This is a copy of my talk given at the Family Service at Emmanuel, Billericay on Palm Sunday 2019.
It was an exciting time in Jerusalem at the time of The Passover Feast. Pilgrims were travelling from all over the world because the Passover was such an important festival. When the pilgrims travelled, they would sing Psalms along the way, such as Psalm 118: Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love endures forever.
People often do unusual things when they are excited don’t, they? It could be sitting in a crowd watching a football match – just as I did a few weeks ago when I went to Wembley to see Sunderland get beat on penalties in the Checkatrade Final. We lost but it was exciting. A friend of mine broke his ankle with his enthusiastic celebrations!
Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem and it was something to be excited about. The crowd gave Him a special welcome and placed their coats and palm branches in his path. What kind of man was worthy of a welcome such as this? A Prophet? Priest? King? Messiah? They didn’t fully understand, but Jesus was all of those things. The people started to sing: Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.
Jesus often called to people: ‘Follow me.’ We know the disciples followed Him and crowds of people followed Jesus into Jerusalem too. I want to think about some of those people who were present. To think about why they were there and where we might have fitted in.
The first group we meet are Jesus’ Confused disciples.
Jesus insisted on riding into the city on a young donkey which two of the Confused disciples had gone to fetch earlier that morning. As Jesus rode on this donkey, crowds of people joined with the Confused disciples, all shouting and throwing their coats down on the road. There had been plenty of crowds before, but not shouting and singing about Jesus being the King who comes in the name of the Lord. So what was going on?
Kings don’t ride on donkeys they ride on thoroughbred horses. It was as if Jesus had ridden into town on a rusty BMX bike, instead of a red Ferrari!
The Confused disciples had been following Jesus for nearly three years. They went everywhere with him and couldn’t imagine life without him. And whilst they knew a lot about Jesus, there was a lot they didn’t understand. What was taking place in Jerusalem was very confusing for them. These disciples were very Confused.
The Pharisees and religious leaders had been watching Jesus with growing suspicion and were often Critical of anything, and everything, Jesus did. They never knew what this ‘teacher’ would do next.
They were worried that the crowds seemed to believe in Jesus. As Jesus came closer, some of the Critical Pharisees asked him if he was going to tell his followers off for singing and shouting that he was the Messiah, but all he said was: “If they keep quiet, the stones would cry out instead!” What on earth was that supposed to mean? If the people didn’t proclaim him king, creation would!
Wherever Jesus was, the Critical Pharisees were never far behind. They wanted to see what he would do and say next. They weren’t really following him, but trying to trick him or catch him out. All the Critical Pharisees could do that day in Jerusalem was criticise.
Curious Donkey Owner
We don’t know if this man was in the crowd, but the owner of the donkey must have been very Curious even shocked when two men came into his yard and untied his youngest donkey without asking permission or anything.
When the Curious Donkey Owner asked them what they were doing, the disciples simply said: “The Lord needs it.” As far as we can tell, the Curious Donkey Owner didn’t object. Maybe he already knew Jesus or had heard about him.
But in Jerusalem, everyone must have known about Jesus. That’s why the crowd gathered so quickly. The stories about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead and feeding 5,000 and healing the sick would have been very well known. The Curious Donkey Owner must have been wondering, along with many in the crowd, about what Jesus was going to do next. You can imagine the people telling each other: “Jesus is in town, Jesus is on town.”
There may be some of you who are Confused. You’ve been following Jesus for some time, but there’s much you don’t understand.
There may be some of you here who may have a Critical attitude towards Jesus, the church, other Christians, but that’s because you’ve never responded to Jesus’ invitation to follow him.
There may be some here who are Curious about Jesus and who he is; why did he come; and would like to know him more.
Whoever you are, young and old alike, Jesus, calls you to follow Him on his journey through Holy Week. We have lots of different events taking place, all of which will help you to follow Jesus more closely.
Read my article When I Survey The Wondrous Cross