28 After Jesus had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 As he came near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples ahead, 30 saying, “Go to the village ahead of you. When you enter it, you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it here. 31 And if anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you will say this: ‘The Lord needs it.’”
32 Those who were sent ahead went and found things just as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?”
34 They said, “The Lord needs it.”
35 Then they brought the colt to Jesus. They threw their robes on the colt and set Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their robes on the road. 37 As he was approaching the slope of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began to praise God joyfully, with a loud voice, for all the miracles they had seen, 38 saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord![b] Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
39 Some of the Pharisees from the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
40 He replied, “I tell you, if these people would be silent, the stones would cry out.”
I’ll admit it. I’m not a big parade goer. Perhaps this dates back to the fact that the only parade I ever really remember attending as a kid was the annual Fourth of July parade in my mother’s home town of Bonduel, Wisconsin (population: 1,478, by the way). The marching band was always pretty good. And the candy being thrown your way was even better. But my general attitude was that once you’ve seen one farm implement chug it’s way down Green Bay St. in downtown Bonduel, you really didn’t need to stick around for the next twenty. So parades have never been my thing.
But parades can and do serve a good purpose. Many parades are held to honor important milestones. They help us remember important events from the past. When all of our veterans on the sides of the streets would stand up and salute our flag when the Bonduel marching band played the national anthem at the Fourth of July parade, that helped us to remember things which had happened in the past. It helped us to remember the sacrifices which many made so that we could be a country which enjoys freedom and peace. If parades help us stop and remember things like that, well, maybe I should have been more willing to put up with all the tractors rolling down the road. I’m not going to lie: when you were eight, the candy was still the best part.
Almost two millennia ago, on a Sunday morning this time of year in the spring, a parade broke out on a road leading up to the east side of Jerusalem. This was no meticulously planned parade-at least it wasn’t planned out by the people who lined the streets that day. No, in many ways it was an impromptu parade-a spontaneous celebration meant to honor a king who was entering Jerusalem. That parade took place on Palm Sunday, and person being honored was our Lord Jesus. And just like many of our modern-day parades, this Palm Sunday parade helps us to remember. It reminds us of who Jesus is and what kind of a king he came to be. Furthermore, the events of this Palm Sunday help to prepare us for the amazing things we’re going to see Jesus doing for us during this coming Holy Week.
You know, the way this Palm Sunday parade started tells us and reminds us of some extremely important truths about who Jesus is. Jesus had spent the day previous to Palm Sunday in a little town outside Jerusalem called Bethany. That’s where Mary and Martha and Lazarus lived-Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Jesus rested on the Saturday Sabbath Day with Mary and Martha and Lazarus and spent Saturday night there at their home. And the next morning-Palm Sunday morning- the events of this Word of God before us started to unfold. It says that, on that Sunday morning, Jesus “sent two disciples ahead, saying, ‘Go to the village ahead of you. When you enter it, you will find a colt tied on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it here. And if anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you will say this: “The Lord needs it.’ Those who were sent ahead went and found things just as he had told them. As they untying the colt, its owners said to them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’ They said, ‘The Lord needs it.’”
You know, I said before, that the Palm Sunday parade was an impromptu parade. The people who lined the streets later that day to see Jesus hadn’t been waiting weeks for that parade day to arrive. No, they simply showed up that day when they heard that Jesus, the great miracle worker, was approaching Jerusalem. They hadn’t planned it. But Jesus had been. In fact, he made plans for this parade in an amazing way. Jesus told his two of his disciples to go into the next town; he told them exactly where they should go and exactly what they were going to find when they went there-a colt tied up on which no one had ever sat. Jesus even tells them the exact question which is going to be asked of them when they take this colt. And when the owners of the colt raise the obvious question, “Why are you untying the colt?,” Jesus tells the disciples exactly what they are supposed to say, and the two disciples take that donkey and just go on their merry way. And it happens exactly like this.
Guys, Jesus hadn’t made a midnight scouting trip into the next town over to scope out the scene and draw up a plan for the next day’s transportation into Jerusalem. Jesus tells his disciples that this is what you’re going to find in the next town, and these are the people that you’re going to meet-he tells them that because Jesus sees everything all at once. And he sees the future. Because he is the omniscient, the all-knowing God who is in control of all things. And if he always sees everything like he did on Palm Sunday and if he is in control of the circumstances of life like he was on Palm Sunday, then we can know that we have a King, Jesus, who always sees us, who knows our every circumstance, and who is always working to fulfill his gracious will for us and in us. So many times it seems like life is spinning out of control. We might be tempted to think that we’ve been left on our own. No way. Jesus sees you and he’s working in the circumstances of your life to help you. He’s that sort of a king. He’s a king like no other.
