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April 1, 2007 (Palm Sunday)—“Among the Crowd”

Interim Pastor Steven Jensen

Luke 19:28–40

The Palm Sunday procession has become a tradition over the years for the faithful as we remember Christ’s entry into the Holy City of Jerusalem. As we in our own simple way recreate the throngs waiving palms and shouting hosannas, we would do well to contemplate our real role in the drama of Jesus’ passion.

This triumphal parade is a fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of 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.” (Zech. 9:9)

Jesus came to offer himself as the savior of Israel. He came as the fulfillment of God’s promise to send a Messiah. The disciples remember the prophecy as Jesus tells them that they are going to Jerusalem and tasks them with obtaining a donkey for his ride into that holy city. They have heard his message; they have seen his miracles; they have felt how he has stirred their hearts and given their lives new purpose and meaning. And, not fully comprehending this themselves, they begin to shout as the procession begins, “Hosanna! Glory in the highest! Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”

The shouting brings others, and the sight stirs up long-held desires for deliverance from repressive Rome and restoration of the kingdom and power of Israel. So new voices join the shouts and a frenzy builds up in the crowd.

Yes, this is the triumphal entry of Jesus, but no one understands the triumph. The cheering, palm-waiving throngs were celebrating a projection of their own desires. They looked right through Jesus and saw what they wanted to see.

A military conqueror would ride in on a stallion, but a military representative offering peace would ride in on a donkey. Jesus came to offer peace with their God; they wanted war with Rome.

Jesus could see that this was a false acceptance of him based on a false assumption of why he came and what he was sent to do. As Jesus looks over the people of God in this Jerusalem dedicated to God, he essentially tells his disciples and the others that he is not the kind of Messiah that they are looking for. “You did not see that God had come to save you.”

As he sees the difference between God’s purpose and what God’s people will allow, his heart breaks. They have spurned his love and that of the Father for something they only think they want, that they only think will bring them satisfaction and new life.

He can see that soon this very same Chosen People will reject the one whom God had sent to them. The Palm Sunday victory parade into Jerusalem will become Good Friday’s painful procession to Calvary. The talk of coronation will become the shout for crucifixion.

We would do well to remember that the crowds were made up of individuals, and “group think” or “mob rule” does not really get at the heart of what was going on. Each person had an opportunity to be open to God’s gift of peace and salvation for them, and they missed it because they wanted God to answer their prayers their way and could not see that he offered much more.

We individually make up a crowd of God’s people today. When we individually wave our palms and sing our songs of praise, are we celebrating the arrival of the Prince of Peace in our lives and acknowledging the cost Jesus paid to bring us that peace?

It is Palm Sunday for each of us every time we decide whether we will honor Jesus as the One who rules our lives or whether we reject his offer of healing and wholeness and salvation. As Christ passes by us, are our lives proclaiming, “Hosanna! Glory to God in the highest! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” or are we echoing the words of the Pharisees—“Tell them to be quiet!”?

The crowds on that first Palm Sunday did not see, as Jesus said, that God had come to save them. That was indeed a victory parade. It was a time of God’s visitation, the fulfillment of God’s promise of salvation. Celebrate today and every day the victory of Christ for you. Let your life be a loud “hosanna!” in praise and thanks.

Amen.


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