First Worship – Week Three

On this Psalm Sunday we focus on what is known as, ‘The Triumphal Entry’. Jesus enters Jerusalem to the cheers of the crowd, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the king of Israel!’  As before, I would encourage you to read the portions of Scripture and to pray aloud. Take time now before you come to God in worship to be quiet and to be still…thank God for this opportunity to worship Him and ask for a real sense of His presence with you…

Begin by reading these verses from Psalm 24 (traditionally read on Palm Sunday): ‘Lift up your heads, you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is he, this King of glory? The LORD Almighty – he is the King of glory.’ [This is our God – the King of Glory!]

Praise: Pause to listen to or sing a hymn.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for this day we know as Palm Sunday. For all it recalls, all it means and all it says to us. At this time we remember that going up to Jerusalem cost Jesus his very life but that was the only way – a way he willingly walked for us….So we come before you with humble and thankful hearts; we come too conscious of our own frailties, faults and sinfulness. Forgive us we pray the shallowness of our faith and the timidity of our following…Turn us around by your Holy Spirit active within us and among us…speak your Word of life into our hearts that we might grow in faith and be strengthened in your service. In Jesus’ name, the One who taught us to pray, ‘Our Father, who art in heaven…’

Read Psalm 118. A Psalm that begins and ends giving thanks to God and that reminds us that God is our strength, our song and our salvation (v14).

Prayer: Take time to pray for your family and friends, for our town and wider community and for our church. Pray too for doctors, nurses, care workers and all in the front line in the fight against the Coronavirus. Remember also those who have been bereaved in recent days – these are especially difficult times with restrictions on numbers attending funerals.

Reflection: ‘Who is it you see?’ We continue our journey through the Gospel of John focusing today on Chapter 12. In this chapter, Jesus will enter both Jerusalem and the last week of His earthly life. We’re going to take a series of readings, each of which has a different setting and will focus on different people; friends, disciples, strangers, the crowd, the chief priests, the Pharisees…. We will keep returning to our central question: when it comes to Jesus, who is it that each of these people see? And all of this leading to the question: When WE look to Jesus, who is it WE see?

Read John 12:1-11 Jesus among (mostly) friends. Jesus is relaxing at the home of his friends enjoying a dinner given in His honour….a welcome time to rest before the storm that will soon unfold…Martha has already declared Jesus to be the Messiah, the Son of God (11:27), and here sees an opportunity to willingly serve Him. Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead, sees an opportunity to enjoy Jesus’ company, while Mary worships Jesus through a costly act of devotion. But verse 4 cuts into this homely scene with a jarring note; harsh words of complaint spoken by Judas, not because he cares about Jesus and certainly not because he cares about the poor…for when he looks at Jesus what does he see? Money to be made and a ‘friend’ to betray…And as the scene shifts to outside this home we are pointed to the chief priests and what do they see? Their murderous thoughts speak of two who must die – Jesus and Lazarus with Him…

Read John 12:12-19 Entering the city. The triumphal entry is recorded in all four gospels with John’s account the most concise. Jesus arrives on a donkey and the crowd, on seeing him, go wild, waving their palm branches and shouting ‘Hosanna!’ They acclaim Him as king of Israel….but when the crowd look to Jesus what sort of king do they see? A conquering hero? One who would rescue them from the brutal oppression of the Romans? The One to restore Israel and the throne of David? It’s likely that’s what most of the crowd ‘saw’…. But did any see Jesus as the King long promised who would come in humility, the Suffering Servant King, come to bring peace and salvation? Even the disciples struggle to understand the scene….and all the while, the Pharisees continue their plotting, mistakenly thinking they are in control, but they couldn’t be more wrong….Jesus will go willingly to the Cross…

Read the rest of Chapter 12: The Cost of Discipleship John brings some strangers from out of town on to the stage. They’ve clearly heard about Jesus and ask to see him. Jesus uses this opportunity to speak of His mission and to spell out the high cost of following Him but also of the rewards of discipleship. So, what do these strangers see as they meet and listen to Jesus? It must be as confusing a picture for them as for the disciples, as Jesus speaks of grains and seeds, loving life, losing life and eternal life, serving and following…As the chapter moves to a conclusion we meet some leaders of the people who clearly believe in Jesus…but they weigh up the cost of following and conclude it is too high…..praise from men more important for them than praise from God….in their eyes Jesus is worth following but only in secret; only at a distance…

So many different people, seeing Jesus is so many different ways…and now the question is asked of us….of you and of me…for when we look to Jesus, what do WE see? Jesus as the light of the world? The Servant King? Not just a King, but King of kings? Saviour, Redeemer and Lord? And what difference does our ‘seeing’ make? This chapter in John’s Gospel is one of the richest chapters in all of the Bible on the subject of discipleship and what it means to follow Jesus: it means Jesus first (v25), service and following (v26), choosing to walk in the light (v35), trust (v36), and it also means eternal life (v25), looking at and to Jesus and in and through Him seeing the Father (v45). That’s the ‘seeing’ we are called to do…And the eternal consequences of not ‘seeing’ are here too (vv31, 40, 48).

But there is one more ‘seeing’ we need to focus on and it is this: When Jesus sees US, what does HE see? He sees sinners in need of a Saviour, He sees people who are easily side-tracked, often foolish and who struggle with every aspect of discipleship…He sees all this and nothing we do and are is hidden from Him, He sees us, He knows us and yet He loves us more than could ever know…’God so loved the world, that he gave His One and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ (John 3:16) It can be easier to read the word ‘world’ in that verse than put your own name in but why not pause to do that now, ‘God so loved [your name], that He gave…’

As we move into Holy Week look towards Good Friday and keep your focus on the Cross and Christ who died for you. Take time to reflect on the things Jesus said and did, and see, really see with the eyes of your heart the Saviour and Light of the world, our Saviour and light, praise God.

Praise and Pray: Pause to sing or listen to a hymn and to pray thanking Jesus that He died for you.

Benediction: The grace of Christ attend you, the love of God surround you, and the Holy Spirit keep you, now and forevermore. Amen