How to Prepare for Easter
Scripture: Luke 19:28-44, Matthew 21:1-11
We all prepare for things in our own way.
We all have different ways we prepare for different things.
But this morning, I want to talk about how to prepare for Easter.
Now, maybe you haven’t given that much thought.
After all, we all lead busy lives.
But still, we’ve got nowhere to go for the next half hour,
so we might as well give a little thought to the coming week, and ask a question few people–
even devoted Christ-followers–ask these days: How should I prepare for Easter?
I mean, for crying out loud, we do a good job of preparing for Christmas.
There are signs everywhere that something special is going to happen.
We hang wreaths, light candles, trim the tree,wrap gifts,and string enough electrical lights
all around our houses to keep the man in the moon up at night.
But Easter. Whaddya do?
If you’re a real fanatic, you dye a few eggs and buy a new outfit and BAM! You’re done. All set. Finito.
But to Christians, Easter is the most important day of the year. . .
or it should be. It’s the day we celebrate the central event of history,
the day Jesus rose from the dead in order to make eternal life possible
for you, and me.
So maybe we can give at least 20 minutes or so of thought to what we can do this coming week
to prepare for Easter.
Of course, for centuries, Christians have prepared for Easter by observing Lent,
a period that begins on Ash Wednesday and concludes with Easter.
Traditionally, many people prepare for Easter by making this a period of repentance,
denying themselves a particular pleasure commodity or convenienceor taking on a new task of service during this time.
For example, a person might forgo one meal a day, or do without meat on Fridays,
or volunteer one day a week at a homeless shelter to indicate their repentant spirit
and prepare themselves in heart and mind for the celebration of Resurrection Sunday!
But we don’t do that much anymore, and I think we’re worse off because of it.
But that doesn’t mean it’s too late for po’ folk like you and me.
you’ll want to refer mostly to Luke 19 and Matthew 21,
as I share with you this morning, three ways you and I can
most effectively and meaningfully prepare for Easter.
The first of these three suggestions is found in the example of the disciples,
and it’s this:
1. Do what Jesus says (Luke 19:29-40)
Look at the first part of the Palm Sunday story;
As Jesus approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it.’” This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
“Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”
Jesus sent two of his disciples on a strange little mission. He said, “Go to this little village up the road
untie the colt you’ll find, and bring it to me.”
Now, the Bible doesn’t tell us which two went. Think it was Peter and Andrew? James and John? We don’t know.
The Bible also doesn’t tell us what they talked about on the way. But if it had been me, I’da probably been saying,
“You really think we should just untie the colt and take it?”
“You think the Master knows the owner?”
“You think this is a test of some kind?”
“You really think they’ll just let us walk off with their colt?”
“What if somebody takes a swing at us? Jesus didn’t say what we should do if somebody takes a swing at us!”
You see, we tend to read the Bible, God’s Word, like a play, as if all the characters knew the script. But they didn’t. No more than you or I do. But those disciples, whoever they were,
did what Jesus said. The Bible says:
At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him. They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it.
They didn’t know how it was gonna turn out,but they simply did what Jesus said to do.
And look at the result. Their simple obedience brought glory to God.
The Bible says,
When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
(Matthew 21:1-9, Mark 11:1-7, Luke 19:29-38, John 12:12-16).
The streets erupted with the sounds of praise, singing and shouting…
“Hosanna, save us, blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord,
peace in heaven and glory in the highest.”
The people were shouting his praises, spreading his glory all over that place until–
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
“I tell you, he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields
All in all, that’s a good model for you and me this week before Easter.
You could do no better than to follow the example of those two disciples who–
though they had no way to know what the future would hold and what their actions
would bring about–they simply obeyed.
Of course, I’m pretty sure your obedience won’t involve a donkey . . .
But only you and God know what it WILL involve. Only you and God know what obedience he would require of you today, this week, this Easter.
Is he calling you to repentance and faith in him? To make that decision to follow Jesus?
Is he telling you to forgive someone? . . .
To help someone? . . .
To give something up?. . .
To take something on?. . .
To say yes to something?. . .
To say no to something?. . .
I can’t tell you, but I can say to you what his mother told the servants
at the wedding in Cana: whatever he says to you, do it.
And, as it did that Sunday some 2,000 years ago,
you’ll be amazed how your simple act of obedience will bring glory to God.
So, one way to prepare for this Easter is to do what Jesus says. The second is this:
2. Feel what Jesus feels (Luke 19:41-44)
Look at the next part of the Palm Sunday story:
As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace–but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you”
Something happened on the ride into Jerusalem that we don’t talk about too often…
In fact for years, I never even noticed that this event was even part of this ride of triumph…
It was there all the while, in black and white, but as often happens, I tend to get so caught up in the crowd, the shouts, the emotion, the excitement — that I let the clear, unvarnished truth
slip right by, unnoticed. But I’m not alone; in fact, from every indication, the crowds didn’t notice it, either. Matthew didn’t record it. Mark didn’t mention it. Luke is the only Gospel writer who records this event.
