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The Lord Needs It
Sun, Mar 20, 2016

THE LORD NEEDS IT

(LK 19:29-40)

                Our people have been waiting for the coming of the Messiah for generations.  At times, we thought the Anointed One had arrived among us … but we soon found out that we were mistaken, and the waiting continued.  …..  Maybe the problem is that we have been waiting for who we expected the Messiah to be, rather than the One God might choose to send - bringing a message we need to hear, which might not be the one we want to hear.

                Some 3 years ago now, I was making a good living in Galilee as a fisherman – and then one day a man named Jesus came to the lakeshore and bid me to follow him.  I had heard of Jesus, but this was the first time I had actually seen him … and without a moment’s hesitation, I left my boats and nets, my family, and the only life I had ever known, and followed him.  Where we were going and what we were going to do, I had no idea … but I went with him anyway.

                I soon learned that his understandings of our faith and traditions were very different than what I had been taught and believed.  When asked why he and his followers did not observe the usual customs of our people when it came to fasting, he said “You cannot make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you?”  And when asked about not following the prescribed laws concerning the Sabbath, he replied “The Son of Man is the lord of the Sabbath.”  …..  There are times when Jesus’ answers to questions are clear and filled with insight, but at other times they can be … perplexing – both to those of us who follow him, and those who do not. 

                When King Herod heard what Jesus was saying and doing, I understand he believed that perhaps John the Baptizer, whom he’d had beheaded, had been raised from the dead, or that the prophet Elijah had returned from the grave.  I’m told that Herod asked of his advisors “Who is this man about whom I hear so many things?”  …..  It seems to me that it is not a good idea for Jesus to have caught the attention and interest of Herod, for he has been known to silence anyone who challenges his power and authority.

                I suspect Herod would have not appreciated what Jesus had to say when one day, not long ago, someone from the crowd that was following us said to him “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.”  Jesus looked at the man and said “Take care!  Be on your guard against all kinds of greed, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”  And then he went on to tell the story of a rich man, whose land produced abundantly, and who thought, “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?”  Then he said, “I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store my grain and my goods, and I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, and be merry!’”  But God said to him, “You fool!  This very night your life will come to an end.  And the things you have stored up, whose will they be?”  Jesus then looked at the man who had asked about dividing his family’s inheritance with his brother and said, “And so it is with those who store up treasures for themselves, but are not rich toward God.”  …..  Seeing as Herod lives a very comfortable life, spending much of his time relaxing, eating, drinking, and being merry, I don’t know that he would like the tone and message of this story that Jesus told.

                And then, as if this wasn’t bad enough, sometime later, when speaking with a group of Temple officials, Jesus told this story, “Two men went up to the Temple to pray – one a Pharisee, and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and said, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’” And Jesus told them that it was the tax collector that went away forgiven and justified before God rather than the Pharisee for all he had done, saying “For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but those who humble themselves will be exalted.” 

                To those in authority, and who lived the life that went with being in authority, Jesus’ words seemed to suggest that possibly they did not have Gods’ favor as they believed they did.  …..  This did not sit well with them.

                But there was one tax collector that we encountered in … Jericho I believe it was, that seemed to embrace what Jesus said here.  As we went along, a crowd gathered around us, and Zacchaeus, who was not a very tall man, climbed a tree alongside the road so he could see.  When Jesus saw him in the tree, he shouted out “Zacchaeus hurry and come down from there, for I will stay at your house today.”  I wasn’t sure how Jesus’ knew Zacchaeus’ name, but when we arrived at his house, Zacchaeus said, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have wrongfully taken anything from anyone, I will pay them back four times as much.”  Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house.”  …..  These are the kinds of things that I saw happen in people’s lives when they opened their eyes and hearts to Jesus’ teachings.

                And the one teaching I will always remember was when people were bringing children, even infants, to Jesus, that he might touch them; and some of my fellow followers told them to stop.  But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the Kingdom of God belongs.  I tell you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”  …..  As a child – accepting, believing, trusting.

                So … why am I having such a difficult time accepting and trusting in what Jesus has told us to do as we prepare to enter Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover?  He says we are to go into the city, where we will find a donkey tied up, and we are to bring it to him to ride from Bethany to Jerusalem – and if anybody asks us what we are doing, we are to simply say, “The Lord needs it.”  …..  That’s it, “The Lord needs it” – no money to pay for the animal, or guarantee that the owner knows Jesus and would gladly loan the animal to him? 

                Jesus has said and done many strange and wonderful things during the time I have been with him – but this is one of the strangest.  And yet, everything else he has said, or told us to do, seems to have worked out for the best … so why do I find myself questioning him about this?  What do I do?  …..

                Well, what I do is go to Jerusalem, pray that I find the right donkey, and hopefully nobody asks me what I’m doing with it.  “The Lord needs it” … would you let me take your donkey if that’s the best I had to offer?