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03.20.16 A March of Protest and Peace Luke 19:29-16 Sermon Summary

by on March 21, 2016

Jerusalem means “City of Peace.” If today that seems unbelievable, even comical, think of it this way. Jerusalem remains a powerful symbol of God’s enduring patience to fulfill his promise of peace.

Summary Points

  • How Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was a march of protest
  • Why our many “Jerusalems” keep us from experiencing peace
  • The first step to true peace

All four gospels record the “triumphal entry” of Jesus into Jerusalem as the “blessed king who came in the name of the Lord.” The problem was, Jerusalem already had a king. The King of the Jews was Herod, and though he was a puppet of Rome, Jesus entry on the back of a colt was a statement of protest against Herod—and Rome.

Jesus’ protest was that peace does not come from Roman military superiority. For the gospel writers, peace comes from heaven to earth, from God to us. In other words, peace is found in Christ.

We still try to build our “Jerusalems” today. You know where your “Jerusalem” is by how you complete this sentence: “I would have more peace if only I . . .” Lost 15 pounds. Finished my degree. Got a raise. Took a vacation. Lived in a better neighborhood. My boss would finally retire.

Our city of peace, our oasis, our refuge is always just out of reach—like Jerusalem is to Bethany. We can try to get there, to get to peace, using Roman means. We can struggle and engage a conquest. We can try to muscle our way to peace using oppression and exploitation. But Rome’s ways to peace always lead to misery.

That’s why Jesus laments when he sees Jerusalem. He doesn’t proclaim a judgment so much as articulate the natural consequences of self-reliance and self-preservation. He taught that those who seek their life will lose it. Those who seek a peaceful life using the means of Rome will lose it.

For Jesus it is especially tragic when religion is involved. To seek peace outside of God is a betrayal of God. And for religious leaders to encourage such a pursuit is a betrayal of God’s people. So Jesus laments for the people of Jerusalem, and is angry about the failure of religion to call people to faithfulness instead of to collusion with Rome.

Jesus laments that God’s peace is “hidden from our eyes” by religion’s complicity with Rome. Peace is denied us. We appear to live in Jerusalem, but are not at peace. In Jesus’ dramatic depiction, our enemies will “set up ramparts around us, surround us, hem us in, and crush us.” Instead of living in Jerusalem, we find ourselves only in Bethany, which means “house of misery.”

And this is why Jesus starts and ends his journey to Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives. It is his place of rest and prayer, where he can be removed and alone. There he is strengthened for his forays into Jerusalem where he will confront the pseudo-peacemakers from Rome and within religion. His time spent on the Mount of Olives prepares Jesus for his death and resurrection by which he makes true peace for all the world.

This is why Jesus calls us back to being a “house of prayer.” In prayer we express our longing for peace. In prayer we confess our need for God. We profess our faith in God, not Rome, not in religion, not in ourselves, but in Jesus. And it’s never too late to return to prayer. Jesus says, “If you, even you, had recognized on this day the things that make for peace.” No matter how far away peace seems to be, the first step to be taken any day is prayer.

And so this is the way Jesus begins Holy Week. This is the week we remember the path of Jesus, who suffered and died to show the way to peace. But more, Jesus resurrected to help us walk his path, so that we can join him in his march of protest and of peace.

Lord Jesus, like you, we long for peace. Like Jerusalem, we have looked to other gods for the peace we desire. We have trusted in the might of war horses and chariots. We have collaborated with powers that are foreign to your Father. With regards to true peace, we have found ourselves on the outside, looking in, still longing for. Help us to retreat with you to a remote and solitary place of prayer this week. There may we find the strength to walk with you the path of peace, to lose our lives in order to find them, to take up our cross as you took up yours, and to follow you. And by your faithfulness and our faith, may we find true peace and life in your resurrection. Amen.

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