It's all over bar the shouting...
Sermon Preached By The Reverend Dr Sam Cappleman - Palm Sunday April 8 2001
It's a familiar story...
Jesus rides into Jerusalem—according to Luke it's the first time He's been back since He was 12—and sets the scene for a showdown with the authorities. He rides in from the Mount of Olives, where tradition had it that God's final intervention would occur (Zech 14 v 4), a fact not lost on the crowd as they yell 'Hosanna'—Save us we pray
With Jesus' background they must be wondering if the Messiah had finally come. But Jesus rides in one a plodding donkey; not the mount of a king but if anything a symbol of humility and service; the mount of a judge if anything.
It sets a strange scene...
A political leader would have been surrounded by security guards to keep crowds away and to prevent them from harm
Jesus rode into the midst of the people just surrounded by disciples
A military leader would have galloped along the road, perhaps waving his hand as he rode by
Jesus rode slowly, accompanying the people as they accompanied Him
A religious leader would have moved sedately through the crowds, in priestly robes, with an entourage who would surround him to prevent him becoming ceremonially unclean
Jesus dressed in his usual attire moved humbly through the crowds, no shrinking from the touch of anyone. And yet as he rode in it was to all appearances as if He was a spiritual, and kingly leader. Because the donkey is adorned with royal symbols of cloaks...Jesus rides on an instant made highway of coloured clothing and palm fronds, just as would have been there to welcome a king, Just as they had been from the time of Jehu, back in Israel's early history, (1 Ki 9 v 13 Jehu; Zech 9 v 9)
It's difficult to miss the scene, and all of it shows submission to His Kingly and spiritual authority. Luke leaves out the Kingly palm fronds and the Jewish sounding Hosannas so there can be no confusion over Jesus' mission, but we know from the other gospel accounts that they were there) So it was clear that when Jesus rode into Jerusalem it was all over bar the shouting. Events had to take their course. The authorities would have to react.
In choosing to ride into Jerusalem Jesus was setting in motion a train of events that could not be stopped. Death would be defeated and our relationship with God would be restored.
But first there would be lots of shouting. First the 'Hosannas'. Then the shouts of 'Crucify Him'. When He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey events had turned full circle from when he entered Bethlehem on a donkey in Mary's womb. The adoration and worship the three kings offered Him was validated as He rode into Jerusalem as Judge, Prophet, Priest and King. The significance of the myrrh they had brought would finally be understood. It was all over bar the shouting. Sin and death would be defeated and the fickleness of the world and its people would be exposed. This is not a pleasant time to be in authority—the Pharisees tried to hush things up—'Keep your disciples quiet'
In Jewish tradition the name Jerusalem means 'foundation of peace'. For several days the peace of the city would be shattered as events took their course. Even if the people were silent, Jesus said to the Pharisees, the very stones which made up the foundations of peace would cry our in worship and praise to the Son of God. They needed to understand that the fragile foundations of earthy peace were crumbling so that a lasting heavenly peace could take its place—this was not 'business as usual'
It's a heady scene full of meaning and symbolism. It was going to be a noisy time, first with echo's of the cries of Hosanna and then a few short days later the cries of Crucify—Cries which continue to sound through the centuries. And yet, through it all, the peace and serenity of Jesus shines through. His obedience to the Father and to the task to which he had been called lead us beyond the shouting—to the cold, lonely silence which would follow the crucifixion. And many who shouted Hosanna ('Save us we pray') would be the same people who would yell murderous cries a few days later. And how many would realise they were voicing a self fulfilling prophecy. Because God was in control, not the crowds or the authorities. The only way to salvation could be through the cross.
Sometimes it's customary to look at the passage from the viewpoint of the people and underline how we need to be consistent in our Christian lives. Don't cheer one day and jeer the next. Be faithful and loyal whatever turn of events. That's important we do need to be consistent and faithful—but perhaps we should also look at the story from Jesus' perspective. Jesus knows what He was doing when He choose the route he took, it wasn't some kind of divine accident...
He could have lived a relatively quiet life, retired as a wise and famous rabbi...
He could have stayed in the relative safety of Galilee in His rural ministry...
But He didn't, first He enters the city limits on a donkey; then He pauses to weep over the city; and then He goes on to the reclaim the Temple for proper worship and praise to God. He chose to confront the powers of politics and religion in its very centre - Jerusalem, a place which had become the very heart of corruption. The crowds did not affect him - just as He would not have been put off by the lack of them. He was not ruled by events of the minute, but by the events of eternity and doing God's will. His purpose was to proclaim and establish a new relationship with God. That could mean only one thing—obedience, even obedience to death on the cross. He chose to be true to His mission, not depending on the events of life to give him rewards or satisfaction, or even safety. Which challenges us far more deeply than asking whether we shout 'Hosanna' one day and 'Crucify' the next. It challenges to look at our obedience to God and asks us where we find our security. Do we depend on the events of life to give us safety and satisfaction and reward? or do we chose to walk the way of obedience towards God, whatever that means
The message of Palm Sunday is a dual message of exuberant celebration and proclamation coupled together with obedient servant hood. As a church and as individuals we need to keep both in balance. We are an Easter People because we have lived through Lent and Good Friday
We need to see the story from both the people's and Jesus' perspective to see the full picture. To understand that the meaning of life is to be found in the knowledge and love of God and obedience to Him, whatever that takes—and in obedience sharing that knowledge and love with those who accompany us on the way
There are those who say that no peace can come to Jerusalem because it has rejected the King of peace, that's certainly > for us as people. We can't find real peace without knowing God through Jesus. It's all over bar the shouting—whatever we may feel.
Sometimes it's as if we forget that the battle has been won, that we can have that inner peace which typifies Christ—even as He rode to death. If that's how we feel then perhaps we should take time this Holy Week leading up to Easter to be open to Him, to pray our Hosanna's to Him that the King of Glory, our Judge, our Saviour, our Priest and our Friend, made ride afresh into our lives.