Palm Sunday; The parade into Jerusalem
An Episcopal priest was preaching in an unfamiliar church one Sunday morning. As he stood in the pulpit to begin the service, he tapped the microphone to make sure that it was on. He heard nothing, even though, it was working fine. So he leaned closer to the microphone and said, "Is There is something wrong with this thing." The congregation, being well trained church people immediately responded, "And also with you."
This story illustrates the danger of the familiar. We can be so steeped in routine that we stop paying attention to what we are doing.
It can become dangerous to drive on a road that we drive on every single day. It’s dangerous because we stop being alert, we take things for granted; we figure we can drive this route with our eyes closed. If something different happens on the road we may not notice it at all until it’s too late.
A parent can become so used to having their child filling their life with joy that they don’t appreciate their child.... Until they move away.
The same is certainly true about living in a small town. We often hear people gripe about how "Smothering" a small town can be, while all the time being unappreciative of the friendly neighbors, good school system, safe community, and even a post office where the mail will get to you even if it has the wrong address. We become so used to these things that we don’t notice them--until they are gone.
This is also the danger we face as we come to the Easter season. The accounts of the Triumphal Entry, the cross, and Easter are so familiar to most of us that we can easily go through the motions of a celebration without ever allowing the message of these events to touch us.
It was something new and exciting. A parade was forming. Everyone started to run to see what was happening. The people started to stretch necks to see over the person in front of them. The young children crawled between the legs of the adults to see if they could gaze upon what was happening.
Then everyone saw it! A man riding upon a donkey, and there were people racing in front of the man on the donkey throwing palm leaves and clothes in the path of the man and the donkey. People started to shout "Hosanna, Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" The crowd that gathered along the way started to catch the excitement, and they began to shout and run along side of the parade.
As they were running, some in the crowd turned to another and asked, "Who is the man? Why are we shouting our Hosannas? Is he a king?" And the others turned and said, "Yes, we think he is a king, the King of the Jews, see he is riding on a donkey as it says in scripture that the Messiah would come."
And they ran off with the crowd, caught up in the excitement of the moment.
And we can be like that too, caught up in the excitement of the moment. When the people in Jesus’ day saw Him riding into Jerusalem that day, they knew that something exciting was happening.
They knew that Jesus was riding as the Messiah would, and they thought they knew what that meant. They thought it meant they would be free from the Romans, they thought it meant that Jesus was going to be their King. So they got caught up in the excitement of the moment and celebrated, rejoiced at the picture which was forming in their mind’s eye. A picture of a king who would save them, A picture of a nation reborn, A picture of a people who would be free to be a mighty nation again. So they celebrated, they danced down the street, they shouted Hosannas!!
When I was in school I could see neither point nor purpose in learning poetry. To me, poetry hardly made sense. If you had something to say, why not say it. If you did not have anything to say, why fill up pages and pages of nonsense that took hours and hours of dull, dry English lessons to sort out what was being said. But to pass the English exam I had to learn a poem; to be able to analyze it, recognize meter and rhythm and talk about its meaning. So I learned one. That poem was “The Donkey” by G.K.Chesterton.
When Fishes flew and forests walk’d
And figs grew upon thorn
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born.
With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings
The Devil’s walking parody
On all four-footed things
The tatter’d outlaw of the earth
Of ancient crooked will
starve, scourge, deride me, I am dumb
I keep my secret still.
Fools! For I also had my hour
One far fierce hour and sweet
There was a shout about my ears
And palms beneath my feet. (Unquote)
On Palm Sunday there is a lesson for us in this poem. Let’s look first at the donkey and then at the lesson Jesus tried so hard to teach.
Chesterton’s poem gives us a picture as the donkey just might have seen himself. A misfit; born when all other things were out of order. Hopelessly ugly, worse than the ugly duckling. Monstrous head and sickening cry, and ears like errant wings. It is the cry of every person who has ever said "My nose is too long" "My eyes are the wrong shape" "My legs are too fat". For every person, old or young, who looks in the mirror and says “Yuk!” There is the donkey’s cry.
The devil’s walking parody on all four-footed things, the teenager cries "everybody sees that my ears stick out", and they feel like the donkey. The Donkey’s cry is the cry of everyone who ever felt they were unimportant, unwanted, no good; that when God was handing out beauty and gifts and abilities they were out of the room.
It is the cry too of those who have been used, abused and misused through life. Life’s been unfair? Have you had to do all the work while others seemed to skip through life with fun and laughter? Have you carried hurts and burdens far more than you feel you should? Do others have all the money, able to do all sorts of exciting things while you scrimp and save to just get by? That is the donkey’s cry.
