Summary: Jesus chose a donkey at Jerusalem to show the city he was coming not as a conquering king, but as a prince of peace.
Most of us have been singing the beloved hymns of the faith for many years. It’s also true that we’re all getting a little older. Somebody emailed a list of revised hymn titles for those of us who are chronologically challenged:
1. “Precious Lord, Take my Hand … and Help Me Up!”
2. “It is Well with my Soul … but my Knees Hurt!”
3. “Go Tell it on the Mountain … but Speak a Little Louder!”
4. “Just a Slower Walk with Thee”
5. “I Love to Tell the Same Story”
6. “Guide me, O Thou Great Jehovah … I Forgot Where I Parked!”
There are a couple of more, but I’ve forgotten them.
In our passage today, we’re going to read about a parade. When I mention the word “parade” what comes to your mind? I enjoyed The I Love America presentation when the choir sang, “We need a parade; We need Old Glory flying high.” And we had our own parade.
What’s your favorite parade? The Rose Festival Parade here in Tyler? Or maybe you like The Rose Bowl Parade on New Year’s Day. Lots of people love the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.
I was curious to discover where the world’s largest parade is held. It’s not the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade; it’s not Mardis Gras or Festival in Rio. According to Google, the world’s largest parade takes place every year in Germany. It’s the Hanover Schutzenfest Parade. Shutzenfest means a festival of shooting. It’s a marksman competition that has been held annually since the 16th century. The parade is 7 ½ miles long with 10,000 participants, half of which are marksmen there to compete. There are 100 marching bands and over 1.5 million spectators. That’s what I call a parade!
Today we’re going to talk about a Passover Party Parade. When Jesus entered Jerusalem on what we call Palm Sunday, the roads leading to Jerusalem were filled with spectators watching the thousands of visitors who came to Jerusalem. In the Gospel of John we read, “The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem.” (John 12:12) Every Jewish man and his family was expected to attend the Passover festival. So every spring, Jews from all over the world flocked to Jerusalem. But Jesus didn’t come to Jerusalem to commemorate the Passover Lamb who was slain. He was entering Jerusalem to become the Passover Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
Mark 11:1-11. “As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, ‘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.’”
They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, ‘What are you doing, untying that colt?’ They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go.
When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, ‘Hosanna!’ ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!’ ‘Hosanna in the highest!’ Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.”
The Romans often conducted a census so they could collect the right amount of taxes. We know from Roman records that Jerusalem had a population of about 20,000. That’s about the size of Corsicana, Texas to give you a point of reference. But during Passover, many thousands of people flocked to Jerusalem.
Flavius Josephus was a Jewish historian who became a Roman sympathizer and he wrote about how many people crowded into Jerusalem. He writes: “Cestius, the Roman governor of Palestine, attempted to impress Emperor Nero that the Passover was an important feast for the Jews, and to do this he ordered the high priest to count the actual number of lambs that were sacrificed at Passover in the year A.D. 65. Cestius quoted the high priest as giving him a figure of 256,500 lambs that were offered for sacrifice.” (Antiquities of the Jews)
That’s one lamb per family, so you have to multiply that by a factor of two or three. It’s possible there were over 750,000 who came to Jerusalem for Passover. That’s about the population of Denver.