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An unbroken, borrowed colt and a festive procession so noisy if Jesus said anything, we can't hear it above the Hosannas!--it's Palm Sunday, but what does it all mean?
When they [Jesus and his followers] drew near Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples; He said to them, "Go into the village opposite you; and as soon as you have entered it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has sat. Loose it and bring it. If anyone says, 'Why are you doing this?' say, 'The Lord has need of it,' and immediately he will send it here."
They went their way, and found the colt tied by the door outside on the street, and loosed it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their clothes on it, and He sat on it. Many spread their clothes on the road, and others cut down leafy branches from the trees and spread them on the road.
Those who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: "Hosanna! 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!' Blessed is the kingdom of our father David That comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!"
And Jesus went into Jerusalem and into the temple. When He had looked around at all things, as the hour was already late, He went out to Bethany with the twelve.
Mark 11:1-11 NKJV, condensed
The Beginning of the End
Jesus and company approached Jerusalem from the east, coming first to the Mount of Olives overlooking the bustling city which was streaming with pilgrims who had come for the Passover festival. After walking all the way from the Galilean countryside, Jesus wanted to ride the last mile or two on a donkey. Not on any old beast of burden, but just the right one. He had a specific colt in mind and, after giving them the password, sent two of his disciples to fetch it.
Within a few short days, Jesus would be dead. With dying comes urgency, so we can assume everything said and done in his last days will have added purpose and meaning. These chapters are full of sacred symbolism. Notice how carefully Jesus instructed his disciples regarding the mount he wanted. It tells us something important is going on here; it's a message we should not miss.
God's good news is about the miracles of birth, new life and new beginnings. It's also about surprises and unlikely happenings. Just as the young woman, Mary, who had never known a man, gave birth to Jesus and delivered him into the world, on this day the "virgin" is the unbroken foal of a donkey. It would deliver Jesus into Jerusalem at the hour of his impending death.
The two disciples returned with the colt, their mission accomplished without a hitch. Then they made a saddle with their coats. Jesus swung himself onto the jackass and they proceeded down the hill toward Jerusalem's eastern gate. Onlookers, happy to see Jesus again, joined the spontaneous parade. With clothing and branches they laid down a carpet for the donkey, and with shouts of joy they proclaimed the rider blessed of God. Whether knowingly or not, they were literally doing what the prophet Isaiah had instructed, "Prepare a highway for our God."
There's something sad and pathetic about this scene. These people wanted God to rescue them from the domination of the Roman empire. They wanted a show of force, a miraculous deliverance. But Jesus wasn't charging in on a gilded chariot pulled by a team of magnificent stallions. He came in meekness, appearing too large for his lowly mount.
If the city dwellers asked who this was that disturbed their peace and created such a disturbance, they would not have been impressed to hear it was Jesus, the prophet from Galilee. Nothing good had ever come out of that poor country town of Nazareth anyway.
Kings possess power and authority. What did Jesus have to show for himself? Whenever he needed something he had to borrow it from someone else! To the unbiased observer he appeared no more impressive than he had as a babe in the manger in Bethlehem.
The hosanna chant is the dream of the ages and translates into "Save now!" Yet God's salvation would not come at the point of a sword, but with a sacrifice. Jesus came to save, but not in the way people expected it. "Save now!" meant something entirely different to Jesus than it did to those speaking the words. His kingdom was not an earthly one, but a heavenly reality within the heart and spirit of those who believe in him and do what he commanded.
We, today, watch this parade from a broader perspective. We know that while the followers of Jesus shouted with joy and raised expectations, there was another group planning an opposing agenda, one that would condemn Jesus to death. Regretfully, many of the same people who yelled "Hosanna!" were part of the disillusioned crowd who also cried "Crucify him!" on Friday.
The two groups converged that week to settle the matter. Jesus' troops scattered and fled. The opposition said they took Jesus' life; he said he gave it. The lifeless body of Jesus was placed in a new sepulcher where no one else had ever been laid. And yes, on the third day we know that God was still at work in our world because that virgin tomb delivered a new life, our risen Lord.
Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further study or reflection.
Icebreaker: Recall a situation in which it was too noisy for you to talk to the person next to you.
Two disciples were given donkey detail: Find the untamed creature; untie it like horse thieves while telling onlookers the Lord needs it; then look foolish while trying to persuade the stubborn animal to walk to where Jesus was waiting. How does that scene compare to some of the tasks you have tried to accomplish for Jesus' sake?
How could Jesus guide an unbroken colt, without the benefit of stirrups or saddle horn, over a clothes-strewn roadway through a boisterous crowd with palm branches waving and everybody shouting noisily? Describe the scene from the point of view of the disciples, the crowd, the colt, the public safety people, and Jesus.
Jesus entered Jerusalem with a very unique mission on his heart and mind. In your own words, explain what his mission was about. How did the details of his entrance symbolize who he was? What would you have done differently?
The text from Mark includes no words from Jesus except instructions regarding the colt. Luke included a rebuke from the Pharisees to which Jesus responded that if the people kept quiet the stones would cry out. What did Jesus mean by that?Matthew said the use of the donkey fulfilled the words of Zechariah 9:9--"Behold, your King is coming. . . ; . . . lowly and riding a donkey." Do you think Jesus chose to ride a donkey because of that Scripture?
Is there anything about the Palm Sunday experience which reminds you of the Christmas or Easter stories?
King David was a warrior king; Israel's enemies were God's enemies and he subdued them with the sword. According to Jesus, who or what was the enemy and how would that enemy be destroyed?
In Webber and Rice's show, "Jesus Christ Superstar", the lyrics go like this: "Hey sanna, ho sanna, sanna, sanna, hey sanna, ho sanna sanna sanna , ho sanna, hey sanna, Hey, hey JC, JC won't you smile at me. Jesus Christ, if you're divine, turn my water into wine. Prove to me that you're no fool. Walk across my swimming pool. Hey sanna, ho sanna, sanna, sanna, hey sanna, ho sanna." Is this a good rendition of the Palm Sunday chant? Why or why not?