In fact, he also demonstrated that by the fact that he rode a donkey into Jerusalem that day. No other king would have ridden a donkey, at least not in Jesus’ day. There was a time in history when royalty rode on donkeys, but that was all the way back in King Solomon’s day. That was 900 years before Jesus walked the earth. No, by Jesus’ day, all kings rode on horses-war horses, mighty stallions-a status symbol of their power. So why would King Jesus, the all-powerful and all-knowing God, ride into Jerusalem on a donkey?
For starters, because that’s what the Scriptures had predicted, right? We heard the words of Zechariah the prophet in the First Lesson today. The Old Testament prophet Zechariah lived over 500 years before Christ was born. But he, by the power of the Holy Spirit, predicted exactly how Jesus would enter Jerusalem on this Palm Sunday. He wrote: “Look, (Jerusalem)! Your King is coming to you. He is righteous and brings salvation. He is humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” This Palm Sunday parade during which Jesus rides on a donkey reminds us that Jesus came into this world to fulfill a mission. Jesus was the God-man on a mission. His mission was to fulfill everything the Old Testament Scriptures said the Savior would do-even right down to the most seemingly inconsequential details, like his mode of transportation into Jerusalem. But Jesus was riding into Jerusalem on this Palm Sunday to fulfill the greatest and most significant things which the Scriptures said the Savior would do.
It would happen later on during this week that we call Holy Week. You know, Jesus may have been hailed by the crowds outside Jerusalem as a king on Palm Sunday. The palm branches which the crowds waved and the garments which they laid down on the ground in front of Jesus demonstrated the deep reverence they had for him. But later on this week, Jesus wouldn’t be looking much like a king. Oh, he’d be dressed like a king as he would stand on trial before Pontius Pilate, complete with a crown on his head and royal robe on his back. But the crown was a crown of thorns meant to torture him and the purple robe was a joke meant to mock him. Jesus is our King. But on Good Friday, he will not sit on a throne of glory. He’ll be nailed to a cross of shame.
Because this is the kind of King Jesus is. He’s the king of the universe who created the universe and who has all the power in the universe and who sees all things and knows all things and controls all things. But our King came to this earth to set aside his crown of glory to wear a crown of thorns, a crown of shame. He came to wear our shame. To take our sins on himself. Jesus came and “humbled himself and became obedient to death-even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:8) Because he’s the king of love.
See, I think that’s another reason why it’s so fitting for our King Jesus to ride a donkey into Jerusalem. He rides an animal whose purpose in those days was to carry heavy loads. The donkey was a beast of burden. Jesus is riding into Jerusalem on a donkey because he rides into Jerusalem to carry a burden, a heavy burden, for us, on our behalf. He’s going to bear the burden of our sins on the cross. Because we could never carry them on our own. They’d crush us. Eternally. But Jesus bore that burden for us because he’s that devoted to us. Because he wants us to live with him. Eternally.
In fact, I think that’s the final reason why our Lord chose a donkey to ride for his Palm Sunday parade. Like I said before, kings in Jesus’ day typically rode on horses in Jesus’ day. They were symbols of power. But the other thing about horses is that they were associated with warfare. They were the animals which ancient warriors rode into battle. But donkeys? Donkeys were animals used during peace time. In times when a people was at peace, the donkeys would pull the plows during planting time and donkeys would carry the crops during harvest time. They didn’t have combines like at the Bonduel Fourth of July parade. Donkeys were animals for use during times of peace.
Jesus was most certainly travelling up to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to fight in a war. He was about to take on our sins and the death we deserve for our sins. He was about to do battle with the devil. But Jesus won that war. He did pay the price for our sins. He did defeat the devil. The victory’s been won. The proof comes next Sunday morning at an empty tomb. And because of the victory which Jesus wins over our enemies this week, well…the people lining the streets during the Palm Sunday parade had no idea how spot on they were. They shouted to Jesus, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Because of Jesus, the war is over. We’re living in a time of peace-peace with our God, a peace which surpasses understanding, a peace which will last forever in heaven. Thank God that you’ve got a King like Jesus. May our Lord bless us as we continue to worship him during this Most Holy Week. Amen.