Pastor Bruce Simpkins
Palm Sunday, Sunday, March 24
RENEWAL COMMUNITY CHURCH
Sunday; Five days before Jesus Crucifixion. The Sunday known as “Palm Sunday”:
12 The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,
“Hosanna! (meaning Savior or save) Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel!” 14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written, 15 “Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” . . .
(Skip to verse 18)
18 Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!“
There were so many people praising Jesus that the Pharisees thought the whole world had gone after Him. But 5 days later on Friday, Jesus had been arrested and abused and insulted and taken to the governor Pilate for disposition.
15 Now it was the governor’s custom at the Feast to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. 16 At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas. 17 So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” 18 For he knew it was out of envy that they had handed Jesus over to him. 19 While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.” 20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed. 21 “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor. “Barabbas,” they answered. 22 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!” 23 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”
25 All the people answered, “Let his blood be on us and on our children!”
26 Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
This is another side note, but I can’t let it go by without mentioning it. Peter reminded them at Pentecost that they had said this and were cut to the heart.
36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified , both Lord and Christ.” 37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off — for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
They had placed a curse upon themselves and were terrified. But Jesus is merciful and forgiving. AND His mercy and forgiveness extends beyond just them to all who are far off and are called by Him. That means you and me. If you have been cut to the heart with guilt and need forgiveness, I have good news for you . . . see me after the service!
Now, Jesus had a crowd of fans on Palm Sunday that made it look like the whole world had gone after him . . . but fans are fickle. Where were they when the going got tough? Yes, Jesus’ true followers were in hiding, but at least they hadn’t turned on Him like His fans did.
So, instead of me stating the obvious, you tell me, what is the difference between a Jesus fan and a Jesus follower? That’s right. A true follower does not give up when the going gets tough.
That’s why Jesus said, Matt 16:24-25 “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.
That statement, “take up his cross” has lost all its impact today. In Jesus day, that statement would send shivers down your spine. They knew all too well, not just the pain and agony, but the indignity and humiliation that went along with it. There was NO sympathy or compassion while you were being tortured on an instrument of death. Even as you are hanging there dying, the guards removed all of your clothes . . . the last thing you owned . . . and cast lots to see who would get to keep them.
Following Jesus meant suffering physically but also facing mocking and ridicule. It meant enduring the same things Saeed Abedini and his family are going through right now in Iran. How can we even begin to relate to what it means to “take up our cross” in the soft and cushy world we live in?
I have been reading the book “Not a Fan” by Kyle Idleman. He makes this statement:
The biggest threat to the church today is fans who call themselves Christians but aren’t actually interested in following Christ. They want to be close enough to Jesus to get all of the benefits, but not so close that it requires anything FROM them.
A fan of Jesus is probably someone who goes to church every Sunday, puts money in the giving box, shows up for potlucks and movie night, listens to KTSY, and waves their hands at Christian concerts (as long as everyone else is). They would say, “Hello? Of course I’m a follower. I don’t do all that stuff for nothing!”
One of the core symptoms of being a fan is not knowing that you are just a fan. Like an alcoholic is always the last to know they have actually become one. Fans often confuse admiration for devotion, and knowledge of Jesus for intimacy with Him. Fans assume their good intentions make up for not actually walking the walk.
Here is another quote I actually put on face book this last week. I found that when Jesus had a large crowd, He would most often preach a message that was likely to cause them to leave.
He is not looking for fans, but followers. Jesus will not let people stay on the fence. He will bring tests into our lives that will demonstrate to you and everyone else if you are a fan or a follower. He will allow us to have our own crosses to bear. So, what does it mean for you and me in our everyday lives to take up our cross and follow Him?
Think about that while I share a couple of example of people who were NOT a fan.
