Summary: A sermon for Palm Sunday
"Riding Toward Death"
Three times between Matthew Chapter 16 and Matthew Chapter 20, Jesus tells His disciples that He is going to Jerusalem where He will suffer, die and rise from the dead.
And now in Chapter 21 Jesus finally enters Jerusalem, but He is not immediately arrested and nailed to a Cross.
Instead, there is "fanfare," "adoring crowds," "mass hysteria."
And the disciples, no doubt, got caught up in it as well!!!
Do you think they were experiencing a "sigh of relief"?
Had they so misunderstood Jesus, even after having been with Him for so long, that--even after He had warned them of what was to occur--they still "did not understand what He was talking about"?
We don't know.
We aren't told.
But certainly, just a chapter earlier, in Matthew 20, the disciples did not seem to have a clue.
They were on their way to Jerusalem.
Jesus, we are told, took the 12 disciples aside and said to them, "We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law.
They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified.
On the third day he will be raised to life!"
Immediately after this conversation the disciples had an argument as to which one of them would be able to sit at Jesus' right and left in His kingdom.
They were still thinking of an earthly kingdom, and they were thinking of Jesus as an earthly King.
Jesus asked them if they could drink from the cup of suffering that He was going to drink from.
"We can," they answered.
Then Jesus went on, "whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave--just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
Then Jesus comes into the Holy City "humble and riding on a donkey."
And we are told that "a large crowd spread their clothes on the road.
Others cut palm branches off the trees and spread them on the road.
The crowds in front of him and behind him shouted, 'Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest!"
Who were these people who were singing the praises of Jesus, who were proclaiming Him King, who were begging Him to save them?
Who were these crowds of folks running in front of Him and behind Him?
Certainly, they weren't the residents of Jerusalem.
According to Matthew, this was Jesus' first trip to the city.
Some in the crowd had been following Jesus from the beginning.
Remember, that by the end of the Sermon on the Mount "the crowds" were listening to His teaching.
The crowds continued to swell as they watched as Jesus healed the sick.
They began to follow Him wherever He went.
They watched, in amazement, as Jesus cast out demons.
And we are told back in Matthew Chapter 12 that they began to wonder whether Jesus might be the Son of David...
...in other words, whether Jesus was going to be the new King David...
...the Messiah who was gonna slaughter the occupying forces of Rome and give Israel their home back.
Jesus fed 5,000 of them on a hillside with just two fish and five barely loaves.
We are told over and over again that "a large crowd followed [Jesus]."
They were fishermen, tax collectors, Samaritans, prostitutes, blind people, demoniacs, lepers and cripples.
They were a motley crew, a ragtag bunch.
There were women who now leaped for joy, lepers with hearts full of gratitude, oppressed women who had been treated like human beings for the first time.
And they "spread their clothes on the road" in front of Jesus--kind of like the red carpet treatment.
And yet the cloths that were thrown on that road that day were not glamorous, they were tattered and dusty, sweat-stained rags.
And this is because Jesus was and is the King of the oppressed and suffering.
He shared their hardships, relieved their suffering, accepted them even though nobody else accepted them.
He gave them hope, and embodied God's love for them.
And now they came to march with Jesus into Jerusalem.
Only a few days later, on their way home, they would say to one another, "But we had hoped He was the One to redeem Israel."
All this activity causes a huge stir in Jerusalem.
At the beginning of Matthew's Gospel, when the Magi from the East were trying to find "the one born king of the Jews," we read that Herod was troubled and the whole city of Jerusalem was troubled with him.