Posts Tagged ‘Clemson Tigers’

1 Samuel 10:17-27 (Part 1 of 3)
Saul Is Acclaimed King

NOTE before I begin…I apologize for my abrupt absence from my normal daily blog. Of course last weekend was filled with Christmas activities. But this past week, my wife and i got knocked down for the count by this year’s vicious strain of the flu the evening of the 26th and we are just now on New Year’s Eve beginning to recover from it. Your prayers are coveted that we fully recover very soon…

But now to today’s blog…

As many of you who have followed my blog for any length of time, you know that I am a huge fan of Clemson University’s intercollegiate athletic teams, particularly the football team. Today, on New Year’s Eve, it is the day before my Tigers play in college football playoff semi-final game against Alabama. As well, my friends here locally that are fans of Clemson’s archrival, University of South Carolina, are anxiously awaiting their non-playoff bowl game against Michigan in the Outback Bowl. College football is huge here in the South Carolina. We live it and breath it from September-January during the regular season and bowl season. Then, we talk about it the rest of the year. In the South, there are two seasons of the year not four. There is no winter, spring, summer and fall. No, the year is divided into “football season” and “not football season.”

I was a Tiger fan as a small child but didn’t really understand the interrelationships of all the teams, the national rankings, the conference standings, and so on. It was when I was about 12 that I really began to understand it all. So, I learned the history of Tiger football program and realized that in the 1950’s that they were a pretty good program and were nationally ranked frequently. Then the program fell on hard times in the 60’s and on through much of the 70’s. Then in 1977, things started to click again. From 1977-1992, Clemson was one of winningest programs in college football under the watchful eye of head coach Danny Ford. Then in 1990, Ford was forced out in a struggle with the administration over the priority of the football program at the school. During those years though 1977-1992, I was age 15-30. During those years, I thought the success would never end. Great season after great season. Upper tier bowl games were the norm. Winning games against bigger brand name programs were commonplace. There was the national championship in 1981. And there were the rest of the years where we were a top 5, top 10, and least a top 15 team at all times.

Then within 3 seasons after the departure of Danny Ford, it all fell apart. The program returned to the mediocrity of the 60’s and 70s. Just making a bowl game became a thing not what bowl game you went to. From 1993 to 2010, we wilted in the face of big games. Either we would lose the game when it mattered most or we would get blown out by an upper tier team. And sometimes, we would lose to teams we were weren’t supposed to lose to – the term, “Clemsoning” came into vogue as a result of things like that. I thought the glory years of Clemson football would never return – 17 long seasons (from my age of 31 through age 48), these were long years where the team became like that child that you love dearly but always lets you down by their constant underachieving against the potential that you know they have.

However, beginning in 2011, under current coach, Dabo Swinney, Clemson has had unequaled success. These are the new glory years of Clemson football. We have had 7 straight seasons now of at least 10 wins every season. Six of seven past seasons we have had at least 11 win seasons. We played for the national championship after the 2015 season. We won the national championship last year after the 2016 season. We are, this year, back in the college football playoffs for a third consecutive year with a chance for another national championship. Since the 3rd game of the 2014 season (after an overtime loss to Florida State), my beloved Tigers have a record of 49-4, a level of success that is only matched by University of Alabama. I luxuriate in the success of the Tigers right now because I remember the lean and mediocre years. It is an amazing time to be a Tiger fan.

However, one thing since my salvation in 2001, I must remember is that even things that I am passionate about including my dear Clemson Tigers can become an obsession. Living here in South Carolina, I get to see Clemson fans and University of South Carolina Gamecock fans the most. Clemson and South Carolina are the greatest of rivals. At birth or when you move here, you must make a choice to be either a Tiger fan or a Gamecock fan. In both camps, there are those who raise celebrating their love for the Tigers or the Gamecocks to the level of a religion. It is an obsession of the highest order with some fans. If you say something about Clemson that is negative or say something about the Gamecocks that is negative, it rises to the level of a personal offense. Although I am sad for the rest of the day on those Saturdays that Clemson loses I typically have let it go by the next morning, there are those who let the results of Saturday events in Clemson or Columbia or wherever the Tigers or the Gamecocks play effect their mood for a week. There are friendships ended because of the results of a football game. There those who build shrines to their Tigers or their Gamecocks in their man caves in their homes. It is, to some a religion based on worshiping something other than God. I love my Tigers but I must keep it perspective as what is sport and not life. It is not my reason for being.

