Summary: A sermon for Palm Sunday.
By: Rev. Kenneth Emerson Sauer, Pastor of Parkview United Methodist Church, Newport News, VA
Our Lord’s arrival in Jerusalem
Just five days before His crucifixion is one of the stories that is reported by all of the Gospel writers.
Everybody remembers that day!
It was a joyful and glorious day…
…a time of excitement, optimism, and renewed national pride for the Israelites.
What begins with a handful of disciples offering their praise to God turns into a citywide celebration…
…And if we think about it, we can appreciate why.
After all, the people of Jerusalem had been waiting for something like this for a long time.
Five hundred years earlier, Zechariah had announced that one day their king would arrive—“triumphant and victorious”—and that prophecy had been indelibly etched on their minds.
This glory-starved nation had, in effect, been waiting for just this occasion for half of a millennium—they had been waiting for David’s successor to come galloping into town to assume His throne.
So, when Jesus decides that it’s time for the city’s most anticipated parade, the people are more than ready to let the party begin.
They line the streets, cheering wildly and lifting their voices in song: “Hosanna!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”
“Hosanna in the highest!”
Some people in the crowd may have even compared Jesus to Judas Maccabeus, who had driven the Greeks out of Jerusalem a century and a half before, and no doubt, there were those who believed that this was what Jesus intended to do now.
Their hope was that Jesus would launch a revolution against the Romans and release the Holy City from pagan occupation.
Still, if the truth be told, all of their loud hosannas couldn’t hide the fact that Jesus is not quite what they expected Him to be.
Judas Maccabeus had arrived on a white stallion.
Jesus arrived on this little colt of a donkey that almost left His feet dragging on the ground. Plus there is no conqueror’s weapon attached to His saddle.
In fact, He doesn’t even have a saddle, only somebody’s old overcoat.
As we watch Jesus entering Jerusalem with friends and followers waving palms, not swords, we see again into the heart of God.
There is a significant little detail that is often overlooked in this story.
“Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, ‘Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here.’”
Jesus rode into the city on a colt that had never been ridden. An unbroken colt!
Anyone who has ever attended any riding, roping shows has seen what usually happens to people who sit on untamed colts, especially in the midst of shouting crowds!
Can we sense an underlying smile here as the writer of Mark’s Gospel contemplates this little miracle?
It may be less spectacular than stilling a storm or raising the dead but it’s no less significant in its depiction of Jesus’ gentle power!
Jesus does not need a warrior’s stallion.
The untamed colt of a donkey makes the point just as well.
The power that enters the gates of our hearts does not force or violate…
…it calms, transforms, and guides us!
Jesus doesn’t fit the messianic profile of the people of Jerusalem at all….and sure enough…within a week…the grand marshal of this parade will be met with the words of “Crucify Him!” instead of “Hosanna…Bless Him!”
So what are we to make of this parade?
What are we to make of Palm Sunday?
Well, we are on sure ground when we take the historical basis of the story---the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem—as the Church has taken it, to be a meaningful symbol of Jesus as King.
There is a wealth of evidence far and wide…
…gathered through history and experience…
…as to Jesus’ right to kingship in the lives of individuals and society.
We can see this validated by the way Jesus has met the deep needs of the human soul.
He meets them in that dim borderland where our reach exceeds our grasp.
He meets them in our inability to find fulfillment in material things…
….He meets them in our dissatisfaction with ourselves…
…our inescapable sense of missing the mark---not only of the life we were meant for, but also of the possibility for forgiveness and new life.
And our experience of the strange self-defeating quality of selfishness fits into Jesus’ call to fulfillment in service!
Jesus’ right to kingship is also validated by the long line of people running down through the centuries…
…people who have taken Him as Master and Savior….