Dear Friends, as we have stayed with John up to the point where Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus have laid Jesus in the tomb, it seems that we should hold on moving forward into the day of resurrection until Easter. I have been amazed that with no intent or planning we moved into the story of the Last Supper and the Passion narrative at this time, right before Easter! But let’s look at those events from some of the other gospel perspectives before moving into the resurrection and continuing John!
Matthew 21: 1-11
Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem
When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, “The Lord needs them.” And he will send them immediately.’ This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,
‘Tell the daughter of Zion,
Look, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’
The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,
‘Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!’
When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, ‘Who is this?’ The crowds were saying, ‘This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.’
The passage we will read on Palm Sunday is Matthew’s narrative of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, as he begins that last week.
Jesus quite intentionally sets the scene – in order to fulfill the prophecies. From Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Jesus enters Jerusalem as her king – but as a humble king, in sharp contrast to another parade happening on the other side of the city on that very day. There, Pilate enters the city, riding in his chariot, with his army, their banners flying. He too comes for the Passover – or perhaps he comes as God intended, for the confrontation of different kinds of power – the eternal power of God will meet the physical, mortal power of Caesar. Funny, Pilate will think he wins. In the end, years later, Rome will crush Jerusalem, but more years later, followers of the man they hung on a cross will become the central faith of the Roman empire. Sometimes, God’s plan takes years to work out.
The words the people shout are from the prophet – and from the Psalms. They welcome the Davidic king back to Jerusalem in triumph. What were the people expecting as they waved palm branches before this king? What were they willing to give in return? How were they willing to show their obedience. It is a long way between waving palm branches, and taking up one’s cross. Where are we in that continuum? Have we reached the point where we can be a part of HIS Kingdom? where we can swear allegiance to HIM? Where our search is not for our own comfort but for his will for our lives?