It is that idea of loving something man-made more than God as exemplified by how people raise Clemson or University of South Carolina sports to the level of idolatry in my illustration is what came to mind as I read through today’s passage, 1 Samuel 10:17-27. Let’s read it together now:

17 Later Samuel called all the people of Israel to meet before the Lord at Mizpah. 18 And he said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, has declared: I brought you from Egypt and rescued you from the Egyptians and from all of the nations that were oppressing you. 19 But though I have rescued you from your misery and distress, you have rejected your God today and have said, ‘No, we want a king instead!’ Now, therefore, present yourselves before the Lord by tribes and clans.”

20 So Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel before the Lord, and the tribe of Benjamin was chosen by lot. 21 Then he brought each family of the tribe of Benjamin before the Lord, and the family of the Matrites was chosen. And finally Saul son of Kish was chosen from among them. But when they looked for him, he had disappeared! 22 So they asked the Lord, “Where is he?”

And the Lord replied, “He is hiding among the baggage.” 23 So they found him and brought him out, and he stood head and shoulders above anyone else.

24 Then Samuel said to all the people, “This is the man the Lord has chosen as your king. No one in all Israel is like him!”

And all the people shouted, “Long live the king!”

25 Then Samuel told the people what the rights and duties of a king were. He wrote them down on a scroll and placed it before the Lord. Then Samuel sent the people home again.

26 When Saul returned to his home at Gibeah, a group of men whose hearts God had touched went with him. 27 But there were some scoundrels who complained, “How can this man save us?” And they scorned him and refused to bring him gifts. But Saul ignored them.

[Nahash, king of the Ammonites, had been grievously oppressing the people of Gad and Reuben who lived east of the Jordan River. He gouged out the right eye of each of the Israelites living there, and he didn’t allow anyone to come and rescue them. In fact, of all the Israelites east of the Jordan, there wasn’t a single one whose right eye Nahash had not gouged out. But there were 7,000 men who had escaped from the Ammonites, and they had settled in Jabesh-gilead.]

In this passage, we are reminded that Israel’s true king was God, but the nation demanded another. Imagine wanting a human being rather than God as guide and leader. Throughout history, men and women have rejected God, and they continue to do it today. Are you rejecting God by pushing Him aside and acknowledging someone or something else as your “king” or top priority. That is what makes the Old Testament so compelling. It is a reminder to us, through the history of God’s chosen people, Israel, of how much we are like them. We must take heed of the actions of the people of Israel and choose to follow God rather than our selfish desire or rather than trying to be like the culture around us.

As stated earlier, here in South Carolina, there are those who want their king to be the football team of either Clemson University or the University of South Carolina. The culture says we should worship tangible things so the Tiger or the Gamecock fit the bill. What is your Tiger idol? What is your Gamecock idol? Do you miss church because you spend your weekends following a football team? Do you not give to God’s house as He commands because you would rather spend your money on a college football team booster club membership and everything that it costs to attend football games on Saturday? Do you miss church on Sunday because you’re so upset that your football team lost the night before that you cannot face people?

It doesn’t have to be football. Do you worship your stuff? Do you make your things the thing that you desire over God? Do you worship your job to the exclusion of God? Do sit in church worried about what you could be doing for your job or the things that you have to do at work the next day rather than worshiping God? Do you worship your spouse or significant other to the point that it gets in the way of your relationship with God? Do you live and die by what your spouse thinks of you? Do you worship or covet what your neighbor has that you do not? Do you worship celebrities? Do you worship celebrity figures in the Christian church world and devour their books but yet do not read your Bible? What is it that you desire more than God?

