After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They said, “The Lord needs it.” Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”
Imagine the day. It is your typical hot, dry, dusty, day. Jesus has traveled over the area many times. Remember that time he visited the Mount of Olives before? The people were nice and welcoming… well for the most part. This day is different. Christ knows it is different, but the disciples, like most of the time, have no clue. Jesus is well aware that this will be his final journey into the city. Just a few chapters earlier in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus proclaims, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem you who kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you...” He knows what is waiting, he knows the end of the story.
The Messiah knows this will be his final journey into that city… into the places that kills and stones those who are sent to help it. But he continues his journey…his journey from the Mount of Olives and into the city gates. This is not your typical hot, dry, dutsy, day.
On this day Christ gives precise directions to his disciples. As an odd bunch, the disciples are known for questioning Jesus. Jesus knows his instructions but be exact. So he tells two of them, to go ahead, to go ahead to the little town, the suburb if you will, outside of Jerusalem. To enter into that city and find the colt… “Make sure it has never been ridden!” he reminds them, and then he tells them to untie it and bring it back to the group.” Jesus sends two disciples because the roads are treacherous, dangerous, and filled with thieves and criminals ready to harm an unaware traveler. With two of the disciples sent ahead, they are less likely to be harmed.
With directions in hand the disciples leave the group, they find the colt, and they untie it. When asked why they are uniting the colt, they give the correct response “the Lord needs it” they reply. They are permitted to take the colt back to the group traveling with Jesus.
When the two who were sent for the animal return, the other disciples lay their outer cloaks on the donkey. Then they place Jesus on the animal to ride into the city.
A large crowd has accumulated. Why, You may wonder? They have heard about the manner in which Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. They are interested to see the guy who had preformed some amazing miracles. One woman in the crowd leans over to her friend, “you know, that is the guy who brought Lazarus back from the dead.” “What?” the other woman replies, “You mean Mary and Martha’s brother was dead? But I just saw him the other week?” “That is what I hear,” says the first woman, “I herd that Lazarus was dead and that this man who is coming to town today raised him from the tomb.” Yes, the crowd has gathered; some out of curiosity, some out of amazement at what they had already seen, and some nosey gossips are there to find out if the rumors were true. With this crowd, there are also those who are with the government. There are those who are trying to manage the large group of people, we would call “crowd control.” There are religious leaders who are worried about the hysteria surrounded this guy from Nazareth, and then there are the Pharisees.
And so, Jesus rides in the midst of all these people. After seeing the disciple’s throw their cloaks on the colt that the Messiah is triumphantly riding, others start throwing their cloaks on the ground in front of the animal. It is almost like Jerusalem is “rolling out the proverbial red carpet” for Jesus.
The crowd is welcoming him back, back to the city that he just recently left. They are welcoming this man from Nazareth and his group of misfit friends. As Jesus nears closer to the city the crowd gets thicker. Neighbors have told neighbors that Jesus is about to enter into the city gates. Everyone has come to watch has he enters into the city gates on the hot, dry, dusty day.
As they approach Jerusalem the disciples start to praise God. They begin to remimber all the wonderful things their teacher has done and they start to praise the Lord, the Creator of all.
All of the sudden someone first says “Hosanna, Hosanna! Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” Then another individual mentions the words “Hosanna, Hosanna! Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.” Before long the crowd is chanting the words “Hosanna, Hosanna! Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna, Hosanna! Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” Even the little children are shouting “Hosanna, Hosanna! Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” Can you hear the noise? Can you hear the excitement? Can you see the people lay their cloak down for the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords? Can you see Jesus, riding that colt triumphantly into Jerusalem knowing that the excitement and the praise will not last, knowing that this marks the beginning of the end, and knowing that the crowds will turn against him.
Can you hear the noise, the praise, and the excitement? Over off to the side of the road there are those who have never understood…those who have questioned the miracles and the teachings of Christ all along. They do not like the crowd; they do not like the noise. They do no like the excitement. Our gospel lesson tells us that Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” Surely if the disciples are quiet, the crowd will calm down as well. The Pharisees think, “this man is drawing too much attention to himself, this crowd is out of control, this needs to stop! Now!”
No the noise will not stop and the crowd will not calm down. This is the Messiah that is entering Jerusalem. The Son of God, God incarnate is riding that colt through the city gates. The noise will not stop, the cheering will not end, and the praise will not subside. Because even if it did, the stones will praise the one who Creates, Redeems, and Sustains. Creation will praise the incarnate God if the crowds do not. This is the Messiah and the Messiah has entered Jerusalem. If the crowds stop praising the one who will save them, then creation will praise the Creator of all! No the noise will not stop. Not today and not for eternity.
Can you hear the noise? Can you see the crowd? Like, Christ, we all know it will not last. We know the same crowds who shout “Hosanna! Hosanna! Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna! Hosanna!” will soon yell “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Can you hear the noise?
In the midst of this celebration, we know the journey is not over. We know the path that lies ahead of our Lord. We know that the shouts of praise will turn to angry voices of the mob willing to kill our Lord. We know that our Savior will walk up the steps to the upper room and eat a final meal with his disciples. We know that our Lord will be betrayed by a close friend and will be denied by a confidant. We know that the journey to the cross is a long one that begins today. Can you hear the noise, can you hear the excitement? Enjoy it today, because it is short-lived. Can you hear the noise?
Please join me in prayer…
Oh God who redeems us, meet us in this place as we seek to follow you into Jerusalem, through the trial with Pontius pilot, and to the cross. In the middle of all of the noise in our life; let us hear the soft whisper that beckons us to come and draw near to you.