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Palm Sunday

28 March 2010

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For one reason or another people sometimes feel compelled to go to a public place such as a street corner or airport where, along with hundreds, or thousands, of other people they wait in hope of catching a glimpse of some famous person. Have you ever done this? Some of us may be a little embarrassed to admit that we have. – I believe that the year was 1987 when President Reagan made a brief visit to airport near the small Southern Illinois town of Marion, and I went to get a look at him.

There was a severe drought that year and he was coming to see the crop damage. Such presidential appearances are rare in Southern Illinois and I thought that I would really like to see the president. I arrived early, and was disappointed that so many had gotten there before me. After a very long wait – finally the president’s plane landed, taxied up to the terminal, the president waved to the crowd as he walked down the stairs. At the bottom of the stairs right away he got into a helicopter and flew off.

I can still remember my glimpse of the president zipping away in his helicopter, waving to the crowd. I also recall just a little disappointment. In person he really didn’t seem as “bigger than life” as I had expected him to be. He didn’t look like what I expected. He just looked like an affable but normal older man.

Today, Palm Sunday, the crowd has turned out to catch a glimpse of Jesus. Jesus had made his reputation in the rural areas of Israel. He had created somewhat of a sensation and attracted quite a following. At last he came to Jerusalem, to the capital city, and everyone came out to catch a glimpse of this famous person.

There was one question that was on the lips of all that were there that day, “Who is this?” (21:10)

And the crowd was not slow in coming to it’s own conclusions about Jesus! In the very next verse an answer is given to their question. “And the crowds said ‘This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee’”(21:11). – There you have it. The crowd was aware that Jesus is a worker of miracles, a successful physician, or a teacher who knows the Scriptures forwards and backwards. Jesus is also a prophet, a speaker of the truth of God. That is what prophets do. They speak God’s truth. In that day if you had been one of the common people, that is to say most of the people, you would probably have been pleased and excited to think that a prophet had come to Jerusalem. For the prophets of the Old Testament had, without exception, opposed oppression and named injustice for what it was. The crowd was not wrong to recognize this about Jesus, and yet Jesus was someone much greater than just a prophet. As great as prophets are, they are not enough.

Speaking the truth is a great achievement; and prophets are always in short supply. Yet being the truth is another matter. The crowds, standing on the sidewalk at the Palm Sunday parade hailed Jesus as a great prophet, a great speaker of the truth. There was certainly reason for excitment. – But the real excitement was that someone more than a prophet had come.

When Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, crowds hailed him not as a prophet but also saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David” (21:9,15). Who is this? He is the Son of King David. Royalty. Messiah. Prophets often spoke to Kings. Jesus is King. Prophets often troubled Kings but no prophet before was ever called King. No wonder the political establishment in Jerusalem, king Herod, Pilate, and all their court were concerned. It is one thing for someone to prophetically preach to the king. It is quite another thing for Jesus to arrive in Jerusalem and announce that he is the king! Jesus not only courageously, prophetically spoke the truth. He is the truth! He did not just talk about God. He is God. In Him, in this Jesus of Nazareth we can get close to God. Jerusalem had come to the parade thinking that they would see a prophet, a great spokesman for God. Before the Palm Sunday parade ended, they had seen God.

That’s what we need. Even those of us that don’t know that that’s what we need. We need to see God. We don’t need more good advice, challenging words, sermonic scolding, or moralizing. We need God Himself. That is who we want to see. And that is who we can see in Jesus. In this one who rides into town on the back of a donkey. God has come to us because we were unable to come to Him. Now Jesus shall do for us that which we cannot do for ourselves. And when he dies on the cross, on Good Friday, at the end of this week, Matthew says that the whole world heaves. For Jesus is doing something enormous, cosmic. When he dies, at the end of this week, Matthew says that the veil in the Temple, the veil separating us from the Holy of Holies, was ripped from top to bottom. The veil separating us mere mortals from the living God. It was ripped because in Jesus, we are brought close to God; nothing will anymore separate us from the love of God (Rom.8). . . . That is why, seeing him, moving in parade toward us and our need, we also are moved from asking “who is this?” to a singing shout, “Hosanna in the highest!”

This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him. 

If he says ‘I and my Father are one, listen to him!

If he says, ‘you that have seen me have seen the Father’, believe him!

If he asks you, ‘Who do you say that I am?’, answer him, You are the Christ the Son of the Living God!

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