Let us examine our lives and see what we desire first in our lives. Let us examine our lives for what we worship more than God. Is it a sports team? Is it your job? Is it your spouse or significant other? Is it desires of the flesh? Is it celebrities? Is it material things? Just because what we desire more than God is not some carved and wooden idol does not make what we worship other than God any less an idol. Israel’s desire was to be like their neighbors and what they had rather than worshiping the only thing that matters – God! Let us be wise enough to read God’s Word and see how it applies to our lives in the 21st century and accept the Holy Spirit’s conviction for change.

Amen and Amen.

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Deuteronomy 1:26-48

Israel’s Rebellion Against the Lord

There is an age-old cliché that states, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” It is used typically to express that no matter how big a problem is, you have to break it down into manageable steps and methodically accomplish those individual steps. It means too that even if a problem sees huge and insurmountable, you must develop a methodical plan to attack the problem and work diligently to accomplish your goals.

 

Never was this more true than when my favorite college football team, Clemson, played against Alabama last year in the college football national championship game last year. Alabama, under Coach Nick Saban, has become the perennial top dog in college football. They have won four national championships during the ten years that Coach Saban has headed up the football program there. Alabama has always been one of the top football programs in the country over the years but Coach Saban has taken them to another level. They are now the gold standard of college football. All other football programs are compared to them. It is true again this year. Alabama has been ranked #1 all year long and are the odds-on favorite to repeat as national champions again this year. No one is expected to really challenge them. They are a lock to be the number 1 seed when the 4-team playoffs begin at the end of December.

 

Last year, when Clemson beat Oklahoma in the semi-finals of the playoffs thus earned the right to play Alabama for the national championship (as Alabama too had won its semifinal game – against Michigan State), no one gave Clemson a chance. The age-old bias against the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) as a football conference reared its head in many of the conversations about the game. The ACC is a weak conference and Alabama’s conference, the Southeastern Conference (SEC), is the strongest in the country. Clemson was only ranked high because they were the new darlings of college football because of their recent run of success. Alabama was the standard. Clemson, even though ranked as the #1 seed in the playoffs last year, was an underdog to mighty Alabama. Clemson was thought to be the #1 seed because they were the only undefeated team left in college football. Even mighty Alabama, last year, had lost one ball game. As a result of being perceived as being from a weak conference and only being ranked #1 by virtue of having no losses, no one gave Clemson a chance against mighty Alabama. Their defense was going to stifle Clemson’s wonder-kid sophomore quarterback, DeShaun Watson, both in his passing and his running. The defensive line and linebackers from Alabama were going to manhandle Clemson’s perceived weak offensive line. Although Clemson’s defense was given some respect, they, too were going to be no match for Alabama’s offensive line. Alabama was Goliath and Clemson was David. The Tigers might as well have not showed up for the game. They were just going to be cannon fodder for the coronation ceremony of another Alabama national championship.

 

What happened? Alabama did win another national championship at the end of last season. They did beat Clemson. So, if that’s the case, what’s your point, Mark? It was not the fact that Alabama won the national championship game. It was that Clemson could have listened to all the hype about Alabama and just rolled over for the national champions. However, the game turned out to be one of the classic struggles of college football national championship games (in whatever form they have taken over the years). The game was in doubt throughout the contest. Alabama only sealed its victory when it successfully covered the on-side kick from Clemson with less than 2 minutes left in the game. Clemson came to play and it was a back and forth struggle. It was like a heavyweight fight. It was Rocky vs. Apollo Creed in the first Rocky movie. Rocky didn’t win the fight but Apollo Creed knew he had been in a titanic struggle when it was over. Clemson gave Alabama all it could handle this past January out in the desert oasis of Glendale, AZ. They didn’t win the game, but Alabama walked away knowing that they have vanquished a worthy and strong adversary. Clemson could have actually won the game were it not for two lapses on special teams (a kickoff return for a touchdown and the recovery of an surprise on-side kick by Alabama that allowed Alabama to have an extra possession). It was a battle where neither defense could really stop the other team. The final score of Alabama 45 Clemson 40 was an indication of what a struggle the game was.

