20190414 Sunday Worship sermon
“On the way to Jerusalem” (John 17:9-13)
In my early 20s I thought ‘what we had’ was more important than our ‘heart’.
So I put the concerns about the inner being in the back burner and thought that the materialistic environment or economic condition was more important to our lives.
And I thought I was correct, at least in my early 20s.
However, after graduating seminary, I began to understand the deeper faith through my ministry, I realized that our heart is more important than anything else.
Especially these days, I think that our heart and inner being are more important than our materialistic environment.
I think that our life can be changed depending on our mindset.
In particular, how can we Christians live with the heart of the Lord?
This is the key that will decide our faith and our life.
What would the heart of the Lord be?
What does Jesus have in His mind?
We wish we can go into the heart of Jesus and see what He has in His mind.
But we can’t do that so I would like to reflect upon what Jesus has in His mind through Scripture so that we can learn what it is like to live with the heart of Jesus.
Today is Palm Sunday and it is the beginning of Holy Week.
Jesus is now on His way to Jerusalem.
His disciples and crowd watched Jesus entering Jerusalem with excitement and anticipation.
Countless people filled the path Jesus was passing.
They spread out their clothes and palm branches on the street, and praised out loud.
“Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”
But the crowd who shouted at the top of their lung crucified the Lord the very next week.
How could that have happened in a few days?
I usually ask questions on Palm Sunday and during the Holy week every year.
What changed the minds of people who welcomed the Lord so passionately?’
‘How could ‘Hosanna!’ be changed to ‘Crucify Him!’ over night?’
In fact, these questions are not only aimed at the crowd of two thousand years ago.
You and I, we all are not free from the questions.
We are so easily touched by grace, and we lose it so fast.
We serve the Lord so passionately for a short time, and cool down fast.
Even we nail a spike in the Lord’s heart.
Yes, we do not deserve to blame the crowds of Jerusalem.
The welcoming crowd probably thought,
“Yes, when Jesus goes to Jerusalem, it will be a new world. The Roman Empire will be overthrown…”
They probably had this hope and expectation.
However, would Jesus have such same thoughts as the welcoming crowd?
What do you think was in Jesus’ mind when He went up to Jerusalem?
Jesus already told His disciples that He would go to Jerusalem, be caught, suffer, and be crucified on the cross.
But the disciples did not really understand what Jesus meant and the crowd who did not hear what Jesus said watched Him enter the city in excitement and expectation.
What would have been in Jesus’ mind?
Knowing that He would be caught soon and be crucified, what in the world would have been in His mind?
What do you think Jesus had in mind?
Let us think about it.
Well, I think Jesus probably went to Jerusalem with mixed feelings and full of agony.
We can look into what Jesus had in mind before the crucifixion through His prayer.
We can see that Jesus was in agony when He prayed at Gethsemane before He was caught.
He was in such agony that He prayed, “I am in trouble.”
But how could he enter Jerusalem boldly when He was suffering from so much agony?
What made that possible?
What could be the source of His strength that enabled Jesus to overcome the agony and enter Jerusalem boldly?
What could possibly have been in His mind?
Of course Jesus probably had the fundamental principle that He wanted to glorify God and obey God’s will.
But what gave Him the motive to follow that fundamental principle?
I believe Jesus had a treasure.
Jesus had a treasure that enabled Him to overcome His agony and enter Jerusalem.
What would be that treasure?
When we have something that we value and want to keep, it’s called a treasure.
Then, what could have been Jesus’ treasure?
What could have been that something that Jesus wanted to protect?
Of course, Jesus believed that God is with Him and will protect Him.
But the treasure that I want to talk about today is something different.
You can get a clue from today’s scripture.
What do you think it is?
Yes, it was His disciples.
To Jesus, His disciples were His treasure.
Jesus entered Jerusalem boldly because He had His disciples.
The scripture we read today, John 17, is Jesus’ last prayer immediately before He was caught.
The Gospel of Luke records His prayer at Gethsemane, but according to the Gospel of John, the prayer in today’s scripture is the last prayer of Jesus that effectively summarizes His entire life.
The entire chapter 17 is His last prayer to God.
We can see a little bit of what was on His mind through the last prayer of Jesus before His death.
The focus of His prayer was His disciples.
In His last prayer, Jesus is saying the disciples that He nurtured and protected through His ministry are His treasure.
They are His strength.
Through His prayer, He’s proclaiming that He can enter Jerusalem because of His disciples.
Now, Jesus is entering Jerusalem.
As the crowd was welcoming Him in excitement, He must have had mixed feelings.
And Jesus must have reflected on His life as His death was nearing.
Before His crucifixion, Jesus must have reflected upon His dear disciples and the three years He spent with them.
The disciples were the first group of people that was on His mind on His way to the cross.
Jesus must have thought of the three years He spent with them sharing happy and difficult moments.
But let’s think about it.
Who are these disciples?
Sometimes they were stubborn, complaining, ignorant and didn’t understand what Jesus was doing or saying to the extent that they made Jesus upset.
To save Lazarus, Jesus told the disciples, “Let’s go to Bethany.”
