Tuesday 31 March 2020

                                                       Mark 11 v 1/11

Sunday is Palm Sunday the beginning of the most holy week in the Church’s calendar. Jesus rode into Jerusalem for the last time when this was a journey to the Cross. It was a journey He could have avoided, but He went voluntarily to fulfil God’s plan, that by His brutal and cruel death, the sins of all people could be forgiven. He could have left mankind to perish, but He did not cling to that right.

The Chapter opens where Jesus plans it with great detail, sending two of His Apostles to arrange for the donkey on which He will ride into Jerusalem. In the course of the next few days He would celebrate the Last Supper with His Apostles, see one of them betray Him, face a mock trial and be sentenced to death, led to the Cross and crucified.

During His earthly ministry Jesus sought to withdraw from public attention and did what He had to do quietly, often asking people He helped, not to tell; now He is deliberately seeking attention as He rides into the city at the greatest public festival of the Jewish year to proclaim Himself to be the Messiah. This was the feast of the Passover, so revered as a memory of when God led the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt, and when most people would be in the city. Jesus will fulfil the purpose for which He came when He will surrender His life in order that we may have eternal life.

His works had become well known and the crowds greeted Him with shouts of Hosanna, which means ‘save us’, seeing Him as the one who would lead them to glory in world conquest. When they realised this was not His mission, the same crowds would later in the week shout’ ‘crucify Him’.

As with every Bible passage there is a meaning and a message for us to-day. Just as the Jews then rejected Jesus, so do so many people now. But God allows us free will to make a decision to be with Jesus or not. Even those who claim to be Christians can be lukewarm and allow their commitment to grow cold. It is not enough to pay the odd visit to nod to the Almighty at Christmas, Easter or to a baptism service. There is a little ditty,
‘each time I pass may parish Church
 I pay a little visit,
so when at last I’m carried in,
the Lord won’t say who is it’.
Everyone has to take responsibility for the way they respond to the Lord.

There is an American story about a young man who painted a portrait of his friend shortly before the friend died. The young man took the portrait to his friend’s father, a rich man, who offered him a huge sum of money, which the young man refused. Some time later, the father died and all his priceless possessions were auctioned. The first item up for auction was the portrait, which no one showed any interest in except the father’s old black servant. He offered a few dollars, all he had, and got the painting. The auctioneer to everyone's surprise closed the auction. The father’s will said ‘he who accepts the son has everything’. We can reject the Son as they did at Jerusalem all those years ago

The action of our Lord demands a response, and we all need to ask ourselves if we stood before the Lord today and we were asked why we should be allowed into heaven, what would we say.

We are reminded of the superficiality of commitment in our own time. Less than 10% of people think God worthy of one hour per week to visit a Church. Yet if you were to ask people their religion, the vast majority would reply C of E and seriously consider themselves to be Christians. They would be mortally offended if you suggested otherwise. Yet very few people seem bothered by Jesus’

Muslims in Islamic countries are Muslims in the full sense of the word, and they find difficulty in understanding how people who live in Christian lands reject their faith so completely. Why, on the Lord’s birthday so many get drunk and engage in orgies. They will fight and defend their faith, and the men will not feel embarrassed or ashamed to be seen going to worship. Put many Englishmen in a Church and they feel lost and disorientated.

95% of the population believe as long as you are honest, kind and helpful to others you have a passport to heaven. It can be very hard to be a Christian when so many organisations, government and public busybodies try to suppress your faith under pain of some sanction. How Jesus would weep over society today as He wept over Jerusalem. Jesus Christ lovingly and finally kept God’s law and voluntarily paid sin’s price at Calvary, and He did it for you and for me.

For so many people the Cross has little relevance beyond being a fashion accessory. They may make an odd mistake, but at heart are good and to suggest they are sinful and need forgiving is a step too far. The message of the cross is that we must humble ourselves and surrender to God which is an affront to many people.

Nearly 80 years ago brave young men took to the skies to fight the Battle of Britain against a ruthless foe. Today, as Christians, we need to fight the battle for Britain, against equally ruthless foes who want to drive Christianity out of public life and turn it into a private cult. We are like fighters in enemy occupied territory.

It can be hard to be a Christian in this country at the present time. Any open expression of our faith is likely to lead to suspension or dismissal from work. The Bible is seen as old fashioned and its stories foolish. Children are denied the glory of being told of the stories of Jesus as no one is prepared to tell them.

The government has sold out to the liberal lobby and has taken legal powers to prevent Christians from exercising their beliefs and rights of free speech.  Even the Church wants to cut out those parts of the Bible which offend shallow Christians and others. How Jesus would weep over Britain today as He did over Jerusalem, as He sees the obstacles put in our way.

The American people are fortunate in having a President to support his people by creating provision for them to defend their Christian faith, then leading by example.  Such is more than we could hope for from any of our leaders.

The Bible states, "For Christ died for sins once and for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God". And He wants us to respond, and declare boldly that we believe.

What is your response as you ponder the Road to Jerusalem?
We may reject God’s Son as many did in Jerusalem.
We may have allowed our love to have gone lukewarm, even cold.
As we study this story of our Lord’s journey to the Cross, we see our forgiveness cost Jesus public mockery, agony, sweating of blood, the cruellest of deaths, and spiritual torment.
We have to learn from this account of history that we have to do more than just pay a passing visit. When we appear before Christ on the last day He will not ask if we had occasional thoughts about Him. The question will be, did we accept Him as our Lord and Saviour.

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