 

If Clemson had listened to the prognosticators, they would not have even showed up for the game. They might as well not even have developed a game plan for the ball game. However, it was one of the most entertaining national championship games ever. If Clemson had listened to the prognosticators and played with fear of losing badly instead of with the desire for victory in their own right, it would have been the expected bloodbath that was predicted. That’s why the play the games on the field and not on paper.

 

That constant barrage of negativity about Clemson in preparation for last year’s national championship game was what I thought of when I read through this passage today and how it is was eerily similar to the content of this passage, Deuteronomy 1:26-46. Let’s read through it together:

 

26 But you were unwilling to go up; you rebelled against the command of the Lord your God. 27 You grumbled in your tents and said, “The Lord hates us; so he brought us out of Egypt to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us. 28 Where can we go? Our brothers have made our hearts melt in fear. They say, ‘The people are stronger and taller than we are; the cities are large, with walls up to the sky. We even saw the Anakites there.’”

 

29 Then I said to you, “Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. 30 The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, 31 and in the wilderness. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.”

 

32 In spite of this, you did not trust in the Lord your God, 33 who went ahead of you on your journey, in fire by night and in a cloud by day, to search out places for you to camp and to show you the way you should go.

 

34 When the Lord heard what you said, he was angry and solemnly swore: 35 “No one from this evil generation shall see the good land I swore to give your ancestors, 36 except Caleb son of Jephunneh. He will see it, and I will give him and his descendants the land he set his feet on, because he followed the Lord wholeheartedly.”

 

37 Because of you the Lord became angry with me also and said, “You shall not enter it, either. 38 But your assistant, Joshua son of Nun, will enter it. Encourage him, because he will lead Israel to inherit it. 39 And the little ones that you said would be taken captive, your children who do not yet know good from bad—they will enter the land. I will give it to them and they will take possession of it. 40 But as for you, turn around and set out toward the desert along the route to the Red Sea.[a]”

 

41 Then you replied, “We have sinned against the Lord. We will go up and fight, as the Lord our God commanded us.” So every one of you put on his weapons, thinking it easy to go up into the hill country.

 

42 But the Lord said to me, “Tell them, ‘Do not go up and fight, because I will not be with you. You will be defeated by your enemies.’”

 

43 So I told you, but you would not listen. You rebelled against the Lord’s command and in your arrogance you marched up into the hill country. 44 The Amorites who lived in those hills came out against you; they chased you like a swarm of bees and beat you down from Seir all the way to Hormah. 45 You came back and wept before the Lord, but he paid no attention to your weeping and turned a deaf ear to you. 46 And so you stayed in Kadesh many days—all the time you spent there.

 

When the scouts returned with reports of giants and walled cities, the people were afraid to move ahead and began to complain about their predicament. But the minority report of Joshua and Caleb pointed out that the land was fertile and the enemy was vulnerable, and that God was on their side. We can become fearful and immobile when we focus on the negative aspects of a situation. How much better is it to focus on the positives – God’s direction and promises. When are confronted with an important decision and know what you should do, move out in faith. Focus on what you can do not what you can’t and trust the Lord to overcome the things that you cannot do. Just because a problem is greater than you alone, don’t let it rob you of victory. Trust in the Lord to help you overcome those giants in your life. Trust the Lord to help you attack the fortified cities of your life. With God, nothing is impossible.

 

Just as Clemson did not focus on the negative reports of the sporting press and the majority of football fans, they went about developing a game plan that made the game winnable for them. They did not play a flawless game in that Clemson’s special teams let them down. Otherwise they could have very easily won the game. They didn’t not listen to the prognosticators. Instead of playing not to lose badly, they played to win and darn near did it.

