The Way of the Cross
March 26, 2017
Adapted from a sermon at First United Methodist Church of Orlando.
Excuses. We’ve all made them at some point or another. Sometimes we have legitimate excuses, but often they’re just lame ways to get out of something.
Earlier this week I sent out a text asking for the lamest excuses people could think of. These were some of the responses that I got back:
- I’m busy.
- Sorry, I fell asleep.
- I wasn’t cheating, I was studying the other person’s homework.
- I was watching Sharknado.
Tonight we’re talking about excuses and how they often get in the way from actually living the life Jesus wants us to live.
Our scripture comes from the book of Luke. Jesus and his Disciples are on the road to Jerusalem. They still have a long way before they get there on what we now call Palm Sunday. But their journey has begun. Luke 9:57–62 (CEB):
57As Jesus and his disciples traveled along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
58Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and the birds in the sky have nests, but the Human One or Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
59Then Jesus said to someone else, “Follow me.”
He replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
60Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead. But you go and spread the news of God’s kingdom.”
61Someone else said to Jesus, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say good-bye to those in my house.”
62Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand on the plow and looks back is fit for God’s kingdom.”
We’ve got Jesus asking people to follow him and he just gets excuses in return. It’s like saying, “I would follow you, but I’m busy” or “Ok Jesus, that’s great, but I’m watching Sharknado.”
It sounds silly, but if we’re honest with ourselves, we all do it.
At the beginning of this Lenten season I talked about taking on a daily devotional email. I’ve not read it everyday. I’ve made excuses to myself. “There are too many other emails I need to read today,” or “I just don’t have time for that right now.” They seem like legitimate excuses, but if I’m honest they’re just as lame as watching Sharknado.
In our scripture Jesus immediately has a rebuttal to each excuse. The people’s excuses show they are not fully committed to Jesus and his mission. This is why Jesus responds the way that he does.
When he says, “let the dead burry their own,” Jesus is telling the guy, “if that is more important to you than God’s Kingdom, then go, do that.” Jesus is looking for people who will drop what they are doing and immediately follow Jesus. No excuses.
Yet, that’s not our normal behavior. We offer excuses. When things seem hard we don’t want to try. We don’t want to venture outside our comfort zone. Kind of like Tommy. Watch:
Comfort Zone Video
It seems that way too many of us tend to live inside our "Comfort Zone" and miss out on what God has planned for us. In…
When Jesus says “follow me,” he is telling the people walking with him — and he’s telling all of us — to get out of our comfort zone and act in his name. When we see injustice in our community, Jesus says act. Don’t make excuses. When we see people being picked on, Jesus says to love them. Not hide in our comfort zones and make excuses.
Today is Palm Sunday. It’s a day we celebrate Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Scripture tells us that Jesus rode into town seated on a donkey and people waved palm branches and lined the ground with clothing to welcome him into the city. It must have been an exciting thing to witness.
Yet, over the course of a single week, the crowds would turn on Jesus. By Thursday — which we call Maundy Thursday — Jesus would have his last supper with his Disciples. He knew he was about to be betrayed.
After the meal, Jesus goes off to pray. The human side of Jesus is looking for an excuse — he’s looking for an out to avoid a painful death. Luke 22:42 (CEB):
He said, “Father, if it’s your will, take this cup of suffering away from me. However, not my will but your will must be done.”
“God, if you want, this can all go away and I’ll be fine. But I will do as you need.”
Jesus has the moment to make an excuse. He knows what’s coming. Yet, he doesn’t flee the country. He doesn’t retract into his comfort zone bubble. The scripture says after praying, an angel appeared and gave him strength. Jesus knew what was to come, it was so disturbing to him that he sweat blood. Yet, he didn’t back down. Jesus didn’t make excuses.
By the next day Jesus would be crucified. Yet he still did not make excuses and followed God’s will. Jesus gave himself on the cross so that we all may find forgiveness and love. Yet, when asked to follow Jesus, we make excuses and hide in our comfort zone bubble.
When you came in this evening you were given a palm branch. It symbolizes the exciting moment Jesus rode into Jerusalem. But I want you to take a few moments and let it start to symbolize something else for you. I want you to hold it in your hand and look at it. Let this palm branch symbolize the excuses we make for not following Jesus.
Let those excuses manifest themselves in this palm branch. Hold on to them. Think about why those excuses are keeping you from responding when Jesus says, “follow me.”
In a moment, we’re going to share in communion, just as Jesus did with his friends before he was arrested. As we share in communion, I invite you to come and share in the meal and then, as you are ready, place your palm branch and your excuses into the cross.
Leave the excuses keeping you from following Jesus in the cross. If you’d like to write them out and stick them in the prayer wall, you are welcome to do that too. If you need time to think and pray, take it.
The palms on the cross will be collected and burned, representing Jesus’ crucifixion. The excuses that we have that prevent us from following Jesus will turn into ash. Then next Sunday, we’ll celebrate Easter and the cross will be filled with beautiful flowers representing life.
Jesus, God-incarnate, came to earth to walk with us and show us how to live. He wanted to show us how to love others and live so that his Kingdom would reign. Give your excuses to the cross. Jesus is saying, “follow me.” How will you answer?