He too has been seen as nothing but a beast of burden. Whenever he tries to resist he is beaten into submission. No one ever saw him as beautiful. Never is he chosen for the glamour tasks. When the groups are choosing someone to be president no one would think he could do it. They just laugh if his name is suggested. The tattered outlaw of the earth, starve, scourge, deride me, I am dumb.
Then the first hint of surprise; I keep my secret still. What secret could there possibly be for this little ugly animal with a huge head and flappy ears and a voice like a chain saw? What could a donkey have as a secret? Fools! For I also had my hour, One far fierce hour and sweet, There was a shout about my ears, and palms beneath my feet.
What gives the donkey a sense of his own value - his own self worth? What over-rides all the mistakes of creation (in his eyes) all the derision of others and the abuses of this life? It is that the Messiah, Jesus Christ, chose, in His hour of glory; for the one time that Jesus declared His intention and purpose for all to see; when the praise and adoration of the crowd echoed around; in that one time Jesus chose a donkey.
For ever after - no matter what happens to him the donkey knows, with an unshakable certainty he knows - that he is loved by God; that he is precious in the eyes of the Father. He knows there is meaning and purpose in his creation. That secret sustains him no matter what else happens. No matter how great the disaster, how prolonged the hurt, the donkey holds up his head, for he was chosen by God.
Do you look at the way your life has turned out and wish that it was different? Do you long for something to change that would make it all bearable? That is why there are so many diet and slimming courses, why running and aerobics are so popular.
But more important than the physical shape we are in is the way we see ourselves - our personalities and characters. Some would echo the donkey. They have a personality with monstrous head and sickening cry and ears like errant wings. Most think we should have done better with our lives. Many see the sands of time running out and realize that their dreams will never be reached.
How incredibly sad that so few have discovered the donkey’s secret. How sad because it was what Jesus was trying so hard to teach.
Jesus said that He came that the blind might see, the deaf hear and the lame walk, while the poor have good news preached to them. His words were about physical healing sure - but far more importantly He was talking about each one of us who has been crippled in our spirits, spiritually blind. Blind to the real Jesus, blind to the great secret, blind to the overwhelming truth that will set us free, free forever from carrying the burdens of guilt and hurt, free to walk as we have never walked before, as those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
What is the donkey’s secret? It’s simple, he was chosen by God. Each one of us is chosen by God. It is an amazing truth that is so very hard for people to grasp. Yet it is so simple. You and I have meaning because we are chosen by God. We would not be here if we have not already, in some way, felt His hand on our life. But it is far more than that. Like all the great promises of the Bible this one is repeated over and over again. God chose you and me.
Now, back to the scriptures; and then just a few short days later, that same crowd cried, crucify him, crucify him. They learned that the picture which was developing in their mind’s eye was not the picture that Jesus was painting for Himself.
The dreams of that Palm Sunday were soon turned into the stark realities of the betrayal, the trial, the crucifixion. Their dreams were paraded down the streets of reality.
The reality of the situation was Jesus was not the kind of hero they hoped He would be. Jesus was not the kind of king to lead an earthly army. Jesus would not deliver the Jews from the Romans. Their dreams of who Jesus was turned into the reality of Jesus as a heavenly Messiah which they could not understand.
Even Jesus as He rode into Jerusalem wept for His beloved city, as it says in Luke’s gospel, for He knew the dreams of this day would turn into the reality of pain, death, and suffering.
During the week that followed this great triumphant ride into the city, Jesus spoke of the realities of who He was.
Remember, He cleansed the temple. He told of the temple’s demise, He told of the coming of the Son of Man. In a sense He shattered the dreams of the people that day. He told of the reality of who was to come, the reality of death.
The crowds of Good Friday turned against Jesus for one reason because He didn’t fulfill the dreams they had of Him the Sunday before. Jesus had them see the reality of who He was, not an earthly king, but a heavenly king. He was not a warrior who would come to destroy the Romans. But Jesus was a warrior who would come to destroy death. He shattered the dreams of the people. He gave them a taste of reality and for that the people turned against him.
The people missed the point and they were angry.
What about us, do we get the point? Are we like the crowd back then, still wanting Jesus to be a conquering, warrior?
The challenge every year is to read these accounts with "fresh eyes". Look with me at this familiar account of the Triumphal Entry of Jesus and see if you don’t see what I see, a Strong Declaration of Love.
First this event was so out of character for Jesus. Previous to this, Jesus had always avoided the spotlight. In John 2 Jesus is asked by His mother if He would help friends of the family with an embarrassing wine shortage problem. Jesus responded, "My time is not yet come." Jesus did not want to make a public scene.
