Summary: Palm Sunday - a consideration of some of the faces around this event and where our place in it all may be.
We Were There -
The Crowd Around Jesus
Luke 19: 28-48
CALVIN CHRISTIAN REFORMED CHURCH
What an active, colourful, almost hectic, back and forth scene it is.
If you want drama, you’ve got it.
Part planning, part spontaneity.
Full support for Jesus. And unabashed opposition.
Great joy. And tears of sorrow.
Jesus is going public, in a big way.
Up to this point in his ministry, he’s done his level best to keep a low profile, at least as much as that may be possible.
Whenever he healed someone, it was accompanied by an order to keep things quiet.
When his disciples confessed him as the Messiah, he told them to hold this to themselves.
He didn’t want the crowds to get too excited.
He didn’t want anyone to get their hopes up too high.
Now, very intentionally, he sends ahead for a donkey. Not, as some may want to tell you, a poor man’s animal for a second-rate parade. Donkeys were the beast on which notable old testament figures rode.
Abraham rode one.
So did Moses.
They were well accepted in the Ancient World as the riding animal for a king who comes in peace.
So Jesus comes - the Eternal Prince of Peace.
He’s well aware that he’s pushing a hot button with this parade thing. Tapping into their collective faith memory, Jesus lives out the prophecy of 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."
And, oh, how the people respond -- holding a party - singing from their hymnbook the words of Psalm 118:26, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord."
Without knowing it, they echo the angel choir which sang the night Jesus was born - "Peace in heaven and glory in the highest."
Over the last few weeks we’ve seen the faces of some of those gathered here. What a mixed bag, almost a motley crew! And those around them are not much different.
Two disciples get the colt. We’re left to guess which two they are. What sort of characters were they?
You can work your way through the gaggle of followers that Jesus had accumulated.
There’s James & John - fighting for the right to be at head of line
Zacchaeus - still trying to reconcile his bank statements
Faceless followers - who kept trying to keep the kids quiet and out of sight
Lazarus - still surprised at his trip to heaven and quick return
A zealot named Simon, ready for the day Jesus calls for rebellion
Matthew - on leave from his tax booth
Or the characters we’ve met over the last few weeks:
Judas - with all his doubts about falling in line behind Jesus, pulled this way and that by competing interests in his life, never quite finding it.
Peter - swaggering, strong in his step, a self-confident know it all.
Mary - a bewildered mother watching her son head in directions she simply can’t comprehend, admiring, loving....... and worried sick over what’s going to come of him.
And the one who doesn’t show his face, but has his spies watching from the background. Pilate - a compromised, second rate ruler who recognizes political expedience wherever he can find it, a whatever-works-is-fair-game sort of fellow.
Each totally different from the next. Representative of the huge variety of personalities, hopes and dreams that formed the crowd that day. This tapestry of colorful personalities gathers to shout Hosanna, an ancient word meaning, "Lord, save us!"
Some of them zealots - fermenting for political freedom, wanting to be saved from Rome.
Some of them Essenes - religious, end-of-time sorts waiting to be saved from the corruption of the day by God’s final vindication of Israel.
Some of them common folk - wanting nothing more than a decent shake, hoping to be saved from rank poverty and economic corruption.
They’d seen, or at least heard of some amazing things Jesus had done - raising Lazarus, giving sight to blind Bartimaeus. If he could do that, then..... perhaps..... what we want, perhaps he can make that happen, too.
Coats are spread for an improvised red carpet treatment.
Even though Luke doesn’t mention it, Matthew and Mark tell us that some people also went into the fields to cut branches, which they laid on the ground, and which some waved. John tells us that they were palm branches, which is where we get the name for this particular Sunday.
"The righteous flourish like the palm tree" says Song of Songs 7/7-8.
Isaiah 9 uses them to represent the ruler of Israel.