Indifference! In today’s world that is the most common response when we tell people the gospel of Jesus Christ. Indifference. Occasionally irritation or annoyance. But not usually opposition, just apathy.
How different it was when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem.
8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. 9 Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” 10“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” “Hosanna in the highest!”
“Hosanna!” “Lord, save us!” Those crowds welcomed Jesus as the Messiah, the Saviour, the Prince of Peace. Why is it that today the response is so indifferent, so lukewarm. Why are people today so slow to welcome the Saviour? THREE reasons:
People think they have NO NEED OF A SAVIOUR
The Jews in first century Palestine knew they needed a Saviour. It wasn’t just that they had been looking forward for centuries to the arrival of the Messiah who would arrive in Jerusalem at Passover time, not as every other pilgrim would, walking, but instead riding, and not on a horse but on a donkey. But at that time the whole Jewish nation was groaning under the oppression of the Roman occupation. The Jews were waiting for God to liberate His people.
And it is the case that poor and oppressed and marginalised people in every age have recognised their need of a Saviour, somebody to set them free. That is why the gospel is so well received in many parts of the world today. I heard recently that of the 1.4 billion people in China, the estimated number of Christians in China is 75 million. The gospel is indeed good news for the poor. Jesus brings freedom! But so many people think they are free, when they are only really free to stay lost and in the dark.
For many people in England in the 21st century, their lives are easy and comfortable. They don’t recognise that they need a Saviour. They don’t see that they are caught in the web of sin. Many people can’t imagine life getting any better. Many others aren’t prepared to give up all they’ve got for something they don’t think they need. Who needs a Saviour anyway?!
Many people don’t see what they are missing out on. Life in all its fullness. Joy, peace, a relationship with the God who created us and who loves us more than we can possibly imagine. But then if all the gospel offered was a better life, a more fulfilled life, a more peaceful life, then maybe we shouldn’t urge people to follow Jesus. But in fact Jesus is not just some optional extra for life.
What we need to remind people about is the one thing which people who feel they have no need of a Saviour prefer not to think about, the one certain thing in life they are not prepared for. Death. Three score years and then what?? People may think they are doing alright in this world – but what about the next? Heaven may only be for people who believe there is a heaven – but if you don’t believe in anything, what then? “I don’t believe in hell” may be the most common excuse but it will not be an acceptable excuse before the Judgment throne of God. We ALL need saving, everybody needs a Saviour, if only from the appalling arrogance which says, “I am good enough as I am. I don’t need saving.” We all need a Saviour and Jesus Christ is the Saviour we should all be welcoming.
Acts 17 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”
Hosanna! Lord, save us!
Second reason people are so slow to welcome the Saviour today is this.
People think that NO SAVIOUR CAN HELP
Some think that because they are convinced that there is no such thing as God, GOD DOESN’T EXIST
Throughout the whole history of humanity the question has always been, “Which god is the greatest?” “Which God should I follow?” It was only really during the 20th century that a new question emerged, “Does God exist at all?” That question arose partly from the horrors of two world wars, but it was really promoted by the secular agenda of the media, in particular television. In fact, most people don’t actually stop and think about the question, “Does God exist?” The media has done such a good job of creating the impression that there is no God that most people just assume that is the case. For most people, it doesn’t FEEL as if God exists, so they never actually think about the question.
Of course, a statement like “God doesn’t exist” doesn’t have any validity. Without first searching every corner of the universe, you cannot assert that a particular thing does not exist. A person can say, “If God does exist, I haven’t seen any evidence which convinces me yet.” “If God does exist, I haven’t met Him yet.” But saying that “God doesn’t exist” as if it was mathematically or scientifically provable is as meaningless as somebody saying “Australia doesn’t exist” just because they haven’t been there and they don’t believe the people who say they have.
