Friday, 14 March 2008

Palm Sunday 2008

Matthew 21:1-11

It is often noted that Jesus could have come into Jerusalem as a conquering warrior.

It was what people desired: the hero, the Messiah: the one who would evict the Romans, who would solve their problems and give them what they wanted.

But Jesus chooses instead to come into Jerusalem riding on a donkey.

And in doing so, Jesus declares three things

1. That he is Messiah, God's King who is coming to God's city in order to reign.

He fulfils the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 - which says that the Messiah will come riding on a donkey
And he receives the people's praise: if there is anything ambiguous about the riding on a donkey, there is nothing ambiguous about the people's praise. They are acclaiming him descendant of David, the greatest King in Israel's history; David was the prototype for the Messiah who is to come. And so the people declare Jesus to be King and Messiah: "Hosanna to the Son of David"

2. The nature of his kingship

- that he is the fulfilment of all the prophecies in the Old Testament.
- that he comes in righteousness (that everything about him is right: he is the right person doing the right thing at the right time in the right way in the right place) in order to bring salvation.

The Jews understood salvation as being deliverance from the Romans.
Jesus understands salvation as being deliverance from sin and death.

3. That he has come in gentleness:

He has come for the crushed and the broken
He has come for the people who feel so weighed down by guilt, self-condemnation, by the condemnation of others, by the burdens that we impose on ourselves or have imposed on us.
The Jesus who rides on a donkey is the Jesus who has compassion on people, who forgives, who heals, who gives hope
He will not rule by fear or compulsion. As Romans 2:10 says, "It is the goodness of God which leads us to repentance"

So his transport of choice is not a war horse, but a donkey.
His place of birth is not a palace but a cowshed
And the symbol of his rule is not a sword, but a cross.
And the currency of his government is not fear or self-interest but love.

It is not easy to reject an all conquering warrior with a sword.
It is, however, quite possible to reject a ruler who comes riding on a donkey.

The religious and political leaders, those who had most invested in this world, do reject him.
But his disciples and the children receive him.

And the Jesus who rode into Jerusalem is the same Jesus who comes to each one of us.

He does not come to force us to receive him.
He does not come with a sword.
He comes in gentleness

There is a verse in Revelation 3:21, where Jesus says, "Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me". He could blast the door down, but he doesn't. He stands outside and knocks. He waits for us to respond.

Of course we need to remember that he comes to us to be our king, the one who rules our lives

We need to submit to him. And there are many times when he asks us to do things that we would not choose to do. There are times when obedience is painful. But we remember that his rule is good and gentle. He will not overburden us. If you feel that your faith is overburdening you, then you have put onto yourself burdens that he would not have you carry.
We need to praise him - why? Is he like some sick human ruler who gets kicks out of other people telling him or her how good she is? No. We need to praise him because we praise what is good. If we do not praise what is good, then we are pretty sick people. And Jesus is the good of good.

Jesus comes in gentleness, humility and love.

That is why he serves and reigns not from a throne with a sword, but - as we will see in the second part of this service - from a cross with outstretched hands.

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