Summary: Palm Sunday - Triumphal Entry
There was a man and his wife who were driving along on the way to church. They were late, and the man was fussing at his wife for taking too long getting the kids ready. Surely she could be more organized. As you might expect, he was also driving too fast. Sure enough, a police car pulls them over. The police officer walks up to the window and asks for the the man’s license. As innocently as possible, he asks “What’s wrong officer?”
“You were speeding”
“I didn’t realize. I must have missed the sign.”
His wife chimes in “Don’t lie to the nice young man. I’ve been asking you to slow down for the last mile.”
He gives his wife a dirty look just as the officer adds “And your left blinker isn’t working.”
“Really, that must have just happened.”
“Just happened a month ago,” says his wife.
This lack of loyalty infuriates the minister who begins to unleash a blistering torrent of invectives in her direction.
The officer asks the wife, “Does he always speak to you this way?”
Just then she is struck with an idea, so with a glimmer in her eye she answers, “No, only when he’s been drinking.”
This man made a real donkey of himself -- I can’t use the other word in the pulpit. Usually we don’t think of donkeys in a positive light. They are stubborn, and hard to control. They are not known for their speed or their intelligence. They do have some positive traits. They are strong, and persistent, and hard working. If the ground is treacherous or the loads are heavy, you are better off with a donkey than a horse.
We all know the story of Palm Sunday. It is the beginning of Passover week and Jesus is coming into Jerusalem. After three years of ministry, his reputation is well known. He is the healer – the miracle worker – the teacher – the prophet. He is feared by the authorities, but loved by the common people. Those common people have come to believe that he might even be the promised Messiah.
There is a problem here. The popular conception of the Davidic Messiah was that he would be a great conqueror and political ruler. Among the common people who were making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Passover, that was a good thing. They were tired of Roman occupation and wanted someone who would lead them in a victorious revolt. They resented King Herod who had been imposed upon them. While he was a descendent of Abraham, he was not a descendent of David, the royal line. He wasn’t even a descendent of Jacob, the father of all Israel. It was said that this Jesus was a true descendent of the royal line. The people responded to Jesus in a way that indicated that they accepted him as Messiah. Laying palm fronds and cloaks in his path was an indication that this was a coronation parade. The shouts of “Hosanna” showed that he was accepted as Messiah – one chosen by God.
The Roman rulers would have reacted much differently. They would have seen Jesus as one of many would-be Messiahs who had attempted to lead revolts against Rome. They would have been watching for the first hint of violence. They would have been concerned about the possibility of riots in a city full of religious fervor because of the festival.
The Jewish leaders would have had similar fears. They were no friends of the Romans, but they had made their accommodation. They knew that any uprising was doomed to fail to achieve freedom. Instead, it would only cause more repression and cost hundreds of lives. They feared Jesus, not for what Jesus would do, but out of a concern for how the people would act and how the Romans would respond.
Jesus also understood. He knew that the people had no understanding of the nature of his mission. He also understood that he was heading to the cross.
Jesus does something odd, though it turns out that it was prophesized. Instead of entering town like a concurring hero, he entered town as a humble servant. Instead of coming into town driving a chariot or rider a charger, he came on the back of a donkey.
I want you to think today about that that donkey. First, I am certain that Warren would want me to point out that this was a donkey, not an elephant, but the choice wasn’t intended to be a political endorsement. This was a special donkey. This donkey was planned. This donkey was prepared. This donkey had a purpose.
I mentioned earlier that this donkey was prophesied. I couldn’t avoid talking about it, because it is in the text. The passage quoted here if from Zechariah around 520 BC. It talks about a future day when a new kind of king will come to Zion – a king who brings peace instead of war.