What many folk are actually saying is that they haven’t seen any evidence that God is real. They haven’t seen God’s hand in creation. They haven’t seen any signs of God at work in the lives of Christians or in churches. They don’t hear God’s voice in His word the Bible. So such people reckon that God isn’t there, that God doesn’t exist, and they don’t recognise the difficulties which that view generates.
Many people think that God doesn’t exist but others think that even if He does exist GOD JUST DOESN’T CARE. They see the news of natural disasters and wars and appalling crimes and abuses and ask why doesn’t God stop such tragedies? We need to point them to the God who DOES care – that’s why Jesus went to Jerusalem to die to bring the world back to God!
Some people think that even if there is a God and He does care about the world, God doesn’t care about ME. My problems are too big. Nothing can change anything. Many people are gripped by despair and hopelessness. We need to tell everybody that there are no hopeless cases! NOBODY is beyond redemption! Jesus brings hope to a hopeless world. Hope for a transformed life now and hope for eternity. Not just pie in the sky when you die but cake on your plate while you wait! Hosanna! Lord save us!
There are so many people who think they don’t need a Saviour. So many who think God doesn’t exist or that God has given up on the world and God has given up on them. No wonder they don’t rush to welcome Jesus the Saviour. But then also there is a third reason.
CHRISTIANS NEED TO WELCOME THE SAVIOUR!
Jesus didn’t just show up in Jerusalem on that donkey by Himself. He had hundreds, if not thousands of supporters with Him! And it was those followers who drew the attention of the crowds in Jerusalem to Jesus. The other Gospels make this clear.
Matthew 21 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”“Hosanna in the highest!”
10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” 11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Jesus’s arrival made an impact on the whole of Jerusalem and this was due to the crowds going in front of him and behind him shouting and cheering.
John 1217 Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. 18 Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”
People came out from Jerusalem to meet Jesus because the news that Jesus had raised Lazarus back to life had gone before him. So much so that the Pharisees said, “the whole world has gone after him!”
Luke 19 37 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:
38“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
They welcomed Jesus in Jerusalem because of the crowds of disciples praising God for all the miracles they had seen. And after Jesus had died and been raised from the dead and ascended into heaven it was the disciples who led people to welcome the Saviour. It was the joy and enthusiasm and commitment and sacrifice of the first Christians which led first thousands and over the centuries millions to put their trust in Jesus. And it is that passion which Christians have for following Jesus which draws others to follow Him still today. We can’t prove to anybody that God exists, but we can show the difference Jesus makes in our lives and tell other what Jesus can do for them too! So many people outside think that church is boring or irrelevant. We have to show them the opposite is the case!
Psalm 107 says this. 2Let the redeemed of the LORD say so — those he redeemed from the hand of the foe, 3those he gathered from the lands, from east and west, from north and south.
This little light of mine. I’ve got to let it shine! This new year we will have all kinds of opportunities for outreach and evangelism. Our task is simple. For people who think their lives are fine and they have no need of a Saviour, we need to point them to eternity and help them to see that everybody needs saving! For people who think that God doesn’t exist, we need to show them that God is real and that God loves them and that God will help them! And the very best way we can do that is by letting ourselves get excited about our Saviour and everything He has done for us, the way those crowds were excited as they welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem. We need to ask God to set our hearts on fire with love and praise and passion for our Saviour!
The world around is indifferent to Jesus. But Christians too need to beware of indifference. Of apathy. Of lukewarm superficial religiosity. If Christians aren’t seen to be welcoming Jesus, why should anybody else?? At a pop concert it is the fan club who fight for the best seats and cheer the loudest. At a football match it is the supporters club who cheer the most, even at the away games and when the rain is pouring down. At political rallies it is the party members who urge the crowds to cheer the speaker. As Christians I am sure we could allow ourselves to get more excited about Jesus, excited like pop fans or football fans, “fanatics” as they are. A fanatic is only somebody who loves Jesus more than you do! We need to be passionate about welcoming the Saviour. Hosanna! Lord, Save us!