The Wrong Kind of Savior
April 05, 2020*
By Pastor John Partridge
Before we begin, I want you to shout “Hosanna!” as if we were together in our sanctuary and waving Palm branches together. Ready? 1-2-3 – now – “Hosanna!”
Okay, maybe that felt a little silly but, just as we would have done if we’d been together, I want you to be ready. Because when we get to that part of today’s scripture reading, I want you to do that again and shout “Hosanna” along with the crowd.
A year or two after Patti and I were married, we bought a house near the Summit/Stark County line with seven acres, a barn, and two fenced pastures. In short order we had a pony, a couple of cows, some rabbits and, of course, various dogs and cats. But even though this was the kind of a home that Patti and I had both dreamed of owning, since both of us grew up in town, there were a few things that required that we learn a few things. We learned a lot about raising all those animals, I learned how to turn wrenches and maintain our lawn tractors and small antique farm tractor, how to improve and maintain a fence line, and many other things. But one of the things that I didn’t really expect, was our war on poison ivy.
There was a spot, at the end of our garden and not too far from our kids’ swing set, that regularly grew a patch of poison ivy. It took a little while but, with the help of the guys at Copley feed, we finally found an herbicide that worked. As long as we put in the effort to put on long sleeves and gloves, pull the big stuff by hand, bag it, and throw it in the trash before we sprayed the little stuff, we got that spot under control and kept our kids safe.
But none of that was really much help when we discovered that one entire fence line, between our property and the neighbor’s property was absolutely full of a well-established patch of poison ivy. While there wasn’t any danger that the kids would get in it, that tangle of ivy had thick vines, was in an almost inaccessible thicket, and there was no way that Patti and I could pull it, nor could we afford enough herbicide to spray the entire fence line. We were stuck for a solution, and all the while, that tangle of poison ivy grew taller, and thicker, and was taking over that entire side of the pasture fence.
But, as it turned out, we were looking for a solution in the wrong place. You see, once our calves grew larger, we had to alternate them between our two pastures in order to give the grass a chance to grow back on one side while they ate down the grass in the other. And that is when the cows gave us the solution that we didn’t even realize we needed. As it turns out, cows really like poison ivy. They like it more than grass, or almost anything else. They worked hard at eating our poison ivy and stretched over and through the fence anyway they could, in order to get every leaf they could possibly reach. They didn’t kill it, but they controlled it so well that we never needed to worry about poison ivy around the pastures ever again.
The solution was there all along, but we were looking for it in all the wrong places.
That isn’t uncommon.
Human beings do things like that all the time. We look to government to solve our problems when the answer lies in changing our own behavior, or in simply asking our neighbors for a little help. And the same is often true in our spiritual lives as well. We want God to wave some sort of magic wand and give us things that we had in our hands the entire time.
And that realization helps us to understand what was happening as Jesus entered Jerusalem on the day that we call Palm Sunday. We read that story in Matthew 21:1-11 where we hear these words:
21:1 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”
4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
5 “Say to Daughter Zion,
‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
[Right NOW! Say it with me… “Hosanna!”]
10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”
11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
From the beginning, it is obvious that Jesus knows what lies ahead. Jesus has been telling his disciples that he would be arrested, crucified, and rise from the dead, and he’s been telling them that for weeks. Now we see that Jesus not only knows what will happen to him, but that he knows the details of the lives of people and animals that he’s never even met. Jesus knows that there will be a donkey tied up in the village ahead of them. He knows that, with the right words, his disciple can borrow them, and he knows that by arriving in Jerusalem in that way, Jesus will fulfill the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 which describes the arrival of the messiah.
But although Jesus knows that he is fulfilling the prophecies about God’s messiah, it is just as obvious that the expectations that the crowd, and the disciples, have for the messiah, rescuer, and savior of Israel are misguided.
Jesus is not what they are expecting.
The crowd wants the wrong kind of savior.
The people call Jesus the “Son of David!” and, in so doing, use a title of earthly kingship. They shout, “Hosanna” which means “Save us” because they believe that Jesus is an earthly messiah, a military and political rescuer that will unite their nation, raise an army, and overthrow the Roman occupation.
But Jesus isn’t that kinds of savior.
Jesus didn’t come to earth to rescue God’s people from Rome.
Jesus came to rescue them from something far more sinister, addictive, and deeply personal. Jesus came to rescue God’s people from themselves, from their unwholesome and unhealthy desires, from their rebellion to God, and from their sin.
But it was the people’s dissatisfaction with Jesus, because of their misplaced, misunderstanding of Jesus’ mission, that ultimately led to his betrayal, abandonment, trial, and crucifixion just a few days later. And even though we live two thousand years later, and even though we are able to read the entire story, and even though the meaning has been explained to us, and even though we understand the events in a different way than the disciples and the people of Jerusalem did that day, we still run the risk of casting Jesus in the role of the wrong kind of savior.
Jesus is not the savior who can be called upon like a genie in a bottle to grant all our wishes and make our lives painless and perfect.
Jesus wasn’t then, and still is not a nationalistic savior that came to rescue his, or anybody’s nation. Jesus didn’t come to save the United States of America or to make America great, or to transform the United States into the New Jerusalem.
Jesus is not the savior that came to make his followers rich, or even healthy. In fact, one of the few things that Jesus promised, was that life would be painful and difficult.
But the best news is still the Good News as long as we remember what kind of a savior Jesus is.
Jesus is our savior, our redeemer, and our rescuer.
Jesus came to rescue us from our sins, to redeem us in the eyes of God, to restore us to God’s family, and to call us to a life of purity, holiness, service, love, and outreach.
Jesus is that kind of savior.
And thankfully, that’s the kind of a savior that we need the most.
I hope that each of you know Jesus in that way. I hope that you have already answered his call to follow him. But if you haven’t, I hope that you will talk to me, or email me, so that we can talk about how you can belong to God’s awesome family too.
Have a great week everybody.
You can find the livestream of this message here: https://youtu.be/VXrvfleMohI
A longer version with music can be found here: https://youtu.be/aU0ofTV9c6Y
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