All Shook Up
April 1, 2007
(29) When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples,
(30) saying, "Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here.
(31) If anyone asks you, 'Why are you untying it?' you shall say this: 'The Lord has need of it.'"
(32) So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them.
(33) And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, "Why are you untying the colt?"
(34) And they said, "The Lord has need of it."
(35) And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it.
(36) And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road.
(37) As he was drawing near--already on the way down the Mount of Olives--the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen,
(38) saying, "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"
(39) And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples."
(40) He answered, "I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out."
My hands are shaky and my knees are weak
I can’t seem to stand on my own two feet
Who do you thank when you have such luck?
I’m in love
I’m all shook up!
You may find this hard to believe, but it has been fifty years since Elvis Presley’s song, “All Shook Up,” was at the top of the charts. It reached the pinnacle of Billboard magazine’s charts in April of 1957, and stayed there for eight weeks. Elvis, who died 30 years ago this August, shook the American music scene like no other pioneer of rock-and-roll. He was known as “The King of Rock-and-Roll,” or simply “The King.”
A lot of folks worship Elvis, and compare him to Jesus. Consider these connections:
Jesus said, “Love thy neighbor.” Elvis said, “Don’t be cruel.”
Jesus is part of the Trinity. Elvis’ first band was a trio.
Jesus walked on water. Elvis surfed.
Jesus is the Lamb of God. Elvis had mutton-chop sideburns.
Jesus is alive. Well, Elvis sightings continue to this day.
OK, I am just joking about any comparisons between Jesus and Elvis. It is April Fools’ Day, after all.
Today’s passage from Luke contains the Palm Sunday procession of Jesus the King, and he is the real and only king. Jesus left the city of Jerusalem “all shook up.” And why not? Jesus has just finished telling his followers the parable of the greedy and vengeful king, a shocking story which ends with the monarch giving the command, “as for these enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them — bring them here and slaughter them in my presence” (Luke 19:27).
Slaughter them, Kill them all, that was the way many ancient kings operated, and the followers of Jesus were wondering if that is what Jesus the Messiah-King would do to the enemies of Israel. Jesus knew what they were thinking and told the story of the murderous king “because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately” (v. 11).
The disciples find Jesus difficult to understand, impossible to predict. Elvis sang:
A well I bless my soul
What’s wrong with me?
I’m itching like a man on a fuzzy tree.
I have this image in my mind of what it would be like to itch like a man on a fuzzy tree. Perhaps the disciples were like that. They’re nervous wrecks. It’s hard to tell what Jesus is going to do as he approaches Jerusalem. Some hope he will drive out the Romans. Others long for him to push out the corrupt King Herod. Either way, they are expecting revolution and bloodshed.
But Jesus has another agenda. From the Mount of Olives, Jesus has two disciples go into a village fetch back a donkey (v. 30). He picks a young donkey, because he wants to fulfill the words of the prophet Zechariah, “Lo, your king comes to you … on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9). Jesus wants to show the crowd humility, instead of arrogance. He enters the city as Zechariah predicted he would, “humble and riding on a donkey” (v. 9). The choice of a donkey also sends the message that he is the bringer of peace instead of violence. If he had wanted to take down the Romans, he would have come riding a war horse, but Jesus is more interested in reconciliation than revenge.
Jesus also sends the message that his entrance into Jerusalem is not about human agendas; rather, he has a divine agenda. When the disciples go to the village in search of the colt they find that everything is supernaturally scripted and perfectly prepared. When the owners of the donkey ask, “Why are you untying the colt?,” the disciples reply, “The Lord needs it,” and this simple answer seals the deal (Luke 19:31). When Jesus rides along, people spontaneously spread their cloaks on the road, showing their awe and acclamation.
