March 25, 2018
In this life we spend a considerable amount of our time getting ready for lots of things. To be present in worship today, you had to get ready to be here; young people for you to be ready for school tomorrow, you must plan to get ready. Also, to make sure you don't miss school tomorrow you must be ready to step onboard the school bus at a specified time. None of us can escape getting ready for lots of things. It's a way of life.
To preach another Palm Sunday sermon, I had to get ready. For more than 40-years, I have preached a palm-Sunday sermon. The passages I've preached from have included this one in Mark's gospel and other gospel passages. As I thought about this passage in Mark's gospel, I thought about what else might I need to say to you from this passage in Mark's gospel. And the thing that has compelled my interest and meditation this week has been the preparation Jesus made, and his getting ready to travel into Jerusalem where he would die during this final visit.
For sure the Bible teaches that his preparation began long ago. However, Mark informs us of his preparation just before riding into Jerusalem to die by identifying his physical location in Bethpage and Bethany. These cities were within walking distance of Jerusalem. Bethany was a city Jesus had visited from time to time, and it's in this city that he stayed with Martha and Mary and their brother, Lazarus.
I want to focus on his preparation for this final trip to Jerusalem and his visit prior to his death. He sent two of his disciples to a nearby village. Jesus told them to look for a young colt or donkey. They did just as Jesus had instructed them. And just as he had instructed them, they saw the young colt whom Jesus had told them no one had never ridden. Also, he was tied to a doorway.
Also, Jesus had told his two disciples that if someone should ask them why they were untying the young colt, they were to inform them that the Lord had need of it and would return it to them. They successfully untied the young donkey and brought it to Jesus.
The people made additional preparations prior to Jesus' entry into the city of Jerusalem. They threw their outer garments over the young donkey; with these same garments they carpeted the road Jesus took to Jerusalem, and they spread branches that they had cut out in the fields. Additionally, as they proceeded to the city they shouted familiar sayings:
"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"[b]
10 "Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!"
"Hosanna in the highest heaven!"
Jesus and the people made all of these preparations! They made these preparations prior to his death that followed a week later in Jerusalem. They made preparations for a dark time in the life of Christ; they made preparations for his suffering that he would endure on the cross; they made preparations! They made lots of them!
The many preparations Jesus and the people of that day made can teach us a much-needed message for our times. The word out there is lots of people are no longer making preparations for the future. For example, 1 in 3 Americans have $0 saved for retirement. Also, 56% of Americans have less than $10,000 saved for retirement. (source: Money, March 14, 2016)
Preparations are also needed for spiritual matters. Last Sunday morning, a young lady came forward in our worship service. She expressed faith (trust) in Christ and desires to be baptized. During my brief time with her in the presence of all assembled for worship, I told her that I was so pleased that she chose to listen to her inner voice telling her to come forward and to express trust in Christ. I regret that we don't have more of our young people and others coming forward to express their trust in Christ for their future lives. I can remember when the numbers were much larger for people coming forward in worship services following the sermon about Jesus Christ and his love for people; I can remember people were talking openly and lovingly about people in their families coming forward to express their trust in Christ. I suppose many people are not giving any attention to their future lives. They don't seem to be concerned at all that this is not our final resting place. We need more preparations! We need to prepare for tomorrow for sure but also for an eternity!
There is another example that indicates more preparations are needed for spiritual matters. Just this past Wednesday, I attended the funeral services of a sister whom I have known from when she and I were teenagers. At the funeral, there was an outpouring of great love for her from her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. The expression of emotions from her children seem to have been of an extreme nature. One person fainted, and the Cleveland emergency squad came and took him away to the hospital. My observation was there is a need for more preparations for what happens at the end of life. In no way am I suggesting that these young people at that funeral are less informed than others in the family of Christ. Oh no! What I am suggesting is that God's people need to hear again and again that we must prepare ourselves for home-going funerals at all age levels. We must not forget that preparations must include all phases of life. We will mourn the loss of our loved ones; that's understandable and fully acceptable. But we must not sorrow as those that have no hope. We sorrow for our loved ones, but we sorrow knowing that God has conquered death once and for all. The Apostle Paul put it this way, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? (1 Corinthians 15:55)
Jesus is our example for preparing for death no matter our situation. He prepared for his very death; though he was young, he came to Jerusalem to die; he spent his life on earth getting ready for the death he experienced in Jerusalem. Early on in his ministry he told Peter that he was going to Jerusalem to die, Peter responded in such a way that Jesus had to chide him:
"22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!"
23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns." (Matthew 16:21-23)
So, Jesus prepared for this time of death in his life.
In his messages to the masses he warned them to "Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour." (Matthew 13) In his many parables, he warned them to prepare. He told them again and again to get ready for the day the Son of Man would appear.
Should it be any less for us? Shouldn't we also prepare for death on earth at every age? We claim that we've set our hearts on following him in every way. Following him in every way includes making preparations for death just as he did; following him in every way means life has an end to it for all of us.
Take action now! Don't be afraid to establish a "Living Will." "A living will allow you to approve or decline certain types of medical care, even if you will die as a result of that choice." (source: Follow the Money)
Let us show that we are truly his followers by preparing as he did for death even in our youthfulness and at any and all ages! Let us not put a burden on our families by not purchasing burial insurance or saving an adequate amount in our savings or other monetary accounts. I must tell you that I have learned from being a pastor that some people don't purchase burial insurance. They live as if they will never die; they don't give time, energy, and money to such matters. But you too will die. All of us need burial insurance or adequate assets for our burial.
Let us thank Jesus for the preparations he made to go into Jerusalem to die for our sins. He went all the way. He suffered; he hung on a tree; he died; he was buried in a borrowed tomb, and he paid for all of our sins. That's the example. He prepared for it all. Let us now follow him and make preparations for all phases of life including even death itself. Amen.