Sharing Our Faith Together

Worship for 10 April 2022, Palm Sunday

by Peter Goddard 10 April 2022

On the day we commemorate as Palm Sunday, Jesus’ rode into Jerusalem to be proclaimed                                                    King - just as one would expect the Son of God to be! He didn't however, ride a mighty stallion at the head of a conquering army; instead, he rode a donkey in front of a few frightened disciples. He didn't ride into the palace courtyard to be acclaimed by lords and princes; instead, he rode the dusty streets to be cheered by the common people - not at all what you would expect of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords; but then Jesus was often to be found in unexpected places.

He gave up the glory of Heaven for the squalor of a stable. He left His Father God to live among sinners. He laid aside His majesty to become a humble preacher, the son of a carpenter. But most unexpectedly of all, the Son of God allowed Himself to be crucified upon a wooden cross!
After which you would expect to find Him in a tomb, for there His body was placed after the crucifixion. But no; three days after His death, His tomb was discovered to be empty and once again Jesus was found in an unexpected place - outside the tomb; living, talking to His friends - alive for evermore!

Hymn: Ride on Ride on in Majesty

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So where is Jesus to be found today

Well, firstly He is to be found in the Expected Places. He is to be found in the Bible; in Worship; in Prayer; in Creation; in Love and in Christian Fellowship.  

He is ‘the Word of God’; all that God has to say to us during this life. We meet Him in the hymns we sing. He is as close to us as our prayers. He inhabits all creation, from the grandeur of a sunset, to the intricate beauty of a tiny flower. He is God and ‘God is Love’, so all the love we give and receive is a revelation of Christ. As Christians reflect the light of Christ to the world around us, so in one another we meet Him! So, seek Him in the Expected Places, for there you will find Him.

But He is also to be found in Unexpected Places. He is to be found in Humility; in Suffering and in Resurrection. So don’t forget to seek Him in the Unexpected Places also, for you will find Him there too! And it is these places we will consider during the rest of this Service.

Lord’s Prayer

Song: From Heaven You Came Helpless Babe

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1. So today Jesus is to be encountered where you would expect Him; in the Bible; in worship; in prayer; in the beauty of His creation; in the love of our families, friends and neighbours and in the fellowship we share here in Church. But today he is also still to be found in unexpected places, just as He was on that first 'Palm Sunday' all those years ago! 

Reading: John 12:12-19

On that first Palm Sunday then, Jesus was found among the people of the streets. Matthew 11:19 tells us that: “Jesus was a friend of tax-collectors and other outcasts” and the Bible gives us plenty of illustrations of this. 
Matthew & Zacchaeus were a tax-collectors; “a woman who lived a sinful life” anointed the feet of Jesus with her tears and with her perfume (Luke 7: 37-38). Usually then, Jesus was to be found with the ‘common people’, not with ‘respectable folk’; with sinners, not with saints.

One summer Sunday evening my wife and I visited the Scottish port of Eyemouth. Down by the harbour the pubs were open and the quayside was crowded with people sitting in the sun, drinking beer and eating fish and chips – not really the sort of thing one should do on the Lord’s Day! We of course had nothing to do with such undesirable behaviour! Instead, we attended Sunday worship at a ‘most correct’ Baptist Chapel. The good folk there were smartly attired and the words of the service were most pious. 
And yet as we left the church, I had the uneasy feeling that had Jesus been in Eyemouth that day, He would not have been found in the chapel, but down by the harbour – with those who needed Him!

On Palm Sunday then, Jesus was found in an unexpected place of humility, riding a donkey along dusty streets thronged with the ordinary people of the city. People who then sang his praises and proclaimed Him King; but who a few days later would be calling for His crucifixion. And He of course knew what was coming. He knew that the people would turn against Him. He didn’t spend time with sinners because they honoured Him, but because He knew that they needed the salvation He alone could offer them — and they need Him still, for Jesus said: “I have not come to the righteous, but to call sinners to repentance!” (Matthew 9:13).

Consequently, Jesus was often to be found in an unexpected place of humility with those who needed to hear the Gospel and maybe that’s where we should be too, for He is with them still and there we will find Him!

Use your own words to pray for the Outcasts & Refugees

Song: See Him Come, the King upon a Donkey.

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2. If the Son of God was found in an unexpected place of humility on Palm Sunday. He was found in an even more unexpected place on Good Friday – He was found in a place of suffering!

Reading: Mark 15:25-39

Even before these events, Jesus knew what was coming. “‘Listen’, (He said) ‘we are going to Jerusalem where the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and teachers of the Law. They will condemn Him to death and hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock Him, spit on Him, whip Him and kill Him; but three days later He will rise to life!’” (Mark 10:33-34).

It's clear then that Jesus knowingly and voluntarily gave up both the glory of Heaven and the security of His earthly life, to be found in the unexpected place of suffering. He did so of course, because He knew that only there could He pay the penalty for the sins of the whole human race and so give everyone the opportunity to find forgiveness through repentance and faith in Him.

But it is on the Cross of Christ that we see the best example of the unexpected blessings that can come from the places of suffering!

