Good morning and welcome to worship here today at Christ Lutheran. And welcome if you’re listening on the radio. It’s good to be here together on this Palm Sunday as we begin the most significant week of the year for Christians. Actually it’s the most significant week ever---for anybody---though not everybody knows that yet!
But why is it so significant? There’s a whole parade of reasons. And it actually starts with a parade. Today is just the beginning. If you want to know why this week is so important, you need to walk through it with Jesus. Our service today continues on Thursday and Friday and concludes with Easter Sunday. Being a part of all of that will help you grow in your understanding of what Jesus went through for you and me.
But today we’re just getting started with this holy week.
Mark 11:1-3 “As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’ ”
As a kid I remembering hearing this and thinking, “They shouldn’t just take that donkey!” That always bothered me! And the Bible doesn’t tell us about the owner of that donkey, but let’s use our imagination and hear about that Palm Sunday parade from his point of view.
Triumphal Entry---Wynne DeWyn (Drama reading)
ELIAZASHEPH: My name is Eliazasheph. Now that’s a pretty big name for a person of no significance. I’m a man with no property, no great accomplishments, no fame. When I walk down the street, people don’t point, or quote my name like they do for the famous Jewish leaders of our time. You see, I’m poor, of little note. (With excitement) But I have seen some amazing things. It’s like I was given a gift. A gift more precious than gold. Just think! For a man like me! But I didn’t like it at first. I thought I was being taken advantage of. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
You see, it all started with Lazarus. Maybe you’ve heard of him. Every person in Jerusalem had heard of how Jesus had raised him from the dead. The news spread like wildfire. People came from all over to see what was going on. I lived in the outskirts of Jerusalem in a poor section of town. All I really had to my name was a donkey that my father left me before he died. Zephana----Zeph, that’s what I called her----I have her and her colt. We’re quite the little trio. I carried jugs of water from the wells to the people on the other side of town-the nice side of town. Zeph hauled water all day long without complaint. It was kind of cute, I guess you’d say, the way Zeph’s colt just followed her as we traveled all over Jerusalem. Not a bad way to make a living.
Well, Jerusalem was buzzing. People were talking about this Jesus. The Pharisees were on the lookout. They were suspicious of Jesus and thought he might overthrow their leadership. And they didn’t want any unrest among the people. (Looks around suspiciously, whispers) That might make the Romans angry.
I was just finishing up after hauling water all day. I always clean Zeph’s hooves after our day’s work, so I was bent over, holding her hoof between my knees. She started getting restless, and neighed and tried to turn around. “What’s the matter, Zeph?” I asked. Then I heard my neighbors yelling---“What are you doing?”
I straightened up and saw two men untying Zeph’s colt. They had no right! (Moves quickly to other side of stage, confrontational) “Hey! You can’t do that!” I yelled at them, running. I was ready to knock them both down for trying to steal my colt. “Why are you untying that colt?” I hollered. But halfway to them, I just stopped. Maybe it was the look on their faces, I don’t know, but something in my heart just swept all the anger away. They spoke to me, but not with guilty looks or lies. They just simply said, “The Lord has need of it.” (Faces audience) They said it like I would understand. Like I knew who this “Lord” was. (Slows, introspective) And yet, somehow, I did. And you know, the funny thing is, Zeph quieted down just like that. “The Lord has need of it.” I walked over and helped them untie Zeph’s colt. They smiled at me and walked away.
After a few minutes, I followed them. Something was definitely up. People were running from all over shouting, “Hosanna!” (Struggles to see past “crowd)
I could not see very well because the crowds were so thick. But people were in the trees cutting down palm branches and placing them by the hundreds on the street. Others were taking off their coats and throwing them on the pathway. It was like they were making a rug for some special arrival to enter the city. And then, I heard Zeph’s colt whinny! I jumped up and I saw him! It was this Jesus I heard people talk of. They called out, “Hosanna!” (which means –save us!) “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest!
And he was riding Zeph’s colt!
Now I don’t know how to explain this to you---the colt was as calm as sunset. But I had never broken him, that is, trained him to be ridden. As a matter of fact, I had never even given him a name. That colt should have been bucking and jumping, but it walked on gently, like it knew who was riding him. Later, I heard people say, “Why does a king enter on a donkey’s colt? That is so beneath him! He should ride in on a stallion! Only a horse is fit for a king!” But I didn’t think so. I thought if he was a king of peace, like I had heard, a colt like Zeph’s was pretty much perfect.
