Palm Sunday, April 5, 2020, Matthew 21: 1-10
PRAYER Sovereign God, you would establish your reign over the human heart through the servanthood of Jesus Christ. By your Spirit, keep us in the joyful procession of those who with tongues they confess Jesus as their Lord, and with their lives praise him as their Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
It is because we know the outcome of this event that we view it as supremely ironic that the crowds could on one day shout “Hosanna, Blessed is he…” and a few days later shout, “Crucify him!” It seems strange indeed that the followers of Jesus, should refer to this incident as the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. Are we merely grasping at straws, trying to claim one small fragment of victory in the face of utter defeat?
It may seem as we look back on the story that this is a climactic event, culminating the life and ministry of Jesus. It certainly is that! Matthew in his telling, sees it as a fulfillment of a prophesy from Zechariah, “Tell the daughter of Zion, Look your king is coming to you…” The story as it is told has distinct trappings of royalty, as Jesus rides into Jerusalem and people pay homage by spreading their cloaks and branches on the road so that even the donkey’s hooves are not to be dirtied by the dust. Their shouts are plainly words spoken to a king. Not only do they call him “The Son of David” referencing the greatest king of their history, they call upon him with the word “Hosanna” which implies that they place their hope him for help in much the same way that they look to God to save them.
They had good reason to speak and act this way, as we look back upon the words and miracles of Jesus which they all knew and some of them had experienced first-hand. This was a man who did more than talk about what God might do to help them, he demonstrated that help with bread to feed them in the wilderness, a word which silenced the demons which plagued them, a touch which healed their broken bodies and gave sight to the blind. Moreover he spoke out against the burdensome religiosity imposed upon them by those who knew only the letter of the law without it’s spirit, and the corrupt nature of the temple worship which turned a house of prayer into a den of thieves. Here was someone in whom they could believe that he would set right the many wrongs in the world.
We are among them who look to and hope in this man. In this time of fear and uncertainty we turn to him in prayer much like those in times past, pleaded for mercy, asked for a word from him in which they could believe and find hope. We may not use the word king, but in fact it is a king that we seek, someone to lead us, who so identifies with us, that he carries our burdens. Someone with whom we identify and give him our trust and allegiance, that his victory might become our victory for we identify ourselves as his people.
But are we fickle like that crowd who sang his praises and then cried for his death or remained silent when others did. Yes we are, and our praises and fine words can seem like dust in our mouths as we see what happened to him. If that is the case, then why do we worship this day and sing his praises? First because we are his people, incomplete and wavering as we are; it is still good and right that we should so identify ourselves. But secondly because we know that with God, all things are possible, and Jesus is of God. So we sing our praises, and shout our Hosannas not based solely upon present evidence, but upon God’s promises which show God’s heart for his people. We sing in faith based upon those promises, for that is what faith is and does.
In this respect it is a moment of Triumph; triumph of faith over our fears, triumph of trust over doubt. The story will continue. This is only the beginning.