Summary: Jesus' triumphal entry in Jerusalem brings before us a call to surrender ourselves in praise to the living God!
I think it’s easy for us to imagine Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. We can easily see the joy of the people as they wave their palm branches and welcome the King. It’s easy for us to think about Jesus, riding high atop the colt, smiling and waving to the thronging crowds all around him. Perhaps such images come easily to us because we know Jesus is the King; and how else would a King be greeted in his royal city. Or perhaps this is easy for us to imagine because we have heard this story throughout our lives, imitating the palm processional each year at church, even from our very youngest years. Maybe the parade is a vivid picture in our minds because of similar processions in our modern-day; think “Red Carpet” and the joyous welcome of the stars as they make their way to the great award ceremonies. Except instead of cloaks and waving palm branches, our modern stars process to bright flash bulbs and lingering microphones.
Certainly, Jesus got the welcome of a star. In fact, he got the royal welcome! People didn’t spread their cloaks on the ground for a friend, or even a respected senior member of the family. They did this for royalty! And they didn’t cut branches off trees, or foliage from the fields to wave in the streets because they just feel somewhat elated; they did it because they were welcoming a king! What is so awesome about Palm Sunday is that finally the people around Jesus are acknowledging in a very public way what we have known all along, that Jesus is King! And in honor of the King, they give him a royal processional as he enters the city gates of Jerusalem for the Passover celebration!
Now, we have an advantage today that the people around Jesus at that time did not. We know, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that Jesus really is the King. But, even with that knowledge, would we be so readily and joyously welcoming of Jesus? One theologian puts before us a thought-provoking image: “If Jesus had entered into one of our modern cities, leading the parade, he would have been arrested immediately. He would be a wanted man. The FDA would want him for turning water into wine without a license; the EPA for killing fig trees; the AMA for practicing medicine without a license; the Department of Health for asking people to open graves, for raising the dead, and for feeding 5,000 people in the wilderness without a food permit; the NEA for teaching without a certificate; or OSHA for walking on water without a lifejacket.”
Do you see where I’m going with this? These people are waving something too, but this would not be such a warm welcome as Jesus received when he rode into Jerusalem. OSHA, the FDA, the NEA, and all the others would be waving something, but it would be arrest warrants and legal documents shoved towards Jesus in anger. So the question for us is, what are we waving? Are we prepared to welcome Jesus, or are we going to be more like the modern-day agencies listed above? I think it’s fair to say that we would be a bit more receptive than the modern-day welcome just described, but would we go to the great lengths of those people who surrounded Jesus with waving palms as he entered Jerusalem 2,000 years ago? Let’s think about this for a moment, beginning with that very strange request from Jesus early in this passage.
Mark tells us that as Jesus and his disciples approached Jerusalem, Jesus sent two of the disciples ahead with what seems like an odd request. Jesus tells the two men to go on to the next village and to bring to him the colt they will find tethered there just inside the village. Jesus even gives them instructions on how to respond if they are questioned. And sure enough, the disciples are questioned, as we would surely question an unknown person standing with a coat hanger at our neighbor’s car. But the disciples respond as Jesus has coached them, saying, “The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.” And at this, the curious audience allowed the disciples to take the colt away. Either these people were acquainted with Jesus, or there was something about this request for a colt that carried persuasive power. If this Teacher, this prophet of Galilee, here for the only time in Mark called “Lord,” had need of this colt, then they would acknowledge, uncontested, that priority. And this surely ought to be our response to God’s need of anything we have. Imagine if we had been those people in the village and the Lord’s request had been just a bit different.