John 12:12-19, NIV
12 The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast
heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 They took
palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, "Hosanna!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is
the King of Israel!"

14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written,
15 "Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is
coming, seated on a donkey's colt." 16 At first his disciples did
not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they
realize that these things had been written about him and that
they had done these things to him.

17 Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from
the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the
word. 18 Many people, because they had heard that he had given
this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. 19 So the Pharisees
said to one another, "See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how
the whole world has gone after him!"

 

March 27, 1983
It was rather like a parade, going up toward Jerusalem. A gravel road
surface with some larger stones sticking up for travelers to avoid.
Packed down hard from much travel. Dusty and dry. A few palm trees
and bushes along the way. Close to the city, therefore a few houses
and farm buildings in the background.

The pilgrims who had come to the city for the Passover Festival
intended to give a royal welcome. When they heard he was coming,
they came out to meet Jesus with palm branches in hand. How many?
The roadway is crowded and people spill over into the fields. Scrambling,
pushing, holding hands so as to not get separated. I think there was
fascination with his disciples, too, and people wanted to touch them also.
Lots of dusty feet stirring up more dust. Dogs, sheep, maybe other
animals add to the mix.

Noise, confusion, lots of questions about what was happening. Jesus
usually walked, so why was he riding on a colt? The rider was too large
for the little animal. No saddle, just garments draped over it. Matthew's
version says a donkey accompanied the colt, that would have a calming
effect. Someone leading the donkey, probably Andrew. The colt, with
Jesus on it, following its mother. Peter and the disciples shouting at
people to keep back so they can get through.

In their excitement people made a palm branch carpet for Jesus to
travel on. With momentum building, they start hailing Jesus variously
as "Messiah", "King of Israel", "Blessed", "Coming in the name of the
Lord." These people were really enjoying themselves. Some got very
emotional; others, mostly watched and pondered what it all meant.

Joyful excitement is contagious. More and more people started singing,
shouting about God's salvation, raising their hands toward Jesus,
dancing along the road, trying to keep up. Some would gather whatever
greens they could, run ahead and put them down on the road again.
They would shout as Jesus passed by, spend a second or two in
wonderment and awe, and then repeat the process.

Jesus wasn't healing or teaching. He wasn't giving anything away. He
was simply receiving from the people. Possibly he had planned this
event, wanting to give people an opportunity to praise and act out
their feelings for him. Jesus knew he was advancing toward his death,
and he loved these people. They received him so eagerly and without
the hard-nosed attitude of the Pharisees. Yet they were fickle and
easily swayed. Like innocent children, like sheep who have lost their
shepherd and are looking for someone to lead them. When Jesus
died a few days hence most of them will be shocked but their
memories may be short lived. They'll soon move on to something
else. How could Jesus get them to lift their eyes to God, everyday
and wherever they are, with a faith that will last a lifetime?

Even though it may seem shallow, they gave Jesus what they could,
and he accepted their praises and love. Children were there, men
and women, and the elderly for whom it's difficult to keep up with
the young ones. Jesus had compassion on them all and wanted
them to know and experience the steadfast love of their faithful
heavenly Father.


November 5, 2011
Beyond all that, the gospel writer wants us to know there was a much
greater significance to everything that is about to happen to Jesus.
Jesus is in control. No one is doing, or will do, anything to Jesus which
is not part of some already decided upon plan. The quote he used to
illustrate this is from an Old Testament prophet who lived hundreds of
years earlier. This is the first of many such quotes we will read as we
follow Jesus through the week of his passion.

Back in the fifth century before Jesus was born, Zechariah foretold a
king riding into Zion on the colt of a donkey. At the time this event was
happening to Jesus, these words of Zechariah were not on the minds
of the people. Only later did the followers of Jesus begin to search the
ancient scriptures with an eye to finding words and images which
described the life and experience of Jesus. The result of all these efforts
is supposed to serve as proof that Jesus was who they claimed he
was--God's Messiah, sent to save all people from their sins.

"Only after Jesus was glorified . . . " John frequently connected some
form of the word "glory" to the death of Jesus. It might sound odd, even
a bit outrageous, to say that anyone's death was, or is, glorious, but
Christian teaching declares the death of Jesus and even the death of
the "saints" glorious. Death is not the end, but the beginning; not defeat,
but victory. When the old is passed away that is good news because
then all things become new. Nothing in this life can compare to what
God has in store for those who believe. Just this past Sunday in church
I heard these phrases: "We feebly struggle, they [the saints] shine in
glory."; "We live as ones who go forth to die and die as those who
go forth to live."  Well, that might be how we are supposed to view
death, but when a loved one departs this life, reality speaks a different
and sadder language.

The Pharisees in this story are representative of all who live only for this
life and fail to grasp the concepts Jesus taught about him being the light
of the world, a spring of water welling up inside of us that never fails, the
bread of life, the good shepherd, and finally the resurrection and the life.
These words add a spiritual quality to our earthy life, and lead us on to
life that is eternal. The Pharisees saw only what was happening before
their eyes, and it wasn't moving in their favor. Blind to the glories of God,
they thought it ridiculous to associate any kind of eternal exuberance
to Jesus.

The Pharisees were quite modern, actually. Many people today agree
with them that the life of Jesus held no special value.

They looked at the events on the day we refer to as Palm Sunday, and
see "the whole world gone after him." In their minds, this man must
surely be stopped. Passover or not, adoring crowds or not, they must
end the charade.

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