Summary: This "Palm Sunday" parade had all the elements of a major network production.
INTRO: Palm Sunday is an easy day for Americans to get excited about because we love parades! On Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day we sit in front of our TV sets and watch Macy’s and the Rose Bowl Parade among others, flipping back and forth between the channels. We honor our Super Bowl, World Series and World Champion Basketball teams with parades in their home cities. In times of war we have honored returning soldiers with parades to celebrate their victories. This "Palm Sunday" parade had all the elements of a major network production. A big crowd, lots of wide-eyed children straining for a view, laughter, music, color, waving palm branches, even a "float" of sorts, if you will. Jesus, the center of attention, came riding into town on a borrowed colt.
I wish that I could somehow take you all to Jerusalem to relive the events of that great day. How exciting it would be to be a part of the crowd, to walk down that winding road from the Mt. of Olives, past the Garden of Gethsemane, across the Kidron Valley and up through the great Eastern Gate. It would be a parade you would never forget!
This felt, for many - including the disciples, like Jesus’ "big day." Many in the crowd believed that Jesus was their Messiah and that this parade surely marked the beginning of his reign as their conquering King. With Jesus as their king, they were convinced that it was only a matter of time until the trumpets rang out, the call to arms sounded and the Jewish nation would be led to its long delayed victory over Rome and the world. You may think it strange that Jesus chose to ride a donkey for such an occasion, but God never does anything by accident. Some would say he chose this simple beast of burden because he was a man of humility - and that is true. But Jesus chose to ride a donkey in this parade for two other very important reasons:
1) To fulfill prophecy about the Messiah. Both Matthew and John, when describing the scene of the Triumphal Entry, quote from Zechariah, the next to last book in the Old Testament.
Zechariah 9:9 - "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 passage tells us some things about Jesus and why it was important to have this parade. Notice it says, "See your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation." This parade was announcing plainly to the world that Jesus was the Messiah. It would have been impossible for Jesus to stop and speak above the noise of an excited crowd like the one that followed him that day. So Jesus did something that everyone could see. He came riding into town on a donkey’s colt in a dramatic fulfillment of the words of the prophet Zechariah. Did you know that every Old Testament prophecy about Jesus’ first coming has been fulfilled to the letter? This was just another example to show us clearly that Jesus was the Messiah. The second reason Jesus chose to ride a donkey in the parade was:
2) To declare that He was a King. In times of war the conqueror would ride upon a prancing stallion, but in times of peace the king would ride a colt/donkey to symbolize that peace prevailed. Zechariah said that the king would be "gentle and riding upon a donkey." Jesus deliberately fulfilled that prophecy to call attention to the fact that He had come, not as a war maker, but as a peacemaker. Riding a donkey in the parade made a statement those watching that Jesus was a King. In fact, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords was riding through the streets of the city, but Jesus knew in his heart that this was anything but a victory parade.
PROPOSITION: For Jesus, "Palm Sunday" did not feel like the joyous occasion we make it out to be today.
Palm branches were waving, people were shouting "Hosanna!" and Jesus was the center of attention as he rode through the streets. They gave him a hero’s welcome and held an impromptu parade in his honor. They treated him like a Super Bowl or World Series hero, like a victorious war veteran returning from battle. But as the parade came to an abrupt end, about the time when they should have been presenting him with a trophy and playing "One Shining Moment" over the public address system, Jesus, the hero of the day, began to weep. There was no trophy, no victorious speech, and no championship ring presentation. Just a weeping hero who stunned the crowd and put a damper on the whole festive atmosphere.