Summary: The Palm Sunday Parade was a victory parade for the battle that was yet to come.
Matthew 21-26 Palm Sunday, 2003
Jesus the Conquering Warrior
You might wonder if speaking on the Palm Sunday passage as “Jesus the Conquering Warrior,” is wise with all the war going on in Iraq and all the bloodshed in the world.
I think that now is the right time to talk of Jesus as Warrior, not to glorify war, or violence, but to show the vastly different way that God does battle, and the vastly different battle that God is involved with.
Let’s remember the story:
Up until this point in the Gospels, although Jesus has had a very public ministry, in many ways he has tried to stay quiet – for many of the people that he healed he told them not to tell anyone, he mostly remained in the lonely places so that people had to come to him, when asked about his identity he gave cryptic answers. Of course, the whole country still knew about him because people did not keep him secret - but now he comes out in the open. He is declaring himself to be the Messiah.
The people who were waiting and watching would have known the Scripture in Zachariah 9:9 which says:
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. (Zachariah 9:9 NIV)
And Jesus knew the verse as well - to come into the city during the Passover riding a donkey colt when all the other pilgrims were walking was a powerful sign and statement that said "I am he, I am the one, I am the Messiah!
We might think that a donkey is a pretty silly way to travel – Jesus looks like Juan Valdez, but a donkey did not have the same connotations in Bible times; quite the opposite – if a King rode into the city on a donkey it was a sign that he was victorious, and although the battle has yet to be fought, Jesus is so sure of the out-come that he has his victory parade first!
The picture that we have in this the last week of Jesus’ life is not of a weak soul – not like the pictures of Jesus that we have been handed, no he is not a worn-down man heading for his final fall, no he is a warrior heading for his greatest battle.
In the Movie Braveheart, Mel Gibson plays William Wallace. In the first big battle, the Scots have come down from the highlands to fight their English oppressors. At the sight of the huge army, and the realization that they might fight, but the only one to really benefit is the Scottish lords, many of them start to leave. The lords go out to meet the English lord to try to negotiate a deal that will buy them more lands and power. That is when Wallace shows up – in a rousing speech, he convinces the men to stay and fight, not for the lords, but for their own freedom.
At the end of his stirring speech, the men are cheering. They are ready. Then Wallace’s friend asks,
‘Fine speech. Now what do we do?”
“Just be yourselves.”
‘Where are you going?”
“I’m going to pick a fight."
While the nobles jockey for position, Wallace rides out and interrupts the parlay. He picks a fight with the English overlords and the Battle of Sterling ensues.
When you read what ensues after the triumphal entry, you might imagine that Thomas saddles up beside Jesus and says, “Nice parade, now what are you going to do?”
And Jesus responds: “I’m going to pick a fight.”
The fight that he picks is with the religious leaders of the day.
He goes straight to the Temple. The temple was set up with different courts for different people to worship
The inner sanctum was the Holy of Holies – the most Holy place where the Priests would enter only once per year to offer sacrifice, then their was the Court of the Priest where the priests would make daily sacrifices and minister to God, then there was the Court of the Israelites – where Jewish men would come to worship, then the court for the women to worship, and lastly the court of the gentiles – where people who were not Jewish, but recognized that God is the true God could come and worship. The priests and religious leaders had allowed merchants to set up stalls in the court of the Gentiles where you could buy animals for sacrifice and where you could change secular Roman money for “holy” temple money to offer. Both these items had huge mark-ups – it was worse than buying a burger at the Sky Dome!