On Palm Sunday the crowds welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem, waving palm branches and laying their cloaks on the road ahead of him in a first century version of a red carpet welcome to the Holy City. They shouted, "Hosanna, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" It was quite a demonstration. However, most of the people who welcomed Jesus didn't know who he was. They welcomed him as Messiah, but Jesus wasn't the Messiah, the political savior, they wanted him to be. That's why by Friday the crowds were ready to turn against Jesus and shout, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" in Pilate's court.
Today there are as many misconceptions about Jesus as there were in the first century. Many people will focus in on a story about Jesus or a few of his teachings to proof text their perception of what they want him to be. Some people see Jesus as a moral crusader who condemns the sins of the world. Other think of Jesus as an advocate of social and economic justice. Some feel that Jesus was a just good man, a teacher, a philosopher or a prophet. I think of Jesus as the Son of God and Savior of the world.
The point is, it's not up to us to decide who we want Jesus to be. We have to accept Jesus on his terms. That's why on this Sunday before Easter my sermon is based on Matthew 16:13-27, "Do You Know Jesus?" Jesus asks his disciples, "Who do the people say that I am?" The disciples report that people think he is John the Baptist raised from the dead, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets. Those were all inadequate understandings of Jesus. So Jesus asked his disciples, "Who do you say I am?" Peter replied as spokesman, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." Peter got it right. But as we see later in the story, Peter still didn't fully know or understand Jesus.
Knowing Jesus is essential if we want our faith to be strong and to be his witnesses and serve him. This Sunday we'll get to know Jesus and seek to gain a greater understanding of what he came to earth to do. By knowing Jesus better, we'll better understand our role as his followers. Easter, the following week, makes a lot more sense if we know who Jesus is and what he came to do.
I hope you'll join us for worship this Sunday and get to know more about Jesus. Our desire every week is to encounter the living Christ as we worship him. We have Traditional Worship at 9:00 a.m. and Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m. so come at whatever time or for whatever worship style is appealing to you.