Zechariah 9:9-10, Luke 19:28-44
March 24, 2013
Jesus approached the holy city. He had come a long way. It had been three years since he began his public life. It had taken him down many roads. And now for the last part of that long journey, he rode a donkey. All the Gospel writers tell this story. They saw this as a critical moment in Jesus life story, and a pivotal moment in his ministry and in the history of the world!
We’ve been talking about expectations. And the expectations of the people came to a head that day! This was a Triumphal Entry into the city. And they knew what that was. And I’ll bet they knew the words of Zechariah! “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.”
The irony of this story is much deeper if we remember those words! Sometimes we think about the people that day, and we think that most of them were just caught up in the excitement of the moment, but they really were clueless about what was happening. Sometimes we think they heard the shouts, they came to investigate, they saw a parade, and they joined in with the growing crowd. After all, Jesus was a big deal! We know that. He drew such enormous crowds where ever he went that often his disciples could barely find a time and place to eat a decent meal!
I wonder, though. Were they really clueless? The more I think about this scene, the more it seems to me that this is more than just a matter of crowd mentality. This is more than just a matter of a critical mass of people gathering, and of excitement and exuberance naturally flowing. I don’t believe these people were clueless. In fact, I’m thinking that they knew exactly what was happening that day! They were expecting something very important from this Jesus! And today, it all fit! Or at least it seemed to
You know, I’ve talked before about Judas Maccabees. I’ve told you how he came riding into Jerusalem in triumph years before. He had just led the successful revolt that gave Israel her freedom. And yes, there was a sense of that here. The people were expecting a similar scenario. I’ve said that on other Palm Sundays. And I’ve also suggested before that these people seemed to be ignoring the fact that Jesus wasn’t riding a war horse like Judas. They didn’t let the donkey deter them from their celebration. But let me suggest today that that might not have mattered. They knew their scriptures! They knew all the passages that spoke of the deliverer and the coming king. So they might not only have not cared that Jesus rode a donkey, they might well have expected it! They might well have taken up the palms with the words of Zechariah 9 ringing in their ears. (Its no coincidence that both Matthew and John quoted Zechariah in their accounts of this event!)
With all that in mind, I still like Lukes version of the story the best. Because he alone tells how Jesus wept over the city. That tells me that Jesus, like God, truly loved his people! He loved the holy city of Jerusalem! And I really believe that it grieved him to see what was happening. It grieved him to see how they “did not know the time of their visitation.” He knew the expectation they had, which we’re looking at today, the expectation that he would bring them Peace and Security. He knew they didn’t understand
To their credit, those people longed for those things! I mean, who wouldn’t? And of course the peace and security they longed for were tied to the expectation of freedom they believed (or wished!) the Messiah would bring them. And it was about that, Jesus wept, saying, “Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace!” (Luke 19:42) (My Bible has a rare exclamation point right there!)
In a way, this was the culmination the combination of all those expectations we’ve been talking about all along. They wanted Jesus to be king. They wanted him to do the right things. They wanted him to do the impossible. They wanted him to think like them. And they wanted him to do their will! Now they wanted him to be their deliverer. They wanted him to be like the Moses of long ago! And as I said, it now seemed like that was about to happen!
Their expectations were high! And they didn’t want to hear anything to the contrary. When Peter heard Jesus say just one too many times that he would suffer, he rebuked Jesus! Do you remember that? We’re not always sure what that word rebuke meant there, but it certainly meant more than just a request for Jesus not to say such things. “Please, Jesus, you can’t mean that! Don’t talk that way!” There was a sternness in the word! There was even a sense of anger!
So now, Jesus wept over the city, He lamented that they didn’t understand what true peace and security were. And I wonder if he didn’t have in mind the words of the prophet Jeremiah when he said, “You have healed the wounds of my people lightly, saying ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace”. That comes from Jeremiah 6:14, and he would repeat those words in chapter 8. (Jeremiah 8:11)
We know what he meant, don’t we? We know now what those people didn’t know. But does that help? Do we think any differently? Are we expecting Jesus to be a deliverer in the same way? Are we expecting him to deliver us from all the problems of this life? And do we ever feel like he’s letting us down somehow if he doesn’t? That’s a pretty difficult expectation isn’t it? But the fact is that nowhere in the teachings of Jesus, or even the teachings of the church, does it say that following Jesus will give us the answers to all our worldly problems! Nowhere does God ever promise us a perfect life here on earth, or even perfect health! What he promises us is a perfect spiritual life! What he promises us is perfect spiritual health! And both of those things are promised despite what the circumstances of this life may be!
The people didn’t get that that day. They didn’t want that that day! They wanted what they wanted. They wanted their deliverer! And many people have struggled with that expectation ever since. I’m sure you’ve heard people use the excuse over the years, that they prayed for healing, but their faith was not strong enough. They prayed for a resolution to their problems, but they weren’t close enough to God to get an answer. Such people are stuck in the Palm Sunday mentality! They’re thinking they should be in charge. And they’re disappointed and frustrated when they are not!
So, what about us? Are we ever there? Once again, we need to know that God is with us through anything! And that makes all the difference in this life! I trust the disciples knew that in the week that followed. At least I hope and I believe they came to realized that! And I trust that we know that God is with us through anything, too. I hope we can see past the expectation that he should deliver us from all hardship and pain. He doesn’t promise that. He promises that we are his people and the sheep of his pasture! He promises not to keep us from every danger and difficulty, but to walk with us. Even through the valley of the shadow, he is there, and he will bind up our wounds and heal our broken hearts!!!
I hope that we can see that, if just a little more this Palm Sunday. I hope we can still hail him king, for king he is! But I hope that we can see, just a little clearer, what that really means! “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest!”
Eternal God, we give you all glory and honor and praise! For you have redeemed us and made us whole. You have given us the joy of life and the glory of your kingdom, even your kingdom here on earth. Help us to know the peace and security of knowing you, and knowing the peace you give, no matter what the circumstances of this life. For this we pray in our Master’s name, Amen.