At the same time, the whole multitude of the disciples grasps the divine dimension of the moment, and begins to praise God for all the deeds of power that they have seen (vv. 37-38). What begins as an ordinary parade for a king ends as an extraordinary procession for the Messiah. “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” shout the disciples. “Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” (v. 38). You can almost hear an echo of the angels that welcomed the baby Jesus in Bethlehem — “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” (Luke 2:14).
Of course, not all is peaceful in the city of Jerusalem. The Pharisees are “all shook up.” . “Teacher, order your disciples to stop,” scold some of the Pharisees. And Jesus, knowing that his kingship is beyond human control, answers them, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out” (vv. 39-40). Jesus knows that his kingship is divine, and that God will assemble a cheering crowd to welcome his king, even if God has to use the stones of the city streets.
But what is the full impact of this day, Palm Sunday? What does it mean for us to live as followers of Jesus the Messiah?
Elvis had it right. “I’m in love. I’m all shook up.” When we follow our divine king Jesus, we are making this move out of love — not obligation. It’s entirely voluntary, like any connection of the heart. We follow Jesus because we find ourselves intensely attracted to his mission and message. We desperately want his salvation, reconciliation, and peace. Jesus is not the greedy and vengeful king of the parable; instead he is the generous and forgiving Messiah who enters Jerusalem and sacrifices his life for us.
“Love thy neighbor,” says this unconventional king. And yes, “Don’t be cruel.” This is a message that grabs us, and inspires our allegiance. At the same time, following Jesus as the Messiah means that we are going to be “all shook up.” As disciples of Christ, we’re going to find ourselves out of sync with a world that lives by the sword, dies by the sword, and is all-too-comfortable with forces of aggression and revenge. “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27-28). This approach to life that does not seem to have much place in the highly competitive and conflict-driven world we live in. Follow Jesus, and you might find yourself feeling like a stranger in a strange land.
But even so, even if we are out of sync with the world. It is worth it to be in sync with Jesus.
We see in the Palm Sabbath Parade a lesson about how God operates in our world and in our lives. All those people who came out to see Jesus that day in Jerusalem had a past and a history. Their history gave them certain expectations about what was possible that day. They expected a messiah who would be a conqueror like their great king David. They had an idea about kings. Kings were people who used military force to beat up on other people and to force people to acknowledge their power. Their own history told them that was what kings did. And their Roman rulers did the same thing. Successful generals were awarded a triumph in Rome. A triumph was a military parade in which a general displayed his success and power. So this was what their past led the people to expect a king to be like.
And God deals with them where they are, God does not ignore their history, their past, but God operates upon their present to move them toward God’s agenda. Their history leads them to expect a king to be on parade, so Jesus has a parade, but he does not wear a crown like an ordinary kind and he does not ride a horse for war. God is introducing them to new ideas about what a king should do. God takes their old ideas about kings who dominate and destroy and converts that to a new idea about a king of love.
Ultimately, the idea of Palm Sabbath must be applied to our individual lives. Each of us has come to church today with a history and a past. That past gives us certain ideas about what is possible in the future. We may not say it in this way, but in effect we believe that God will only act in certain ways, because in the past we have found that to be true. If our past has been mostly bad and bleak, we may in fact not expect God to do anything at all. This pessimistic outlook says that things will just go on pretty much as they always have. And nothing is ever going to be any better, and we should just resign ourselves to get through our days and not expect much. Many people have been so whipped by life that they pretty much have that attitude.
The parade on Palm Sabbath gives us a different attitude. God operated to change expectations to show us a new kind of king. God demands that we change our expectations and worship this new king. King Jesus operates in our lives to give us new attitudes about what is possible, about what God can do with us where we are.
God was there on Palm Sabbath. God is here in your life today. God is shaking up your life, influencing you toward a better way of living. The scripture tells us what God was doing with people on that first palm Sabbath. What is God doing in your life today? How is God leading you? What expectations do you have that need to be tossed out so God can fully work in you the purpose he has for your life? Give God control and follow King Jesus. Amen.
If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant
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