THINKING ABOUT CUSTOMS.
There are many customs from biblical times that make little sense in today’s world…
Extreme example….(2 Samuel 13:19) Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the ornamented robe she was wearing. She put her hand on her head and went away, weeping aloud as she went.
Tearing robes something terrible has taken place
Hand on head expressing grief or punishment
That’s where the idea behind Ash Wednesday come from (ASHES)
Sacrificing animals as a form of worship
Circumcision – I am so grateful that we don’t have that as a requirement for church membership
But some customs we do understand
Communion and baptism being two ancient customs – we have given them a new meaning in light of the Churches experience of Christ, but they still reflect much of the culture of the day
Today we are looking at a custom which does translate – a parade
Parades are something we are all familiar with –whether it be Anzac Day or the local Santa Parade – we’ve all seen them and experienced being part of the crowd. (SANTA PARADE)
EVERYBODY LOVES A PARADE
Wonderful scene to pause on – who doesn’t like a parade,
What’s more it a parade with a donkey – “who doesn’t like donkeys?”
And palms – the 1st century equivalent of helium balloons – who doesn’t like balloons
Maybe the image of a Santa Parade fits in well –
After all the inner examination of Lent, the reflecting on our humanity, the sacrifice, the preparation for Easter – it’s good to take some time out celebrate…
And this was some celebration – Jesus the Christ is entering the City
The Kingdom of God is among us
And wonder the people shout Hosanna – Save us – because they have recognized their sin
This parade is a celebration of God’s victory
Death where is your sting?
This is a Glorious homecoming – Yahoo for Jesus.
But I think we all realize that to see this Parade as a victory march is to put it a week to early.
Jesus’ mission isn’t yet finished by this point
There is no victory YET,
It’s a parade yes,
But its important for us to understand what sort of parade it is, what is driving the crowd,
To assume that they are singing hosanna – Lord Save us and putting them same meaning into it as we would makes no sense of the events that follow in the week leading up to the crucifixion
Parade yes – but let’s not jump to conclusions.
What sort of Parade was it – I guess the answer to that lies with the crowd how they read and understood the situation. (SMALL CROWD)
So who were the crowd, what were there expectations
Firstly we know they were largely Jews, though as John points out (12:20- ), among them were some Greek God fearers.
People who maybe did not want to subscribe to everything of Judaism but were judging by the fact that they were in Jerusalem for the Passover to all intents and purposes followers of God
Enormous crowd gathering for the Passover –
I guess then the fact it was coming up to Passover meant that the population of Jerusalem would have been big…
The background to the Passover is in Exodus 3:7 –
Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey…The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt.” The God who hears the cries of the oppressed. God rescues these helpless slaves out from under the hand of a foreign oppressor.
How did God do this…?
Well if you remember the story of Exodus God first sent 9 plagues down on Egypt and Pharaoh said NO – 9 times (PLAGUE)
He said Yes when God took some extreme measures and allowed the Angle of death to descend on Egypt and kill every first born Son – the Jewish first born sons were spared because they had marked their door posts with the blood of a new born Lamb.
The angel would see this and PASSOVER. (PASSOVER)
So the Jewish people would once a year they would gather at a time called Passover to celebrate their Freedom –
But we know that the Jews of the day weren’t free – far from it
The Romans were in charge and ruled over Jerusalem. (MEDIUM SIZED CROWD)
And The Romans had a Governor – Pilate – Pontius Pilate,
Pilate’s job was to keep order to ensure that the Jews knew who was boss.
In Luke 19:39 we have one of the Pharisees asking Jesus to quiet the crowd Down – Jesus replies – “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”
The Pharisees want the crowd to quite down because they don’t want the Romans stamping down their authority.
As it was Pilate (the Roman governor) would probably have felt pretty weary about this festival anyway.
Think about it …
There was always a big mess to clean up,
Fights would break out,
And simply more people to govern and take care of during these times.
What is likely given the presence of Pilate at Jesus trail is that just as Jesus was walking into town from the south east, so to was Pilate marching in form the north west, with a message-
“Don’t mess with Rome”
It would begin with the roman eagle saying the Roman Empire is coming.
