Palm Sunday – April 10th 2022

Welcome

True and humble king,
hailed by the crowd as Messiah:
grant us the faith to know you and love you,
that we may be found beside you
on the way of the cross,
which is the path of glory.
Amen

 

Prayer over the Palm Crosses

 

God our Saviour, whose Son Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem as Messiah to suffer and to die; let this Cross be for us a sign of his victory and grant that we who bear them in his name may ever hail him as our King, and follow him in the way that leads to eternal life. Through the same, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

Worship

Confession

We are sorry, Lord Jesus, for the moments
when our hosannas are loud but lacking in love,
when we chase the lure of worldly power,
but miss the signs of heavenly glory
when we choose popularity over integrity,
when we would silence those who speak the truth
and are silent when we could speak out.
Forgive us, and inspire our steps as we follow you to the Cross…
and beyond.

Amen.

 

Assurance of Forgiveness

God of all that is,
your power is both mighty and vulnerable,
and you both judge and forgive.
Your son is both King and servant,
and he both teaches and serves.

You hear our words and you understand our silence
and you both accept and inspire.
Loving God,
thank you for this day,
for this journey,
and for your Son who draws us closer to you.

Amen.

© ROOTS for Churches Ltd (www.rootsontheweb.com) 2002-2022. Reproduced with permission

Word

Jesus Comes to Jerusalem as King

28 After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30 “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’”

32 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”

34 They replied, “The Lord needs it.”

35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.

37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:

38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”[a]

“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”

40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

John
18:1-8

Reflection

Luke 19:28-40

 

I really love the account of Jesus coming into Jerusalem – what we now call the Triumphal Entry. It appears in all four Gospel accounts – Mark 11:1–11, Matthew 21:1–11, 14–17, Luke 19:28–44, John 12:12–19 – and, though it’s a deceptively simple narrative, it is rich in symbolism and promise. There is an amazing picture of people heralding the Messiah, the promised one of the Jews – Jesus being recognised for who he is. But this is also tempered with the reality of misunderstanding and confusion.

 

So leading up to this narrative Jesus is coming from Jericho, after meeting Zacchaeus and Blind Bartimaeus, etc, etc. Jesus and the disciples spend the night in Bethany with Lazarus, Mary and Martha, close to Jerusalem before proceeding in 5 days before his eventual crucifixion and meeting the crowds ahead of him.

 

The Gospel accounts do bring out different aspects, but overall the narrative has several  common elements:

  • Jesus rides a donkey into Jerusalem (Matt 21:1–7; Mark 11:1–7; Luke 19:29–35; John 12:14).
  • As Jesus approaches and enters Jerusalem, crowds and/or disciples spread cloaks and/or branches on the road (Matt 21:8; Mark 11:8; Luke 19:36; John 12:13).
  • People shout praises and blessings, enthusiastically embracing His arrival (Matt 21:9; Mark 11:9–10; Luke 19:37–38; John 12:13).

The picture, then is of a huge band of excitable followers accompanying a Galilean peasant riding a donkey into Jerusalem. In other circumstances this could be understood as a parody.

Fulfilling Prophecy

But within this picture – there are specific signals pointing to who Jesus is. Approaching Jerusalem, Jesus says to 2 of his disciples “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here.”

 

It’s this description in Luke and Mark, along with direct quotes in Matthew and John as well as mentioning specifically that it is a donkey, that lead to the connection with Zechariah 9:9.

 

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!

Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!

       Behold, your king is coming to you;

righteous and having salvation is he,

       humble and mounted on a donkey,

on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

 

In the Septuagint this would have been rendered as a new foal ie: one that had not been ridden. This linking back to Old Testament sacrificial requirements – “an animal that is to be used for a sacred purpose should not have been put to any profane use”.

 

The implication from all of this is that as this donkey had not been used in an ordinary manner, it was fit to function in a sacred capacity, carrying the king, Jesus, into Jerusalem and to the temple – echoing those words of Zechariah and fulfilling prophecy.

 

A Hero’s Entry

 

The words spoken by the crowd as they see Jesus riding in “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the lord” indicate that they have associated the actions of Jesus—requesting an unridden donkey and riding it into Jerusalem—with the arrival of the kingdom of David, regardless of whether they perceive the echoes of Zechariah  9:9 in Jesus’ actions.

 

The gospel writers depict the triumphal entry as the arrival of the kingdom and king at Judaism’s most significant royal and religious location. They present Jesus as the prophesied king of Zech 9:9 and His arrival in Jerusalem as an important event in the timeline of his work and future events. Of course, we as readers of the Gospels know, and based on Jesus’ previous predictions (compare Matt 16:21; 17:12, 22–23; 20:17–19; Mark 8:31; 9:30–32; 10:32–34; Luke 9:22, 44; 18:31–33), the welcome Jesus receives is almost ironic, given the outcome of his journey to Jerusalem

 

Jesus hero-figure entry into Jerusalem would have brought the standard welcome of governors and generals astride war-horses to the minds of the people. More than that, to the Jewish mind the crowds are enacting something reminiscent of the greetings for rulers in Old Testament and intertestamental times. For example – 2 Kings 9:13 and the anointing of Jehu as king of Isreal:

 

13 They quickly took their cloaks and spread them under him on the bare steps. Then they blew the trumpet and shouted, “Jehu is king!”

