Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church

Swaying With The Wind

Matthew 21:1-11

Today we celebrate the beginning of the end... and I can't help but wonder how long he had known what the end would be. I have no doubt... on that day he knew... he knew where that road was taking him... that his destination was a cross on a hill side just outside of town.

Close your eyes... and imagine what that must have been like for him... as someone along the road recognizes him and decides to follow... becoming part of his entourage. Others join in and pretty soon there is a noisy crowd... talking excitedly... forming a parade of sorts. People along the road ahead hear the noise and begin to get excited. They know you... they were there when you healed the sick... and raised the dead. They have followed after you... listening to your every word for three years now. They've been speculating... there's been lots of talk about your purpose... your ultimate destiny... and there is excitement... and hope among these people.

Pretty soon people began to welcome you by cutting down branches from the trees along the way... waving them in the air and then throwing them in your path... shouting "Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" It is an ancient song of prayer and praise... sung for centuries by people on their way to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. This time the excitement is electric... it runs like a current through the crowd... igniting their hope... kindling the fire of their imaginations. This must be the time... and the place... the event they had longed and prayed for... the time of the Lord's salvation must be at hand. This is the long awaited Messiah! They shout and wave the palm branches... throwing their coats on the road before you... and you ride on toward Jerusalem... with a calm and solemn face... looking neither to right or left... but only straight ahead... to the cross that awaits you.

I wonder if it made him sad... knowing now true were the words they spoke. He knew that their salvation was at hand... but not in the way they expected! Would they understand? Would they receive God's gift of true salvation? Would they know the joy and power of being redeemed... set free from their burden of sin? Would they recognize that God had once again come to their rescue... and brought them out of the land of bondage... only this time it was their heart... and mind... and soul that was set free forever from the power of evil?

He must have known the answer... and he must have been sad... and yet determined to give them the opportunity for forgiveness in this one... final... extreme sacrifice... the last one every to be required in order for them to be totally right with God at last. Perhaps he didn't even see the crowds as he looked straight ahead... toward his ultimate destiny... the final Passover where the Lamb of God would be sacrificed so that all people everywhere might be saved. But you know... I bet the disciples noticed that great crowd of people... and some spark of hope may have been revived in them. Maybe... just maybe... everything would turn out OK... maybe Jesus would be swept along with this crowd of people... and things would happen that would end in victory for him... and for them! They certainly did not understand what Jesus was doing... coming to the city where the animosity of the religious leaders ran high. This must have seemed like a dangerous move to them... and they were afraid of what might happen in Jerusalem.

And now this. Their entrance into the city had become a parade of shouting... singing people who were excitedly welcoming Jesus as if he were a king... waving palm branches... throwing down their coats. The crowd was so heavy in front they had to make their way slowly... parting the crowd as they went. I wonder if it reminded them of the parting of the Red Sea as Moses lead the people out of Egypt... out of the land of bondage? Yes... they were walking toward the unknown... but once again their hopes soared... and they joined in the chant... "Hosanna... blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"

And the crowd? Well, you and I... who live in New Orleans... know about parades... and crowds. How quickly the crowd can turn into a mob... screaming and yelling "throw me something, Mister." I was amazed the first time it happened to me... it took all of about five seconds before I was part of the mob at my first Mardi Gras parade!

Imagine yourself part of that crowd... on your way to Jerusalem... hearing the noise behind you... a dawning realization that it's Jesus... the man who has become so well known throughout the country side for his miracles... and his strange stories... the one about whom it is rumored that he might be the long awaited Messiah! Your excitement grows as the crowd draws nearer and you hear their song... "Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord." It doesn't take long before you are ready to join in. Reaching up into a near by tree... you pull down a palm frond... wave it in the air... and join the crowd shouting "Hosanna". You see that others are pulling off their coats and throwing them down before him as he passes. A thrill of excitement and joy fills you as the possibility of freedom from Roman rule takes hold of you... and you become a mindless part of the mob following Jesus into the city.

Well, we all know the rest of the story... don't we. We know how fickle a mob can be. After the parade has passed... we turn aside and go our own way. Oh, some of us may follow for awhile... the way my husband does with Pete Fountain every Mardi Gras. But eventually we leave... and go home... to wait for the next opportunity to enjoy a parade.

Sooner or later we'll go crazy again at another parade... in another time and place. The last parade forgotten... our enthusiasm spawned by the moment... and the excitement of the rest of the crowd. We are a fickle lot... and we can get into the moment for just about any cause.

And so it was with some of this crowd who happened to be there a week later... at the trial of this very same man. Now they were carried away by a different phrase... "Crucify him! Crucify him!" How quickly the worm turns... how easily we find ourselves swaying with the wind.

Even his followers turned tail and ran... confused about what was happening... fearing for their lives... and it is little wonder. It must have been a terrible time for them... their hopes and expectations were dashed forever... their leader was on trial... and soon to die on a cross. Sometimes... it is just easier... and safer... to deny all knowledge of Jesus.

And sometimes I am sure that is true for us as well. Sometimes... with some people... we feel very uncomfortable about our relationship with God. When the opportunity presents itself... we often find it difficult to acknowledge Jesus... the Christ... as our Lord and Savior. On Maundy Thursday... next Thursday night at 7:00 p.m... we will hear from Judas and Peter about that night... what happened... how they felt about it. Please be here... and put yourself in their place for a few minutes.

We've all been there... and we will all be there again. We've all swayed with the wind... as his disciples did... and we all need to walk through that experience again on the way to the cross with Jesus. Amen.

A Sermon Preached on March 28, 1999
The Rev. Shirley R. Frazier
Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church, Arabi, LA

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