When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples??and said to them, ???Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it.??If anyone says to you, ???Why are you doing this???? just say this, ???The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.????????They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it,??some of the bystanders said to them, ???What are you doing, untying the colt??????They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it.??Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it.??Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields.??Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!???
Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.
For those of us who know the rest of the story, this is a bitter-sweet moment. ??Jesus is ushered into the city and welcomed as a king, but the reception is short-lived, because in just under a week???s time, he will be betrayed, arrested, falsely accused, tortured, and condemned to death. ??To go from one extreme to the other is upsetting, especially for those who know Jesus well. ??The disciples have followed Jesus around the country, witnessing a life and power that was changing their lives more and more every day. ??This triumphal entry into the holy city seems to be the pinnacle of their experience. ??Jerusalem has laid out the red carpet and the people have hailed Jesus as the Chosen One, the Messiah of God, ???Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!??? ??Could it be?! ??Do the people now see the truth that the disciples see? ??Or…do the disciples really see?! ??Do THEY really know what is going on?!
This triumphant welcome occurs because both the disciples and the people are convinced they know who Jesus is. ??Surely this is the king of David???s line, come to restore the fortunes of Israel. ??Fortunes…fortunes that involve a glory of old, a world that has the people of Israel back at the top of the food chain and free from the tyrannical presence of Rome. ??They understand who Jesus is, right? ??They know what he has come to do, right? ??But can these people understand who Jesus really is and at the same time scream ???Crucify him! ??Crucify him!???? ??They can…when sin is involved.
Compare this entry scene with the mob that will cheer for Jesus??? death a week later, when Jesus stands before Pontius Pilate. ??This week represents the extremes that sin creates in our lives. ??Look at our own spiritual walk at various points: when we welcome God into our lives, we clean the house by shoving unsightly things into closets and nooks, a regular occurrence when company is coming over. ??We want to keep up appearances and have God think that everything is in order. ??Our hearts have the appearance of a house well-cleaned. ??But when things go awry, when God begins to do things we aren???t prepared for, in ways unanticipated, we rebel and show him the door. ??We try and hold firm to the way we feel. ??When we are threatened by a new way we retreat into that which is comfortable.
But do you see the problem? ??God is treated as company, rather than a permanent resident. ??The people who welcome Jesus into Jerusalem have no desire to let Jesus rule the way he desires, for him to come and rule permanently. ??His stay and his welcome are short-lived. ??The religious authorities have won the crowd with false accusations and trumped-up charges. ??Jesus doesn???t fit the self-created needs the people have, and so they will find another way to get what they want, and they???ll start by getting rid of Jesus.
But ironically AND providentially, this event was foretold, it needed to happen, and Jesus knew what he was doing. ??In Zechariah 9.9 we read, ???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.??? After reading this, it???s clear why the people came to the conclusion that the prophesied king would be a military victor. ??But it is in understanding the predicament that we find the truth of the situation. ??The predicament was sin, not politics or power. ??If they had learned anything from their long history of blessing and cursing, they would have understood that being in right relationship with God was the most important thing of all. ??But in Isaiah 29.13, God calls ???a spade a spade???, ???these people draw near with their mouths and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me,…??? ??You see, while the people cheered and waved him onward, Jesus knows in the back of his mind that the smiles and cheers would turn to scowls and gnashings. ??He???s fully aware that the people are looking for something other than what he has come to deliver.
Imagine expecting a package and the FedEx person brings it to the door. ??You sign for it, take it inside, and open it up enough to discover that it???s not what you ordered. ??So, you get upset and send the package back in either disappointment or anger. ??But what if the package you received wasn???t something YOU ordered, but rather was something sent to you intentionally by the Sender? ??The package turns out to be a gift, something extraordinary, but because of your preoccupation with something else, you hastily send it back to the great warehouse in the sky. ??It???s not a perfect analogy, but the message is the same. ??The people expected one thing and got another, something unanticipated. ??But the sin in their lives and their preoccupation with themselves blinded them to the great thing that had come for them and they sent it back…on a cross. ??
We are meant to see the depth of sin here, how it affects our vision, our plans, our expectations, and our attitudes. ??The point?! ??WE need Jesus. ??No matter how great you think your life is or how well you think you understand this life, none of us can escape the fact that we are separated from a loving God by sin. ??But the good news? ??God has made a way, sending us a gift called Jesus. ??And he has come for YOU???not to arrest you or condemn you, but to be arrested and to be condemned on our behalf, creating a way for us to be restored in both life here AND life beyond. ??Learn from Isaiah 53.5???6, ???But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. ??All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.???
When the people needed Jesus most he rode in like a king, making himself open, obvious, and available, showing the world that he had come to help. ??But when Jesus needed his disciples the most they ran, scattered, and abandoned him in his hour of need. ??The people whom he came to save turned their praises to curses and begged for his death. They sentenced an innocent man
to a criminal???s death. ??They released a bandit, Barabbas, and imprisoned a hero, Jesus. ??And yet, through all of this, it is still Jesus??? response in the garden the night of his arrest that must become our cry and our prayer, ???not my will but yours be done??? (Luke 22.42).
And so today, as we have gathered here to welcome our king, I caution you with this: As Jesus rides into your life, your heart, your soul, let him be the king that he has come to be, and not the king you have planned for him to be. ??Our sin gathers us together with those who scream both ???Hosanna!??? and ???Crucify him!??? ??But let Jesus??? sacrifice for you bring you to the cross so that you may be blessed by his gift to you, the gift of his life. ??Know this, that ???hosanna??? literally means ???save, I pray.??? ??May ???Hosanna??? be both the cry of our mouth and the truth in our hearts. ??Amen.
Rev. Whit R. Martin??
Pastor,??New Liberty United Methodist Church