What’s the context of Jesus riding into the capital city?
When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil.
Do you remember the only miracle in all four Gospels? Jesus feeds hungry people. Jesus feeding the multitudes.
We read the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 as a miracle of the five loaves and two fish.
In the Gospel of Luke and the Gospel of Mark, the men are gathered into groups of 50 and 100. This means nothing to us, today, but the numbers were significant to the first Christians… and to the Roman authorities who controlled the region.
In the Roman army, soldiers were grouped into centuries – groups of 100 men.
So, from the Roman perspective, it appears that Jesus was gathering his followers, perhaps as many as 5,000, training them to form into units of 50 and 100. And leading them into the city.
The Roman leaders saw Jesus leading a massive uprising into Jerusalem, the largest city in the region, just in time for Passover, one of the oldest and most important Jewish holidays.
Palm Sunday represents the threat Jesus posed to the government.
Throughout his ministry, Jesus invited people to follow him. From tax collectors to fishermen to farmers and slaves with nothing, Jesus called people to follow.
God continues to call us, today. How do we respond?
Do we come just as we are, stay just as we want, and leave just as we were? Unchanged?
God transforms us to new meaning, new purpose, new lives.
On Palm Sunday, Jesus calls us towards the city of Jerusalem, and the Passover celebration.
After entering the city, Jesus goes to the Temple. The holiest of Holy places. And he is shocked by what he finds. Money changers, bankers. Vendors selling birds, goats, and other animals for people to sacrifice to God.
Jesus sees that money and animal sacrifice are the focus at the Temple, not God, and he drives out the people who defile the House of the Lord.
By attacking the religious status quo, by extension he attacks the Religious leaders.
So, very quickly, Jesus alienates the military occupiers who control the government and he undercuts the authority of the religious leaders.
Jesus offers his followers a different way to be.
Jesus reminds us, that who we were in the past, doesn’t bind us to what we may become, in the future. Just as the story of Jesus doesn’t end at the cross, but continues to an empty tomb, our stories don’t end with who we are, but continue to who God calls us to be.
Let me make it plain. Who you are, is not who you have to be. When God calls you, God transforms you into a new person. Jesus offers new ideas, a new view of things, a new way of living.
Jesus is calling us to follow him in a new way.
Gathered with his friends in the upper room for the Passover meal. Passover is still celebrated by Jews to this day.
What a week it is.
Tonight, when we break bread, let us remember Jesus with his disciples.
Thursday is Maundy Thursday, that day when millions of Christians around the world remember the final meal Jesus ate.
The sounds of celebration fall silent, as Jesus of Nazareth leaves the upper room, to be arrested by the government, and handed over to suffering and death.
The light darkens and things turn a deeper shade of purple. As the shadows grow longer, and gather around us, we journey down from the city, on the way to the cross.
The triumphant entrance is followed by a tragic exit.
Jesus is executed by the government. The insurrection is squashed. The Jesus movement is destroyed. The religious leaders are relieved that Jesus won’t be around to bother them.
It’s uncomfortable… to go from Palm Sunday to Good Friday… Jesus moving from “Hosanna to the Son of David!” to being denied and abandoned. Beaten and alone. It’s uncomfortable, but we have to sit with it. And wait for Easter.
Jesus Comes to Jerusalem as King
28 After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30 “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’”
32 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”
34 They replied, “The Lord needs it.”
35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.
37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”[a]
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”