Toorak Uniting Church

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"The Press That Might Have Been"

Luke 19: 28 – 40
Rev. Ian Brown
4 April 2004

In the gospel today we have a powerful reminder of the charismatic appeal of Jesus, a powerful reminder of the dynamics of the crowd, especially if we pair it with the call of the crowd just five days later.

Now so far as we know, there was no publicity campaign for Jesus entry into Jerusalem. No PR gurus, no posters, no TV coverage of chats with the host on the talk shows. No one did a spam blitz by email or an SMS whip around to get people there, to come along with palm branches and spare cloaks. Perhaps the pilgrim crowds coming for Passover, perhaps all Jesus followers, writ large as a multitude, how ever we think of it happening, what we have for sure is a clear account of Jesus engaging with people, with his community on a large enough scale to unsettle the power brokers of his day.
He had an impact!

The sort of news we seem to keep having in our community has an impact on us too, it is deeply disturbing. Both here and overseas; in the news we have headlines such as "underworld slayings", bombs, terrorism, religious divisions, religious inspired mistrust and hatred. It’s made me reflect this week on what sort of news Jesus might have attracted. And it’s made me think about why he rode into the middle of it.

Take the journey with me for a few moments, and imagine the press report that might have been, in Jerusalem in Jesus time. Imagine yourself there as we listen in on interviews with some of the bystanders in Jerusalem.

"I was reporting for the Local Progress Press, I spoke to many in the crowd as this "Jesus of Nazareth" figure swept into town. I met an ordinary man in the street and asked why he was here, and what was all the fuss about? he said "he was just here, coming along to the Passover as he normally does every year. Everyone from miles around comes into Jerusalem, you just have to be part of it."

"I wondered, is there a fuss like this every year?"
he told me, "Well, yes and no, he came every year, and this year the crowd got really worked up about Jesus, there's a lot of hope he said, for a saviour for the Jews, and Jesus, seemed like the man of the moment and he thought it was good that at least he wasn’t talking about an uprising or war, at least that was reassuring, but I’ll keep my distance and see what happens."

Just then I saw someone else who might be able to give an interesting slant on these events, a Pharisee, one of the religious enthusiasts of the town. He’s sure to have an opinion, I asked him, "What did you think of all that shouting and Palm waving for this Jesus of Nazareth?"

"It's an outrage," he said, "that's what it is. He has no right to be stirring up the common people like that." He went on, and on...
"It's a downright dangerous thing to do at a time like this, he must have his head in the clouds if he thinks that he can get away with behavior like that and not be stopped by the authorities.

And just who does he think that he is? parading in here like that! Whipping up all that emotion and false hopes.

We Jews have a God who has shown us how to live. We have the law, religious festivals and temple worship. We don't need any young upstart radicals telling us how to live and worship!

Why, did you know that he doesn't even have a certificate from Rabbi school, and I am worried sick that he will lead some innocent simple people into real trouble - it's political insanity that Jesus is talking, and you mark my words - there will be blood spilt over it all in the end."

He went on some more, but the next part I could report went like this, "The tradition of our forefathers should always be upheld, he said, getting very enthusiastic, "Abraham, Moses and the Prophets! New ideas might be good for selling glossy magazines, but God never changes, you mark my words, son! God never changes. You make sure that you print it right, the wrath of God is a fearful thing, son, a fearful thing."

I saw someone else, excused myself politely, and went over to a woman in from the country, I asked her about all the fuss. "Do you know that Jesus wept over this city on his way here?" she asked. I picked her for one of his followers.

She told me she had traveled many miles to hear and to see Him. She said many know that in Jesus, God is doing something very special. Lives are being turned around, people are healed, there is new meaning and purpose for life. We believe that in Jesus we will be saved and that is why all the people bless him and call him our king, a king not of this world like the soldier's king, but king of a new way, king of something more truly real and lasting than the kingdoms of Caesar.

"We don't understand it all, but we know it’s true." she told me.

I wonder what the paper would have printed,
I wonder what you or I would write in as correspondent.
I wonder what people would have made of all this in Jesus day,
and what does Palm Sunday mean for us in the church today?

Will we acclaim Jesus openly, looking for the new things God is doing around us, or will we seek silence to keep the peace, or perhaps even look for a movie opportunity for today’s crowds or perhaps look for what status quo Jesus might humbly ride in and confront head on in our lives, in our community today.

I believe that the coming of Jesus is news as much today as on the first Palm Sunday. I believe we have a world, a community, our own lives even, that are as much in need of Jesus entering in, humbly but firmly challenging what is wrong and offering healing for us all - today as much as ever. The question is "how will we choose to receive him?"

God help us in our choosing. Amen.

© Rev. Ian Brown, 2004

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