Everyone Loves a Parade
“Everyone Loves a Parade”
Matthew 21: 1-9
Psalm 118: 1-2; 19-29
Philippians 5: 2-11
For as many Thanksgiving mornings as I can remember, I have woken up, fixed my breakfast, then plopped down on the sofa to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. Oh, there have been suggestions from the kiddos in recent years that we should change the channel and watch something more entertaining, but I stick to my guns and set the precedent that on Thanksgiving Day we watch the parade until Santa Claus is driving his team of reindeer down Broadway. Admittedly, the Macy’s Day parade holds a special meaning in the tradition of my childhood, for when it was over, two things happened. First, I could listen to Christmas music. And second, we would load up the car to go to my Grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. But, there is also something about the parade. It is the pageantry of the whole thing. The giant balloons and the marching bands from all over the nation add to the spectacle, and the chance to see someone famous on one of the elaborate floats always can peak an interest. All of it sat in the anticipation of the spectacular finish with the man in the red suit.
It is no wonder that for many years, maybe until five years ago even, that I associated Palm Sunday with such a parade. I pictured the disciples marching in to town waving and tossing candy to the children lining the sides of the street. Jesus, sat atop his donkey and smiled and waved at the crowds as they walked through the town. To me this made perfect sense. Jesus was the King and the crowds should have welcomed him. It was not a shock to me that they waved palm branches like we wave pennants at baseball games, rooting for the new King. I suppose I always considered they knew who Jesus was and welcomed him with grand festivities, because after all, everyone loves a parade.
Jesus commands his disciples to go find the donkey and the colt tied up near the town entrance. It seems like a strange request as Jesus has never asked this to be done before. But, Matthew is quick to tell us the reason for this is to fulfill prophesy. The prophesy that is being spoken of here is in Zechariah 9:9. It reads, “Rejoice greatly daughter Zion. Sing aloud daughter Jerusalem. Look your King will come to visit you. He is righteous and victorious. He is humble and riding on an ass, on a colt, the offspring of a donkey.” Interestingly, the entrance into the town is so symbolic of making sure the prophesy is met with no loopholes, the writer of Matthew stresses that Jesus road both a donkey and a colt at the same time, just in case someone perceived the prophesy in Zechariah to be speaking of two different animals. This entrance into Jerusalem is reserved for the Messiah and Jesus is the Messiah.
Now, don’t get me wrong. The people are not responding the way they are to Jesus because he is entering the sitting riding a donkey and a colt. They are responding to the buzz that has preceded Jesus’ entrance into the city. For goodness sake, the last thing he did before coming into the sitting was raising a man from the dead. There is quite the scuttlebutt about this new Jesus fella. He has been preaching salvation and restoration of life and performing miracles all over. The thought perpetuates that maybe this man is, perhaps this guy might be, there is just the chance, that the long-awaited Messiah has come.
Matthew’s narrative reveals that the “whole city is stirred up” at Jesus’ presence. There is a certain mix of emotions no doubt. If Jesus is truly the messiah, then the life of the Jewish people is about to change greatly. They will no longer be oppressed and they will turn the tables on the Greeks. It is the understanding of those who know the prophesy that the Messiah will protect, deliver, and make prosperous the people of Israel. So, they want to believe that this man riding on the donkey and colt is the Messiah. They want to experience the change that the Messiah brings. So, they great him the way a new king is greeted. They line the street with their coats and they wave Palm Branches as a sign of good will, and the shout “hosanna!”, which means “save us”. But, there is an undercurrent in the stirring of these people. What if they are wrong? What if this man is not the messiah? If this is the case, then maybe, the oppression will be far greater than it currently is. Are they wrong for this display of praise?
More than a Parade
Last week we discussed how Jesus’ resurrection of Lazarus was not about Lazarus, but more about who Jesus was and what could be achieved through Him. Remember, we discussed the words, “Come and see” and how those words repeated themselves to reveal that circle of defining who Jesus was and what His mission was is completed in that passage. Jesus reveals that He is the son of God and that salvation and eternal life can be achieved through belief in Him. I left you with a question. You thought you were going to get off the hook this week, but here we are again. What was the question? Do you believe? Just as Jesus asked Martha, do you believe?
As Jesus enters Jerusalem, it is now the time for Israel to face the reality of this question. Do they believe Jesus to be the Messiah? Do they believe that through Him all will be restored? I think they want to. I think that they desperately want to believe this to be the case. But when asked who this is riding on the donkey, they respond, “It’s the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.” To me, this seems like a far cry from, “this is the Jewish Messiah, the Son of God, who has come to restore Israel.”
I see this entrance as more than a parade. I see it as an attempt to show outward acceptance of Jesus as a viable candidate for the role of Messiah. However, I think the undercurrent is there that hearts are unconvinced of this status. That the humbleness, and the demeanor of this carpenter from Nazareth, does not fit the mighty warrior that would follow in the lineage of King David. Their motions do not match what they truly believe. Maybe that is why their hearts are so easily changed as the week moves forward.
Palm Sunday is traditionally marked as the beginning of Holy Week leading up to Easter Sunday. Maybe most of us have looked upon this special Sunday as simply the day we get to have a parade and wave palm branches in church. But, this is a difficult Sunday. This is a Sunday for soul searching. This is a Sunday for commitment. The parade is for the Messiah, the waving of the Palm Branches is the beckon call of those in need of salvation to be saved. Hosanna! Hosanna! Save us! Save us!
The people who lined the streets in Jerusalem 2000 years ago did not have the foresight to see just how that salvation would play out. They expected a warrior to restore the throne and the rule to be one of this world. But, we have the ability to know otherwise. We have the story told in its entirety at our fingertips and we know how victory was achieved.
Yet, we are left with the same question. Do we believe? Are we going to be like those who lined the streets in full force on the day Jesus entered through the gates of Jerusalem, waving the palms, and exclaiming, “Hosanna!” Then turning our backs on Him and giving into our own fickle understanding of what is important and how we should live our life. Or are we going to stand firm in our faith and let it take root in our heart, thus exclaiming in our belief, “Christ died that I may live! Whoever dies for Him will surely live! Hosanna! Hosanna in the Highest!