Tag Archives: Passover

Who is this?

given on Palm Sunday, April 9, 2017–6th Sunday in Lent 2017:  A season of mindfulness


Scripture connection:

Zechariah 9:9-10, NLT

Rejoice, O people of Zion!

Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem!

Look, your king is coming to you.

He is righteous and victorious,

yet he is humble, riding on a donkey—

riding on a donkey’s colt.

I will remove the battle chariots from Israel

and the warhorses from Jerusalem.

I will destroy all the weapons used in battle,

and your king will bring peace to the nations.

His realm will stretch from sea to sea

and from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth.


Matthew 21:1-11, NLT

As Jesus and the disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the town of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of them on ahead. “Go into the village over there,” he said. “As soon as you enter it, you will see a donkey tied there, with its colt beside it. Untie them and bring them to me.

If anyone asks what you are doing, just say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will immediately let you take them.”

   This took place to fulfill the prophecy that said,

“Tell the people of Jerusalem,

‘Look, your King is coming to you.

He is humble, riding on a donkey—

riding on a donkey’s colt.’”

The two disciples did as Jesus commanded. They brought the donkey and the colt to him and threw their garments over the colt, and he sat on it.

     Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting,

“Praise God for the Son of David!

Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

Praise God in highest heaven!”

The entire city of Jerusalem was in an uproar as he entered. “Who is this?” they asked.

     And the crowds replied, “It’s Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”


Mark 11:1-11, NLT

     As Jesus and his disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the towns of Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of them on ahead. “Go into that village over there,” he told them. “As soon as you enter it, you will see a young donkey tied there that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks, ‘What are you doing?’ just say, ‘The Lord needs it and will return it soon.’”

     The two disciples left and found the colt standing in the street, tied outside the front door.  As they were untying it, some bystanders demanded, “What are you doing, untying that colt?”  They said what Jesus had told them to say, and they were permitted to take it.  Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their garments over it, and he sat on it.

     Many in the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him, and others spread leafy branches they had cut in the fields. Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting,

“Praise God!

Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

Blessings on the coming Kingdom of our ancestor David!

Praise God in highest heaven!”

     So Jesus came to Jerusalem and went into the Temple. After looking around carefully at everything, he left because it was late in the afternoon. Then he returned to Bethany with the twelve disciples.


Luke 19:28-40, NLT

     After telling this story, Jesus went on toward Jerusalem, walking ahead of his disciples. As he came to the towns of Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives, he sent two disciples ahead. “Go into that village over there,” he told them. “As you enter it, you will see a young donkey tied there that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks, ‘Why are you untying that colt?’ just say, ‘The Lord needs it.’”

     So they went and found the colt, just as Jesus had said. And sure enough, as they were untying it, the owners asked them, “Why are you untying that colt?”

     And the disciples simply replied, “The Lord needs it.” So they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their garments over it for him to ride on.

     As he rode along, the crowds spread out their garments on the road ahead of him. When he reached the place where the road started down the Mount of Olives, all of his followers began to shout and sing as they walked along, praising God for all the wonderful miracles they had seen.

“Blessings on the King who comes in the name of the Lord!

Peace in heaven, and glory in highest heaven!”

     But some of the Pharisees among the crowd said, “Teacher, rebuke your followers for saying things like that!”

     He replied, “If they kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!”


John 12:12-19, NLT

     The next day, the news that Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem swept through the city. A large crowd of Passover visitors took palm branches and went down the road to meet him. They shouted,

“Praise God!

Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

Hail to the King of Israel!”

     Jesus found a young donkey and rode on it, fulfilling the prophecy that said:

“Don’t be afraid, people of Jerusalem.

Look, your King is coming,

riding on a donkey’s colt.”

     His disciples didn’t understand at the time that this was a fulfillment of prophecy. But after Jesus entered into his glory, they remembered what had happened and realized that these things had been written about him.

