April 5, 2020
The March of Triumph
April 5, 2020
The March of Triumph
Philippians 2: 5-11
Luke 19: 28-40
TEXT: “After he said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.” - Luke 19: 28
On the first day of the week in which he died Jesus did a surprising thing. He entered Jerusalem in triumph and accepted the acclamation of the crowds. Why did he do this?
It is easy to see why he chose the place and time. Jerusalem was the center of the national life of Israel, and if anyone had a claim to make, Jerusalem was the place to make it. The time was the season of the feast of the Passover. There were more people in Jerusalem during Passover than at any other time of the years, and if anyone were seeking to make a claim to the largest possible number of people, Passover was the time when they could be found in Jerusalem.
What Jesus did he did deliberately. He had made arrangements ahead of time for the donkey on which he was to ride. He sent two of the disciples ahead, telling them where they would find the animal tied and instructed them how to answer if anyone questioned their taking it. They were to say, “the Lord has need of him.” That would identify them. They followed these instructions, and they were allowed to take the animal as Jesus had told them they would be. The whole thing was planned ahead of time.
It is clear that Jesus entered the city as he did in order to fulfill the conditions of an ancient prophecy.
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,
on a colt the foal of a donkey.
He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
and the war horse from Jerusalem;
and the battle bow shall be cut off,
and he shall command peace to the nations;
his dominion shall be from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
(Zechariah 9: 9-10)
Jesus planned his triumphal entry in such a way as to make it impossible for people to miss the point. He was deliberately claiming to be the Lord of life whose coming had been prophesied in the scripture.
At first, this kind of public demonstration strikes us as uncharacteristic of Jesus. He was not the sort of person who liked to draw attention to himself. Indeed, he seems most of the time to have tried to turn attention away from himself. His triumphal entry into Jerusalem strikes us as uncharacteristic of the Jesus with whose personal modesty we have become familiar in the gospels.
One feature of the triumphal entry is, however, highly characteristic of Jesus. That is that it was a demonstration rather than an argument, and Jesus regularly used demonstration rather than argument to make his point.
(1) Healing ministry
the paralytic – which is easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven” or “Rise up and walk?”
Son of Man authority to forgive sins, thus he said to the paralytic – “Rise, take up your bed and go home.”
“Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” – sheep falls into a pit – who will not lift it out.
man with withered hand – “Stretch out your hand and it was restored.”
(2) Question – “Who is my neighbor?”
Not a long dissertation on the essentials of neighborliness, but rather a story
– The Parable of the Good Samaritan
Who was truly the neighbor? – the priest or the Levite both of whom passed by on the other side or
the Samaritan who asked no questions but extended a helping hand – their response – the man who
showed mercy on him – “Go and do likewise.”
(3) Question of the meaning of his coming suffering on the cross
His celebration with his disciples in the Upper Room.
One of the best demonstrations of all time – see and taste the bread and the wine, hear the words
“Take, eat this is my body”
“Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for the forgiveness of sins.”
Yes, the triumphal entry is not so uncharacteristic of Jesus as it seemed at first glance. When the time came for him to offer himself to the people as the promised Lord for whom they had been waiting, he did not make a political speech; he performed a public act and put it squarely up to those who witnessed the demonstration to decide whether they were going to stand with him or against him.
We all know how it turned out. On the day when Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem in triumph the crowds acclaimed him. They spread their garments in the road to serve as a royal carpet and bestrewed the way with branches from the trees. However, the enthusiasm of the crowd was of the moment only. Most of them did not really want the kind of life that Jesus offered. And as the succeeding days unfolded it became increasingly clear that the majority of those to whom he offered himself wanted no part of him.
I have heard it said that the same people who on the first Palm Sunday cried, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, “shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” on the succeeding Good Friday, but I don not think there is any real evidence for that. What seems to have happened is that another group, more numerous and more powerful, took over in the meantime, and those who had welcomed Jesus were overwhelmed. Perhaps they were frightened off. They were certainly drowned out.
I have heard it said that if Jesus were to come into the world again today the same thing would happen all over again. I do not believe that. The fact that Jesus lived was not without its effect on men and women. His teaching has deepened the dimensions of our moral thinking, and his life and death and resurrection have enlarged the horizons of our understanding of the things of the Spirit. We have changed since Jesus first walked among us. We have changed because he walked among us.
If he came to us again, as he came to people on that first Palm Sunday, I think he would find many more men, women, and young people who were ready to accept him and to stand by him to the end. He would not find that all Christians had forsaken the gospel or that all businessmen were dishonest or that all government officials were corrupt or that all our citizenry had fallen prey to the worship material comfort or worldly success.
There are those, who, to use St. Paul’s phrase, have “put on Christ” and have become “a new creation.”
What his coming again would do would be to divide the world into two groups. There would be those who would stand with him and those who would stand against him. The question is to which group would we belong.