1 When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, just say this, “The Lord needs them.” And he will send them immediately.’ 4 This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, 5 ‘Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ 6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; 7 they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!’.
This is the first Palm Sunday, or, the tenth day of the first month, the special day set aside for families to select their lamb for Passover (Exodus 12:1-3). This is also the day chosen by God for his Lamb, Jesus, to present himself to the people. Just as each Passover lamb had to be carefully examined for five days so that it might be found to be “without blemish” (Exodus 12:5), so during Holy Week Jesus will undergo the closest scrutiny and found to be “a lamb without defect or blemish” (I Peter 1:19).
The Gospel writer Matthew reports that on this day Jesus fulfills the ancient prophecy of Zechariah (Zechariah 9:9) of a humble king riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. The symbolism of Jesus’ actions on this day would have been obvious to everyone. When a king in the ancient world wanted to approach a city in peace, he would present himself at the gates riding a donkey and not a royal steed.
So picture Jesus, sitting astride a “young donkey,” his feet surely dragging along in the dust, as the embodiment of meekness and peace. He comes in gentleness and humility, not to make war with the Romans, but to make peace with God for his people.
The people are hailing him as Messiah and singing the Messianic song from
Psalm 118:26. They are crying out “Hosanna,” which means, “Save now!” But
the salvation they cry for is a salvation from Roman overloads, and not a
salvation from sin and the grave.
This next week, Holy Week, will bring an end to Jesus’ thirty three years of life. It will all happen on a criminal’s cross just outside the gates, cut off from the community. Precious few are they who will understand the meaning of this day. In just a few days the happy crowd will go from celebration to crucifixion.
But just for today, listen to the Palm Sunday crowd as they would have sung Psalm 118. Listen, and rejoice:
26 Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD. We bless you from the house of the LORD. 27 The LORD is God, and he has given us light. Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar.
And it is to the horns of that altar, to the cross, that we will go with Jesus!
Soaking in Scripture…
Today’s Andy Moments…