Summary: Palm Sunday shows Jesus to be a humble king who came to save us. We now want to serve him through our humble service to others.
Did they ever air this show in Canada? (Show opening clip of Lone Ranger.) I got to watch re-runs of the Lone Ranger when we’d come back to the Sates every few years. I thought the Lone Ranger was cool, not only because he could ride a horse and was good with a gun, but because he was somewhat mysterious. He would appear out of nowhere to save the day and then leave before anyone could properly thank him. Those who had been rescued by the Lone Ranger’s cunning and daring would invariably ask as he rode off into the sunset, “Who was that masked man?”
Well it turns out that the Lone Ranger may have been based on a real person—a man named Bass Reeves. Reeves was a deputy marshal in the south-central U.S. after the Civil War in the mid to late 1800’s. Like the legendary Lone Ranger, Reeves was a master of disguises which he used to hunt bad guys while accompanied by a Native American. He rode a white horse and while he didn’t use silver bullets, he did hand out silver coins as a personal trademark of sorts. He was also such a good shot that he was banned from entering shooting competitions. Oh, but unlike the TV Lone Ranger, Reeves was an African-American. He was in fact the first African-American deputy marshal prompting many to no doubt ask: “Who is this?”
In our Gospel Lesson this morning you heard about Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem. He wasn’t mounted atop a white stallion like the Lone Ranger, but rode a borrowed donkey colt. He didn’t pack a couple of six-shooters armed with silver bullets, but was flanked by twelve disciples, perhaps six on each side. And as he approached Jerusalem, the accompanying crowd waved palm branches and flung their coats down before him. They hailed Jesus with shouts of “Hosanna to the Son of David!” (Matthew 21:9) and so acclaimed him king. But the citizens of Jerusalem were confused and asked: “Who is this?”
That’s a question that you’ll be asked about Jesus come Judgment Day. Are you ready with an answer? And will your answer be adequate? You may think you know who Jesus is but just as the Lone Ranger didn’t accurately portray who Bass Reeves really was, your version of Jesus might not match reality. So give me your attention this morning as we seek to answer correctly this question about Jesus: “Who is this?”
Who is this Jesus? Well unlike the Lone Ranger we know where he comes from. The crowds accurately identified him as a prophet from the town of Nazareth in Galilee. But that wasn’t the whole story. It couldn’t be when you considered all that Jesus had done. Why not too long before his ride into Jerusalem he had raised a man from the dead! Even on this very trip into Jerusalem Jesus demonstrated that he wasn’t your run-of-the-mill prophet. As he drew near the city, Jesus sent two of his disciples ahead into a little town to find some transportation. But Jesus didn’t say, “Go find something, anything that I can ride into Jerusalem on.” No. Jesus was very specific. He directed: “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away” (Matthew 21:2, 3). The disciples found everything just as Jesus said they would—even right down to the donkey owner’s willingness to let them walk off with the animals.
Who is this that knows what’s down the road, and is certain how people will react to his requests? Why it’s Jesus, the omniscient Son of God. Do you see the comfort here? If Jesus knew that a donkey was waiting for him in the next town, he certainly knows what’s down the road for you. You may not know how that medical test is going to turn out, but Jesus does. Nor may you know whether or not there will be any decent jobs for you when you get done with your education, but Jesus already has in mind how he plans to provide for you. You might not understand how the latest trial is good for you but Jesus does. Understanding that Jesus knows all things gives us confidence to follow his directions. Though Satan would have us believe otherwise, living by Jesus’ words will never send you on a fool’s errand. Just ask the two disciples who had been sent to fetch the donkey.
But who is this who thinks that a way to put on a parade is by riding on the colt of a donkey? Can you picture the Lone Ranger trying to zip around the Wild West on such an animal? But there was a reason for Jesus’ choice of transportation. He was fulfilling a 430-year-old prophecy. “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey’” (Zechariah 9:9).