Summary: Palm Sunday, The events of Holy Week will change the normal human understanding of life and death. After 2020 nothing will be normal again. Jesus knew how the week would end...not with His death, but with His resurrection which changes life and hope.
In Jesus Holy Name March 28, 2021
Text: Matthew 21:10-11 Palm Sunday Redeemer
“Who Is This? On a Donkey!”
On this Palm Sunday, I am disappointed that we are not worshiping together in our sanctuary. It does not matter to Jesus. He wants His story told. These great events, the Trium-phal Entry of Jesus on Palm Sunday, the Holy Supper on Thursday, the Friday Crucifixion, the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday, must be told. Those who were gathering on the streets of Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday were asking: “Who is this?” They wanted to know. There are still those who want to know. We exist to tell His story.
Unfortunately this is the 2nd Palm Sunday that finds us “sheltering in”, at least in part. Unexpected. Waiting for our COVIN shots… then maybe normal will return. Will we have a new normal? No, nothing will be normal again. When this year is finished, even while we pray that 2020 will never be repeated again our normal will be different. The arrival of Jesus on Palm Sunday was about to change the normal understanding of life and death. Jesus had just raised Lazarus from 4 days dead. Soon, very soon, His resurrected body would change normal thoughts about life after death on planet earth.
There was nothing normal about the “parade” in Jerusalem, when Jesus entered the city on a donkey. The visitors to Jerusalem had just witnessed a Roman military parade. Pontius Pilate had also recently entered Jerusalem from his home in Caesarea. His procession was in the Roman style—complete with a display of Rome’s military might. Pilate was perched atop a majestic stallion. He had all the trappings of Roman wealth and prestige. His Roman Officers were in polished armor displaying the banners of captured, vanquished armies.
His parade was a proclamation of Rome’s superiority. And it came with an undeniable message directed to the pilgrims who had gathered in the city from near and far for the Passover festivities: “Keep the peace, or we will control you by force!”
The Palm Sunday Parade with Jesus on a donkey was different, so people were asking: “Who is this?”
Nothing would have seemed more unlikely, a Jewish king riding on a donkey. He didn’t look like a king. No crown. No army marching behind. No banners flying in the wind. It’s not hard to imagine the Romans laughing as they watched the spectacle. A pauper king, riding on a borrowed donkey, his saddle a makeshift layer of cloaks, attended by an unruly mob whose only weapons were palm branches.
This little donkey was part of the great plan of redemption that God had for all of Creation. Jesus knew how this parade would end. He knew the same people who were shouting praises to God would, five days later be screaming “Crucify Him!”. He knew that Jerusalem was where his most an-tag-o-nistic enemies had the most power. He knew they wanted to kill Him. He knew this was God’s plan to fulfill the promise of God to Adam and Eve. His death would procure the forgiveness of sins. The fear of human death will be destroyed when Jesus rises from death and the grave. (Hebrews 2:14)
To the Romans, He didn’t look much like a king that day riding on a donkey,
“nothing to worry about.” This parade, on the cobble stone payment of Jerusalem, did not impress Rome.
Most of us know the general outline of the story. But I suspect that some have never considered the story in any detail. Why did Jesus send two of his disciples into the village to procure a donkey? He has walked into Jerusalem hundreds of times before. He has healed people in Jerusalem before. Why ride into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey? Why did the people wave palm branches, this time? Why did they cry out “Hosanna!” as he passed by? What does it all mean?
Matthew tells us why; Jesus was fulfilling an ancient prophecy from Zechariah 9:9. Words–written 575 years earlier–predicted that when the Messiah came to Israel, he would come riding on a donkey.
He’s a king, but he’s not like any earthly king. The Palm Sunday Parade was an “acted out parable,” in which Jesus was sending a clear message to the nation. “This is who I am! I am your King, but I am not the King you were expecting!” I am not a king who will throw out the Romans. I am the King who will defeat Satan. My cross and empty tomb will strip Satan of His false power.
On that 1st Palm Sunday the day began much like all other days. An early
sunrise. The sound of merchants opening their little shops. The aroma of freshly baked bread floating on the air. Bethany wasn’t a large town, or even a town at all. More like a village, really, a simple cluster of homes. Here and there the farmers made ready to go to the fields–planting season was upon them. Mothers busied themselves getting their children up and dressed.