Palm Sunday

Philippians 2: 5-11 and Luke 19: 28-44

‘What kind of King is this?’

Jesus was travelling to Jerusalem, a journey which would end with betrayal, arrest, torture and death on a cross. Jesus had journeyed from Jericho, where he had healed blind Bartimaeus, to Bethany which was about 13 miles. From Bethany he had only two miles to go to Jerusalem, so he had almost reached his goal.

The prophets of the Old Testament had a regular custom which they used when people refused to listen and take in their spoken message. They resorted to drama, to paint a picture in people’s minds and a drama was just what Jesus had in mind as he travelled into the Holy City. He proposed to ride into Jerusalem in such a way that the very action of it would be an unmistakable claim that he was the Messiah, God’s anointed King.

When Jesus rode into Jerusalem at the end of his journey, he was making a clear statement which was fulfilling a prophecy that Zechariah had made long before. Few people could have misinterpreted it, or could they?

‘Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See your King comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of
a donkey. (Zechariah 9:9)

This entry into the city had been prepared long before, it was no sudden, impulsive action. Jesus did not leave things to the last minute. It teaches us a lesson in preparing well when we are doing God’s work. The most important preparation is prayer to ask God for guidance in every detail of our lives but especially when we are preparing to do his work.

Jesus had made his arrangements with the owners of the colt and a password had been agreed. He sent two of the disciples ahead of him to collect the colt and bring it to him. But they couldn’t complete the task without the password, which was, ‘The Lord needs it.’

When the disciples returned to Jesus with the donkey they threw their cloaks on its back and Jesus climbed on. It took incredible courage for Jesus to enter the city in the way that he did. By this time there was a price on his head. It would have been natural for him to slip unseen into Jerusalem, but he entered in such a way as to focus the whole lime-light upon himself and to occupy the centre stage. It is impossible to exaggerate the sheer courage of

Imagine the scene: As they walked along the road, the people were laying their cloaks in the road. The excitement was electric, they knew that something momentous was going to happen.  When they came to 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.
‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!’
‘Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’

The Pharisees in the crowd asked Jesus to stop the disciples shouting out what for them was blasphemy. But Jesus said to them, ‘If they were to keep quiet, the very stones in the road will cry out.’

It was a deliberate fulfilling of the picture painted by Zechariah. But even in this, Jesus underlined the kind of kingship which he claimed. The donkey in Palestine was not the lowly beast that it is in this country. It was noble, because only in war did kings ride on a horse; when they came in peace they came upon a donkey. So Jesus by this action came as a King who comes to his people in love and in peace and not as the conquering hero, which the mob expected and were waiting for.

Jesus was prepared to do whatever it took to save us. Ridicule, pain, torture, even death on a cross. His was total commitment because he knew there was no other way.

Rev Jim Thorneycroft
Synod Pastoral Advisor