 

Therefore this entry is linked in their minds with the re-establishment of the kingdom of Israel and military victory over the Romans.

 

A Messiah’s Welcome

 

We read together at the start of our meeting this morning from the pilgrims psalm. This we customarily sung during ascent to the Temple Mount. This psalm thanks God for deliverance and victory in the setting of a processional to the sanctuary.

 

The language that is picked up – the call of God to save and reference to ‘he who comes in the name of the Lord’ – is deliberately messianic. The crowd’s statements about Jesus deliberately echo those statements found in the psalm. Psa 118:25–26 (compare Matt 21:9; Mark 11:9–10; Luke 19:38; John 12:13).

 

The people were praising God for the miracles they had seen, and were deliberately using this messianic language of Jesus. They exclaim ‘peace in heaven, and glory in the highest’, echoing the angels at the birth of Christ. This multitude seems to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ, the King who is to come. So much so, that the Pharisees call on Jesus to correct and rebuke them himself. To which Jesus responds that if not them, the stones themselves would cry out – the messiah promised in history was being made known to the nation.

 

Understanding and Misunderstanding

 

Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is royal, triumphant, but we know how the people will turn against Jesus, even without reading the whole passion story this Sunday. We know that many in the crowds who hail Jesus as king on this Sunday will be crying out for his crucifixion by Friday. There is a disconnect between the expectation of the crowd and what was to happen. Their reading of events and their own hopes and dreams drew their understanding away from what was in front of them. They were arguably looking for something Jesus is not promising – and they soon dissipate over the week.

 

The original context of the prophecy of Zechariah is important, since it tells of a king, who is characterized as righteous and having salvation, coming to Jerusalem. The king will bring peace to Jerusalem and the nations, and his rule will extend “from sea to sea” (Zech 9:10)

 

However, it is clear the crowds expectation of what Jesus intention is doesn’t align with the reality. Peace is also a key aspect of Luke’s presentation of the triumphal entry. Luke uniquely includes the detail that the disciples exclaimed, “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest” (Luke 19:38 ESV). This refrain echoes prophecy from earlier in Luke as we’ve already mentioned. (Luke 1:79 ESV, Luke 2:14 ESV). This kingdom of peace is one that will be enacted by the seeming defeat of crucifixion, brought about by the man riding a beast of humility and peace.

 

Jesus has come to the capital to be acknowledged as messiah, yes. But he is also there ultimately to die.  The crucifixion of Jesus was not an accident that caught him unawares while visiting Jerusalem. Rather Jesus understood and embraced what was to come – in fact he deliberately precipitated the events that would lead to his execution. He understood himself to be the Shepherd-King prophesied by Zechariah and openly assumed this role in his provocative triumphal entry into Jerusalem – laced with the concepts and ideas of the Old Testament, and re-factored in light of his own teaching, and supported by his foreknowledge of the minutiae to make it happen.

 

His reign as king is for a future day. (Psa 118:26 in Matt 23:39; Luke 13:35).

No Romans will be conquered this week, the kingdom of God in Jesus would not be immediately coming in power and being manifest on earth.

 

In fact, all the city has to immediately look forward to is it’s destruction in AD 70, as Jesus goes on to prophesy in the verses after our reading in Luke (19:41-44). It’s little wonder then that some of those cheering Jesus would no doubt join the Jerusalem locals in their disenchantment only 5 days later and call for Jesus crucifixion. Bear in mind too that these gospel accounts are written around 30-40 years after the events they describe, with their own adjusting of expectation.

 

Conclusion

 

One question we might ask ourselves is, “Where do we see ourselves in this story?” We have the advantage of 2000 years of hindsight, and it is easy to judge the characters in the story from a distance. But are we really so very different from them in getting things wrong and misunderstanding? How quickly does our faith falter when God does not deliver what we are expecting? How quickly does our discipleship falter when we realize the great cost and risks of following Jesus? How often do our self-serving instincts lead us to deny Jesus and his claim on our lives?

 

Luke’s passion story records a variety of human responses to Jesus — from faith and jubilant praise to mockery, hostility and violence. Yet throughout this story of vacillating human responses, of human blindness, weakness, and hardness of heart, one thing remains constant: God’s will to show mercy and to save. Without jumping ahead to the end of the story just yet, we can affirm that even in the midst of human misunderstanding, failure and falling, God is at work for good.

Witness

Lord, we commit ourselves to listen to your voice, to trust your word, to speak your name, to live for your glory and to honour you in all we say and do and are. For Christ’s sake Amen  

Dismissal

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord. In the name of Christ. Amen

Community

The community of S17 has drawn together during these unusual times in a very special way. This is reflected in the great work of the S17 COVID-19 Community Support group.

The group aims to support those in the community who may be in need and to provide a support network to the S17 community at this time.

“If there are needy people in our community let’s ensure we help them out with things like bringing shopping to their door.”

The Wardens of All Saints Totley have been producing regular newsletters with helpful links, thoughts and resources. The latest of these is here.

We have also started to add resources for the younger members of our church, to add to this virtual service. They can be found here, and here.

Reminder

If you have any feedback on this service or any other ideas, suggestions or contributions, for future services please do send these to comments@allsaintstotley.church