I would like you to think about the fact that this morning we meet Jesus in the midst of a heroes welcome. Entering the city of Jerusalem to cries and shouts of welcome and praise. It got me thinking this week about what it means to be a heroes. As children we all want to be superheroes … we probably all still do if the truth be told. All the films that fill our cinemas and TV screens are all about just that .. there has been a resurgence of superhero films in recent years. Everyone wants to be superman or wonderwoman saving the world with our special powers.
And this is what Jesus is being heralded as by the people of Jerusalem. Here at the annual Passover festival the people throng out of the city. They go out to see the hero who has been healing people and challenging the Roman occupation and even raising the dead. A true superhero.
I imagine they are hoping to see someone on a white stallion or a camel adorned with the gold he had received from the other kings from the east who had visited him at his birth. Someone worthy of a heros welcome.
And they are disappointed because today we celebrate a man on a donkey! Imagine it! You go out to welcome a hero and find a man tottering about on a colt that has never been ridden before. The image is in fact ludicrous. Crowds shouting and celebrating a humble carpenter barely visible on his humble donkey.
You see what Jesus knew and what the crowds did not is that to be a superhero requires an inner fortitude and strength that comes from the exact opposite of what people want in their heros.
Being a true hero is not about the celebrity and power and attitude of our screen heros. Ask yourself for a moment what does it take to be a hero?
In a moment of quiet reflect on what it took for the heroic policeman of the events in France this last couple of days to give himself as a ransom for the hostage at the supermarket. There is a true hero, like our own saviour, who would give himself for another. What qualities does that take?
Physical, strength, speed, power? No. Status, good looks, the latest equipment? No. Confidence, self-belief. No. To be a hero takes the qualities of a life giving more value to others than yourself. To be a hero takes courage despite a lack of self-confidence or belief in your own abilities. To be a hero takes a willingness to surrender to others and not be in control. To be a hero takes the strength to do the right thing rather than the popular thing.
Who are the true heros in life? Who are the true heros in your life? What was it they said or did that made them special?
Jesus was a hero. But not the kind of hero the crowds of Palm Sunday were expecting. Jesus was the kind of hero we can in fact follow and be heroes too. But don’t let that sound too attractive to you. Don’t be fooled by the comic book definition of a hero. To be a hero is not an easy way of life. It will leave you looking ridiculous and uncomfortable much of the time. It will take you out of the limelight and into true service of others.
I tell you what being a hero will look like.
It will look like facing loss of loved ones with hope rather than bitterness.
It will mean visiting those who are sick at the cost of your own time and health.
It will mean caring for your partner in old age.
It will mean picking up your grandchildren from school in the rain and cold.
It will mean smiling at your neighbour when they have shunned you for years.
It will mean picking up litter on our streets that isn’t yours.
It will mean cooking your children healthy meals that they will turn their noses up at.
It will mean giving some of your money to charities even when you struggle to make ends meet.
And based on this I can tell you there are many heros and heroines here in our church today.
Being a hero means to follow Jesus .. who for the sake of doing what was right led a life that looked nothing like a hero .. riding a donkey .. being silent before accusations .. being mocked and spat upon .. forgiving those who denied their friendship with him and betrayed him .. giving comfort to others being crucified alongside him despite his own pain.
Let us take time this Holy Week to take seriously what it costs to be a hero .. and let us value such things in life .. making heroes of those who choose a donkey and not a white steed. Making heroes of the single mums and faithful fathers of our communities. Making heroes of our teachers and shopkeepers who give up time for charity.
Let us celebrate the right kind of heroes in the Christian church and we will not be dissapointed like the crowds of Palm Sunday who within days were shouting crucify at the man they went out to see.
Let your Palm Cross remind you of what it means to be heroic throughout this year.