Summary: On Palm Sunday this year, we need to give Jesus the kind of homecoming he really deserves.
March 23, 1997
A little bit less than two months ago, a certain professional football team named the Green Bay Packers returned home to their loyal Wisconsin fans as champions of Super Bowl XXX. It had been 29 years since the Green Bay fans had been able to celebrate a championship. Schools dismissed for the day, people took off work and the filled the streets, anxious to get a glimpse of the players as they passed by. Excitement ran high as the players made their way from the airport to Lambeau Field abord fire engines and buses. Cheers of victory went up throughout the city on a day when the kings of football came back home.
The fanfare surrounding Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem on what we now call Palm Sunday, was also a welcome fitting for a king. It was a welcome home. In a way. A sort of homecoming.
But as he approached the city of Jerusalem, high atop the Mount of Olives he looked at the panoramic view of this sacred city and said these words in Luke 19:41-42, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes.
THESIS: On Palm Sunday this year, we need to give Jesus the kind of homecoming he really deserves.
TRANSITION: There are 3 levels of the Palm Sunday story.
I. THE FEATURES OF HOMECOMING DAY
A. A Place
For a real homecoming to take place, there needs to be a place to come home to. Such as your high school or college. The alma mater.
The place that Jesus comes to is Jerusalem. It’s the center of Jewish religious and political activity. Known as the city of David, the capital city or the holy city, it was the most important city in Jewish life and history, and remains so to this very day.
This was not Jesus’ home town. In Matthew 21:11, the crowds acknowledged that Jesus was the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee. But the welcome that Jesus receives lets us see that these people were welcoming Jesus as one who had finally arrived to the place where he needed to be. They were expecting the “Messiah” the Christ, the promised one who as they understood, would come and release them from the rule of the Roman government. And restore Israel to its place as a world super-power as in the time of David.
These people were trying to give Jesus a sort of homecoming, but not on the right terms.
A second feature of this homecoming day was. . .
B. A Festive Atmosphere
In most schools at homecoming time there are numerous activities to build hype and spread school spirit. Pep assemblies, special emphasis days and returning graduates help the excitement to build.
In Jerusalem it was Passover time. The biggest religious observance of the year. It was the goal of every devout Jew to be in Jerusalem for Passover. The news about this man named Jesus who had raised Lazarus from the dead had traveled quickly, making Jesus the main topic of discussion in Jerusalem and the surrounding countryside where the visitors would camp. Some were looking for him, and others were wondering if he would show up. It was the hope of all Israel for the Messiah to come, and from the sounds of it, many thought Jesus might certainly fit the bill. The city was alive.
A third feature of this homecoming was the crowning of a king.
C. A King
Most high schools crown a king at homecoming time. They usually vote for the guy most popular in the school and give him special recognition of some kind.
In our story we also have a king at this special event. The fact that Jesus chose to ride on a donkey was a deliberate demonstration for those astute enough to catch it.
In the Old Testament, the prophet Zecariah had spoken these words: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
This reading had been understood by the Jews to be clearly speaking of the Messiah, or the coming King. Jesus knew he fulfilled prophecy by entering in such a way. But the donkey wasn’t exactly the stretch limousine of its day – or even the Lexus Sport coupe of its time. It was probably more like how we would currently view a ’76 Ford Pinto – not the first choice of someone who wants to call himself King.
But that was Jesus’ whole point. The Messiah was the Prince of Peace – Not military leader. He was here to establish a spiritual kingdom forever and ever for those who would have faith in him. Mark 10:45 reminds us He came to serve, not to be served.