     Many in the crowd had seen Jesus call Lazarus from the tomb, raising him from the dead, and they were telling others about it.

     That was the reason so many went out to meet him—because they had heard about this miraculous sign. Then the Pharisees said to each other, “There’s nothing we can do. Look, everyone has gone after him!”


Weekly memory verse: Who is this? (Matthew 21:10, NLT)


Weekly challenge: Step outside and study a flower. Look at the buds and see the promise of the bloom. Look back at your life. See the promise and know how much God loves you.


Reflection: Who is this? How do you know?


Has not the rain and the sunshine transformed our world these past couple of weeks? Looking out the windows this morning is very different than just a week ago as the trees are leafing out, the lilacs are budding, and the spring flowers are opening up. The earth is celebrating new life.

Today is Palm Sunday, the last Sunday of Lent and the beginning of Holy Week. The celebration starting today darkens as the week relives the final days of Jesus. Thursday is the day for Jesus’ final supper with his disciples. Friday is the darkest day as Jesus is nailed on the cross and dies. Saturday was the Jewish Sabbath, so the day is simply empty as no work could be done after sunset on Friday through sunset on Saturday.

The Passion Story unfolds as Christians review the Christ story from the joyful entry into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey through the events of his arrest, trial, crucifixion, and burial. The week connects the generations of Christians throughout time and the world. The Passion Story connects us to our own belief and we should know the answer to the question: Who is this?

Can you answer that question with confidence? Can you walk into the sanctuary this morning and quickly identify the purpose of the palms and the procession of the kids around the room? Can you share the story with others who may not even know what Palm Sunday, Passion Week, or Easter is? Learning this one small verse, Matthew 21:10, becomes the key to mystery of faith which we share during communion: Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again. (198914)

The answer for the question “Who is this?” begins with the scripture from Zechariah. The prophet had said that the Messiah or the King of the Jews would arrive on a donkey. And that is what Jesus did by riding into Jerusalem for Passover on the back of the donkey. The procession was a message to all the people, including the Pharisees, that Jesus was indeed who people were saying he was. The public display was out of character for Jesus, but the method was a way to affirm the answer to the Jews that he was indeed the promised Messiah, the Savior, the king they had long anticipated.

Each of the gospels includes a version of the procession of Jesus into Jerusalem. Each one includes the palms and the donkey, but only Matthew includes the question, “Who is this?” Why?

The key is remembering to whom the different gospels are written. Matthew with the question, was written specifically for the Jewish people. The question is asked to make a point that the readers would know how Jesus fulfilled the prophecy in Zachariah. Mark was written for Roman Christians, Luke was written to Theophilus and the Gentiles, while John was written to new Christians and those seeking to know more.

All the gospels describe the procession in basically the same manner. Palms were waved to show respect for high-ranking officials even throwing the palms and coats on the ground on which to walk. Even the donkey was chosen because of its significance. The donkey represents one coming in peace. If a horse had been chosen, that would have symbolized war or a military leader.

The gospel of Matthew included the description of the palm procession to make sure that the Jewish people could identify who Jesus was and that he fulfilled the prophecy that was almost 500 years old. The non-Jewish people in the Greco-Roman culture, though, also recognized the same symbolism. Mark, Luke and John all include a description of the procession with palms and the donkey. Everybody in the crowd would know the meaning, and the ensuing generations would also know that the man riding the donkey was Jesus, the man who was dramatically changing the belief system of so many in the area whether Jew or Gentile.

Why is this important today? Why are we waving palms here in our community 2,000 years later? Why do we need to answer the question “Who is this?”

God wants a personal relationship with us; and if we cannot answer who Jesus was, then we risk having no relationship with God. We can attend church every Sunday. We can read all we want about Jesus. Yet, to experience God in our life, we must be able to answer that we know Jesus. We must wave our palms and honor him, respect him, revere him, and yes, fear him. Experiencing God on a personal level comes by listening to God and obeying Him, said O.S. Hawkins (Hawkins 2015, 441).

