Sermon April 14, 2019 Hosanna to the Gentle, Humble Servant-Leader!
Scripture Passage: Luke 19:28-40
Hosanna to the Gentle, Humble Servant-Leader!
Good Morning! When the crowds were shouting, "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!" what do we suppose they expected? Well, they were expecting a powerful military leader like Pontius Pilate or Caesar. They were anxious for a leader, who would soon free them from the oppression of the Roman government. However, this was the opposite of what Jesus came to be! Jesus came to be a gentle spiritual leader for them, whose only weapons were peace and love.
Another gentle spiritual leader, whose only weapons were peace and love, was Mother Theresa. It's easy for us to see the huge contrast between a military leader like Pilate and Mother Theresa! Mother Theresa was obviously not about force, violence or war, but all about compassion, love and helping those who are most needy. She heard the Spirit call her to serve the poorest of the poor and the sickest of the sick in India. In responding to this calling, she made huge sacrifices to leave her home in Poland to go to India. There, she ministered to people, who had terrible diseases like leprosy and who were very poor.
Mother Theresa's ministries to the sick and poor remind us of Jesus' ministries to the sick, poor and outcasts of society. This was the focus of Jesus' ministries, and in today's procession into Jerusalem, he is heading toward the climax of his role as the gentle spiritual leader. Like Mother Theresa, Jesus' gospel is not about powerful armies or war, but instead it is about using the spiritual tools of peace, love and prayer to overcome injustice. Like Martin Luther King, Jr., Jesus' leadership is completely non-violent and he uses the weapons of peace and love to overcome hate and injustice. This is the gentle leader, who rides into Jerusalem on the young donkey. He is quite the opposite of what most in the crowd are shouting Hosanna to!
Yes, Jesus is a humble leader, who is the opposite of what the crowd expects and will stoop as low as to wash his disciples' feet! The foot washing was reserved for the lowest servant, because peoples’ feet were filthy from wearing sandals and walking on dirt roads all day. So, by washing the feet, Jesus was giving the example of supreme humility. Jesus was setting the example of a humble servant-leader for pastors and all spiritual leaders. This is why we pastors wear a stole. The stole is a symbol and constant reminder of the towel Jesus used to dry his disciples' feet, after the foot washing. This humble act symbolized Jesus' deep love for his disciples, and this was Jesus 'new mandate' or command for his disciples and each of us. This is why we celebrate Maundy Thursday, because Maundy comes from the 'new mandate'.
So, this humble servant-leader, has the ultimate goal of moving toward the Cross and save the Jewish people and all people from their sins and a sinful society. To Jesus, this is the good news that the crowds should be shouting Hosanna about! As one commentator remarked, this was such good news, it was too good to be shut up! That's why Jesus commented to the Pharisees, that even if he were to tell the crowds to be silent, it would not do a bit of good. If the crowds were shut up, the stones would start shouting Hosanna, Jesus says! If the crowds shouting Hosanna today in the procession of the palms are cowardly, when they realize that Jesus is going to be that non-violent leader who submits himself to death on a cross, and they shout, "Crucify him!" when he's brought before Pilate, Jesus says, other disciples will rise up. No, Jesus is not a military leader, but yes, his dying on the Cross to give us freedom from our sinful condition, will bring liberation eventually from an unjust society. These things are indeed the good news, which this humble leader brings, and it is such good news, that it cannot be shut up!
Similarly, Mother Theresa's generous and brave acts of compassion and humble leadership in India and her other ministries, were such good news, that it could not be shut up. Even though she often didn't receive any thanks for all her compassionate ministries, she later became well-known throughout the world for her humble service. She even became venerated as a Saint. Even the stones could not be kept silent about her gracious heart and service to the most needy of our world!
So, may each of us learn from Jesus’ example as the humble servant-leader, who came to wash our feet and show us what authentic love looks like, and remember an example of this in Mother Theresa, as we shout our Hosannas and move toward the Cross this Holy Week. Hosanna and amen!