Summary: Palm Sunday reveals to us the motif of Jesus’ Messiahship - The Suffering Servant
Thornage/ Stiffkey 04-04-04
This morning’s Gospel reading describes Jesus’ Triumphal entry into Jerusalem - which happened at the beginning of one of the most momentous weeks in Antiquity – in AD 29.
Jesus decided to go into Jerusalem, even though it was a dangerous place for him.
Saint Matthew wrote that Jesus came to Jerusalem to fulfil Zechariah’s prophecy –written about four centuries earlier that one day the true King would come, not on a magnificent war stallion, but on a young donkey.
9 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.
It might seem a small detail but this event – but I don’t believe that the Triumphal Entry simply HAPPENEDE.
I think it was well planned.
Well it is a small detail – but you will recall from our reading that Jesus told his disciples to go into the next village, Bethphage and find a small donkey that was tied up – and that they brought it back to Jesus.
And as the donkey had owners (plural), they had to be poor. And given that they were poor, the donkey would have had to be a sizeable investment for each owner.
So have you ever wondered WHY the owners would have parted with the donkey to complete strangers - the disciples. The disciples would have had to be strangers to the donkey’s owners – otherwise Jesus would have simply told them to go and get the donkey from “Fred Bloggs”.
There has to be a clue in what the disciples said to get the donkey: “The Lord needs it.".
It seems to me that the most likely explanation has to be that it was a pre-arranged codeword.
If this is so, Jesus has put a lot of meticulous planning into this event.
So if Jesus has planned the event, what is the point that He is making by riding into Jerusalem on a donkey.
I think Jesus is challenging the folk religion of his day.
Popular religion of Jesus’ day was looking forward to a Messiah who was going to be an all conquering hero throwing the Romans out and re-establishing Jewish sovereignty. Indeed that was probably one of the reasons that the crowds turned out
Indeed this might well have been part of Judas Iscariot’s motivation when he betrayed Jesus. He might well have been trying to force Jesus’ hand – and make Jesus the leader of a Maccabean style revolt.
After all, we know that Judas Iscariot was probably a Zealot – the member of a terrorist organisation of its day dedicated to terror and murder to drive the occupying forces out – a bit like HAMAS in the Holy Land today.
But Jesus did not fulfil the wishes of Judas or the crowds in Jerusalem. Instead of leading an armed revolt against the Romans, he turned on the Temple and overthrew the moneychangers.
For Jesus, the motif of Messiahship was to be found in Isaiah 53:
4 Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace
was upon him, and by his wounds
we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before her shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
And who can speak of his descendants?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was stricken.
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.
The scandal of Holy Week for many is this. Jesus - God in human form - didn’t come as a King in the way we would expect a king to come.
He came as a servant – a suffering servant. He came to take away the sin of his people. His death on the Cross was – in the words of the Book of Common Prayer – a “propitiation for our sin”. (that is to make atonement for our sins).
And the simplicity of the Gospel is this. That we don’t have to jump though hoops to please God.