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No Turning Back- April 10, 2022

Luke 19:28-40To view, this service you can follow the link to our YouTube page: Worship Service for Sunday, April 10.

. . . (Jesus) continued on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.

As Jesus came to Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives, he gave two disciples a task. He said, "Go into the village over there. When you enter it, you will find tied up there a colt that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks, 'Why are you untying it?' just say, 'Its master needs it.'" Those who had been sent found it exactly as he had said.

As they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, "Why are you untying the colt?"

They replied, "Its master needs it." They brought it to Jesus, threw their clothes on the colt, and
lifted Jesus onto it. As Jesus rode along, they spread their clothes on the road.

As Jesus approached the road leading down from the Mount of Olives, the whole throng of his disciples began rejoicing. They praised God with a loud voice because of all the mighty things they had seen. They said,

"Blessings on the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heavens."

Some of the Pharisees from the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, scold your disciples! Tell
them to stop!" He answered, "I tell you, if they were silent, the stones would shout."
(Common English Bible)

• Did George Washington really chop down a cherry tree? And did he honestly confess
saying, "I cannot tell a lie"?

• Did Abraham Lincoln walk a few miles one way to return a few coins he failed to
return in change for a purchase someone made from the family store?

• Did Christopher Robin spend time in the Hundred Acre Wood speaking with Winnie
the Pooh and Piglet?

History and literature are full of legends we learn in our primary and secondary
education, and often the line blurs between what we think happened and what we can
factually know to be true.

Growing up in Texas I was raised on tall tales of our state that I had to sort out as
an adult. One of those was about the Battle of the Alamo, a 13-day skirmish between the
Mexican Army under the leadership of Santa Anna and the Texas defenders under the
leadership of William Travis and James Bowie, and yes, Davey Crockett was truly there.

The Texan group was very outmatched in weapons and personnel through several
miscalculated delays and errors. When it became apparent that the Mexican forces far
outnumbered the Texans, that the Texans were trapped in the Alamo, and that
any battle waged from that day forward would become a suicide mission, Colonel
Travis is said to have taken his sword and drawn a line in the sand and asked those
willing to stay to step over the line. Anyone who wanted to leave should remain in place
and then leave. The legend has it that all but one of the men stepped across that line. One
left and was the only surviving soldier from the Alamo.

I can't speak to the truth of that story. But there are at least two other stories in
history that tells essentially the same story.

• In 1527, during the second expedition for the conquest of Peru, the Governor of Panama sent two ships to rescue Francisco Pizarro and his troops. Pizarro drew a line in the sand, saying: "There lies Peru with its riches; Here, Panama and its poverty. Choose, each man, what best becomes a brave Castilian." Only thirteen men continued with Pizarro, the others left for Panama.

• In 168 BC, a Roman Consul drew a circular line in the sand around King Antiochus IV of the Seleucid Empire, then said, "Before you cross this circle I want you to give me a reply for the Roman Senate" – implying that Rome would declare war if the King stepped out of the circle without committing to leave Egypt immediately. Weighing his options, Antiochus wisely decided to withdraw. Only then did the Roman Consul agree to shake hands with him.

There are times in a good story, as in life, when you reach the point beyond which there is no return, no turning back, no changing what life will look like from that moment forward.

Line in the sand is an idiom used at those times with two similar meanings:

• The first meaning is of a point (physical, decisional, etc.) beyond which one will proceed no further. An example would be a person who might agree to visit a bar with his friends but will go no further (i.e. not partake in drinking alcohol).

• The second meaning is that of a point beyond which, once the decision to go beyond it is made, the decision and its resulting consequences are permanently decided and irreversible. i

When Jesus sets his face toward Jerusalem he is headed for that point of the proverbial "line in the sand."

• His friends and his followers have been begging Jesus to not go to Jerusalem.

• The Jewish officials and the Roman officials have been encouraging him not to go to Jerusalem.

But Jesus has already set his face toward Jerusalem and whatever the outcome, he has
committed to that eventuality. In his mind, his heart, his soul he knows that he can do nothing less than follow the path ahead into Jerusalem even during the unsettling times around the Passover. The decision is made, as is the commitment.


Now, some two thousand years later it is somewhat easy enough to sort out for ourselves
the outcome of the decision and how the events that transpired in Jerusalem affected history and
our lives from that point forward. You can read any of the four Gospel accounts in the Bible, or
better yet, read all four Gospel accounts and you will get the picture that shows the anticipatory
emotions and actions of the time from the Triumphal Entry as we call this day, Palm Sunday all the way to the trial, crucifixion, and burial of Jesus in a borrowed tomb.
We know the story of Jesus.

Yet Jesus was not the only one who experienced "the line in the sand" moment that day. So, too, his friends followed Jesus to Jerusalem. Did they understand the commitment they were
making? Did they know that before too many years they would also experience the hardships of
following the way of Jesus? Most of his disciples became martyrs for the faith. Like their friend and leader the path that they walked cost them dearly, even to death.

Today all around the world there will be processions of palms – children and adults alike
walking the paths that lead into churches. People in Rome and Jerusalem will process and wave
their palms and shout hosanna. Maybe you have done that as well.

What this day, this story means is that for each one of us we are also asked to consider the cost of discipleship, the cost of stepping over that line in the sand. The phrase "cost of
discipleship" defines what it means to follow Jesus no matter what comes before you. Often
following Jesus means changing everything you think, everything you do, how you spend each
moment of your day, and eventually every moment of your life.

Stepping over the line in the sand on Palm Sunday with Jesus means taking on the promise and the commitment that as followers of Jesus a lot of what we encounter from this point forward is harder rather than easier, more costly than we think we can afford, and more exhausting than we think we have the energy for. It is the commitment that changes lives.

Therefore, before we pick up a palm and rush to shout "Hosanna!" we need to be sure we
are committed to a different life than the one we were living before we joined the parade.
There is no turning back for anyone on the road with Jesus.

In the story, we aren't sure what to do with the people who are asking Jesus to quiet
the disciples and others on the pathway. Was it drawing attention to Jesus, something that would
make the future even more dangerous? Was it embarrassment, that the soldiers and religious
leaders couldn't control the crowd? No matter why he was asked to silence the crowd the reply of
Jesus was simply, "Even if these folks are quiet, the stones will shout out the story one day." In
other words, there is no way to change this history from this moment forward.

From this point forward, no matter what, no matter how hard you try to change the story,
what happens here in Jerusalem in the upcoming days will change the world forever. Nothing in
the world as you know it today will be the same. And if you think that by telling people to be quiet, to not tell the story, you need to know that the very stones on this roadway will one day tell the story.

The nature of the challenge to step across "the line in the sand" knowing full well that there is no turning back is the challenge to never let the story go untold. For years the story of the events of this week have been told and retold. And people have been crossing that line to follow Jesus for two thousand years now. But even as the stones will tell the story, the world we hear and see the story only if we live our lives committed to following Jesus down the roads that lead to Jerusalem.

The reality of the Gospel is that the world is convinced by how we live, or the world will
forever be unconvinced by the reality of the Gospel. The choice is ours today and every day.
To cross the line in the sand. To follow Jesus. No turning back.

i The discussion about the "line in the sand" including the examples and the two definitions of the idiom comes with a few minor adaptations from the Wikipedia entry under "line in the sand" access from the web on April 1, 2020

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