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Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Start:Stop - Reversing expectations

Bible reading

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.” (Matthew 21. 6 – 11)


Jesus, through his life and teaching turns our understanding of life upside down. He did it when he called on the one without sin to cast the first stone. He did it when he, their Master, served the disciples by washing their feet. And he did it on the occasion of his entry into Jerusalem too.

Some people at the time expected him, if he really was Israel’s Messiah or King, to lead an armed rebellion against their Roman oppressors. As his ministry had gone on, these people had begun pressing him to declare his hand. Jesus chose the moment of his entry into Jerusalem to do so, but not in the way that those people expected. Instead of coming into Jerusalem as a warrior King on a war-horse leading an army he came unarmed and riding on a donkey.

In doing so, he was pointing all those who knew the Hebrew Scriptures well to a passage in Zechariah which says this: “Rejoice, rejoice, people of Zion! Shout for joy, you people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you! He comes triumphant and victorious, but humble and riding on a donkey – on a colt, the foal of a donkey. The Lord says, “I will remove the war-chariots from Israel and take the horses from Jerusalem; the bows used in battle will be destroyed. Your king will make peace among the nations; he will rule from sea to sea, from the River Euphrates to the ends of the earth.” (Zechariah 9: 9 & 10)

By entering Jerusalem in this way, Jesus made it crystal clear that he was the King - the Messiah - that was expected but also that he would not be the kind of King or Messiah that they was expected. He would not come as the warrior King who will destroy Israel’s enemies or oppressors. Under his rule the only things to be destroyed are weapons themselves – the war-chariots, war-horses and bows of which the Zechariah passage spoke. He came as the Prince of Peace, not as the Warrior King. He came as the King who humbled himself by riding on the lowest, poorest form of transport – a colt, the foal of a donkey – not as a King who exalted himself on the largest, fastest steed.

Sometime after Jesus’ death and resurrection the Apostle Paul explained in his letter to the Ephesians how Jesus had made peace among the nations. He said: “Christ himself has brought us peace by making Jews and Gentiles one people. With his own body he broke down the wall that separated them and kept them enemies. He abolished the Jewish Law with its commandments and rules, in order to create out of the two races one new people in union with himself, in this way making peace. By his death on the cross Christ destroyed their enmity; by means of the cross he united both races into one body and brought them back to God.” (Ephesians 2: 14-16)

Instead of destroying the enemies of Israel as some expected, Jesus came to love his enemies and unite them with his own people, making peace. Paul then goes further to say that there are no distinctions either between slaves and free, between men and women, or between those thought of as civilised and those thought of as barbarians, all are one in Christ. The implication is that there are no barriers or divisions that should separate, for all can be one in Christ.

As a result, we are called to follow in the footsteps of Jesus by being peacemakers in our homes, communities and workplaces. Just as Jesus did the reverse of what people expected, by loving those who were thought of as the enemies of his people and sacrificing himself in order to bring those two groups together, so we need to do the same in relation to the divisions we experience in our own time and culture. Church needs to be a place and space in which we reverse people’s expectations by living and demonstrating Jesus’ embrace of all.


We confess that in our lives we do not always choose the way of peace. We spread gossip which fans the flame of hatred. We are ready to make any sacrifices when Caesar demands – but few when God invites. We worship the false god of security and nationalism. We hold out our hand in friendship –
but keep a weapon in the other behind our back. We have divided your body of people into those we trust and those we do not. Huge problems challenge us in the world – but our greed, fear and selfishness prevent us from uniting to solve them. Lord, we pray for your help, your forgiveness and your reconciling power in our lives.

May we reverse people’s expectations by living and demonstrating Jesus’ embrace of all.

Grant us peace that will BREAK our silence in the midst of violence, then prophetic voices shall resonate. Grant us peace that will PULL US DOWN from the steeple of our pride, then we'll learn to wash each other's feet. Grant us peace that will EMPTY us of hate and intolerance, then we'll turn guns into instruments and sing. Grant us peace that will SHUT our mouths up when we speak too much, then we'll learn to listen and understand what others are saying. Grant us peace that will DISTURB us in our apathy, then we'll dance together under the sun. Grant us peace that will
BURN our lethargic hearts, then we'll endure burning and let love and justice glow.

May we reverse people’s expectations by living and demonstrating Jesus’ embrace of all.

O Lord, you have said to us ‘Peace I leave with you.' This peace that you give is not that of this world: it is not the peace of order, when order oppresses; it is not the peace of silence, when silence is born of suppression; it is not the peace of resignation, when such resignation is unworthy. Your peace is love for all people, is justice for all people, is truth for all people, the truth that liberates and stimulates growth. Lord, it is this peace we believe in because of your promise. Grant us peace, and we will give this peace to others.

May we reverse people’s expectations by living and demonstrating Jesus’ embrace of all.

The Blessing

Our Lord Jesus Christ said to his disciples, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you." Give peace to your church, peace among nations, peace in our homes, and peace in our hearts. and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.


Ride on, ride on, in majesty.

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