In John 6 we see an occasion when Jesus felt that the people were ready to take Him and make Him king by force. Rather than enjoy the public acclaim, Jesus left town. In fact, whenever the Ministry of Jesus seemed to be getting to a point of success in a community, Jesus would move to a new community.
On several occasions Jesus tells those that He has healed "Don’t tell anyone." Jesus was not looking for public demonstrations on His behalf. He was not seeking the spotlight, until today. In fact He generally walked away from conflict situations.
Second it was organized by Jesus Himself. In the gospel of Luke, we are told, that Jesus had arranged to use a donkey. He told His Disciples to go to town to find this donkey that would be tied outside. If they were asked why they were taking the donkey, they were to respond: "The Master has need of Him." Jesus had this parade in mind in advance of it taking place.
This was not a spontaneous demonstration, Jesus intended it to happen. The question we must ask is why? Why has Jesus orchestrated this grand demonstration? It certainly was not because Jesus wanted to throw a party in His honor. When Jesus caught His first glimpse of Jerusalem He didn’t stop to savor the moment, He wept.
This procession was not frivolous, it was purposeful. It was not provoked by vanity but by compassion and love; because it was time for Jesus to do what He came to do. In verse 23 we see that "the hour has come," God was determining the timing, not man.
These leaders had previously decided that it was unwise to make a move against Jesus during the Passover celebration. They felt it would cause too much of an uproar. So, they were willing to wait until things cooled down. All of that changed after this parade.
Why was it important to Jesus that these men arrest Him during Passover, because it was God’s plan for Jesus to die at the same time as all the other sacrificial lambs. To understand the significance of this you have to understand something about the Passover celebration.
Passover was a yearly celebration commemorating the freeing of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. On the night called Passover God struck every First born child of the Egyptians. This devastating plague led to the release of the Jews from bondage.
God told the Israelites to slaughter a lamb and to take the blood of that lamb and apply it to their doorpost of their homes. This blood of the lamb would be recognized by the Angel of Death as protecting the first born child that lived within that home. It was meant to be a picture that pointed to another Lamb who would die in our place to free us from a much greater slavery; a slavery to sin and death.
It is likely that at the very time Jesus was dying on the cross the lambs were being slaughtered for the Passover feast. He was the Lamb of God taking on the sins of the world.
Second, Jesus wanted it to be clear that this was a voluntary act. He could have simply "laid low," He could have walked away like He had done before.
We read throughout the New Testament of times when the people went to kill Him and He simply walked away. They had no power over Him. They could not take Him until He allowed them to.
Knowing what was before Him: betrayal, humiliation, suffering, death, He chose to come to Jerusalem. Such is the magnificent love of our Savior. Jesus was not the unwilling victim of a vicious plot; He was a willing sacrifice for all who would believe.
Do you hear how practical this message is? Some of you wonder if God could possibly love you. Perhaps you have failed Him. You are so ashamed that it is impossible for you to imagine that God could still care about you.
Look with fresh eyes at the parade into Jerusalem. Jesus is not surprised by our failures. He came to Jerusalem in order to deliver us from such things. He knows what we have done, and wants to make us clean and to set us free. His invitation is simple, "Come to me, all you who are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest." Are you hiding from the very One who wants to love you more than you have ever been loved before? Maybe it’s time to stop hiding and to start believing.
Maybe life is difficult right now. Perhaps you wonder if God is "out to get you." Perhaps, things are so painful in your life that you are questioning His love for you. If that is the case, look again at the parade into Jerusalem. Realize, that the Savior who gave His life for you, loves you with a depth of love that is unfathomable. See Him as He goes to the cross on our behalf and in our place. Realize that His love is so great that we can be certain that He would not allow any needless suffering in our life. The trials that come at present are purposeful and designed to lead us into something good.
Perhaps, you find that life is characterized by loneliness and a feeling that you have been forgotten. As others celebrate the Easter season with family, maybe your table will be set for one. It is possible, that you walk around your house wondering if anyone would miss you if you were gone.
Look at the parade and see with new eyes! Understand that when Jesus marched into Jerusalem you were on His mind. The death He willingly suffered was a sacrifice designed to make you part of His family. You may feel alone, deserted, unimportant but you are significant enough to the Savior for Him to go to a cross on your behalf. He knows you and loves you.
How easy it is for us to talk about the love of God. How difficult it is for us to accept it.
J. I. Packer writes; "If I understand God’s love, why do I ever crumble and show discontent and resentment at the circumstances in which God has placed me?
Why am I ever distrustful, fearful, or depressed?
Why do I ever allow myself to grow cool, formal, and half-hearted in the service of the God who loves me so?