Palm Sunday gives us the opportunity to openly express our knowledge of who Jesus is. We have the palm branches, we can sing out our praises, and we can answer the question that Jesus is the son of Man and the son of God.

Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Jesus’ final Passover (remember he was Jewish) as the human incarnation of God. Jesus announced to the ancient world that he was the Son of God by riding into Jerusalem on a donkey with all his followers/disciples waving palms and shouts of acclamation. Palm Sunday is much like a flower popping up in the garden getting ready to bloom.

We anticipate the joy of Easter this morning, but first we must relive the full experience of Passover with the final days of Jesus and his disciples. We may be excited to extol (Hawkins word) or proclaim Jesus today, but we know the story continues through the horrors of a betrayal, a trial, and a crucifixion.

As we wait for the full bloom of the flower, we wait for Easter morning when Christ was resurrected. We know that God’s desire to be in a relationship with us was so important that he could no longer wait for us to figure it out on our own. Instead, he was born as a man in order to bring us into a real life experience with him.

We can answer the question “Who is this?” because we have the relationship with God. We see our lives unfold into a thing of beauty just like the spring flowers bursting forth around us. We have learned that God’s way of living in a loving relationship with one another is the very purpose God sent Jesus to walk with us in this life.

As Holy Week moves forward, keep the image of the flower opening from the bud to a full bloom present in your mind. You are a flower in God’s garden, and because you know God’s love and you have chosen to live according to his commandments, you will continue to bloom.

[Share the video of tulip opening.]

Closing prayer

Dear Gracious Father,


We lift up our palms to you

Showing that we know you personally,

Because we experience your love

And believe in your promise.


We lift up our palms to you

Thanking you for sending Jesus

To teach us,

To heal us,

To forgive us

And to grant us eternal life.


We lift up our voices

Answering others who ask,

“Who is this?”

So we can share the story

Of our relationship with you,

God, the father,

the Son,

and the Holy Spirit. –Amen



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Would you . . . Easter scripture, questions and reflections

Luke 23:32-34: The Crucifixion

. . . 32 Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with him. 33 When they came to a place called The Skull,[e] they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left.

34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”[f] And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.[g]

Question A: Would you have been in the crowd?

When work is caught up and a few minutes are left to keep busy, once and a while I will pull out this little book with 1,001 questions to stimulate conversation.

One of the questions this week was: “If you could go back and witness any event in history, what would it have been. The students started listing a few, but I had to fine-tune it a bit—how about a significant world event.

The question hit me that would I want to have seen Jesus on the cross dying. Would I have been in the crowd for the crucifixion? My first reaction was I certainly hope I would not have been there, but then I thought a bit differently.

Consider whether or not you rush to watch something in person or whether you can just hear about it or whether you do not even need to know the details. Just what kind of person would you be?

Would I have been in the crowd? Probably, and I am not proud of my reasoning.

Luke 23:44-49: The Death of Jesus

44 By this time it was about noon, and darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 45 The light from the sun was gone. And suddenly, the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn down the middle. 46 Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!”[h] And with those words he breathed his last.

47 When the Roman officer[i] overseeing the execution saw what had happened, he worshiped God and said, “Surely this man was innocent.[j]48 And when all the crowd that came to see the crucifixion saw what had happened, they went home in deep sorrow.[k] 49 But Jesus’ friends, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance watching.

Question B: Would you have waited to see him die?

Studying a globe, the latitude for Jerusalem is about 31.80 N and the latitude for Kansas City is 39.10 N. The climate is warmer and it sets off the Mediterranean Sea’s eastern edge.

The difference in the climate would make it likely that viewing a crucifixion would be comfortable, and it was Passover so everybody would have been out at the festival and along the streets. Likely, nobody was staying home or thinking about what had to be done for Sabbath in a day or two.

Sadly, the crucifixion was considered a spectator sport, too. The Roman government may have planned a series of crucifixions simply to entertain all the visiting Jewish people.