This last April 21, 2012 Chuck Colson died at age 80. For those of you too young to remember the famous Watergate scandal, Chuck was one of Richard Nixon’s closest advisors and known as the “dirty tricks” man. Chuck was quoted saying, “I would walk over my own grandmother to ensure the reelection of President Richard M. Nixon”. While Chuck was in prison for his part in the scandal he made a decision to become a Christian. I heard a testimony he gave shortly after he was released and he said he thought he would just quietly live a truly changed life. But Jesus will always bring a defining moment in our life that will determine if you are a follower or a fan. He said a newspaper reporter managed to get a phone call into him and during the conversation Chuck knew he needed to tell the reporter he had become a Christian. So he did. There was a long silence and the reporter said, “soooo let me get this straight . . . you are saying you are a so called “Christian” now?” “Yes.” “You mean like you are . . . born again?” “Yes.” There was another long pause followed by a hilarious long belly laugh. “Oh boy, have I got a scoop! We are going to have a great time with this one . . .” And of course NOBODY believed he had ACTUALLY become a Christian. Everyone thought it was just another dirty trick to get something. Chuck said he was humiliated by the press and most of his best friends but Chuck Colson went on to everyone’s amazement to really walk the walk. He went on to found a worldwide prison fellowship ministry that has never been equaled in all of history. His prison ministry touched every country in the world in one way or another. It transformed and reformed prisons everywhere. He was not just a fan . . . He died walking the walk.
Let me give you one more example. Sometimes being a real follower may take you to places you never dreamed Jesus would take you. Here is the story of Rachelle Starr:
As a girl raised in a Christian home, I had never been inside a strip club in my life. But I felt a calling from God to reach out to women in the sex industry. I didn’t really know how I was going to do this, but I knew that Jesus had given me a passion for these women to know how much He loves them and how precious they are in his eyes. Still, I was definitely nervous to share the idea with others. I mean, going to a strip club isn’t exactly “typical” for a church raised girl. But whatever my doubts, I new Jesus was calling me to take action. He wanted more out of me than just having a feeling of compassion for women in the sex industry. He wanted me to DO something about it.
In 2008, I started Scarlet Hope. It is a ministry that reaches out to women involved in the sex industry. We take big, southern-comfort-style dinners to strip clubs. Our prayer is that we are not just feeding their stomachs, but that we are feeding a deeper spiritual hunger. In some clubs we fix hair and makeup so we can get some one-on-one time with the girls. It gives us the opportunity to pray with women in the middle of a strip club. How often does THAT happen?
Through this ministry, I have seen hearts changed and lives touched as many of these ladies have turned to Christ for forgiveness and a new beginning. Honestly, my heart and relationship with Jesus have also been drastically changed. I have seen Jesus show up many time in the back of a strip club dressing room. Many dancers have opened up to us, sharing their struggles, asking for prayers, and some have even accepted our invitations to church.
It’s funny, but the dancers have taken to calling us “the church ladies”. I never thought I would end up with such a traditional title doing such radical work for God, but I think that’s the kind of church lady God was calling me to become. My name is Rachelle Starr, and I am not a fan.
What is Jesus calling you to do that requires taking up a cross? For Chuck Colson, it was enduring ridicule from his friends and the media. For Rachelle, it was enduring ridicule from some people inside the church and subjecting herself to an environment that was WAY outside her comfort zone.
What is holding you back from being the follower Jesus has called you to be? What is it you are afraid of that keeps you from doing it? I’m not old enough or I’m too old? I’m not smart enough or I can’t lower myself to that level? I don’t have enough time? I don’t have enough money or I have too much money (like the rich young ruler)? I wasn’t raised in the church or in a church family? How about, I don’t look right or I’m not healthy enough? I’m too bald or too short or I have tattoos? There is no end to the things that hold us back from following Jesus. Throw away those restrictions and just get busy doing the impossible.
The good news for Renewal is the our church is FILLED with true followers and I am so proud of you all. I am not doing this to embarrass anyone, but let me just highlight a couple of examples inside Renewal.
Hannah, is not too old at 97 to be here every week and to show up for the Nick Vujicic gathering. Cathy is not too old to learn to play piano in church after 32 years of marriage.
<< Randomly select a few other people as examples >>. I praise God for you all. You can’t lose with God! We are so blessed.
Do not let the cares of the world turn you into being just a fan. Be encouraged that even though it doesn’t get a lot of attention or thanks, Jesus has a reward waiting for you that is beyond anything you could ever ask for or even imagine if you will take up your cross and follow Him.
I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
Go in peace.