Der Vasken's Sermon on April 14, 2019

Apr 15, 2019

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

"And He had compassion on them and touched their eyes.  And immediately they received their sight and followed Him."

Today is Palm Sunday and we just heard what took place on that day as Jesus began His journey into the City of Jerusalem.  The story of Palm Sunday tells of how Jesus entered the Great City of Jerusalem the week before His Crucifixion and Resurrection.  It tells what the city felt like on that day and it describes the atmosphere of the day.  There was excitement everywhere and there were crowds of people unlike ever seen in that ancient city.  The followers of Jesus overflowed in the streets and people He had never seen before packed those streets.  People heard of Him.  Everyone wanted to meet Him and His reputation preceded Him.

Just imagine what was being said on those streets:

  • Here comes the One we heard about.
  • Here comes the One, who can heal my spouse or child of an illness.
  • I want to see Him and I want to touch Him.
  • We heard that He made the blind see and the deaf hear.
And so on that day Jerusalem was a different city. 

I have had the privilege of traveling to that Holy City five times in my life and each time, we traveled into and all around Jerusalem and touched the pages of the Bible. We saw two thousand-year-old history at every bend in the road and each time I have traveled there, we walked along the "Palm Sunday road"--the same road Jesus walked as He descended the steep Mount of Olives and approached the same city.

I can visualize the narrow road right in front of my eyes.  There were high walls on both sides and it was a steep descent.  In front of us there it was--the City of Palm Sunday, the City of Pontius Pilate and the City of the Crucifixion and of the Resurrection. And I thought about how many people had descended that same road over the last two thousand years.  The numbers would be impossible to calculate.

There is a story within the story of Palm Sunday that often gets overlooked.  The Gospels tell of a small event that happened just as Jesus and His disciples began their walk into that famed city.  Let me share it with you.  As He approached the stone-walled entrance of the city, two blind men were sitting along the roadside.  These men heard that Jesus, the miracle worker, was passing by.  So they began shouting to get His attention and they were heard.  And Jesus stopped and called to them, "What do you want me to do for you?" He asked them.  "Lord," they answered, "We want our sight."  And He had compassion on them and touched their eyes and immediately they received their sight and followed Him.

The story of Palm Sunday tells us that the people of Jerusalem ran out into the streets and laid palm and olive branches along His path to soften the ground upon which He walked. What I find interesting about this story is that several times mention is made of the massive crowds and how they all followed Him.  Countless people followed Jesus Christ wherever He went for endless miles through villages and into cities, along dirt roads and across seas, and up and down various mountainsides. For miles and miles, they followed Him and they listened to Him and they learned from Him.  And the Bible stresses that, wherever Jesus went, people followed and people are still following Him today. In fact, people have followed Him for the last twenty-one centuries.  They followed Him throughout Jerusalem back in the 1st century.  From there, they followed Him into the furthest parts of the world.

Last Friday morning as the Annual State House commemoration of the Armenian Genocide was ending, I met a woman from Rwanda.  And I mentioned to her that several years back, we had invited another Rwandan woman to speak to our parish and to the greater community about her faith in Jesus Christ and how that faith kept her alive during those horribly dark months. On Friday, in the middle of the State House, this woman turned to me and said, "Father, my faith was all I had left.  Jesus held my hand," she said.  

People have followed Him for the last twenty-one centuries.  From the Middle East, the Christian faith spread into Europe and Africa and even to the Far East and beyond.  People across the globe and across time have followed Him.  Our own ancestors followed Him from one end of Armenia to the other earlier than the 4th century.

From every continent of the world, the name of Jesus Christ is praised.  Let's think about that for a moment.  Since the first Palm Sunday, people have changed their lives to follow Him and who are these people?  They are mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, musicians and farmers.  They are our co-workers and store employees.  They are teachers and sports figures, merchants and soldiers, our friends and they live in our neighborhoods.  Since He first walked the earth, people have never stopped following Him.  Even today, Christians fill the streets of Jerusalem in the hundreds of thousands from all four corners of the world to follow Him.

Today is Palm Sunday and looking at the example of the crowds that followed Him, we should ask ourselves:

  • Do we follow Christ?
  • And if He asked us the same question that He asked those two blind men sitting along the roadside, "What do you want me to do for you?" how would you answer?
Written high above our altar are the words:  "I am the way and the truth and the life."  These are the Words of Christ taken right from the Gospels and this quote continues with these words: "No one comes to the Father except through Me."  Following Christ is empowering and it makes the world less intimidating and easier to face.  Jesus is the Way and He calls us to follow Him.
  • When or where in your daily schedule do you follow Christ?
  • And how would you answer His question:  "What do you want me to do for you?"
Holy Week is exactly that...the holiest week of the year.  Find time to spend with your Lord.

Amen.