Behind the eagle would be the roman soldiers sending a message that resistance is futile submit or die.
Historians talk about Pax Romana – the peace of Rome – Rome (MAP) maintained peace through shows of power
Crucifying, flogging, and jumping on the back of anyone who would even whisper rebellion.
Everything is about power and strength and domination.
The roman army on the march evoked fear and terror.
They would march through your village to let you know who rules the world.
And Passover was about Freedom
Passover was to remind them that God hears the cry of his people when they are in trouble.
Given the Political situation of the Day PASSOVER had more meaning
Just as in the same way a man hanging of the cliff by a rope find a new meaning in the prayer – GOD HELP ME.
So with the Roman “jackboots” sitting on their necks the Jews would have discovered a fresh relevance in PASSOVER.
It wasn’t just a recollection of ho God had rescued them once before – it was a cry for help NOW,
it was a cry of RESCUE NOW.
The people sang hosanna – it wasn’t some nice praise and worship song –
it was a cry of help – SAVE US…
So the remembrance of PASSOVER had created a crowd,
The need for a new PASSOVER had swelled the crowd.
Add to that Gossip and the fame of Jesus and suddenly you have a major sized crowd –. (LARGE CROWD)
In this world Jesus is a celebrity the stories about him have been told far and wide and that has added to the number.
Try and picture it – the streets were full of people wanting change, wanting someone to save them – a messiah
Parade yes but probably more like this one… (G20 PROTEST.)
On a Day like this the Romans would have been outnumbered probably 30 -1,
Sure they have swords,
Sure they have body amour
Sure they have shields and horses
Sure they are strong,
But even with a sword could you hold of 30 people hungry for change – I doubt it
On a day like today the revolution could begin….
The Crowd just needed someone to lead them
And so they sing:
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord
Blessed is the coming Kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
Can you feel the tension rising…?
And along comes Jesus….
Ridding on a donkey…
And that is significant,
so significant that Mark spends half of his account describing how the donkey was acquired.
Firstly it’s significant because it’s a fulfillment of a prophecy
Zechariah 9:9“Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
Secondly it significant because a King to enter town on a Donkey was to say – I come in Peace
Remember I said at this time we probably have Pilate coming into town with his army in a show of power – I doubt he arrived on a donkey.
More likely a huge Stallion, snorting, kicking it feet in the air… accompanied by chariots, legions of soldiers – marching in line swords drawn
And Jesus came riding into town on a donkey
While Jesus is the Messiah he is no warrior Messiah
Yes the Crowd is looking for a messiah (BRAVEHEART)
But probably more a Mel Gibson Brave Heart Messiah who walks up to the pompous English and say’s “I’ve come to pick a fight”
A Messiah on a war horse not a messiah on a donkey
It was the wrong mode of transport for a political revolution
But precisely the right mode of transport for someone who would offer their life as a sacrifice to take away the sin of the world.
He simply did not meet their expectations
They couldn’t see how someone coming in peace would ever change the world,
would ever be there answers to their cries to God to save them
So we shouldn’t really be surprised when a few days later in the week the song changes
Hosanna (save us) – Crucify him
Give us Jesus – give us Barabbas
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord – cursed is the one who hangs on a tree
Yes a new power has come into Jerusalem – but it’s not what the crowd expected
Yes there cry of Hosannas – Save us will be answered God has heard the cries of his people
But As Dietrich Bonhoffer said before his death at the hands of the Third Reich in Germany"God allows himself to be edged out of the world and on to the cross....and that is the way, the only way, in which he can be with us and help us....Only a suffering God can help."The crowds on that first Palm Sunday wanted a Warrior King,
but Jesus came as a suffering Messiah.
Jesus came as one who would die on a cross for the sake of human kind.
The crowd missed the point.
What about us? Do we get it?
Do we see Jesus as the suffering Messiah who did turn the world upside down for our sake and continues to shape the world with his love and grace?