8/4/01 6 p.m. Palm Sunday Luke 19-28-40.
When we were in Derby Princess Ann visited the city. She travelled on the Ring Road through our former Parish to the cheers of waiting crowds on the road side. When she was welcomed into the Civic Offices she had a red carpet laid in front of her in honour of her position as a member of the Royal Family.
As he road towards Jerusalem Jesus declared who he is, King and Messiah. In Luke's account of Jesus approach to Jerusalem we observe three different reactions to this King. The reactions of the disciples, the crowd, and the Pharisees.
In riding into Jerusalem on a donkey Jesus is deliberately fulfilling 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." The Jews, coming to Jerusalem for the Passover would have been familiar with this passage which pointed to the Messiah, or anointed one whom God would send to free his people.
This is the first public disclosure by Jesus of who he is. There is a sense that it is not until Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey that he truly nails his colours to the mast.
Every part of Zachariah 9:9 is fulfilled by Jesus. This was written some 550 years before Jesus rode into Jerusalem :
"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, daughter of Jerusalem" the rejoicing and shouting are fulfilled as the crowds welcome Jesus.
"See your King comes to you" : Jesus is King, ruler of the universe, not just King of the Jews.
"righteous and having salvation" : Jesus is just or righteous. He is perfect and therefore can present himself as a perfect sacrifice for the sin of the world. This is the salvation he offers. Saving us from the effects of sin. In the way that it can control our lives, and in the way that it separates us from God.
Let us look at the three responses to this King Jesus.
They are represented by the two whom Jesus sent to get the donkey colt. Jesus instructions to them in verses 30f show that he is the one in control. He is not driven or misled by the crowds fervour or surprised by the Pharisees surly attitude. It was the custom of the day that a major religious or political figure could request the use of livestock. Today we have the equivalent law. A police officer can commandeer the use of a car in an emergency. The two disciples were acting as envoys for a King and his orders were obeyed by them, and the owner of the colt.
Jesus had already walked the 65 miles or so from Galilee with many thousands of fellow Jews on their way to the Passover. Despite this we have no record of the disciples questioning this unusual request for a colt. Jesus had never done this when they had visited Jerusalem for the Passover before. Why now ? What did it mean ? Whilst the disciples knew trusted and obeyed Jesus they did not fully understand what was happening.
John 12:16 refers to Zechariah 9:9 then says : " At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realise that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him."
So we have the disciples following and trusting Jesus. Doing his will yet without understanding everything just yet.
I am sure we can identify with this. We can reflect upon a time in our Christian journey when we did not fully understand a part of God's will or revelation for us. Perhaps we look back and could almost kick ourselves for not understanding something. Yet what matters is that we learn and grow, admitting our mistakes and moving on from them in penitence and faith. Sometimes we learn best from making mistakes. I remember over twenty years ago when I was learning to drive. One day I got into the car at the start of the lesson. I turned the ignition key, the engine started, and the car stalled because the instructor had parked it in gear with the wheels facing the kerb. I always depress the clutch before I start the engine now.
So as disciples of Jesus we are to trust, follow, obey, and learn. Oswald Sanders said, "Obedience to God is the most infallible evidence of supreme love for him."
Obedience to God costs. It cost Jesus his life. Jesus said that following him would involve us in taking up our cross on a daily basis ( Mark 8:34 ).
It is not an easy or popular option.
We now think of the reaction of
In 165 B.C. the Jews had waved branches in Jerusalem in nationalistic fervour. Under their heroic leader Judas Maccabeus they threw off years of oppression by Syria and streamed into the Temple waving Palms and sang Psalm 118. A song of worship for a King. A song that celebrates God's plan for his people.
No-one has heard of Judas Maccabeus today. Despite his earthly victory.
Jesus was welcomed as Messiah by the crowd who laid the red carpet out for him. In this case their cloaks that they spread before him as a sign of submission. However, their expectations of the Messiah were different to the Messiah Jesus was. The crowd would have expected a victorious earthly King who would defeat the Romans and restore Israel to the position it enjoyed under King David.
But Jesus came on a donkey. A ruler would ride a donkey in a time of peace. The Prince of Peace came not on a warhorse but an animal of peace. Jesus shows that his kingdom does not involve violence or pulling rank, but peace and humility.
Jesus did not win his victory on a battlefield. As we have seen from Judas Maccabeus this would have been forgotten very soon. Jesus' victory was obtained on the cross. Not by inflicting injury and suffering on others. But by bearing it himself.
Jesus didn't allow this sudden popularity with the crowd to divert him from his task. He was aware how fickle people can be.
Our security and goals should come from God, not by trying to please people. The way we should live as Christians will often be in direct opposition to the way that the world tells us we should live. But we should follow God's ways.
We now look at the final reaction from...
The Pharisees ( verses 39-40 ).
Not everyone welcomed Jesus. The Pharisees didn't like him because he was popular, and they feared that this popular support could jeopardise their cosy standing with the Roman authorities. They call the crowd "disciples" in verse 39, and tell Jesus to rebuke them. To shut them up.
This adoration of Jesus and praise of God was so spontaneous and natural that Jesus would have had difficulty carrying out the Pharisees demand. Even if he had wanted to !
So Jesus replies in verse 40, "I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." . Jesus is saying that it is so natural to respond to his Kingship in this way that an inanimate object, a stone, would do it if no-one else would. He is pointing to the spiritual blindness of the Pharisees that is blocking them from knowing God's way. The Pharisees represents the hostility that there was, and is, to Jesus. Jerusalem was divided in it's response to King Jesus. Those who opposed Jesus had him crucified five days later.
We saw earlier how Jesus was in control of the situation. He knew what was going to happen. He knew he would be crucified by the religious leaders.
41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace--but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you."
Jesus came to offer life to the Jews, but they chose death. He offered them peace with God, they chose violence. This grieved him. Because he cared and wanted the best for them. And because he knew this would result in judgment.
His words in verses 43 & 44 warned about events in AD 70. Jerusalem was stormed after a seige by the Romans. It was raised to the ground, it's inhabitants killed. There were no Christians there. They knew of, and acted upon these words of Jesus and escaped.
This Palm Sunday we should remember that the way of Jesus is not a popular, painless way. There will be different reactions to him. We should follow the way of disciples. Obeying and growing in our love and knowledge of Jesus.
And, as those who have a fuller understanding of the events of that first Palm Sunday we can rejoice in such an exuberant way that will make that first Palm Sunday pale into insignificance. Because we have so much more to celebrate. Jesus has died for us, is risen, and lives within us by his Spirit. Let us praise God in the joyful knowledge that this brings.