O, the thrill of Palm Sunday. We sing “All Glory, Laud and Honor” with joy and praise, and wave the branches and afterwards hear the echo of the stones. When I was a child, we had the tradition of getting up from the children’s sermon and parading round and round the sanctuary swinging our palm branches. We skipped a little, and ran a little, and maybe someone or two fell down or fell behind and got carried along by a child not too much bigger. “Tell Me the Stories of Jesus I Love to Hear,” we sang together with the congregation, “Into the city I’d follow the children’s band, waving a branch of the palm tree high in my hand; one of his heralds, yes, I would sing, loudest hosannas, ‘Jesus is King!’”
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C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series is very beloved by our family. November 22 marked the 50th anniversary of Lewis’ death. And today I begin by inviting you into the beginning of Lewis’ book, Prince Caspian. The children: Peter, Edmund, Susan and Lucy were waiting at the train station on the way to school, when suddenly they found themselves in an unknown place. Slowly they came to realize they were back in Narnia, but hundreds of years have passed in Narnia since last they visited. The land had all changed, and they could not find their way around. They stumbled, lost and disoriented for days.
How did this question from the Sadducees come to be? I imagine a group of men, who didn’t like Jesus meddling, and didn’t believe in resurrection, having a conversation about how they could stop him. One of them might have said, “Umm, if there is resurrection of the dead, what happens if someone has been married more than once?”
Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem and as he was going he passed through the region between Samaria to Galilee. He was out there in Never-never land. He was in transition between where he had come, and where he was going. Furthermore, he was getting a little close to the edge, Samaria. The place good Jews from Israel wouldn’t dare get near. Samaritans didn’t dress, or think, or worship ‘right.’
“So what does this mean?” the crowd began to ask.
Here in Luke 7 we have a pair of stories in which Jesus brings people back to life. In the first story, that we heard last week, Jesus healed the Centurion’s slave. The Centurion was a Roman captain, not a Jew, but a leader in the group occupying Israel and oppressing the Jews. The Centurion’s slave was near death, not his son or daughter, or father or mother, his slave. He sent word to Jesus, asking for help, and Jesus was moved by the Centurion’s faith in him. Jesus said, “Such faith he had not seen in all of Israel.” (Luke 7:9)