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Sermon by Rev. Mark Covington, Pastor
First United Methodist Church
Quitman, Mississippi
April 1, 2012
(Palm Sunday)

Topic: “Why Are You Doing This?”

Scripture Reading: Mark 11:1-10 (NRS Version)

1 When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples
2 and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it.
3 If anyone says to you, “Why are you doing this?’ just say this, “The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’ ”
4 They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it,
5 some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?”
6 They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it.
7 Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it.
8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields.
9 Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”
10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

You have heard the saying, “I would rather see a sermon than hear one any day.”
Some of the prophets believed that. People of their day were probably asking “Why are you doing this?”

Isaiah walked naked for three years. I am sure those who had to see him day after day were asking, “Why are you doing this?” Isaiah walked for three years naked to illustrate that the Assyrians would take the Egyptians captive and lead them away, naked and without sandals.

Hosea married a prostitute. I am sure his momma asked, “Why are you doing this?” Hosea married the prostitute Gomer, who was unfaithful to him, but he remained faithful to her. This became a symbol of God’s faithfulness to Israel, even when Israel was unfaithful to God.

I am sure that Abrahams son asked, “Why are you doing this?” as he told him to jump up on this altar and lay real still.

Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. I am sure the disciples were asking, “Why are you doing this?”

Let’s stop for a quick history lesson, shall we?

Around 175 BC Antiochus Ephiphanes ascended to the Seleucid throne. At first he made few changes but before long he made a major mistake. He looted the temple, Jews were massacred and Judaism was effectively banned. In 167BC Antiochus ordered an altar to Zeus erected in the Temple. The usual Hellenistic practice , that of sacrificing pigs on the altar, was done.

Antiochus’s actions provoked an uprising. A Jewish priest, Mattathias and his five sons Jochanan, Simeon, Eleazar, Jonathan, and Judah, led the rebellion that followed. Judah became known as Yehuda HaMakabi, Judah the Hammer. By 166 BC Matththias had died and Judah took his place as the leader of the rebel forces. By 165 BC the Jewish rebellion against the Seleucids was successful. The Temple was taken back and cleansed. A new altar was built in place of the pagan altar and rededicated. A festival, Hanukkah, was instituted by Judah Maccabee and his brothers to celebrate this event. It is celebrated to this day by the Jews.

The 13th chapter of 1 Maccabees tells us that on the 23rd day of the second month in the year 141 BC that Simon led the Jewish people back into Jerusalem in a parade of palm branches, harps, cymbals, hymns and songs, because a great enemy had been crushed and removed from Israel.

Why are you doing this? Why are you sitting here in an uncomfortable pew instead of home in your easy chair? Is 1/168th of anything enough? If all you do is attend church for one hour a week that’s all you’re giving.

Why are WE doing this? Why are we worrying with upkeep on a building, salaries, insurance, utilities, and on and on. Why?

Jesus sent two of his disciples into the village and told them that they would find a colt that had never been ridden tied there. If anyone should ask, “Why are you doing this?” they should reply, “The Lord has need of it.”

That is why you should be doing this. That is why we should be doing this. Because “The Lord has need of it.”

If it is your time – The Lord has need of it.
If it is your talent – The Lord has need of it.
If it is your gifts – The Lord has need of it.
If it is your service – The Lord has need of it.
If it is your witness – The Lord has need of it.

Jesus must have thought of Judas Macabbeus as he sent those two disciples into the village. He must have thought of the victory over the enemy that had been won as he crawled onto the back of the animal. He must have thought of the victory over the enemy that was about to be won as he crawled onto the back of the animal.

He must have thought of the cross as they spread the palm branches in front of him. He must have thought of you and me as he entered the gates to the city.

That is why Jesus did what he did. Ask him 2000 years ago why he is doing this and I am sure he would reply, “I am doing this for you.”

You see, he rode victorious into Jerusalem. A great battle had been won and the enemy of all creation was being defeated. A battle over sin and death was about to be waged and the outcome was already determined.

The Lord has need of you!

Why did Jesus do this thing, riding into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey?

Answer: He did it for you!

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