This Sunday is Palm Sunday. It marks the day that Jesus entered Jerusalem, the Sunday before His execution. It was the week of Passover and Jerusalem and the surrounding area had begun filling with the crowds that would soon find people from all over the Roman world congregating. The crowds could be as much as 30 times the areas normal population.
As Jesus comes into the city He rides on a donkey–a symbol of a king who comes in peace. Crowds of people wave palm fronds and shout for joy at His entrance. The palm fronds were a symbol of the last Jewish monarchy which had been displaced by Herod and Rome. They all believed something big was about to happen. After all, this Man on the donkey had just raised someone from the dead and for many this no doubt reminded them of Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones being knit together again, God breathing new life into Israel.
Of course, scarcely any of the people there that day understood what was happening. Probably only Jesus truly understood what was going on. The crowds thought He would lead them in a war to overthrow the Roman yoke. The Pharisees and Temple leaders weren’t exactly sure what He would do, but they knew it would undermine their authority and so they were determined to stop Him. Even the disciples closest to Jesus were uncertain about what their Master intended to do, despite His frequent references to His coming passion in recent weeks. No matter except Jesus really knew what was about to happen. And so it began.
Each year at this time it begins anew for Christians. Each Easter we stand in awe of what happened that week. The atmosphere in Jerusalem and especially in the Temple would have been electric. Only the most dense people could have been oblivious to all that was going on around them. The structure of the Church Year is to remind us of that week. The texts we read from Scripture, the colors in the chancel area, the stripping of the altar on Thursday night, the plain wood on Friday. All of the these things bring us again into the week that shook the world to its foundations. And so it begins.
I can’t help but feel sorry for people who don’t have a sense of awe and wonder about this week. Everything in the world changed that week. Everything that men believed was reshaped–God had kept His promise and done a “new thing” in the world. But many people–maybe most people–will not experience the sense of God’s power and working in the next days. They’ll be worrying themselves about candy rabbits and gifts and home and garden supplies, oblivious to the might and power around them.
Sunday marks the start of the most important week in the year. Let it be so for you this year. For so it begins.
This morning I heard a Loretta Lynn song on the radio and it asked the question “who’s going to miss me when I’m gone?” [Side note: Loretta Lynn is 83 and while her voice is lower than it used to me, it’s still worth recording]
I think the question in this song is one that many of us ask ourselves at some time or another. If I die today or tonight–just who is going to miss me? Have I done anything that will make someone say, “gee, I wish Terry was here now”? The fact of the matter is, we will be missed for only a very short time in this world. My great-grandfather was named John Jacob Culler. I have never missed him because he died 15 years before I was born. I know his name, I have pictures of him. But I haven’t missed him because he was never part of my life. And that will be true for me and for you too.
Time passes swiftly in this world of ours and soon even the most important for the most famous or the most wonderful people in the world are just names on pieces of paper. That’s how it is for us.
Now that would seem pretty depressing to me if that’s all there was to my life, especially given my age. The world will not remember me–or you–for very long. Things will go on until the Lord decides they’ve gone on long enough.
But there is indeed another reality that destroys my depression and lifts my spirit. That is the absolute reality that there is a God who cares about His people. There is a God who knows the number of hairs on our heads and our inner most thoughts. There is a God who is involved in this world’s affairs. And not only that, but this God–Father, Son and Holy Spirit–has made for me a resting place and an eternal destiny filled with peace and joy. All the world may forget me, but my heavenly Father, who sent His only Son to bear the punishment for my sins on the Cross, will not forget me, nor will He abandon me.
And such is the fate of all who believe that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
What a wonderful thing it is to have an assurance of salvation. And that assurance is for all who believe. God does not leave us guessing about whether or not He remembers us or will save us. No He tells us that directly, that His people have been elected before time began and that they will not ever be lost.
So who is going to miss us when we’re gone? Eventually no one in this world because they’ll forget us. Nor will God miss us–because we are assured we will be with Him.
Last night I had one of those nights–you know, the ones where sleep is sporadic and the dreams are disturbing. I woke up this morning feeling more tired than when I went to bed. Yet, like it or not, there’s a day out ahead of me and work and family things that need doing. So here I am, sharing my fatigue with you.
It occurs to me that bad nights are a lot like bad days, bad weeks, bad months and bad years. We’ve all had them and we all know how they feel. What I’m wondering now is whether God ever has a bad night. You know, a night when He looks at the human race and all the muddle we’re making of His creation, thinking something along the lines of “maybe I should just get this over with and start the judgment tomorrow.” I’m pretty sure that what the Lords see when He looks at our world is far worse than the dream I had last night when I was running from building to building looking for my sermon while wearing vestments, no less.
Well, in all honesty, the answer to the above question is no–God does not have bad nights. He, of course, knows what is going to happen in the life of every person who ever has or ever will live. There are no surprises for God. In fact, the Bible goes even further and tells us this; “Who has spoken and it came to pass unless the Lord commanded it?” [Lamentations 3:37] So not only is God not surprised by the world–He is in complete control of it.
Now some people don’t like to think such a thing. They feel that saying God is in charge of everything means that God is the cause of sin and death. That’s not true–those are the results of our behavior. But let me ask you this–if God is not in charge of everything that occurs in some way, how can we ever trust the promises He has made to us? How can you be certain that all things will work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose, if He isn’t actively in charge of all things? How can you be certain that your body will be resurrected on the last day if God isn’t in charge of everything? How can you be sure Jesus is right when He says He will never lose any whom the Father has given Him, if God is not in charge of everything? In my mind you can’t be certain of anything if God isn’t in control of everything.
There is great comfort in knowing that human history is not just one fool thing after another, but is instead the unfolding of an eternal plan of an eternal God who is bringing all creation back into balance. The Bible says Jesus came “at just the right time.” Why was it the right time? I don’t know–but it was. And so He will come again at just the right time and all that is warped and distorted will be made right again. And I suspect I won’t have anymore of those bad nights that sometimes bother an old man.