And the disciples objected saying, “But Jesus! We were almost stoned to death there and you want to go back there?”
As such, the disciples were very ignorant of what Jesus intended.
These disciples got scared when they were in a boat with Jesus during a big storm in the ocean.
They even argued among themselves about who is higher, which disappointed Jesus.
Of course, it is not written in the scripture but we can easily see that Jesus might have thought from time to time, “I chose these disciples but would they indeed be useful in accomplishing God’s ministry and His kingdom?”
Jesus might have been so disappointed and thought that He should have chosen others as His disciples.
Despite who they were, the disciples were the most important thing in Jesus’ mind as He was about to be crucified.
“My disciples that I spent the last three years are the most important treasure. When I go to Jerusalem, I would suffer and die on the cross. However, the disciples are the source of strength that enables me to go through that…”
Jesus thought like that.
Yes, the disciples became His strength.
In verse 10 Jesus says, “I have been glorified in them.”
This is His prayer and testimony to God.
Jesus did all His best to protect His disciples in God’s name.
And all the time and effort that He put in to protect His loving disciples from this world are now the most valuable treasure in the life of Jesus.
And since these valuable disciples were still in this world, Jesus was able to go on His way to Jerusalem and to the crucifixion.
So Jesus is praying,
“Father, I’m going back to You. When I go to Jerusalem, it is most definite that I would go back You. But the reason I pray to you right now is so that my loving disciples would continue to have the joy that I have in me among themselves.”
That’s right, what was the joy Jesus had in Him?
It was the time that He spent with His disciples.
The time that He spent to protect them.
Since that time was so valuable to Jesus, He is praying before His death,
“Father, I accept the time I spent with my disciples with joy and go forward to the cross.”
Now, Jesus is walking the way to the cross for God’s will.
The past three years He spent with His loving disciples became the joy and the strength to Jesus and the treasure that motivated Him.
Brothers and sisters, what kind of treasure do you have?
What is the treasure to you?
No matter what the situation we are in, do you have that source of strength that supports you and helps you to go on?
For some of us, family is that strength.
For others, friends could be the strength.
What else could be that strength?
Well some may say material possession could be that strength.
What gives us strength to go on in this world?
What enables us to go on the hard path in front of us?
That is the time filled with our memories including pain and suffering and the tears.
When we look back, there could be times when it was so painful and frustrating, but ultimately, those times become the treasure that sustain and support us.
Why do those times become our treasure?
Because in those times, we discover the love of Jesus for us.
The love of Jesus that tried to preserve and protect His disciples, we realize that love of Jesus was with us when we look back and reflect upon our past.
The fact that we realize the love and grace of Jesus that we didn’t know back then becomes our treasure and strength.
In those times, it is the love of Jesus that protects us.
And because of that, we gain the strength to go forward with our journey.
No matter how difficult and desperate the path in front of us seems, we can look back on our past and feel the love of Jesus and regain our strength.
I pray that all of us can look back in our lives and confess that Jesus was with us and the time we spent with Him is now our treasure.
Somebody said, “For all people, the life that he can reflect upon, that is the real treasure.”
Whether we are old and young, regardless of what kind of life that we lived, I wish that we remember that life we lived and that we can reflect upon that life is our treasure.
Brothers and sisters, as we look back on our lives, I am sure some days were very difficult.
Some days I am sure were painful and sad, and looking back on the remnants of our past makes our heart ache.
Nevertheless, all of those times can be our precious treasure because they are filled with the love of the Lord that shines in our lives.
And because of his love, we are here today.
Brothers and Sisters, let us reflect upon our life.
There were sad and painful moments, some suffering and desperate moments…
It was really difficult back then.
But as we look back now, do we realize that God’s grace was there nonetheless?
Do you realize that the Lord was present with you every moment and every moment was His grace?
That is right!
We are here today because the Lord was with us every moment and His love protected us all along.
We are here today because of the love of the Lord that we shared in this community, Olive church.
“Oh, this is in fact the most precious treasure of my life…”
Yes, we give thanks to the Lord.
Let me ask you again?
Where would you get the strength to move on and live your life?
You will get support from your family.
You will get help from your friends.
You will get support and help from some materials.
However, more than anything else, let us reflect upon our past – every moment that we fell but the Lord raised us, every moment that we cried and the Lord wiped our tears, every moment that we suffered and the Lord comforted – and let us remember His love.
Let us look back and be determined that we have strength to continue on our journey.
On this Palm Sunday, we try to look into the mind of Jesus as he went to Jerusalem.
It was the way to suffering, the way to crucifixion; however Jesus went boldly because of His love for his disciples, because He cherished the time He spent with them.
Likewise, although we may have a rough journey ahead of us, we will be able to go forward boldly if we reflect upon each moment that we traveled with Jesus, all His love and grace in each moment of that journey, and the time we shared the love of Christ in our church.
The biggest strength that enabled us to be here today is the love of the Lord that protected and preserved us, and the love of our fellow brothers and sisters that prayed for each other.
On this Palm Sunday and during the Holy Week, I pray that we get our strength to march on to our journey – which will be rough and difficult from time to time – from the love of the Lord and the love of the church.