When I think about Jesus’ final trip to Jerusalem, I am always amazed at his courage. Sure, there were those who welcomed him as a king on that Palm Sunday. But even his most vocal supporters didn’t really understand yet what it meant for Jesus to be the promised Messiah. And everyone else either didn’t care or actively wanted Jesus dead. I’ve never been too sure “triumphal” was the best word to describe Jesus’ final entry into Jerusalem.
Now, jump ahead 2000 years. Who does Jesus find when he rides into town on Palm Sunday 2010? Well, things have gotten a bit more complicated over the years, but “the more things change, the more things stay the same.” We’re just as confused today as they were then. Only this time, instead of a few confused disciples and a handful of angry Pharisees, Jesus will find atheists and agnostics, secular humanists and scientific creationists, protestants and Catholics, and liberals and conservatives… just to name a few. Is it any wonder Luke tells us when Jesus drew near and saw the city he wept over it, saying, “Would that even today they know the things that make for peace.”
Knowing the ignorance and anger present (just among his own disciples!), who would have blamed Jesus if he had chosen to walk away from it all? But, of course, he didn’t. That’s the whole point.
Jesus rode right into the middle of all of that confusion and violence just as he does today. He could do this because his purpose went beyond all of the power plays of the people around him. He rode in as a king, but a king unlike anything his disciples had ever imagined. He didn’t find his victory in the praise of his followers or in the power he had to influence them, but in complete obedience to the will of God.
Luke tells us when Jesus finally got into the city, the Pharisees told Jesus to rebuke his disciples, presumably for all of the excitement and disruption they were causing by their celebration. Jesus’ response to the Pharisees at this point marks the powerful climax of the story. He says, “If these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” (Having been to Israel, I can tell you Jerusalem is a very stony place!)
This Sunday, we remember Jesus’ final entry into Jerusalem on the first day of what would later be celebrated as Holy Week. We will join our voices – with the stones if necessary – in bringing praise and honor to the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings. See you there.