 

How can we overcome the problems in our life, it we do not play the game? How can we overcome insurmountable problems in our life if we say they are not solvable and give up and away? We can overcome any situation in our life by doing our part (God expects us to work ourselves out of our situations), developing a game plan, and then trusting Him to guide us through the whole process. We must not listen to detractors but rather listen to God saying I am with you. We overcome if we stand still and accept things the way they are and let them defeat us. We trust in God. We listen to Him and execute the plan He gives us. We enter the Promised Land and fight the fight that needs fighting. We cannot win the fights that need fighting if we do not go out into battle.

 

God is bigger than any problem that we might face. He will tell us that the elephant can be eaten. He will give us a plan on how to eat it. But we must execute the plan. We must go out and battle the elephant.

 

Amen and Amen.

Matthew 16:1-4
Leaders Demand A Miraculous Sign

As many of you know, I am big fan of Clemson University. I have been a fan since I was old enough to watch a sporting event and understand what was going on. My oldest daughter is a graduate of the school. And, as you know, Clemson came up short two days ago in the national championship game for major college football. Prior to the game, it was an example of what my Tigers had experienced all season long. They were going up against the vaunted SEC power, Alabama, who had just crushed Michigan State in one of the semi-final games. Little old Clemson did not stand a chance against the big beefy boys of Alabama’s offensive and defensive lines. We are an ACC team so that means we are weak. We might as well have not even played the game. No one believed that the Tigers, though undefeated and ranked #1, would even be competitive against Bama. Before that Oklahoma was supposed to run roughshod all over the Tigers but the opposite happened. All season long we weren’t supposed to win the big games (Notre Dame, Florida State, North Carolina). Each of those games, everyone predicted losses. Even in the games where we were clearly the superior team, people still doubted the Tigers. Sure, there were games where they should have trounced people but only beat them by 15 or 20 points and maybe during the regular season they played only one game with complete precision on both sides of the ball (the 58-0 victory over Miami). However, they were like the Al Davis motto, “Just win, baby.”

They came into the Alabama game 14-0 having always found a way to win either through defensive domination or through simply outscoring their opponent. Some games the won with their ground game. Some games were won through the air. Others required the defense to be the stars of the game. They just won. Even in the championship game, though they lost, the forced Alabama to dig deep to win against them, and only lost the national championship game by 5 points and with the absence of one or two mistakes could have won the thing. Are there going to be doubters next year? Sure there will be. But, the team cannot control that. All they can do is what they do on the field. Sometimes, people already have their mind made up about you. In college football, there is this perception that since Clemson plays in the ACC that they are not championship caliber and they will doubt the Tigers every time they play a major game. OK, so you won this game but, man, you surely aren’t gonna win that game against X Team two weeks from now. They have their minds made up. All the Tigers can do is line up and play the games and let their work speak for itself.

In this passage, the lack of respect, the doubt and demands for signs of greatness from the Clemson team were constant this year. If you win this game, we’ll respect you…wait a minute, you gotta win this game for me to respect you….well, you won that but can you win this one. That was frustrating for the team and it had to be frustrating for Jesus in this passage to hear demands for another miracle. What more did he have to do prove that He was who He says He is. Let’s read the passage together:
16 The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.

2 He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ 3 and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.[a] 4 A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Jesus then left them and went away.
This is the question that plagues Jesus today. People are still doubting Him as the Son of God. There is no doubt that this man existed. It is commonly accepted that Jesus was an actual historical figure. Even many atheists will concede that Jesus existed. However, when it comes to making Him into the Son of God people still doubt Him today. We either reject the claim outright and make him into just a great historical figure and self-help guru or we may believe in Him but we do not fully trust that He really is the Son of God.

