A Glorious Entry

Gracious and holy God, on this day when we celebrate Christ's arrival and triumphal entry into Jerusalem, help us to hold that in our hearts as we begin to prepare for Holy Week, more a time of difficulty than celebration. Fill our hearts this day as we await joy at the end of a Holy Week transformation. In Christ's name, we pray. Thank you, and amen!

What a glorious it must have been...Jesus arriving in Jerusalem preparing and living out this triumphal entry, this calling that God had placed upon his life. Jesus, recognizing what the prophet Zechariah had foretold, and recognizing in his own ministry that he was to be the servant savior, the suffering servant, fulfilled his triumphal entry in a way of meekness and humility, coming into town not the expected way for a king, which might be standing on the back of a fine horse or coming in a chariot with throngs of people celebrating the entry of a king. No, Jesus comes in a different way...according to Zechariah's vision, coming humbly on a donkey, the common animal of the common people. And yet he comes, bringing so much promise, bringing so much jubilation and glory. The expectancy of the coming one has finally drawn near.

For centuries, the people had waited for God's chosen one coming to deliver the people. And here he comes on this day with great fanfare, yet still in a humble manner. The people gather and the disciples lead them in spreading cloaks on the road and waving palm branches and shouting out, "Hosanna, hosanna; blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest heaven." It would have been nice to be there that day and to feel the excitement and the joy of people who have been waiting for too long, a people who had been through good times and bad, times of jubilation and times of great humility. People who had lived in bondage in other nations as part of their heritage now see the deliverer coming to restores Israel to its rightful place, bringing in the kingdom of God as promised. And here he is, and what excitement that must have been. If we only could have been there! But we also hear in our text that it created some sense of confusion in town, that people were not sure. Who was it? Who is this person who comes? He wasn't riding on a stallion; he was coming in on a donkey. And yet the people who were gathered were treating him as a king. A great celebration, a time of wonderment.

Now, those of us who have been to parades can equate with the idea of a parade as a celebration. And for us, that may have come in a variety of ways. Perhaps it was a Memorial Day parade or Fourth of July (Independence Day) parade where we recognize the sacrifices made and the great joy of independence. Perhaps it was a parade for a sports team that finally won that coveted cup or made the mark that we all hoped to see them achieve. You might think of teams arriving at the airport and being put into convertibles and driven through the heart of town with tickertape coming down and the people screaming. What a great celebration that must be. Or maybe the idea of the celebration of New Year's Day. Some places have a New Year's Day parade. We don't have that here in Taneytown, but you might see that on TV on New Year's Day...another time of great celebration, the possibility of new beginnings.

So we understand what a parade is and what a real celebration that is where we feel great joy. But the joy from those events is likely just as fleeting as the joy that was being celebrated that day when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on that donkey. Jesus, knowing what is coming, enters as the humble servant, the one who will suffer on everyone's behalf. And yet he rides in to town gloriously. And the people who were there soon fall away in the coming week. That energy, that joy and expectation of the one who is coming in the name of the Lord, incredible jubilation and celebration, wanes, and the people slowly begin to walk away until closer to the end when the disciples even run away, fearing for their own lives and safety. A remarkable change from the jubilant event that we celebrate today.

But one thing for the people then to recognize is something for us to continue to recognize today. Those people expected a messiah, one who was coming with force and power to restore the temple in Jerusalem, to give Israel back to the people and to have the Roman authority, who were oppressive with their taxes and the type of bondage that they placed on the people, to remove them and to restore God's glorious kingdom on earth at that time. And it didn't come in the way they expected. And maybe some in the crowd recognized that when Jesus didn't come in on a stallion or riding in a chariot without troops following him. Maybe that's why some might have moved away from the very beginning or were confused..."Who is this who is coming? This is not what we expected." But it is how Jesus brings about his final message and the final glory that God has to display. So it begins with jubilation.

The people who expected deliverance were people just like us, hoping, praying and expecting our deliverance today...deliverance from everything and anything. Deliverance from fear, from lack of safety, deliverance from higher fuel prices, deliverance from financial difficulty, deliverance from problems in our family and in our society. We are just as much looking for deliverance as the people in those times. And yet we know, with almost two thousand years of Christian history, knowledge and scholarship behind us, that Jesus was, and is, the one who brings deliverance. So it is appropriate for us to celebrate, to really emphatically celebrate what Jesus is doing because Jesus is bringing something that we know and trust in faith has been given to us...true deliverance. Our deliverance does not come through sports heroes or teams in their achievements. Our deliverance does not come through parades celebrating independence or memorials. Yes, they are important events, but that is not our deliverance today. Nor does our deliverance come at New Year when we all celebrate and say, "We can start anew," and come up with those New Year's resolutions that, probably by the end of January, are out the window already.

No, our deliverance does not come in that way. Even if fuel prices go down, we are still not yet delivered. Those are human ways and means of our expectations and our cultural values of how deliverance comes. Yes, it may make our daily lives a little bit easier if things cost less or if we feel a little bit more safe and secure in our nation, or if things in our families get better. But our real deliverance comes from the Lord. Our real deliverance comes from an event that began this day more than 2,000 years ago with the humble savior, a suffering servant who came not to be served, but to serve others. And when we recognize that and celebrate it and give ourselves the opportunity to hear Jesus' call to follow him, our deliverance begins. It begins in our following of him in actions that Jesus did. It comes in us not looking to human ways but to spiritual ways, divine ways in which deliverance comes. And it comes in humbling ourselves and instead of looking to be served, to be the ones who go out and serve just as Jesus did. We do that on Jesus' behalf. Then deliverance becomes real for us every day with each and every small action. And it can be done, I promise you. It comes not only through our actions, but God's blessing upon us as we continue to follow in the Spirit and to do what Jesus calls us to do. And the deliverance starts to layer upon us and our lives are changed and we begin to see God's glory.

So don't be bogged down too much in what is coming in this Holy Week experience. We all too closely can identify with suffering, pain, humility, injustice...and even righteous indignation. But good news and glory is coming in just seven days, but it begins with us now when we choose to follow Jesus. So let us do that and let us continue to celebrate throughout the rest of this service until we get to the Passion narrative. Let us celebrate that deliverance is not only coming, but has come in Christ.

Let us pray.

Gracious God, we thank you that your glory was made manifest to us in Jesus, that he could show us your true Spirit and that even in his absence from us, your Holy Spirit abides with us to help solidify these truths...that you love us and want new life for us today and always. Empower us to be servants of Christ in this world. Empower us to see with new vision the deliverance that is already among us and how, O God, you are reaching out to us with your blessing and with extra glory in your divine manner. In Christ's name, we pray.


Read other Sermons by Pastor Steve