All of those factors would affect whether or not one could answer the question of staying until Jesus’ last breath or they took him off the cross. Leaving the body up was the usual procedure.

My answer: I probably would have walked away bored—another unflattering admission.

Luke 23:50-53: The Burial of Jesus

50 Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph. He was a member of the Jewish high council, 51 but he had not agreed with the decision and actions of the other religious leaders. He was from the town of Arimathea in Judea, and he was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come. 52 He went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. 53 Then he took the body down from the cross and wrapped it in a long sheet of linen cloth and laid it in a new tomb that had been carved out of rock.

Question C: Would you have taken Jesus’ body down?

The clock was ticking and Sabbath law said all work had to be done before sundown. Passover was a huge holiday, and there were so many chores to do before nothing else could be done to have the perfect holy holiday.

There are two personality types—often referred to as Mary and Martha based on the New Testament story Jesus used to explain that it was okay to give up the tasks of hospitality to learn at the Masters’ feet. Martha was more worried about getting everything ready and Mary was unmoved from her spot listening to Jesus.

Answering this question has be reflect how well you know yourself. But also, you have to wonder just how positive you would have felt about the identity of Jesus. The Gospel of John states that this man was Joseph of Arimathea who was joined by Nicodemus, the same man who visited Jesus in the night just to interview him first-handed.

These two men risked their personal and professional reputations by requesting permission to take Jesus’ body and to bury it. That takes guts! (And there really is no other way to say it.)

Sadly, my answer would place me as a Martha frantically getting ready for the holiday meal, especially since I could do nothing the next day.

Luke 23:54-56:

. . . 54 This was done late on Friday afternoon, the day of preparation,[l] as the Sabbath was about to begin.

55 As his body was taken away, the women from Galilee followed and saw the tomb where his body was placed. 56 Then they went home and prepared spices and ointments to anoint his body. But by the time they were finished the Sabbath had begun, so they rested as required by the law.

Question D: Would you have simply followed Jewish law?

The government was Roman; the religious laws were Jewish. The Roman government bent to the political pressure exerted by the Jewish Sanhedrin.

Agreeing to try Jesus for a questionable charge, kept the Jewish leaders appeased. The crucifixion was a political way of keeping positive relations between the foreign government and the local residents.

Jesus’ followers kept growing. Social changes were happening, and Jewish people were fighting among themselves. The Roman officials knew the risks. This movement was only three years old, and in the ancient culture that was such a short time it was not a major concern.

Jewish Christians had to battle a crisis of which law was God’s law. Was the Jewish law about honoring Sabbath more important, more lasting than breaking the law and taking care of Jesus’ burial?

Change does not come easily. Answering that question today seems so obvious—break Jewish law and take care of Jesus’ body. But change was too risky yet so that meant keeping the law and being safe.

Luke 24:1-5: The Resurrection

1But very early on Sunday morning[m] the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes.

The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive?

Question E: Would you have gone to the tomb?

Passover Festival was over. Sabbath was over; and even the crucifixion was over. Sunday morning the sun came up just like it always does. There are hundreds of chores to do just to clean up the mess left from a week of festivities and visitors.

No one has any time to attend to a buried body. Now the message seems to have died, too. Or has it.

The closest women disciples did not forget. They bundled up the ointments, oils, perfumes, and clothes needed to finish a proper burial and went to the tomb.

No reason to run or to hurry. The body was not going anywhere and this was not going to be a pleasant chore. The walk was quiet; there was no reason to be joyful and they were exhausted.

Would I have walked along the path to the tomb? Today, I would have to say no since I know how tired I am after a huge holiday affair. I would want to clean up the mess at home before I did anything else.

Jesus? He died and nothing appears to have changed for the Jewish people even if his message made me feel good.

Luke 24:25-27: The Walk to Emmaus

25 Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. 26 Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” 27 Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Question F: Would you have believed—then or now?