I say it plain and simple here. Anyone who does not believe Jesus is the Son of God is not a Christ follower and is not saved. We can say we love Jesus but not believe in Him. Many people today love a lot of what Jesus said but they do not believe IN HIM. To the non-believer, Jesus is a self-help guru with profound things to say about life and they use His Words often but yet they do not believe in Him as the Son of God. Man, that is just too far-fetched to believe in. Yet, these are the same people that accept on faith that there was no master designer for the universe. They think that the universe just spontaneously for no apparent reason created itself. They are willing to believe that but not that God would come to earth as a man. They throw out the very laws of physics that they hold in such high regard when it comes to creation. Everything in the physical universe is about action and reaction. Instigations of actions cause reactions in a chain of events that continues to this day. However, it all started by itself? No reaction to an action? If we remove God from creation then we can remove God from Jesus and make Him just a man. We can make Him a philosopher of great impact. We can make him a peace loving hippie who accepts all things. When we remove God as the ruler of all things and the creator of all things, we can make what Jesus says just one of many options that we can pick and choose to suit our lifestyle. If Jesus were here today and made claims to be the Son of God, these would be the people that would request miracles on demand. Prove yourself. Much like the football world was demanding proof from the Clemson Tigers, so would these people demand miraculous signs from Jesus. We would rather live life the way we have it than entertain the thought of their being a single way to heaven. We would rather live life the way we have it than there being moral absolutes and judgment for sin. We would rather control our own destiny than submit our will to that of God. These are the people that would demand signs from Jesus when He returns in the clouds to the sound of trumpets in the eastern sky. There will be no doubt then that Jesus is the Son of God, but there will be doubters then too.

For the Christ follower, we often times do not really take it in that Jesus is the Son of God. That Jesus was God in the flesh and walked among is, we do not truly take it in. Think about it. The God of the Universe. The Creator who set the universe in motion through his voice. He created the action that caused the reaction that set the laws of physics that we know into motion. He created the intricate world in which we live that is so completely detailed and full of interdependent working systems that work together to create life as we know it and yet this is just one planet in a vast universe and it is a vast universe that we are only scratching the surface of understanding. God made all that. He orchestrates all that. Yet, in his love for us, His created beings in His image, he broke into human history and became a man. Born as a mere babe. God humbled himself to go through all the things we do growing up and becoming a man. He then gave himself up on the cross for us as a completion of the sacrificial system established in the Old Testament to atone for sins. He is the once and final sacrifice. Through his perfect life, He is the completion and culmination of the sacrifices for the atonement of sin. He died that day at Calvary so that if we would only believe in Him and turn away from our life of unrepentant sinning, He would cover us before the Lord. That is love. That is the Son of God come down to earth. This is what we believe as Christians. We believe that God himself came to earth and walked among and gave Himself up for us. When you believe that, there is no other way to heaven. God only did that once. He could not come in various forms and offer contradictory truths. God is absolute. God is truth. There is only one God and thus one truth and one way. We believe that. We believe in this mighty God who created the universe. We believe that God came down to earth and lived among us. We believe in all this mighty power and displayed love, but yet we doubt still. Even as Christ followers, we sometimes doubt in this Jesus that we believe in. We doubt that He can change the foulest heart. We doubt He can change our husbands or our wives so we take it upon ourselves to do it rather than praying to our God and asking Him to change a person. We doubt that God can heal diseases. We doubt that God can change our situation. We doubt Him at every turn almost. We may be confident that God can change the small stuff but we do not trust Him sometimes with the big stuff like changing the hearts of a nation, repairing a marriage, redeeming a lost soul, and so on. We as Christ followers may even demand signs from the Lord. I will follow your calling if you miraculously pay off my mortgage. I will go in the ministry if you do x, y, and z. And when God makes it clear that he has done x, y, and z, then, you doubt Him still and say, well, Lord, I will do it if you go beyond the end of the alphabet and into the double alphabet. I see you have done X, Y, and Z but you must do AA now. Then, I will believe. Let us be Christ followers who trust and believe in the mighty God that we say we believe in. Let us believe in what we say we believe in and take it seriously that Jesus is who He says He is. No need for signs to remove doubt. Just full-on, all-in belief.

Amen and Amen.

