Summary: Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is a living parable that carries a powerful message of what God’s kingdom and the Christian life is like
Luke 19:28-30 “Behind the Fanfare”
Everyone likes a parade. We love the pomp, the colorful costumes, the loud music, the disciplined marching, the imaginative floats, and of course the smiles and the waves. Some parades are greater productions than others. Though I’ve never been to Pasadena to see the Rose Bowl Parade, I grew up watching it every New Years Day. Serving a majority of my ministry is small town America has prevented me from seeing the big parades. I’m more used to a homecoming parade with four floats—one for each class, the marching band, the homecoming court sitting in donated convertibles, and the town fire engine and squad car with flashing lights.
Growing up in the church—I was forced to go to Sunday School and we occasionally attended worship services—I always thought that Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday was more like the Rose Bowl parade, rather than the Oconto Falls Homecoming Pageant. I was wrong. The parade consisted of one donkey, Jesus, his disciples and a rag tag band of followers. The streets may have been lined with onlookers, but Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was a deliberate understatement—a living parable, if you will.
It is not because there was a shortage of white stallions around Jerusalem that Jesus settled for a young colt, a beast of burden. He entered Jerusalem like a king, with fanfare and cheers, but he entered on a donkey. He drove a Yugo rather than a Mercedes. He entered Jerusalem with humility.
Humility is a characteristic of Jesus and of the new kingdom that he is ushering in. Paul writes in Philippians that “Jesus did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, and in humility took on human form and became obedient unto death on the cross.
Jesus was portraying the proclamations of the Old Testament prophets. Micah writes, “And what does the Lord require of you, to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before your God. Success and fame are not the calling of God’s children. Pride over out accomplishments is not what God wants for us. Instead it is the exact opposite. In God’s kingdom, humility—an outward focus toward the needs of others—is the mark of success and faithful obedience.
Jesus on a donkey is a stark contrast to the power and pride of the Roman Emperor, or even the self-sense of importance of a government bureaucrat. Certainly it is drastically different than the American Idol of the “Self-Made Man.” Jesus on a donkey is the shining light in the darkness of our selfishness and self-centeredness.
When a king entered Jerusalem, they would be surrounded by soldiers and slaves to serve them. They along with shackled and starving prisoners of war displayed their power and their glory. With such attributes as these, no one would ever think that the king should serve. Everyone was present to serve the king was an unstated fact of society.
Jesus enters Jerusalem not surrounded by soldiers or slaves. He is surrounded by his disciples, and the people whom he was healed, from whom he has cast out demons, and people who have caught a glimpse of who Jesus is. Jesus is surrounded by people whom he has served.
Jesus calls us to be his own at our baptism. He adopts us and makes us children of God—Kings’ kids. Ours, however, is not a life of pleasure and privilege. Ours is a life of service and faithful obedience to a loving God who blesses us with overflowing abundance. In the gospels, it is recorded that Jesus said, “If anyone is to follow me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. Following Jesus means service and sacrifice—the abundant life.
Before Jesus entered Jerusalem, he paused for a moment to weep. God had sent so many prophets before him. All of them were rejected, stoned or killed. Still, God never gave up. God continued to love his people and to send them messengers who called the people to repentance and a new life.
The Old Testament is a collection of thirty-nine books in which God’s steadfast love for Israel and the world is recorded. People turned away from God, but God still loved them. People rejected and rebelled against God, and yet God still loved them. Nothing that they did stopped God from loving them, or altered God’s love for them.
The history of the Christian church carries a similar message. The church, at times, has not been very Christian. Instead of peace it brought war. Rather than love it preached racism, sexism, elitism, and nationalism. Through the high points and the low points, though, God’s love for God’s people never wavered.
Most of us can see the same steadfast love in God’s relationship with us. There have been times when we have been extremely close to God and at other times we have wandered and strayed. God’s love for us never varied through it all. And God’s love never will change.