Summary: Entering Jerusalem Jesus teaches us much
magine that most of us have been to the Rose Festival Parade at some time in our lives and sat along MLK and waited for the floats and bands to come along. Some of us have gotten there just before it started. Others have purchased seats from which to view it and still others of us have spent the night out there waiting. If you don’t know it already seeing a parade in person is a lot different from watching it on TV. The floats are bigger, more impressive and the colors brighter. The bands music can seep in your soul as the bass pounds in your chest. There is a sense of excitement as you wait for the “what’s next” to come around the corner.
Seeing a parade in person is LOT different than reading about it. But that’s what we have in the story of what we call Palm or Passion Sunday. The pilgrims, headed up to Jerusalem for Passover, climb a rocky, dusty roadway toward the city. Those who lived around the area would make this an annual trip. Yet thousands traveled from around Israel and elsewhere to be on hand for Passover in Jerusalem.
The emotions ran at a fever pitch as they climbed toward the city. Rome put extra troops in the city because of the likelihood of riots and attacks. As the people climbed the hill they sang. The praise songs of their day were what we call the Psalms. Psalms 120 through 132 proclaim the trust the people have in YWHW and their need for Him to act again in their lives. They proclaim God’s glory and the joy it gave them to worship at His temple.
That year someone else entered into Jerusalem. He bore the title “King of the Jews” although not everyone recognized it or admitted it. He rode rather than walked. Some of those close by him knew the miracles he’d done. Some, like Lazarus, may have been a recipient of a miracle themselves. Others had heard his teaching or knew people who knew people… With all of this going on Jesus fulfills Zechariah’s prophecy and as he enters the city astride an ass he proclaims his identity to any and all who will see.
This parade wasn’t practical for many of those entering Jerusalem that day. Some dismissed the man on the donkey. Others were caught up in the ritual of the psalms. Others were there because that’s where the excitement was. Others didn’t really know what a difference a Messiah could make even if this Jesus were who he claimed to be. And I would say that even today, sadly, there are still such folks all around us. People who don’t believe God can make a difference. People who are afraid God will make a difference. People who have just missed the importance and practicality of God’s parade of love.
What can be remotely practical about a parade? First I want us to see that our trust in Jesus isn’t misplaced trust. We can all think of things we’ve trusted in; people we’ve believed in and the like that have let us down and left us disappointed and hurt. We’ve waited for the big thing only to have it fizzle. We’ve saved to get that new toy only to have it be not all that great after all. Good news folks. Jesus is the one person who won’t let us down or stand us up.
As Jesus rides into Jerusalem he does something we’ve only seen with the disciples he accepts the praise of the people. He doesn’t shush them as he did demons early in his ministry. He doesn’t quiet them by saying, ‘it’s not my time.’ He lets them sing their songs of praise toward the city and accepts it as his own. As those with him recognized who he was branches and clothes were laid out before the entering King as signs of worship and adoration.
Not everyone was as understanding though. The Jewish leaders who witnessed this were upset. They were worried about what God would think with these people worshipping someone who was so obviously human. They were worried about what the Roman soldiers might think if the crowd’s belief in this Messiah once again took them down the road to revolution. “Shut these people up” they tell Jesus. And his answer is revealing. Creation itself cannot keep silent at his coming-the rocks plainly saw who he was even if these teachers wouldn’t.
A second practical side to this parade is that we see something of the way God approaches those who are dead set against God’s agenda in the world. It’s seen in the fact that Jesus entered Jerusalem on an ass, rather than a horse. This was a very common animal and the main way of moving goods throughout the Middle East. Conquering kings and generals as a way to enter a city and proclaim peace to those they had overcome. The alternative was to enter on their warhorse and bring destruction on the city.