Today a journey begins. Churches around the world will have palm Sunday processions similar to procession in the 10am service around the South western corner of Torrens Square. But this short journey is symbolic of a much more profound journey, many journeys in fact:
- The journey of Jesus from the back blocks of Galilee to the big smoke of Jerusalem
- The journey from synagogue to temple
- The journey from the last supper to the heavenly banquet
- The journey from Pilate’s residence to king Herod’s palace
- The journey from Praetorium to Golgotha
- The journey from the cross to the tomb
- The journey from the empty tomb to the incredulous disciples
- The journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus (and back again)
- The Journey from creation to redemption
- The journey from despair to hope
- The journey from death to eternal life and salvation in God
We may have reflected on this journey of Holy Week many times in our lives, but I never fail to find it is different every year. Perhaps because I come to it differently each year, and this story of Good News reaches me wherever and whenever I am in time and space to touch me in new and inspiring ways if I am open to receive it.
They say a week is a long time in football, and Nathan Buckley is probably thankful for that (with a Collingwood win this weekend). But a week in football has got nothing on the week that is Holy Week. For two Billion Christians around the world, this week is a week like no other. It is the week which holds the deepest mysteries of our faith for us. It is a week of historical drama following the last days of Jesus’ earthly life, but it is a week that is not bound to past history, but stands beyond history too – filled with a truth that is always present to us.
Today is Palm Sunday. Jesus enters Jerusalem humble and riding on a donkey. This is not a neutral observation. This is a powerfully symbolic fulfillment of a prophecy that was well-known to the Jewish people – The prophecy that a new king of Israel, a Messiah, would arrive like this (humble and riding a donkey) was widely known. Matthew’s Gospel highlights more than any other that Jesus is the fulfillment of Old Testament hopes. Fourteen times Matthew introduces a quotation from the Old Testament with a similar formula about fulfilling what was spoken through the prophet.
Today’ reference to Zechariah is the twelfth of those fourteen references. Interestingly the quote from Zechariah is a mis-quote! Zechariah says “Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a cold, the foal of a donkey.” In Matthew’s Gospel the words “triumphant and victorious” are left out. Was he just forgetful or is this perhaps a little message (a hermeneutical key if you will) to tell us that this is not necessarily the king we are expecting. The Crowds spread their cloaks on the road reminiscent of the welcome of King Jehu in 2 Kings 9:13 (the king who ridded Israel of Jezebel and Ahab) but Matthew does not specifically mention Palm branches which are associated with Jewish Rebel leader Simon Maccabaeus and his defeat of the Seleucids (1 Maccabees 13:51). Again reinforcing the point that this is a different type of king.
Still, regardless of the clues Matthew is giving the reader of his Gospel, The crowds that day in Jerusalem were filled with expectant fervor. We hear them cry out with words from psalm 118 “Hosanna (save us)” and “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.”
What did the disciples and the crowds expect that day? From what I have said, we know that the crowds would have put a lot of symbolic store in what was happening. Much is often made of the crowd’s messianic expectation – that they were expecting a savior who would overthrow the Romans and restore Jewish political rule. No doubt there was that expectation in the air, but as with any crowd of people there would have been a range of expectations. Maybe some were filled with hope for a Messiah but perhaps others were just looking on in curiosity, some were maybe just out for a good time, going along for the ride and seizing the chance to go a bit wild, maybe some were skeptical, some incredulous that this country yokel was being cheered, maybe some were a bit bemused and confused. Certainly some were antagonistic.
In similar way, we all come to this Holy Week from a range of personal experiences. We may have found this Lenten season to be a good time to reconnect with God, we may be feeling grounded and in touch with God or we may be feeling rushed and distracted or perhaps we are feeling we’ve done all this before and what else can I possibly learn. We might be feeling a bit cold or luke-warm in our faith. We might be fired up and ready to be inspired into action. We may be sad, or joyful or ambivalent or something else altogether.
However we come to this day and this Holy Week, from whatever viewpoint we stand in the crowd as Jesus goes by, this Jesus is for you – for each one of us. This journey of Holy Week is not a journey to watch from the outside, this is your journey. As we walk with Jesus, we carry all our hopes and expectations for our lives, all our burdens and struggles, all our joys and pleasures, and we hold them in the light of Christ.
Walking this path through Jerusalem to the cross and to the empty tomb is the touchstone of our faith. It is the heart of the Gospel, the “good spell”, the good story by which all our life’s stories are read and find their place. For us today, all we need is the willingness to be in the crowd with an open mind and heart. To have a voice to cry “Hosanna” save us… For blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
Ven Andrew Mintern 9th April 2017
Continue viewing more sermons in the 2017 Series of Easter Sermons by Ven Andrew Mintern