Of course, you say. You believe. But would you have been a believer who was in Jerusalem for Passover, who witnessed the crucifixion, who walked away and observed Sabbath, and then even visited the empty tomb?

Today, the story is captured in print, it has been translated and evaluated word by word.   Scientists, historians, sociologists, anthropologists, and theologians have provided evidence repeatedly that supports the written word. All this makes the question easier to answer: Do you believe?

Today’s worldwide community has instant communication in visible, in audio and even in print format. Every language can be translated by a few clicks on the computer. Why is it so hard to answer that question?

Would I have believed in the ancient days when Jesus and I lived in real time together? I think so. And as I continued living, I think I would have become even a stronger believer.

But, I also have a few doubts. During the Cold War, I asked myself how strong my faith was. I wondered if I could keep my faith during an interrogation.

Today, my experience leads me to say, “Yes, I believe. I have experienced God’s grace. I have witnessed his miracles. I have received his forgiveness. I know the is life eternal.”

given on Sunday, April 5, 2015

Luke 24:28-34:

28 By this time they were nearing Emmaus and the end of their journey. Jesus acted as if he were going on, 29 but they begged him, “Stay the night with us, since it is getting late.” So he went home with them. 30 As they sat down to eat,[p] he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. 31 Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared!

32 They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” 33 And within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven disciples and the others who had gathered with them, 34 who said, “The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter.[q]

My answer: Yes, I believe in the mystery of faith. Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.

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Palm Sunday: Telling the story

The Word & Thoughts:Palm Sunday Chronologically: a parallel review of scripture   NIRV

  • Explain the use of the Chronological Bible
  • Pivotal shift—moving from ministry to the people to the final instructions to the Apostles
  • Palm Sunday is the visible fulfillment of the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9 given 600 years earlier


John 12:9-11(audience—New Christians and searching non-Christians)

Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there, so they came. But they did not come only because of Jesus. They also came to see Lazarus. After all, Jesus had raised him from the dead.

10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus too. 11 Because of Lazarus, many of the Jews were starting to follow Jesus. They were putting their faith in him.


Matthew 21:8-11(audience—the Jews)

A very large crowd spread their coats on the road. Others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Some of the people went ahead of him, and some followed. They all shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!” (definition of Hosanna: Save now!)

“Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up. The people asked, “Who is this?”

11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus. He is the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”


Mark 11:11(audience—the Christians in Rome, where this gospel was written)

11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple. He looked around at everything. But it was already late. So he went out to Bethany with the Twelve. (Bethany is about 3 miles from Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives is between the two areas.)


Luke 19:36-37, 39-40(audience—Theophilius, which means one who loves God, the Gentiles, and people everywhere)

36 As he went along, people spread their coats on the road.

37 Jesus came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives. There the whole crowd of disciples began to praise God with joy. In loud voices they praised him for all the miracles they had seen. . . .

39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd spoke to Jesus. “Teacher,” they said, “tell your disciples to stop!”

40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”


John 12:16-19

16 At first, Jesus’ disciples did not understand all this. They realized it only after he had received glory (the Resurrection). Then they realized that these things had been written about him. They realized that the people had done these things to him.

17 A crowd had been with Jesus when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead. So they continued to tell everyone about what had happened. 18 Many people went out to meet him. They had heard that he had done this miraculous sign.

19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “This isn’t getting us anywhere. Look how the whole world is following him!”


Closing Prayer: (from the Book of Worship, no. 514))


            Let us remember Jesus:

            Who was mighty in deed, healing the sick, and the disordered,

            using for others the powers he would not invoke for himself.

            Who refused to force people’s allegiance.

            Who was Master and Lord to his disciples,

                        yet was among them as their companion and as one who served.

            Whose desire was to do the will of God who sent him.

            Response: O Christ, our only Savior, so come to dwell in us that we may go

            forth with the light of your hope in our eyes, and with your faith and love

            in our hearts. — Amen


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