Summary: On Palm Sunday Jesus received a warrior’s welcome into Jerusalem, but Jesus was not that kind of Messiah. Do we worship Jesus as He really is, or as we want him to be?
Do we worship Jesus as he really is? Or do we worship Jesus as we want him to be? It’s a simple multiple choice question – A or B! Do you want to go 50/50? I’m not going to ask for a show of hands.
I wonder what mode of transport you would select for a King. A donkey wouldn’t be top of my list, and although Barack Obama isn’t a King, we’ve seen this week an array of ‘stately’ transportation available to him as he arrived at nearby Stansted Airport for the G20 summit. Air force One, Marine One, cars, and 500 staff. For some people Mr Obama appears almost as a ‘Messianic’ figure; but there are plenty of people around the world wondering, “Is he really going to give us what we want? Will he give us what we really need?” And as Jesus approached Jerusalem people were thinking similar things.
Do we worship Jesus as he really is? Or do we worship Jesus as we want him to be?
Jesus had pre-booked his transport. He said to two of his disciples, “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. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly’ (11:2-3). It happened as Jesus said and they took the colt to him, spread their cloaks upon it, and Jesus sat on it (11:4-7). Once it was made clear that the colt was needed by The Lord – needed by Jesus – the colt was made available without further questions. Jesus knew the colt would be there and we can be fairly sure the owner knew Jesus as ‘The Lord’. What do we say when Jesus asks for our possessions to be used in His service?
Jesus was well prepared. Riding on a colt, previously not ridden, was intentional, as it fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 concerning the arrival of Zion’s King:
“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 prophecy would have been in the minds of many people as Jesus entered Jerusalem. Cloaks were spread on the ground and branches – identified by the gospel writer John as palm branches (John 12:13) - were carried and spread out (Mark 11:8).
It is also quite likely that the arrival of Jesus was causing people to think about the arrival of Simon Maccabaeus into Jerusalem 150 years earlier. Maccabaeus received a conqueror’s welcome. There was thanksgiving. Palm branches were waved, and many instruments were played because Israel’s enemies had been defeated. And it seems to be this sort of welcome that Jesus is receiving. In fact, you could even ask: Why are we celebrating it, then?
“Hosanna” is easily misunderstood because we think of it as a shout of praise; but the literal meaning is “Save now!” and it appears in that form in the Old Testament on two occasions where people ask for help from the King (2 Samuel 14:4 and 2 Kings 6:26). So the cries of “Hosanna” were not cries of exuberant praise. They were cries of “Save us now. Help us! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”.