Summary: Palm Sunday text that teaches that we must expect to encounter the risen Christ this day and even find Him in the most unlikely of places and faces.
“Welcoming the King” – Matthew 21:1-11
There is a lot of buzz surrounding the upcoming Royal Wedding. I realized that there are many people only a few years younger than myself who have no memory of the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. We Americans have always had an strange obsession with British Royalty, and some have said the closest we have ever had to American royalty is the Kennedy’s. I think most of the Amercian interest in this upcoming wedding may come from those who are nostalgic about the last royal wedding, but so many were disillusioned when it ended in divorce and remember the horror of Princess Diana’s tragic death. Still I suppose there are many young girls who dream of the life of a Princess and the fairytale that surrounds her.
Generally, throughout history royalty has always commanded a high level of attention. Several of you may have seen or read about the small army of personnel, equipment, and advanced planning that is involved in moving a U.S. President anywhere in the world. It is truly a staggering and impressive event.
Each of the Gospel writers emphasizes a different aspect of Jesus. For instance John says that He is the Lamb of God. In Luke He is the Lord. In Mark He is the Messiah, but here in Matthew’s Gospel Jesus is the King of Kings. Throughout the Gospels Jesus visits many different towns and areas throughout Galilee, Judea, and Samaria getting nearer to Jerusalem. This isn’t the first time that Jesus went to Jerusalem, but this is a very special occasion. It is clear that the time is at hand for Jesus to fulfill His divine destiny.
So how Jesus, the King of Kings, makes His entry into Jerusalem at this climactic moment is extremely important. If a neighboring King would make a State visit, you would expect great fanfare to welcome him, if he came in peace, and if he came with hostile intentions, you can only imagine the welcome he would receive. So pay close attention to how Jesus makes His way into Jerusalem.
Consider the preparations for His coming. There was no advance delegation to plan and prepare for Jesus’ coming. No fleet of aircraft arrived carrying helicopters, a motorcade, and an armored limousine. There was no Secret Service detail to secure the town for His arrival. As they were almost to Jerusalem, Jesus sent two disciples into the village ahead to make last minute arrangements for His arrival. Much like the way Jesus entered this world unexpected in the last place His young parents could find for the night, Jesus enters Jerusalem lowly and meek, and once more God provides the way.
Consider the way He traveled to Jerusalem. He rode a borrowed donkey. It was not His. Even at this stage of His ministry with disciples following Him, parables and sermons being told and retold everywhere He had been, and news of miracles that He had done, even now, Jesus has nothing of His own and must borrow a donkey upon which to ride.
As a demonstration of his power, you might expect a king to arrive on a majestic white horse equipped for battle, but here we find the King of Kings entering Jerusalem on a donkey. It is not a sign of state but a sign of service. It is a sign He is coming in peace. In fact He is coming to make peace riding a beast of burden, an animal used to carry loads too heavy for us to carry, to break up the hardest soil to make it useful for planting. This animal carries the one who will soon bear the weight of the world upon his back and make a way for us where there was no way.
Consider those who welcomed Him there. The closer He got to Jerusalem on His journey the more crowds began to gather and follow Him there. I said that there was no great fanfare for His arrival like we might expect. It’s true. The political leaders, the military leaders, and the religious leaders did not welcome Him. Those that did welcome Him and follow Him were more like what we might call a “flash mob.” They were a group hastily come together in a frenzy as rumors swirled around who Jesus was and what He was going to Jerusalem to do. Recent scenes we have seen on television of massive, viral protests that quickly came together in different Middle Eastern countries might be similar to the crowd that gathered here to usher Jesus into Jerusalem.
These were also oppressed people, suffering people. They wanted a folk hero to come up from the common people and lead a movement to overthrow the oppressors. They wanted to get rid of the Romans who ruled their lands, and they hoped that Jesus might be that leader. They wanted everything you see in the movies, a brave hero to come riding over the hill on a white horse and save the day. We may not be expecting a Jewish carpenter riding a donkey slowly into town.