Luke 19:28-40 — The first thing that comes to mind here when you read through it when you try to compare it to something you know today is the Tiger Walk on fall Saturdays at Clemson University. The football team walks from Jervey Athletic Center across to Death Valley. All Clemson fans that are tailgating stop what they are doing and form two lines on either side as the team passes through. It is a celebration of the team. It is pretty cool. You get to high five with the players as they pass buy and you get to see them in their suits and ties for a moment rather than hidden behind a football uniform and helmet. It is a celebration of Tiger spirit. At that moment, the game has not yet been played and the air is full of hope. The game is still to come. Everyone is “all-in” at this moment. The question then becomes, if Clemson loses the game played out on the gridiron within the confines of Clemson Memorial Stadium, are you still full of Tiger spirit then? Are you still “all-in”? Before the game, it takes no great effort to be part of the crowd that is cheering on the Tigers as they pass. After a tough loss, that’s when you know who the true Tigers are. These are the ones who greet the players and hug them and tell them that we still support you guys no matter what. There are those of us who simply love the school win, lose, or draw. These are the true members of Tiger Nation. I think today, there is a similarity between the illustration. At this point, on what has come to be known as Palm Sunday, we are in the pregame festivities of Passion Week. It is easy to be a Jesus fan on this end of Passion Week. When we get to crunch time, when the game is played out in Jerusalem, everyone’s true character will be revealed. Is Jesus the true Messiah, the suffering servant? Is Jesus the conquering political figure? Is Jesus the threat to traditional power? In our day today, we must decide whether or not we are “all-in” with Jesus or not.

The first thing that I think we should notice here is that Jesus is no longer trying to conceal that He is the Messiah. In many of his miracles, He asked that the healed person be quiet about what was done because He did not want His message to be overshadowed by the miracles. In each miracle, He always checked on a person’s spiritual health first before providing the physical miracle, so that was the real point was the forgiveness of sins and the reconciliation with God. That was the message. In Matthew 16:20, after Peter reveals his belief that Jesus is the Son of the Living God, The Messiah, Jesus ordered them to keep quiet about it. It was not yet time to publicly proclaim it. But, here we are, as Rafiki says to Simba in the Lion King at his coronation ceremony, “It is time!” It is now the time, according to God’s plan for Jesus to publicly embrace the mantle of the Messiah. There no mistaking to Jesus and to any Jewish person that was there why Jesus chose to ride a donkey the remainder of the way to Jerusalem. In Zechariah’s prophecy in Zechariah 9:9, he says:

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Jesus is publicly and intentionally annoucing to the world that He is the Messiah. No longer is He trying to keep it concealed. All of the angling toward Jerusalem that Luke starts each new passage with is now about to be completed. He is almost to Jerusalem now. It is time to reveal who He really is to the world. It is during this week that the people had to make a choice as to whether they were true fans of this Jesus. He would proclaim that He is the Messiah. He would proclaim that He is God in the flesh. The gloves are off. This is the week that choices are made. Passion Week is what separates us today between believers and non-believers. The non-believers just as most of Jerusalem will fall away and many do today when Jesus proclaims He is God. This riding of the donkey is the pregame festivities to the hard work of the coming week in Jerusalem. Do you believe that Jesus is God in the flesh? Do you believe that He was the scriptural Messiah? Do you believe that He died for your sins on a cross outside the city?

But right now, in this passage on this first of all Palm Sundays, it is easy to be a Jesus fan. Right now, instead of the Tiger Walk, we have the Jesus Ride, the disciples are high fiving people as they pass. The people are shouting praises of Jesus name. It is a big party and its easy to join in with the crowd. The crowd is shouting that He is king. The people who were praising God for giving them a Messiah (they recognized the significance of the donkey) King. But they had forgotten Scripture and they expected the Messiah not to be a suffering servant but rather a conquering hero. They expected Him to be a national leader who would drive out the Romans and restore Israel to its former glory. They were deaf to the words of the prophets and blind to the mission of Jesus. So, right now Jesus represented liberation from Roman rule. He represented not the reconciler of man to God through His suffering, but rather someone who would provide them immediate benefits. How quickly they would turn once they realized that Jesus was not going to lift them out from under Roman rule! They were fair weather Jesus fans. They wanted to be on the bandwagon. It is like those that become fans of a college team that has put together a string of successful seasons but those same fans will jump ship when the team has a losing season or a less than stellar season. The true fans of a school’s football team are those that love them through thick and thin, whether the team is 7-6 or 11-2, whether the team is 2-10 or 12-0. How are you about Jesus? Do you drift in and out of a relationship with Him? Do you cry out to him when you are in a jam and then forget about Him after the crisis has passed? Or do you celebrate Jesus’ influence in your life when times are good but throw Him to the curb when times are bad? Jesus calls us to be “all-in” all the time. He wants our allegiance every minute of every day whether it be good times or bad. Do you see Jesus as a vending machine to give you what you want or do you trust Him with your whole life all day every day?