But don’t let it pass you by today.
As [Jesus] approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it (Luke 19:431).
after traveling through the village of Bethphage, and approaching Jerusalem on the same road
Jesus would have taken on Palm Sunday; and I wanna tell you, even today, when you see Jerusalem,
the city of our God, the mountain of his holiness, stretched out in all its splendor before you,
it is a moving sight.
And on that hillside today is a tiny chapel with a tear-shaped dome
that commemorates this moment when Jesus wept for Jerusalem.
And the Greek word that is translated “wept” in our Bibles
signifies more than tears; it suggests the kind of soul-wracking,
gut-wrenching, teeth-gritting sobbing that a person does at the tomb of a friend.
In fact, it is the word used of Mary’s sobs at the tomb of her brother Lazarus,
of Mary Magdalene’s sobs at Jesus’ tomb, and of Peter’s “bitter” weeping
after he denied Jesus and heard the cock crow.
So. . . do you see that picture better now?
Jesus wept violently for the people of Jerusalem.
Not for himself ; not for the cross that awaited him. But for the fate that would come upon that city.
Rather than the joyful shouts and praises That resounded all around, Jesus heard the screams,
the cries, the shrieks and groans of the men, women, and children who would die in that city
when, as he had prophesied,the Roman general Titus would invade in 70 AD and raze the city
and destroy its glorious temple, and brutalize its rebellious people.
Everyone else was having a party, and Jesus was filled with compassion for the lost sheep of Israel
who didn’t even know their own sad condition.
That, too, is a good model for you and me this week before Easter. You could do no better
than to prepare for Resurrection Sunday by letting yourself feel what Jesus feels,
by letting your heart be broken for those who are hurting, those who are wandering,
those who are searching, those who don’t even know they’re searching,
I can’t tell you who they are; but God knows, and you probably do, too:
your neighbor, your colleague, your roommate, perhaps;maybe a brother or sister,
a mother or father, maybe a close friend maybe a casual acquaintance who hasn’t yet experienced the forgiveness, the deliverance, the peace, the freedom that comes when you experience new life
through faith in Jesus Christ.
But I can tell you what will happen if you let yourself feel what Jesus feels:
it will bring a flood of compassion into your heart. So, one way to prepare for this Easter is to do what Jesus says. The second is to feel what Jesus feels. And my final suggestion to you today is to:
3. Tell who Jesus is (Matthew 21:10-11)
Look at the conclusion of the Palm Sunday story;
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”
The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee”
When Matthew reports that the city was “stirred,” he uses the word, “seio,”
from which we get our word “seismic.” It’s the same word he used later in his Gospel,
in Matthew 27:51, where he said that at the moment Jesus died on the cross,
The earth shook and the rocks split (Matthew 27:51, NIV).
The city was stirred as an earthquake “stirs” the ground.
That’s what will happen if you and I– if this room full of people–begin doing what Jesus says
and feeling what Jesus feels: the whole city will be stirred!
That’s what they’re waiting for. They’re waiting to see if there really is a God.
They’re waiting to see if he really does care. They’re waiting to see if the people who
fill the churches, and sing his praises, and cry out to him, and claim to know him,
to see if those people are any different, if their God can really be trusted,
if their faith can really do anything. They’re watching you and me,
and if they see us doing what Jesus says, and feeling what Jesus feels–
for them–they’ll ask “What’s going on?” “What’s this about?” “Who is this?”
And you could do no better to prepare for Resurrection Sunday than to tell who Jesus is,
to find ways to expose your friends, neighbors, family members, classmates,coworkers,
anyone for whom you can feel what Jesus feels to the news that we proclaim next Sunday
when we tell each other, in the age-old confession of the church:
“He is risen, he is risen indeed!”
And I’m gonna suggest to you one easy way to begin to do that, to tell others who Jesus is.
So here’s my challenge, but I issue it only to those of us who follow Christ, whose lives have been changed, and who believe he can change others’ lives just as he did ours.
There is someone around you who is sincerely wondering “Who is this?”
They honestly don’t know, but they’re willing to find out.
Do you know that surveys indicate the majority of people who don’t attend church,
who haven’t experienced new life in Christ, give the same reason when they’re asked why.
They say, “No one ever asked.”
Your mission, if you would prepare for Easter in a way that will bring a smile to God’s face
and true and lasting joy into the lives of others, is to find that person . . . and invite him or her to be your guest, to a new church that’s gonna talk about the resurrection of Jesus
in a way that’s designed to answer their questions without condescending,
without condemning, without pushing or pressuring them. . .
And when that happens, guess what may just happen next?
The same thing it did for many in that Palm Sunday crowd:
It will bring joy to others, when they discover Jesus,
the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee, the Messiah of God,
the Risen Christ.