Summary: Jesus wept because the people did not recognize the time of God's coming to them - but what about us? Today is Palm Sunday and the question we need to wrestle with is this: Have we recognized the time of God's coming to us?
The Greatest of These - Matthew 21:1-11 - March 24, 2013
Series: Palm Sunday
For many people the highlight of any given year is Christmas, isn’t it? Christmas is when family comes together, parties are attended, and presents are exchanged. More importantly, it’s the time of year when we as Christians celebrate the incarnation – the coming of God in the flesh, to dwell with His people in the person of Jesus. And the very heart of Christmas centers on the miracle of God’s love, being made manifest in, the Christ child.
But I want you to understand, that as amazing, and mind blowing, as the reality of Christmas is, it pales in comparison with the reality of what we stand on the brink of today. Today is Palm Sunday. It is the beginning of what is called, “Holy Week,” in the Christian Church. And without the events of this week, Christmas would not make sense. It would be without purpose, because what takes place during this week, answers the question of why God took on human flesh, and dwelt among us. Even more than that, without the events of Holy Week, Christianity itself would be pointless. Instead of offering hope and peace and life, it would prove itself empty, joyless and lifeless. To paraphrase the apostle Paul, without the events of Holy Week having taken place, our faith is futile, and if our faith is futile, we are still in our sins, without hope, and without God in this world!
So do you begin to see? Do you begin to grasp the significance of what God has done here friends? The events of this week are what all of history had been building to! It’s what God had purposed from the very beginning. This week helps us to understand the past, it frames the present, and, properly understood, it gives shape to all the days yet to come as well.
And so I invite you to open your Bibles with me to the 21st chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew 21, and we’ll begin reading in verse 1, as we begin to try to understand the significance of what was taking place on this day so long ago. This is what we read beginning in verse 1 …
“As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: “Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ ” The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest!” When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”” (Matthew 21:1–11, NIV84)
Try to picture that day if you can. Imagine yourself in the crowd. The Jewish historian, Josephus, suggests there may have been as many as 3 million people in the city that day. That seems a little excessive to me, but there can be no denying that there would have been hundreds of thousands of people who had gathered in Jerusalem as the Passover drew near, and maybe Josephus’ numbers aren’t that far off after all.
The closest I can come to picturing that is an experience I had as a young child when a member of the royal family visited Ottawa while we happened to be there on vacation. And though I can’t remember much of that day, I do remember the crowds – people everywhere I looked -standing shoulder to shoulder trying to catch a glimpse of royalty. You could feel the expectation and the excitement hanging heavy in the air. I didn’t understand it all, I couldn’t understand what the fuss was all about, but I wanted to be a part of it just the same!
So try to picture the noise, the pageantry, the wonder and the excitement of it – if you’ve experienced anything like it, or if you’ve seen the pictures on television of crowds of hundreds of thousands of people gathered in one place, for one reason, shouting out together as with one voice, then I think we begin to catch a glimpse of what it must have been like that day, some 2000 years ago, as Jesus approached Jerusalem. And just like my younger self, who couldn’t comprehend the impact of the royal visit, Scripture tells us there were some in the crowd that day wondering just who this Jesus was and what all the fuss was about.