In the Christian calendar year we observe two holy days specifically to commemorate our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ they are Christmas and Easter. On December 25th (although this isn’t really the day he was born) we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ who came into this world as a human. We recount the Nativity story of Joseph, Mary, little baby Jesus, the star, the Magi, and the shepherds which is our background for this special day. During Christmas we rejoice that God in human flesh came as the man Jesus and dwelt among us to show us the way to the Kingdom of Heaven. At least this is what this one day of Christmas should represent to us believers.
Easter is the time we reflect on the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is during this time we are reminded of the painful and grueling death our savior endured to atone for our sins. We also rejoice in the truth that Jesus didn’t stay dead; he rose from the grave and is alive today seated at the right hand of the Father. The Bible tells us Jesus did this so anyone who puts their faith and trust in him and live in obedience to him can also share in this resurrected life he offers us which we know as eternal life.
Lent signifies the sacred 40 day preparation of the believer for the Easter season. We also observe an entire week prior to resurrection day called Palm Sunday. Today is Palm Sunday and it ushers in the time that we call “Holy Week”. Since today is Palm Sunday and next week is Easter I have decided to push pause on our series “The Gospel of John: Jesus - The True Story” for this week and next in observance of these two significant events in the story of Jesus and celebrate that Jesus came to this earth to redeem humanity. He came so that all who believe in Him would have eternal life.
The Story – (Outline)
- The theme of this story – Jesus makes preparations for his royal entry. This is the time where he publicly accepts worship and identifies himself with the Messiah.
- Jesus and his Disciples went to Bethpage which was near Bethany (approximately 2 miles east of Jerusalem) to the Mount of Olives.
- A great crowd of people followed him (John 12:12). These people were probably made up of people taking their pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover. According to Josephus there was one Passover where there were over two million people took part in. We are not sure if this is the norm, but there was certainly a potential for a large gathering of people present.
- As he drew near the Mount of Olives he sent two disciples (undisclosed) to go to town and get a donkey colt (according to Mark and Luke it should be a donkey that has never had a rider; pure and undefiled?) and bring it to him. There was a purpose for getting a donkey (we’ll see this soon).
- Matthew tells us this all takes place in order to fulfill the words of the prophet Zechariah.
- Zechariah 9:9 (Read)
- This was a prophecy about the coming King of Zion or the Messiah.
- In the prophecy the people of Israel are told to rejoice and shout because the King is coming soon.
- They are to rejoice because He is a righteous king and He will bring salvation.
- He will be a gentle and humble king and this will be evident by his riding on a colt’s donkey.
- He was the TRUE king and He could have ridden in on a war horse, instead he chose to be a King of peace and humility.
- As Jesus rode into Jerusalem and the people began shouting and rejoicing saying, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”
- Hosanna – Greek transliteration is “Save us!” It’s an exclamation of exaltation and praise, implying rulership.
- The praises the people were saying reflect the words of Psalm 118:25, 26.
- Psalms 113 – 118 are called Egyptian Hallel or praise psalms to remember God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt. These Psalms were/are chanted, recited, and sung during Passover and other major festivals and feasts. It is quite probable that the songs Jesus and his disciples sang at the conclusion of the Lord’s Supper were Psalms 115 – 118.
- As the people shouted they also put their cloaks and palm branches on the ground for Jesus to walk on. This was a sign of honor. The palm branch symbolizes victory.
- According to N.T. Wright, “They waved branches they’d cut from the trees to make a celebratory procession for him. This carried royal implications. In the long folk memory of Jerusalem and its surrounding villages, stories were still told, and some of them by this stage were written down, about the famous Judas Maccabaeus who, 200 years before, had arrived in Jerusalem after conquering the pagan armies that had oppressed Israel. He, too, was welcomed into the city by a crowd waving palm branches. And he was the start of a royal dynasty that lasted for over a hundred years.”
- The people were well aware of the setting surrounding the coming Messiah so when the people saw Jesus coming into Jerusalem on the colt they understood what was going on. However many of them had false hopes in the Messiah. They were expecting Jesus to now take charge and lead a revolution against Rome and set the nation of Israel free from the bondage of the Romans.
- Jesus could have easily allowed the crowd to get into a political riot but since he was the gentle King riding on colt he signified to the people he is a peaceful and gentle king.
- According to Luke the religious leaders approached Jesus and told him to rebuke his disciples. They too knew Jesus was accepting the praise of the people as the Messiah.
- Jesus responds that if he were to silence them then the stones would cry out in praise to him. There was absolutely nothing that could silence the praise of the Messiah. It was foretold, it had to be. The Pharisee’s tell Jesus to rebuke his disciples but Jesus rebukes the Pharisee’s for failing to see that this moment is a God ordained moment.
So many people (maybe even you) are like the crowd of people. When the reason for rejoicing and praise is before you; all the people around you are praising the name of Jesus and declaring Him king of your life. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and have an intense emotional experience. However when things don’t go your way or something bad happens so many are quick to turn their back on Jesus and find them like the riotous mob that turned on Jesus and demanded his death.
The challenge and question before us today is, “Are you in this for the duration?” Are you committed to being a full on disciple of Jesus Christ? Are you willing to praise him in the glorious sun shine of the morning as well as the darkness of the night? Are we willing to put our cloaks on the ground and praise the King for salvation? Are we determined to follow and commit to our Lord during the good times and also during the troubled times? This is your challenge for today and for the week. Praise the King for he has come! Praise the King for he has died a death so we might live. Praise the King for he is alive today and among us.
 Wright, N.T. (2004) Matthew For Everyone Part Two p. 67 Westminster John Knox Press