Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks for all your goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all whom you have made. We bless you for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for your immeasurable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And, we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies, that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up our selves to your service, and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.
A colt that has never been ridden – an unbroken colt. But Jesus has authority even over the wild.
4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,
Again the predictability of Matthew to quote the prophets. Zech 9:9
Again to say “hey folks, I’m not making this stuff up.”
This is he who was spoken of a long time ago.
5 “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”
“Behold, your king” – what type of king?
The type who will overthrow the Roman government? Transforms society – sets up a Utopia? A place where everyone is equal – socially equal?
Will he look like Herod 2.0? Will he look like Pilate the governor?
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them.
By this time the disciples are probably thinking – “hey, what can they do to us… kill us?
7 They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them.
8 Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.
The manner Jesus is entering Jerusalem shows that he had no intention on being a king in an earthly way.
His throne would be a crude wooden cross.
His crown would be a crown of thorns.
He would establish his kingdom not by shedding the blood of his enemies, but by shedding his own blood.
Perhaps we see this way of the people laying down their cloaks etc in Matt 3 “In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’”
9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”
We sing these same hosannas each week as Jesus comes into our presence – where? In the communion.
Here we have our savior – but what kind of savior?
A week later after their cheers of hosanna, we will hear the shouts of “crucify him.”
We quickly go from rebuking crowds, to hosanna crowds to crucify him crowds.
10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?”
Once again Jesus knows how to draw a crowd and how to stir up a crowd.
Who is this? They know he is someone special – but not who.
11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
Plain recognition – but you still must tie the ‘who this is’ to Jesus and why he is here.
He is the king, the Son of David king, the eternal king, the king who rules and the king who came to die as a ransom for the many.
Who is this? We go back to Matt 1 “God with us.” We go to 2 Sam 7
“And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves,for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’;and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’?I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs.
And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent;or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!””
“Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.’
Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’ ” (John 20:24-29)
Most of you are familiar with Thomas’ nickname, Doubting Thomas. That nickname is a bit of a misnomer, however, because on the Sunday following Easter, Thomas was no doubter, if by that term we mean: “uncertain” or “lacking conviction.” To the contrary, Thomas was in a state of stubborn unbelief.
To face his closest companions with the absurd challenge, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe”, Thomas was calling the other disciples a bunch of fools. His heart was so hard that Thomas would not believe the witness of ten other disciples, nor the women. He would not believe even if he saw the risen Jesus with his own eyes. The only thing that would satisfy Thomas, so he said, would be to grope around inside Jesus’ wounds.
“And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” (1 Cor 15:14)
The cross and Jesus bodily resurrection go together as two non-negotiable doctrines of the Christian faith. Paul puts them together succinctly: “[Jesus] was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” (Rom 4:25) By raising Jesus from the dead, God vindicated the claims Jesus made about himself and declared His death on the cross to be atonement for the sins of the world. The Good News or Gospel of Jesus Christ is both the history of Jesus’ earthly ministry, death and resurrection and the application of the forgiveness of sins through its proclamation for you in the present.
The first gift the Gospel bestows is faith that Jesus died for your sins and was raised for your justification, through which God declares you to be righteous (or justified) in His sight. Without Jesus’ resurrection, there would be no atonement and our faith would be in vain. On the other hand, without faith in the Gospel, Jesus’ atonement would not apply to us and we would remain in our sin. Therefore, we have both Jesus’ resurrection and faith side-by-side in the following confession: “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom 10:9)
“Then [Jesus] said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.’ ” (John 20:27)
Without faith in the risen Christ, Thomas was in real trouble. If Jesus had not rescued him, Thomas would have perished in unbelief and been condemned in his sin. But for our sake Jesus allowed these events to happen, so that through the testimony of John’s gospel we might believe that Jesus is a kind and forgiving Savior, who desires to bless us with faith in His resurrection, and through faith that we would join with Thomas and the whole Church who confess: “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28)
“So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’ ” (John 11:16)
As one of the original 12 disciples, Thomas witnessed the authoritative teaching and miraculous works of Jesus first hand. Thomas witnessed Jesus raise three people from the dead. When Jesus decided to return to Judea to raise Lazarus (despite prior threats to His life from there), it was Thomas who exhibited more courage and devotion to Jesus than any other disciple: “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” What then happened to all his faith?
