A View from the Street
Sunday, April 2, 2023
Pastor Jason Bryan-Wegner
This week’s sermon is a dramatic monologue. The character portrayed in this monologue is fictional, but the details of the story and historical figures referred to in this monologue are consistent with events and people of Jesus’ day.
Shalom, my friends.
My name is Ephraim.
I’ve traveled with my family from the north, to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover with all the pilgrims of Israel.
It has been a long, but joyous journey.
With each mile we walked we remembered our ancestors, who once were slaves in Egypt.
God set us free from the oppression of Pharaoh, and with our ancestor Moses, God led us through the wilderness, to the Promised Land.
Each year, people from every town and village from miles around make the journey here to Jerusalem.
There is celebration in the air. We eat. We laugh. We remember the goodness and mercy of our God.
It’s so good to be reminded that God has really set us free.
This is all the more important because today we are held again in captivity by the Romans.
Blech! The Romans!
Sure, they let us go about daily business.
We have shops.
We can sell our goods.
But that’s not all there is to life.
The Romans tolerate our festivals, barely, so long as our celebrations don’t offend Caesar.
But they are constantly reminding us who is in control,
and it isn’t God; it’s Caesar.
Just the other day, I saw Pilate, the Roman Governor. He charged through the streets on his giant chariot.
His magnificent stallion and flashy sword are impressive. But he’s no Yahweh.
As Pilate came by, people moved as far out of the street as possible, and bowed on one knee as the chariot charged along. The people cowered in fear, pretending allegiance, while gnashing their teeth at the indignity.
You can tell the people have had enough of all this!
There is an air of unrest in the streets.
People keep talking about a king; a new king.
Sure, there’s always some talk of regime change around Passover.
But there’s A LOT of buzz in the crowds about a particular man this year.
You see, the people who’ve come from Samaria and Galilee keep talking about this man named Jesus.
I’ve never had the luck of seeing him myself, but I have heard about him.
I’ve heard about how he has healed the blind,
made the lame walk,
and raised the dead.
I’ve heard about his teachings.
To the powerful they sound strange and even dangerous.
To the everyday man and woman, they sound like pure hope flowing like streams out of the desert.
He talks about the Kingdom of God and says things like the first shall be last and the last shall be first.
He listens to people that others don’t even see. He’s a man of the people.
He calls himself the Son of Man and has been talking about how he must suffer under the authorities, and be killed.
The really strange thing is he’s claiming that three days later he will be raised from the dead.
I don’t know what to think about that! It doesn’t sound like any king I’ve heard about before. But a king who is willing to lay down his life for his people sounds like a big improvement from Pilate or Caesar, who demand a pound of flesh from the poor every time they come around.
The people are captivated by Jesus.
They swarm to him like he is some sort of mythical hero…
or dare I say it, even God!
On my way to the market this morning to select a lamb for the Passover, people started moving toward the gate of the city, away from the market.
They were cutting palm branches out of the trees along the way and shouting, Hosanna! Hosanna!”
I was going to carry on with my usual business, but I couldn’t help be curious.
When I turned around the corner and headed down the main street, there he was – the one I’ve been telling you about! It was Jesus of Nazareth.
He was dressed in plain clothes and a pair of worn sandals.
He had a few obvious friends around him, but he didn’t look particularly kingly. But then again, he was riding on the back of a donkey.
This might not seem like much to you, but to us Jews it reminds us of when the prophet Zechariah announced, “Shout aloud, O daughter, Jerusalem! See your king comes to you, triumphant and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey!”
Could this be?! Is this the prophecy being fulfilled?
I noticed something else about him.
His face was set like stone, his eyes wide and fixed. There was determination and purpose in his eyes. But it didn’t seem like this moment was his purpose.
He looked at the crowds as if he were looking through them, as if he were looking into the people’s own future and that he was carrying their future on his own shoulders.
The people all around kept shouting, “Hosanna! Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
The people were crying for Jesus to help them now – in the name of the Lord.
When I heard this, I got nervous.
The only one called Lord in public was Caesar, and this man was definitely not Caesar!
I could see the Roman soldiers guarding the streets start to stiffen.
They were on high alert as the parade rolled by.
It was enough for them to keep order in the streets during Passover – something they didn’t really like to do in the first place – this wild parade was almost too much.
If this went on much longer, there would be blood in the streets. If I didn’t get out soon, I was afraid some of it might be mine. And if not mine, his blood would be shed for sure!
The parade continued down the street a while longer.
Jesus seemed to be making his way toward the Temple.
I followed for a while. I couldn’t help myself – in spite of my fear.
There was something about the shouting, and palm waving…and this man.
Soon I found myself arriving at the Temple Mount. Some of the crowds started to disperse as Jesus dismounted the donkey.
He entered the Temple.
It became clear he was not going to make any grand pronouncement that he was here to overturn Caesar.
So, I went on my way.
But I haven’t been able to get what happened this morning out of my head;
the palms waving, the shouts of hope and for help, the man who rode into town victorious,
yet humble and riding on a donkey.
Could this be the one we have all been waiting for?
We’re all waiting for something, aren’t we?
Waiting for relief from the stress of life.
Waiting for peace to settle in our hearts.
Waiting for healing and health to be restored for us or for a loved one.
Waiting for God to bring peace to the world.
Whatever it is you wait for, pay attention to this Jesus.
Set your hope on him.
I don’t really know how I know this. But, all I know is that there is goodness in him
and he seems so eager to share that goodness freely with whoever will follow him.
And if the crowds I saw in the street are any indication of what he has to offer us, and dare I say, the whole world,
you won’t be disappointed by being part of that crowd too,
and following him wherever he may lead.
It’s getting late, I best be getting back to my family.
They are waiting for me to bring home the Passover lamb so we can remember God’s deliverance for our people.
Blessings to you, my friends, on this holiest of weeks.