Finally, we see the Pharisees trying to quell the noise of the crowd. They now see how wildly popular that Jesus is becoming. They didn’t want someone challenging their power and authority and they didn’t want a revolt against Rome that would bring Roman military might down on Jerusalem. They knew the significance of the donkey and they saw Jesus as wanting to usurp their power. They could not see the Messiah. They could embrace Jesus as what God had promised throughout Scripture. It is like a fan of one team always negatively referencing the capabilities of their arch-rival. They try to tear down the victories of the archrival and glorify the losses. It is also like traditional churches trying whatever they can to discredit a new fast growing non-traditional church. All of it represents a threat to that which we hold dear. Instead of embracing Jesus as the fulfillment of Scripture they were more concerned with preserving their own team. When we get so self-involved with the things we hold dear we cannot see beyond ourselves. Jesus is OK as long as He doesn’t have to be a part of all of my life. There are things that I want to keep separate from Jesus. These are my own little thrones over here. You can have the rest Jesus, but not these things. Giving you my complete allegiance would mean that I have to change my lifestyle. Many of us want to dabble with Jesus but not give Him our whole life. We want to be on His bandwagon until it costs us something. Real life change. Real obedience to God’s Word. Accepting all of Scripture as requiring our obedience. Willingly submit control of our entire lives to the Messiah! Man, that’s too much of a threat to the things that I have grown accustomed to! Do you see Jesus as a threat to your lifestyle? Does He represent the threat of truth against the lies and twisted truth that you have constructed for your life?

Jesus proclaims that He is the Messiah. It is all out in the open now. How are you going to react? Are you all-in? Have you placed your faith in Him. From this point forward in the book of Luke there is no turning back. Jesus is about to enter Jerusalem and change the history of mankind forever. He will go there to die for our sins just as had been predicted in Scripture. Do you believe that Jesus was the Son of God? Do you believe that He was just some great rabbi philosopher? Well, from here on in Luke, you have to get off the train. Everything else from here on in requires faith that Jesus was who He says He was. It is easy to be on the bandwagon when you can make Jesus out to be what you want Him to be. However, to be a true fan of Jesus, you must make the choice as to whether you believe He is the Messiah foretold in Scripture.

To be a true fan of Jesus, you must understand that He had to go to Jerusalem and die on the cross. To be a true fan of Jesus, you must understand that his death on the cross was more than an execution of a political threat. You must understand that it represents the once and final sacrifice for sin. You must understand that you are sinner no matter how good you true to be. You must understand that one sin is all it takes to separate us from God. You must understand that we cannot erase our nature and that because of that we are condemned to hell for our sins without this sacrifice on the cross. You must understand that Jesus on the cross took on all the sins of the world for all time that day. In that, you and I have a chance to reconcile ourselves to God and have eternal life. You must believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that He died for your sins on the cross so that you may have eternal life. Are you all-in? Are you a true fan? Or is this where you jump off the bandwagon? If you are feeling the stirrings in your soul that you want to be a true fan of Jesus, call on his name now. He did all the work of the Passion Week already. Your sins are forgiven once you ask Him into your life! You become a member of the family of the Jesus team. We have our own logo like all good teams do. It is the cross. Come join our team! Jesus wants you to be all-in!