Jesus was arrested, mocked and spit upon, tried and condemned, flogged and crucified, died and was buried.
Thomas saw the great miracles that Jesus performed for others, but Jesus did not save himself. Could He not save himself? Thomas, along with the other disciples, did not yet understand that Jesus was giving His life as a ransom for many, but He would rise again, just as He prophesied: “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.” (John 10:17)
But there was the shock and cruelty of His crucifixion; there was the fear that Thomas, as one of Jesus’ disciples, might meet a similar end; and there was the passage of three days since he last saw Jesus alive. All these things appear to have sapped Thomas of his faith in Jesus. Similar to how the Israelites in the wilderness, who in times of testing quickly lost faith in the Lord despite His previous mighty works on their behalf, by our own strength we cannot believe in Christ and His resurrection. We are either too arrogant, like Pharaoh and Caiaphas, or we are too despondent like poor Thomas.
“Do not disbelieve, but believe.”(John 20:27b)
Everything depends on Christ. As Paul wrote (quoting from Exodus): “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” (Rom 9:15) Jesus will come to Thomas to reveal His resurrection and give Thomas saving faith in Him: Thomas, “put your finger here….Do not disbelieve, but believe.”
“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29b)
Jesus had mercy on Thomas and restored his faith in Him. But in so doing, He spoke a word to us: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” There is a blessing for those who have not seen and yet believe. That blessing is the Holy Spirit who comes to us in the proclamation of God’s Word and Gospel, and in the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion, and dwells in the hearts of all believers. “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom 8:16). The Holy Spirit gives us the saving faith to confess: Jesus, “My Lord and my God.”“[F]or he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4) Amen.
“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31) Amen.
The 2017 National Football League draft takes place starting tomorrow night in the great city of Philadelphia.
The city’s Parkway will be showcased as draft activities will be set up and take place over the stretch from the captivating Franklin Institute to the acclaimed Art Museum, with the main stage built at the top of the very steps that Rocky once ascended. The weather forecast looks promising and reportedly everything will be in place for a great event.
Many collegiate football players will have their dreams come true as their names are announced as a draft pick of one of the 32 NFL football teams. Beside the possible booing that could occur with an unpopular Eagles pick and that will inevitably accompany every Cowboys pick, there should be much expression and feelings of joy and happiness and relief taking place over the next several days. While some of the lower draft picks will still have to battle to make their respective teams, just having the opportunity to make the NFL will bring great exhilaration.
That brings me to Joe Mixon. Mixon is an especially gifted running back from the University of Oklahoma who would be considered a first round draft pick, if not even upper first round, based on his talent alone. However, it is not known when Mixon will get drafted because of this video. (Warning: The video shows disturbing violence of a man perpetrated against a woman; watch at your own discretion.)
That one punch resulted in multiple facial fractures for the woman and a lifelong big black mark against Mixon. While many other football players have committed domestic violence, few have had it recorded on a video which became public. This very ugly incident is now engrained in the memory of the millions of people who have watched it. Many other players with domestic violence accusations, both those who have not gone beyond allegations and those who have been convicted in a court of law, have gotten off relatively easily in the court of public opinion. They may have dropped a little bit in the draft or got a little bit of grumbling from their team’s local community, but didn’t suffer much beyond that. That doesn’t make their cases any less worse, but it’s just the reality that Mixon’s case is different because everybody can see with their own eyes what he did.
