Why are you doing this?” have your answer at the ready. Search your soul honestly. Trust would be good. Obedience, grand. But best of all, this.

To bend your knee, and confess with all your heart,

that Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord.

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