by Rich Bregitzer
(St. Louis, MO)
Mt 21:1 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples,
Mt 21:2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me.
Mt 21:3 If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”
Mt 21:4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
Mt 21:5 “Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ ”
Mt 21:6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them.
Mt 21:7 They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them.
Mt 21:8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.
Mt 21:9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest!”
Mt 21:10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”
Mt 21:11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
In the Apocryphal book of 2 Maccabees 10:7 it says, “Therefore, carrying ivy-wreathed wands and beautiful branches and also fronds of palm, they offered hymns of thanksgiving to him (God) who had given success to the purifying of his own holy place.”
Earlier than this in 1 Maccabees 13:51 the Jews used palm branches to celebrate a victory over a “great enemy”. The use of palm branches in Jewish tradition had become, by Jesus’ time, an emblem associated with celebrations of national triumph and victory.
The use of the palm branches in our Gospel lesson would seem to suggest that perhaps the very large crowd mentioned in verse 8 was somewhat confused as to what role Jesus would play in their future.
Many were looking for a political leader to right the wrongs of their Roman oppressors and to re-establish Israel to its former glory. And undoubtedly some were holding onto the hope that this rumored healer and teacher that had stumped the Pharisees and that had preached in such an unheard of fashion may be the very person to come in and be their political deliverer.
And to sort of set the scene it is believed that Jerusalem, the epicenter of the Passover celebration may have had in it as many as 100,000 pilgrims in it. In John’s gospel it is believed that this number is what it is referred to by the term “great crowd” as found in John 12:12.
We do that sometimes don’t we? I don’t mean we look for a political answer to our problems, but we do look for quick fixes sometimes or for what is the absolute most practical answer.
I find it interesting that these pilgrim Jews the ones not all that close to Jesus were concerned with a political answer to their problems, but that those Jews that were closer to Jesus, such as his own disciples were beginning to see that the answer to their problems was not always a matter of the practical and temporal, but of a spiritual nature. And while Jesus did give practical counsel he was always addressing the spiritual need when he did so.
The cry of Hosanna or “save us” had at one time been a cry for salvation, but again by this time it had taken on a festive cry.
If you go to a football game or to a concert as the stars take the field or the stage isn’t it weird that the audience erupts with shouts and cheers and applause? It’s exciting, but the truth of the matter is they haven’t done anything yet.
Perhaps you are aware of what they can do or have heard about the show they can put on and in your anticipation you get caught up and your celebrating before the program has even started.
I like to think that should we be welcoming Jesus into town in this day and age we’d be sporting those beer hats, or big foam fingers that say Jesus is #1! Or maybe that guy from all the golf matches would be there with his rainbow afro wig and his John 3:16 t-shirt.
Maybe something similar was going on as Jesus rode into Jerusalem. Undoubtedly his name was getting around and perhaps some had heard about what he was doing or preaching. And perhaps people were already in a celebratory mood with the Passover festival to consider.
We have the benefit of hindsight and history we know that the savior didn’t address political issues like a Clinton or an Obama or a McCain or Huckabee. And thank God because then those candidates would probably be telling us how they are so similar to Jesus their political predecessor and the one who inspired them to take up a career in politics.
No, our savior addressed the deeper need of the individual and through the cross relieved the penalty of their sin from the hearts of you and I. However, first he had to approach Jerusalem.
Public sentiment was about to change towards Jesus. The Son of David that was being welcomed would soon become the belittled and berated “King of the Jews”, but first we deal with Palm Sunday and we address who Jesus is to us. We must get the relationship right. As Christians in this day and age we are fortunate to have had so many centuries of faithful teachers encouraging us to explore the depths of our relationship with our Redeemer and so now we have redeemed Palm Sunday.
It is no longer a time when we are confused about our relationship with the Christ, but it is a time when we celebrate the coming of our spiritual King and the King of all kings as he takes on the wrongs of the world and the sin of our hearts and makes everything right.
And while the cry “save us” may have had a political undertone to it then the cry of “save us” or “Hosanna” has for us, today, the benefit of being accompanied by the knowledge that the Lord Jesus who we cry out to has already responded and has answered us with His life, with His blood and with His triumph over the grave. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, but simply rejoice that our Savior traveled that Jerusalem road for us.