Joe Mixon is now a lightning rod. Seemingly everyone who is aware of situation has a strong opinion, or at least strong feelings about him and the possibility of him being drafted. Especially when one considers that the team they root for may draft him. The image in their memory of what Mixon did stands out in an atrocious manner. It is hard for many to stomach seeing that video of Mixon playing in their head and then cheering for the same man each Sunday he suits up in their team’s gear.
I have been through something similar once before. Back in 2009, my beloved Eagles shocked the football world when they signed Michael Vick not long after he had been released from prison. Vick, of course, was infamous for his integral role in a dog fighting ring where hundreds of dogs were grotesquely abused and killed. He was convicted of his crimes and spent close to two years in prison, while also entering into bankruptcy because of the loss of his huge contract with the Atlanta Falcons and previous mismanagement of his earnings.
When the Eagles announced the signing, I was dismayed. I did not want such a man on my football team. I certainly didn’t want to have to cheer for him as he played out on the field for the Eagles. I wasn’t necessarily against giving him a second chance in the NFL, but I certainly didn’t want my team to be the one giving it to him.
Some of my fellow fans were all up in arms in protest against him being on the team, but then were able to quickly forgive and forget once Vick was performing very well on the field. As for me and some others, however, the thinking was different. We still would rather have had someone else to cheer for, but as time went on, we came to accept this second chance for Michael Vick. The man carried himself well, proving over time that he was a changed man. Perfect, no, but much different than the man who had committed those heinous crimes. And unlike many other athletes, and sometimes even “regular” people, who get off from their crimes with just a slap on the wrist, Vick had paid a significant penalty to society. His time had been paid and how much longer should we continue to try to punish him?
The situation with Joe Mixon is different than the one with Michael Vick, but there are some parallels. At what point are we willing to give a second chance? Vick paid a significant penalty for his crimes. Mixon, seemingly got off relatively easy with a sentencing of community service and counseling and suspension from his college football team for one season. Does society need to punish Mixon further since many think he wasn’t punished enough in the first place? Vick showed himself to be a changed man. Mixon is quite questionable in this regard, with allegations and rumors and even documentation of other bad behavior, both before and after this videoed domestic violence incident. How much good behavior (or lack of bad behavior) do we need to see before we’re willing to give a second chance? And is it a “privilege” to be able to play in the NFL that NFL officials and team owners can rightly guard, or is it unfair discrimination to keep out a man who can legally and capably perform the job? Just because the occupation of professional football player brings one much more fame and money than most other professions, is it right to prevent a man from making a living in the thing he is skilled at, when we may not have the same standard for other jobs?
And as Christians, do we, or should we approach this subject different than society? Because after all, isn’t our faith based on receiving second chances….. second chances that we don’t even deserve and would lose if not for the eternal grace of God? With the ability to receive forgiveness and reconciliation. With the opportunity to be reformed and rehabilitated into something better. Yet also with the volition to hold to God’s laws and decrees and justice and righteousness. How does our faith and our personal relation with God overlap into how we interact with and handle other people in these types of circumstances in life?
In our individual lives, we may not happen upon a person with the fame (or infamy) of Joe Mixon, but we very well may encounter other people in similar situations. People who committed some sordid acts in their past and now are looking for a second chance in life or career or relationship or even in the church. Some who may seem like totally different people now, some who may not seem much different, and others who are somewhere murkily in the middle and we’re just not sure what to make of them.
Each and every circumstance is likely different to some degree and so we just can’t lump them all together and handle them with a cookie-cutter response. But what are our guiding principles? What are the ideas and precepts that help us discern what to do? Whether it be speaking out on a public situation like the drafting of Joe Mixon or dealing with a personal situation that very few others know about, how do we fare?
May we remember to stand for justice and righteousness and protection of the innocent, but also remember that we’d be in big trouble if it wasn’t for a God who gives us an eternal second chance.
(Note: Just as I finished this article, another player, Gareon Conley, who was expected to be drafted in the first round, possibly even by the Eagles, was accused of rape. We will see how that situation plays out.)