When Jesus and his followers approached Jerusalem, they came to Bethphagē and Bethany at the Mount of Olives. Jesus gave two disciples a task, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village over there. As soon as you enter it, you will find tied up there a colt that no one has ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘Its master needs it, and he will send it back right away.’”
4 They went and found a colt tied to a gate outside on the street, and they untied it. 5 Some people standing around said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6 They told them just what Jesus said, and they left them alone. 7 They brought the colt to Jesus and threw their clothes upon it, and he sat on it. 8 Many people spread out their clothes on the road while others spread branches cut from the fields. 9 Those in front of him and those following were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessings on the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest!” 11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. After he looked around at everything, because it was already late in the evening, he returned to Bethany with the Twelve.
This Lenten Series has been centered around the image of being clothed in essential things for our life’s journey. We began with “Clothed in Forgiveness” followed by “Clothed in Discernment.” Pastor Chuck shared that “The Message of the Cross is Foolishness.” Then we explored “Clothed in Grace” and “Clothed in Sacrifice.” The image of being “clothed” is an image of being wrapped in God’s essentials for living. There is an overtone of being protected, and the warmth and comfort remind us of what Jesus did in his journey to Jerusalem. Today, we are looking at being “clothed in humility.” Coming to Palm Sunday with humility in our hearts keeps us focused on what Jesus was about to do for us … for all of humanity. But it takes humility to receive the gift He has to offer.
Have you rented a car lately? It seems that it is more complicated than getting a home mortgage. They need your driver’s license and a credit card. Did you know that y cannot rent a car with only cash. You can ultimately pay for it in cash, but you have to have a credit card so they can take the money if something I damaged. In addition, you have to sign damage waivers or buy their insurance. They have to know which of you will be driving the car, and if you want more than one driver it will cost extra. You’d think you were asking for their most prized and irreplaceable possession. Maybe I have to offer my first-born as collateral?!
Palm Sunday begins with a rather unlikely scenario. Jesus gives rather nebulous directions - “Go into the village over there. As soon as you enter it, you will find tied up there a colt that no one has ridden.” He told the two disciples what to say if they are challenged – though I’m sure the logic of the argument escaped them. What is amazing is the people believed them and let the donkey go. “Its master needs it, he’ll send it back right away.” It was His Authority that made things work. The details of the animal itself were also interesting. It was a colt that had never ridden. Now we have his authority clothed in humility. This is how Jesus would enter Jerusalem!
Take a look with me at Zechariah the prophet. He is speaking of a time after the city of Jerusalem has been sacked, all their goods have been confiscated, and God’s people have been driven into exile. He says that God will come and engage in a mighty battle with the ungodly. Zechariah 14:4 – “On that day he will stand upon the Mount of Olives, to the east of Jerusalem.” This is where Jesus was coming from as he entered Jerusalem. Then in Zechariah 9:9 it says, “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion. Sing aloud, Daughter Jerusalem. Look, your king will come to you. He is righteous and victorious. He is humble and riding on an ass, on a colt, the offspring of a donkey.” Here again, this is just as Jesus did. The mighty fulfilling scripture, yet humble about it.
Let’s look at the crowds. Mark indicates the crowd is those who were accompanying Jesus on the way – his followers. The town (Jerusalem) did not come out to greet him. It was his own people who were shouting
““Hosanna! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” I had always been a little confused by the statement in Matthew where it says that when Jesus gets into the city, it was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” Mark might shed some light on that.
Hosanna means “save now” or “save, I pray.” This crowd of followers recognized Jesus as the Messiah, but on their terms. Their vision of the Messiah was the one who would break the bonds of Roman domination and set God’s people free. In Matthew 1:21 we get a vision of Jesus spoken to Joseph by God in a dream, “She [Mary] will give birth to a son, and you will call him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” He would save the people from themselves, but not necessarily from the Romans, or from troubles. Luke says that Jesus will teach the people “how to be saved through the forgiveness of sins.” Again, a different kind of “saved.” Notice in many of Jesus’ miracles of healing he says, ‘your faith has saved you.’ He points to their belief and faith as having saved them from illness. This is not the militant Messiah they were expecting. Instead, he is humble, riding on the colt of a donkey.
It is significant that Jesus is silent throughout this pageant. The day has a ‘coronation’ atmosphere. Jesus has chosen to enter Jerusalem in a rather understated manner, but he is still the king. Usually, a king or dignitary would make a speech or give response to parade like this. Maybe they were expecting a proclamation that Rome’s dominance was coming to an end. We know they wanted God’s people to be set free once again! Instead, Jesus was silent. Truly clothed in humility. Mark even delays the cleansing of the Temple for the next day. All Jesus does as he enters Jerusalem is to go to the Temple and “look around.” He leaves immediately, returning to Bethany with the twelve to spend the night. Richard B. Hays says, “The authoritative lowliness of God is displayed in Christ Jesus. He has quiet dignity and hidden majesty.” Basically, Jesus is saying, ‘Yes, I am the Messiah, but not as you are expecting. Watch for the unfolding of God’s plan.’
The image that kept coming to me was Revelation 3:20. “ Look! I’m standing at the door and knocking. If any hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to be with them, and will have dinner with them, and they will have dinner with me.” Here he is knocking, humbly seeking access to our hearts and lives.
Palm Sunday is a triumphant entry signaling the beginning of a new reign. In the days to follow, Jesus will reveal how he is going to save the people.
So my Question is, “How will we find ourselves joining the procession proclaiming Jesus as king of our lives? Will we be clothed in humility as we ask the king of kings to save us from our sin? Will we clear the way, making room for him? Will we be accepting his invitation? Or will we merely observe from a distance – part of the crowd with no investment in the outcome?
“For those who listen intently, his silent presence may become compelling.” We can find ourselves sharing in his lowliness and strength – for life, for our humble witness. Let us be clothed in humility. Amen.
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Pastor Paul Grossman