I remember looking at his face (Assumes arrogant posture and expression) and expecting it to be full of pride and glowing with importance, but I found none of those things there. He didn’t seem at all like the leaders we were accustomed to---not gloating about his power. As he turned his head to look at the people, somehow, I felt that he loved us---every one of us. But, he was sad too, sad about how we misunderstood him, and sad about what was going to come. Of course I didn’t understand this until later, until I realized what a sacrifice was still ahead for him.
The crowd closed in behind him and I soon lost sight of the colt. An old woman who couldn’t keep up with all the others stood by herself, clasping her hands together. She had such a look of wonder on her wrinkled face. She looked at me and whispered, (In old craggy voice) “It is just as Zechariah said. “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!....See, your king comes to you….gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
When those 2 men were untying the colt, they told me, “The Lord has need of it!” Little did I know how important that short ride on my colt would be. (pause) When the parade was over, I didn’t see Jesus for a few days. But I heard lots about what he said and did. He made a powerful impact on everybody---one way or another. And then that Friday I saw Jesus again.
He did not look like the king we were all proclaiming him to be on the day of his triumphal parade. But even as he hung there on the cross, I saw by the expression of his dying face, that he loved us. That he loved even me----a nobody. (pause and then excitement) And then 3 days later…..well you’ll have to wait to hear about that!
You know ever since that day, that colt hasn’t let anybody else ride on it! But that’s OK. It seems fitting somehow, that the colt was meant for a single, special purpose----to carry our king into Jerusalem, our savior.
What a gift it has been for me, a gift more precious than gold, to know that I played some small part to help my savior---to give him my colt for his parade into Jerusalem.
What was the purpose of this parade? Usually you know exactly what a parade is for. A few weeks ago there was a parade in Kalispell for the St Patrick’s Day celebration and to celebrate the Glacier HS boys basketball state title.
But with Jesus’ Palm Sunday parade, the purpose wasn’t so clear. It wasn’t scheduled ahead of time with the local authorities. Nobody tweeted that Jesus was coming into Jerusalem.
The Romans were big on parades. When there was a military victory, they would parade into town as a show of force---with treasures they had looted, prisoners they had captured. It was a parade of triumph. When an emperor took the throne, they had elaborate processions to create fear and awe, to show the emperor’s strength and even claim that he was a god.
The Jewish people knew about Roman parades. Some, probably many of them, wanted a Jewish parade to celebrate driving the Romans out of Israel. So when Jesus came riding into town, some thought that might be the start. But instead of riding a chariot or a white horse, Jesus rode in on a donkey.
Not real impressive. Not what you’d expect for a king. But remember what the prophet had written---
“Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
So what was this parade about? Depends on who you asked. If you asked the Romans or the Jewish leaders, they were worried that it was about power, fame, revolt, rebellion. If you asked the Jewish people, even some of Jesus’ disciples, it was about crowning a king they hoped would take charge and drive out the Romans.
But if you asked Jesus, he would tell you just what Zechariah foretold. “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!” There was reason to celebrate. Look at Jesus’ response when some of the Pharisees wanted him to quiet the crowd---
Luke 19:39-40 “Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” Jesus replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
What else did Zechariah say?
“See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
This was the parade of a king, THE king, but a gentle king. He wasn’t there for his fame, power, or riches, but to bring righteousness and salvation for his people. People weren’t used to humble kings. But that’s what Jesus was, a servant come to Jerusalem, knowing that his kingship was threatening to some, yet needed by all.
Jesus’ parade led to his humiliation, suffering and death on the cross. That’s where he took on the sinfulness of the world and defeated sin, death and the devil.
Most of the people who saw that parade were mistaken about what it really meant. But Jesus knew it was a parade to announce his gentle, humble kingship---yet also a parade that led to the display of his power over everything that threatens his people.
It was a parade where the king of the universe, joined us on our level, to raise us up to his. A parade where ultimate power was there for everyone to see but in a much different form than they expected.
What was this parade all about?
It is about the discrepancy between our expectations and God’s actions.
It is about Jesus redefining what true kingship means. He is a whole new sort of royalty, reigning with humility and love.
It is about Jesus coming to take the worst of the world on his shoulders and defeating it, so that all may live by the grace and love of God for me and you.