Why do I ever allow my loyalty to be divided, so that God has not all my heart?
Packer asked good questions but it’s also a Strong Reason for Hope.
John writes "Jesus found a young donkey and set upon it, as it is written, do not be afraid, O daughter of Zion; see, your King is coming, seated on a donkey."
This is a quote from the Old Testament book of Zechariah. In Zechariah 9:9 we see a prediction that a King would ride into Jerusalem one day on a donkey. The declaration was made around 550 years before Jesus rode into Jerusalem. At the time Israel had no King. They were just returning to Israel after their Bablyonian exile and captivity.
One author (J.C. Ryle) gives us a flavor for the prophecy to the ears of that day: "Fear not; be not cast down or depressed, O daughter of Zion, or inhabitants of Jerusalem. Low and depressed as your condition may be now, there will be a day when you shall have a King again. There shall come one who will rise on a certain public location into thy gate, a King on an ass’s colt, not as a Warrior, with a sword in hand, but as a peaceful Prince, a just and holy King, better even than David, Solomon, Hezekiah, and Josiah, and burning within Him salvation for souls. Therefore, think not yourself forsaken, because thou art poor now, and have no King. Look forward to your coming King."
What does this mean to us? It’s a simple but vital truth for daily living: "God has a plan."
There is more prophetic evidence. The late Ray Steadman writes: "In the book of Daniel Chapter 9 we read a prophecy about 70 weeks. It is generally understood that the prophecy talks about a special 490 years of Jewish history which would begin to run its course when the command was given to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem following the Babylonian captivity. When 483 of those years had elapsed, Daniel predicted, Messiah, the prince, would then be presented to His people. Two very interesting books by Sir Robert Anderson, " MESSIAH THE PRINCE, " and " DANIEL AND THE PROPHET" trace the fulfillment of this prophecy, pointing out that on the very day when Jesus rode into Jerusalem 483 years had elapsed from the time of the issuing of the commandment to the rebuild the walls of Jerusalem."
O.K., I hear the question again, "So What?" Work with me a little; God has a plan!
God’s plan did not end with the coming of Christ. This world in which we live is not running out of control. God is not surprised by what is taking place in our society today. God is not pleased with what is happening but He is not caught off guard.
The Bible is clear that there is coming a day when Jesus will return and this time He will not come as a humble servant but will return as the King of Kings and Lord of Lord’s. The decadence of our world does not surprise Him; He told us it would come (2 Timothy 3:1). God is not wringing His hands wondering what to do, He’s in control.
Practically and personably do you understand that things are not out of control in your life? Do you understand that God has a plan for you too? I know from personal experience that there are times when I see what is going on in and around my life and I wonder what God is trying to do. But I remind you of our text; in verse 16 we read: "at first His Disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about Him and that they had done these things to Him."
On that day when Jesus walked toward Jerusalem the Disciples were unaware of what God was doing. They missed the significance of that day. Only later did they come to see the hand of God in all that was taking place. That may be true in your life as well.
The fact that we don’t understand what is going on in our life does not mean that God is not at work. He has promised that He would lead everyone who believes in Him to that which is ultimately good. Our promise is that God knows what He is doing. We may not understand but we can trust Him. In fact, God does not require us to understand, He just asks us to trust Him. The one thing we do understand is that the Lord wants us to entrust ourselves to Him. Are we willing to do so?
Are you coasting in your spiritual life? Have you taken the things of God for granted? Are you listening to God’s Word but hearing nothing? Perhaps it is time for you to read once again the fresh and pivotal accounts of how God has revealed His love to you. Maybe it is time for you to wake up to the fact that God is on the throne of life. Perhaps it is time for you to bow before His throne and to give Him the honor and praise that He desires and deserves.
Jesus loves us. He faced the mobs for us. He endured torture for us. He went to the cross for us. He went there so we could be free, free from sin’s addiction, free from the treadmill of futility, free to live.
Have you responded to His invitation to be His? Maybe you admire Him, but are you willing to trust Him?
Are we willing to follow Him, not just to church, but in our daily life?
Are we willing to entrust our self to Him even when the future is confusing believing God has a plan?
Are we willing to serve Him until that day when His plan on earth is fulfilled?
These are the questions of Palm Sunday. Take a fresh look at this familiar event . . . You may be surprised at what you see. It could change you forever, in Jesus’ Name Amen!
To listen to Pastor T's Sunday morning, March 28, 2021, sermon, click here or
read it below.
When Voices Of Hope Evangelistic Team is ministering in Word and Song, their Fire Choir will sing several songs and then lead the Congregation in singing. Since that isn't possible, please click here and may you be blessed by singing along with "Hosanna, Loud Hosanna."