Amazingly in Hebrews 2:10 we read that: "Jesus was perfected through suffering, in order to lead many people to salvation, so that they might share in His glory!"  And what was true of Christ, is true for His disciples also. Indeed, Jesus says that if we would be His disciples we must "take up our cross and follow Him - (to the place of suffering)" (Matthew 16:24). But He says this knowing that He will be there to help us and that for us too there will be unexpected blessings in the places of suffering.

In a small way I know this to be true from my own experience. When seriously ill in hospital I experienced the comfort of God in an unexpected way. He didn't heal me instantly, or take away my pain; but He did reassure me that: "It's darkest just before dawn!" And for me that did indeed prove to be that case. From that point on, things did begin to gradually improve for me. Equally, on reflection, I can appreciate some of the unexpected blessings which have resulted from my illness, both in terms of my relationships with others and in terms of my own spiritual understanding and maturity.

Indeed, it says in 2 Corinthians 1:15 that: “as we suffer for Christ, so shall He comfort us!” – for Jesus is still to be found in the unexpected place of suffering, and especially with those who suffer for His sake. (For example, the persecuted church, which paradoxically often thrives in a most unexpected way!)

And from such suffering comes another unexpected blessing, for Romans 8:17 says: As we share in Christ’s suffering so shall we share in His Glory!”

So, we should not be surprised when we suffer, for Acts 14:22 tells us that: “we must pass through many troubles to enter the Kingdom of God”; nor should we be fearful of such suffering, for God has promised us both the comfort of his presence and unexpected blessings to follow – for the story of Good Friday reminds us that Jesus is still to be found in the unexpected place of suffering.

Use your own words to pray for the Suffering

Song: Jesus Christ I think upon Your Sacrifice

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3.  So Jesus was and is to be found in the unexpected places of humility and suffering.  On Easter Sunday however, He was to be found in another unexpected, but very different place. 

On that first Easter Sunday morning the disciples went to the tomb expecting to find a corpse. For them the cross had been the end of their dreams; the end of their hopes.  They had betrayed and abandoned Jesus and they went to his grave full of grief and sorrow.

Once again however, Jesus was to be found in an unexpected place – the place of resurrection!  He was to be found not in, but outside the tomb; subtlety transformed!

Reading: John 20: 11-16 & Luke 24: 13-18 & 25-32

First, he greeted Mary Magdalene, who didn’t recognise him until he spoke to her; she thought that He was the gardener!  Later he met Cleopas and another disciple on the road to Emmaus, both of whom failed to recognize Jesus, until he revealed himself to them as he blessed and broke the bread they were about to eat.

Clearly then the appearance of the resurrected Christ, was markedly different from that of the earthly Jesus, for Mary and the other disciples had spent most of the last three years with him, yet initially they failed to recognise Him!

Later the Apostle Paul was to explain this difference in appearance. In 1 Corinthians 15:42-44 he wrote; “This is how it will be when the dead (with Christ) are raised to life. When the body is buried, it is mortal; when raised it will be immortal.  When buried it is ugly and weak; when raised it will be beautiful and strong. When buried it is a physical body; when raised it will be a spiritual body!”

Indeed, we know that there was nothing particularly striking about the physical appearance of the earthly Jesus, since Isaiah 53:2 tells us that: “He had no dignity or beauty to make us take notice of Him.” But now the resurrected Christ was partially glorified!  

Is it any wonder then that Mary and the other disciples initially failed to recognise Him, when he was to be found in the unexpected place of resurrection?!

The two disciples who met Jesus one the road to Emmaus then returned to Jerusalem and told the other 11 apostles of their encounter.  They would surely have included a description of the Risen Christ, so the others had no difficulty recognizing Him when He again appeared in an unexpected place.

Reading: John 20:19-32

The disciples were hiding behind locked doors, but suddenly Jesus appeared among them!  It seems that His earthly glorified body was no longer confined by time and space, for it was now a spiritual body!

Without using any words, Jesus asked Thomas the same question that he asks each one of us: “‘Who do you say that I Am?’” And Thomas replied: “‘(You are) my Lord and my God!’” To which Jesus replied by saying: “‘You believe because you see Me; blessed are those who believe without seeing Me!’” (V29)

Why did he say this?  Because as John tells us in V31, he wrote his Gospel “So that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God and that through your faith in him you will have (eternal) life!” – for the good news of the gospel is that through repentance and faith in Christ we too will one day be found in the unexpected place of resurrection and share in the 

Divine Glory of our Risen Lord!    

Hymn: The Head that once was Crowned with Thorns

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Take time to reflect and pray for Mission & Evangelism globally, nationally and locally

Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession - bring your own thanks and petitions to the Lord

Hymn: Man Of Sorrows

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Such then is the unexpected story of Holy Week. It began with a Palm Sunday ride on a donkey, to an unexpected place of humility among the common people. It continued to an unexpected place of suffering — the Cross on which Christ was crucified to pay the penalty for the sins of the whole world. And it climaxed with His resurrection to life, so that through repentance and faith in Him, each one of us can unexpectedly share in His Heavenly glory!

So, this Easter, let us seek the risen Christ in the old familiar places of Christian devotion; in Bible study, worship and prayer. But let us not be fearful to follow Jesus to the unexpected places of humility; suffering and glory - for He inhabits them still and there will we find Him, our Lord and our Saviour! Amen.