The Entry of the King

Palm Sunday

There is no doubt in my mind that the consistent message of Jesus was love and doing things for others.  There is no doubt in my mind that this message was unconditional, and is required of all of us who say we follow Him.  So great was his love for us that he chose to do something so great that it would eventually get him killed not for himself but us, all of us.

Today we begin the holiest week on the calendar of the Church.  Today we have a celebration with a crowd whipped up into a frenzy that will soon turn ugly, and the cries of Hosanna will soon turn to shouts of Crucify him.  Today we see the crowds coming out in large numbers to get a glimpse of the man they had only heard about, a man who, until now anyway, had been somewhat of a secret but is now taking his boldest step, entering the capital city not simply as just another pilgrim but as King.

Jesus and his followers had been in Jericho, only seventeen miles away less than a day journey.  For Jesus his journey was coming to an end, his long three-year ministry would soon be over as the goal, Jerusalem, was at the end of this journey.  Jerusalem, the place where all of this would come to an end.

The prophets had a regular custom of which they made us again and again. When words were of no effect, when people refused to take in and understand the spoken message, they resorted to some dramatic action which put their message into a picture which none could fail to see.  There are many examples in the First Testament about such actions and it is a dramatic effect that Jesus has now planned for his entrance.  He proposed to ride into the city in a way that would be an unmistakable claim to be the Messiah, God’s Anointed King.  The only one who would ever be anointed by God to rule the people.

There are a few things to make note of about this entrance.

It was a carefully planned event.  It was not sudden, and it was not an impulsive act.  Jesus did not leave anything for the last minute. He had his arrangement with the owners of the colt so when one of his followers came to get it and said, “the Lord needs it,” it was a password that had been arranged long ago.

It was an act of glorious defiance and superlative courage.  By this time in his ministry, there was a price on the head of Jesus.  Jesus certainly would have known about this, in fact, his apostles argue with him about not going to Jerusalem for this very reason.  Jesus did not avoid controversy and had angered the authorities against him.  They were afraid of losing the comfortable positions they had created for themselves. It would have been very natural for Jesus not to go to Jerusalem at all, or that he should slip quietly in by some back entrance so he would not be seen.  But he chose to enter the city in such a way as to focus the full limelight right on himself and to occupy the center stage.

Just think about this for a moment.  Jesus had a price on his head and was sure of capture and death.  He was considered an outlaw, a criminal and here he was deliberately riding into a city in a such a way that every eye was certain to be fixed upon him.  Until this time he had always moved around somewhat unnoticed in fact he often told those who he helped not to tell anyone about it.  When the crowds would grow too large, he would take his followers and move on to some other place, and he often went off alone.  Now he is standing all of that on its end and taking this bold step.  It is impossible to exaggerate the sheer courage of this action that Jesus was about to take.

This action that Jesus was taking was a deliberate claim to be a king.  This would be understood not only by the Jewish folks in Jerusalem but also by the Roman Soldiers and leaders.  This was a deliberate fulfillment of the prophecy in Zechariah:

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.

But even in this action, Jesus was underlying the type of King that he was claiming the type of kingdom that he was ushering in.  The donkey in Palestine was not the lowly beast that it is here in America. The donkey in Palestine was a noble beast. Only in wartime did the king ride a horse, the horse is a symbol for war.  When the king came in peace, they came on a donkey.  When one king was going to visit another king as they approached the gates of the city, they would do so on a donkey for if they came riding upon their horse that would have been a sign that war was about to take place.

So Jesus, choosing deliberately to enter the city riding on a donkey was a sign that he came as a king of love and as a king of peace.  This action would be lost on most of those who would witness these events.  So insecure were they that the very appearance of Jesus, this lowly itinerate preacher, riding into the city with cries of Hosanna and glory to the King, would blind them to the reality that he came in peace and love, not for war.  He came not as the conquering military hero whom the mob expected and awaited, but he came with his message love and his message of peace and his message of hope.  No doubt the crowd was angry, but this action of the simple carpenter turned preacher from Nazareth riding on a donkey soothed their minds and their hearts, well some of them anyway.

This action, this bold action of Jesus was one last appeal.  In this action Jesus came with pleading and hands outstretched saying, “even now, will you not take me as your king?” Before the hatred of the crowd would engulf him, once again he confronted them with love’s invitation.

We stand here today at the gates of Jerusalem.  We stand here today looking at Jesus coming in peace with his outstretched hands before us bidding us come.  Will we open the gates of our hearts for him to enter in and bring love and peace and joy to our lives, or will we slam them shut and spit in his face and yell Crucify him!  Open wide the gates of your hearts today and let the king of peace come in and make his dwelling place there.  Open the gates of your hearts today and let the king of peace and love come and bring you refreshment from all of your pain and sorrow.  Open wide the gates of your hearts today and let the king of Joy come and restore to you the joy of your life.

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