Couldn’t sleep last night. Finally, got up to pray and do my morning meditation early. Read my Bible – Luke 19:28-40 – The Triumphal Entry. I felt the need to write. The following is what came from God through my fingertips. At least that is the way it felt for me. It’s twice as long as my usual blog because I haven’t edited and polished it. I offer it to you as you head off for church on “Palm Sunday”.
How Did They Know About the Parade?
In the Bible the title for the story is “the triumphal entry.” We read about the preparations that Jesus and his disciples made. He sends two ahead to get a donkey for him to ride. Jesus has made his plans. He knows what he is doing. He will ride through the gates of Jerusalem on a donkey – the symbol of a victorious king arriving home from battle.
The roadway was lined with people waving palm branches, laying their coats on the road before him. As a teenager, I wondered, how did the people know he was coming? What did Jesus do to ensure that there would be a crowd to greet him? Today of course, Jesus would use social media. He’d put his plans on Facebook. His followers would post the story of getting the donkey with a picture. Surely Jesus would know the key words necessary so that the post would go viral. After all if politicians can do it, Jesus would be able to do it.
Back then, there would only be word of mouth. There would be no flyers to distribute. Most people couldn’t read. Yet the story says they lined the roadway. This was an important parade.
By this time Jesus had a reputation at least in the outlying areas. He’d been to Jerusalem before. And it was Passover. People were streaming into the city from all over the world. There would be lots of Galileans in the crowd. Many of them would have seen Jesus do miracles, heard him preach, at least heard of the raising of Lazarus. Those who didn’t know would be curious. The people of Jesus time were like us. If they saw something happening, people gathering, heard the noise and shouting, they would run to see what was going on. So Jesus had a crowd.
Some would be Jesus enthusiasts. Some would be curious onlookers. Some would be there to heckle, or criticize. According to the story most got caught up in the mood of the crowd. Most cheered and waved palm branches. After all this was a parade.
One of the neat things about the Bible is that it captures life on earth, not just 2000 years ago but today as well. The details have changed but the basics are the same.
This joyful, celebrating mob of people just one week later become the crowd that cries “Crucify him! Crucify him!” It’s the same now. Politicians certainly know that. Today the news media and the internet can be manipulated to swing the crowd from loving you to condemning you, almost overnight.
What then is the lesson in this age old Bible story? Is it a warning. Be careful. One mistake, one failure and you’ll be condemned. Your good name ruined. For sure that is truth but I believe it’s more than that.
Jesus was God with us. Surely he knew that the crowd was fickle. Up till now, he hadn’t planned big gatherings they had just happened. Why did he do this?
Theologian, James Taylor in his book Last Chance tells us, this parade marks the beginning of Jesus’ last chance to teach us about God’s love for us and God’s call to us to love others. The week we’ve named Holy Week is the week in which Jesus gave up telling and doing God’s love in order to live it totally. Jesus knew when he entered Jerusalem that last time he was putting his life at risk. He knew that he was surrounded by enemies. He knew when he trashed the temple. He knew with each step he took, each word he said that he was totally vulnerable to those who wanted rid of him. He went forward anyway. He loved us all and he wouldn’t stop trying to teach us how to love.
Jesus had to have that big parade in order for people to recognize him as he carried his cross to Golgotha, as he hung there in disgrace. He wanted the city to know who it was they were crucifying.
He wanted us all to know that he loved us so much that nothing we could do would tempt him to condemn us. He spoke the words of love from the cross – “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing.” He wanted his last words heard. He wanted his death to count and it did.
For 2000 years we have told and retold the story. For 2000 years we have heard his words of forgiveness; we have heard his love for the convict hanging beside him. For 2000 years, Christians have celebrated the fact that God’s love is with us.
Yes, we can never be good enough to earn God’s love but that isn’t necessary because God loves us as God’s beautiful children even at our worst. The rest of the world can continue to earn God’s love. That’s their choice. Our Christian Easter story tells us that God loves and accepts all of God’s creation, male and female, young and old, of every race and color, whether or not we know what we are doing. We can live in that confidence.
I’m sure glad the crowd was there to see the victory that Jesus lived that sacred holy week in Jerusalem.