It’s Palm Sunday – the beginning of Holy Week. During this Lenten season we have been making our way through the Book of Exodus.Today we are in Exodus 34. It’s all about a new beginning. Aaron, Israel’s high priest, needs a new beginning. So does Israel. So do we!
A new beginning is absolutely necessary. Why is that? If you were here on Wednesday, you remember that in Ex. 32 Aaron and the Israelites were faced with a huge crisis. They hadn’t seen Moses for 40 days and 40 nights. Was Moses dead? Did Moses leave them? Aaron and the Israelites grow impatient so they made a golden calf and began to worship it! Yikes!
Speaking of false idols, tomorrow is Tax Day. Nice segue, huh? Well, whether we like the IRS or not, in a crisis the IRS knows what to do. This is straight from the Government Handbook – “During a state of national emergency, the essential functions of the IRS are as follows; assessing, collecting, and recording taxes.”
While everyone else panics, the IRS knows exactly what to do! Collect money! But when most of us are faced with a crisis, we find it difficult to remember that the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. The Israelites were the same way. When faced with the huge crisis of not seeing Moses for a couple weeks, Aaron and the Israelites have no idea what to do! That’s why they build a golden calf and begin to worship it and get themselves in a great big mess. So what does Moses do when he comes down from Mt. Sinai? He smashes the Ten Commandments, grinds up the golden calf, mixes it with water, and makes the people drink it! He was more than a bit ticked off.
Exodus 34:1, “Then Yahweh told Moses, ‘Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones. I will write on them the same words that were on the tablets you smashed.’” The Ten Commandments had been smashed and trashed! That’s why a new beginning was absolutely necessary!
Let’s face it. We’re not that much different than Aaron and the Israelites. What do we usually do when faced with a crisis? We get angry, impatient, selfish, faithless. We turn to our golden calves and look to them for help. Our all-holy, pure, and righteous God has every right to dump us off at the curb and ride off into the sunset.
But He doesn’t! Our God doesn’t do that. With Him, a new beginning is possible. “Then Yahweh came down in a cloud, and stood there with Moses, and called out his name. God frequently comes down in the book of Exodus. He came down in the burning bush. He came down on Mt. Sinai. He came down to fill the tabernacle with his cloud and his glory. The point is – we can’t go up to God. God has to come down to us – right where we are – in the brokenness of our crushed commandments. That’s really what Lent and Holy Week are all about.
And what does God do when he comes down? Does He scold us? Does He shame us? Berate us? Reject us? Condemn us? No! God cries out, “ I Am! Our compassionate and gracious God is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast-love and faithfulness.” A new beginning is possible with God!
Compassionate. This word in Hebrew is closely related to the word for a mother’s womb. The idea of compassion expresses the emotional connection that a mother has for a child in her womb. That’s how God feels about you!
Slow to anger. If God was quick to anger, we wouldn’t last a second around Him. If God would shoot off rockets of wrath every time we sinned, we would all be blown to smithereens. But God says from Sinai, “I am slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love. “Abounding” announces that God’s steadfast love isn’t limited. It’s like the federal reserve, whenever there’s a need, God just prints more currency! More grace and mercy for all!
But there’s a big difference! Unlike the federal governmentt, God has an infinite supply of steadfast love to cover all His currency. His unlimited resources will never run out! He will never go in debt, go bankrupt, or go belly up. No way – now how – Never. He actually is too big to fail.
So God lifts us up out of our wickedness, rebellion, and sin. And where does he put it all? Well, that brings us to today. Jesus rides into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday because on Good Friday He is going to have to pick up the huge mess pile of our sin and evil, wickedness and rebellion – and place it upon himself and nail it to the cross.
Jesus is Yahweh in the flesh, “the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast-love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and lifting up wickedness, rebellion, and sin.” Jesus not only teaches this love of God – He lives it out and demonstrates this love by shedding His own blood on the cross for you and for me. Palm Sunday announces it. Holy Thursday prepares it. Good Friday demonstrates it. And Easter Sunday celebrates it! Amazing Grace – how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found – was blind but now I see.
Here’s the thing. This new beginning God offers to us today is entirely optional. He doesn’t force it on us. We can refuse His love and reject His grace. We can be callous and aloof, rebellious and ungrateful. But that’s not what Moses did! “Moses immediately threw himself to the ground and worshiped God”. Let’s follow Moses lead here and trust that God really is who He says he is. Let’s worship God with psalms, hymns, and songs of praise like “Jesus Name Above All Names” until it drowns out all of the fear, shame, guilt and blame! How does that work? Because Jesus is our great I am – our Immanuel – God with us.
You need to know that your God is with you everyday – but especially on a day like Palm Sunday. Because you know that Thursday and Friday and Saturday are coming. Pain, suffering, sorrow, loss. But you also know that Easter Sunday is on the way. Is it really the end – or is it a whole new beginning?
Yes – Holy Week is all about Jesus. But everything Jesus did during Holy Week He did for you …
For you, Jesus rode into Jerusalem atop a donkey to shouts of Hosanna. For you, He cleansed the temple of all the money changers.
For you, He sat at table in the upper room and made the Passover meal into a holy communion of His own body and blood
For you, Jesus prayed in the garden, “Father, not my will but yours be done.” For you, Jesus was betrayed by one of His own disciples.
For you, Jesus was tried and rejected by the chief priests and scribes.
For you, Jesus was tried and convicted by a sham court that didn’t know truth even when it was staring them in the face.
For you, Jesus’ life was exchanged for a convicted murderer. For you, He was crucified between two criminals, one praying, the other, mocking.
For you, He hung in the darkness between 12 and 3, the Light no darkness can overcome. For you, Jesus was buried and spent His sabbath in the grave.
For you He rose again from the dead on the third day – to the glory of God the Father. Jesus did all this for you, as He humbled Himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross. It was all to save you, to forgive your sins, to raise you from the grave, to give you new life in Him.
It’s Palm Sunday – the beginning of Holy Week! Your past is behind you. God’s grace is before you. A new beginning awaits. Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Amen.