Jesus is in Bethany. He has just raised Lazarus from the dead. It would probably be an understatement to say that they are awed and amazed by this occurrence. It was without a doubt the most amazing thing that had ever occurred. So they hung around. It was a huge party, with people laughing and singing and dancing. They had had just has a funeral for this guy and now they were celebrating his life, because . . . because he is not dead. And Jesus was there, they wanted to spend some more time with this man who could raise a man from the dead. The the next day when Jesus set out toward Jerusalem, they followed him. It was a giant moving party and it was heading to the city.
As you can imagine with a thing such as this, word travels fast and news of their coming arrives ahead of them in Jerusalem and people gather. So you have the crowd from Bethany, ushering Jesus down into the city. Meanwhile another crowd begins to the line the streets and is waiting for them. The mobile celebration is very quickly turning into a spontaneous parade. The partying massed enter town, the crowd that is waiting for them begins to sing, Hosanna, Hosanna and greets Jesus as their King. Meanwhile Jesus finds a donkey and decides to ride it. In this middle of all this some Gentiles are hanging around on the outskirts of the celebration and ask if they too can see Jesus.
Jews from Bethany, Jews from Jerusalem and a bunch a gentile's from Galilee, all wanting to see Jesus, celebrating, waving palm branches and singing a song to welcome their king into town, with Jesus riding on a donkey. It seems everyone is in on it. But the Jewish religious leaders don't get it. The disciples don't get it until much later. But the crowds know exactly what they are doing. They are welcoming their king into the city.
As we wound our way through Lent, we followed the events of Jesus' last night here on earth. In John, Jesus is tried for treason for claiming to be king of the Jews. And Jesus himself admits that he is king of a kingdom that is not of this world. Here we are a week or so before those events and we have the crowd from Bethany, the crowd from Jerusalem and some Galilean Gentiles all welcoming Jesus into the city as their King. And John tells us that they got it right. In the end Jesus tried and convict for being their king.
The religious leaders don't understand what is going on or who Jesus is. Jesus' own disciples only understand the events of this day in retrospect. But the crowds they get it right, here on this day. They see the amazing things Jesus has done, they hear that he is coming and they see through the veil, to who he really is. He is the messiah, God's anointed, and they welcome him into the city in a manner they feel is fit for who he is and what he is coming to do.
They might not completely understand what all must occur for Jesus to come into his kingdom. They may not exactly know what it means for Jesus to be the messiah, but they clearly recognize him for who he is. And greet him as such. Celebrating his arrival in Jerusalem and hopeful for what he might bring.
The Jewish religious leaders, the chief priests, those who spent their entire lives studying scripture did not get it right. The men who would eventually be the leaders of the Church, did not understand what was going on until later, but the every day people on the streets, they got it. They saw what Jesus was doing, they heard what he was preaching and they understood. They knew who Jesus was and they knew that he needed to be welcomed into the city as their king, as their messiah. They may not have understood that he was going to die. They may not have realized exactly what Jesus's kingdom was or what it looked like, but they knew Jesus. They knew what he had done for him. They understood what he was teaching them. And they saw who he was, even when those closest to him did not. Even when those who had studied scripture and were looking for him, opposed him, they knew he was their long awaited king, God's anointed, the Messiah.
I am going to tell you something, Bible scholars, and theologians, and yes, we pastors, don't always get it. We may know the correct theologies, we may understand all the right ways to talk about difference between initial and entire sanctification. We may be able to explain, salvation, justification, regeneration, and adoption, and point out the work of prevenient grace in a person life. But sometimes when it comes to actually seeing Jesus for who Jesus is, we miss it. We can't see the forest for the trees, or the Jesus in all the theologies. We get it right when it comes to so many things, but so many times, someone who has walked the life of Christ for more years than I have been alive, understands so much better, sees so much more clearly than I can, perhaps ever will. And more often than not faithful followers of Jesus can teach us pastors, teachers and theologians so much more than we can read or write in our books.
I spend so much of my life, reading and studying scripture. Every week I spend hours reading what people have thought and said about a particular passage. Every week I spend hour upon hour thinking and praying about the sermon passage. And each week I come to you armed with the knowledge I have gained, knowing that in the midst of all the reading and studying thinking and praying, that I have heard a word from the Lord and hoping that I am able to bring that word to you, so that through me you can hear God speak to you each week. It is one of the many humble tasks we pastors and preachers take on each week.
But let me tell you something, we do not hold the market on understanding Jesus. Jesus is not the possession of the learned and the studied, of the pastors and the leaders of the Church. Jesus is almost always best understood by those who see him, by those who have heard him speak to them, by those who have felt his touch on their lives, by those who have seen what he has done and in knowing him, have come to know him. Jesus belongs to the people of Bethany who saw him do an amazing thing among them and could not contain their joy. Jesus belongs to the people of the city, who hear he is coming and gather to sing praises, to worship and welcome him into their midst. Jesus belongs to the outsiders, hanging out on the fringes of it all, who just want to see him, to have a chance to get to know him. Jesus belongs to the every day believers who get up each morning, knowing they love their Lord, desiring to follow Jesus, come what may, and gather each week in in his presence with the desire to know him more.
Palm Sunday is when the crowds get it right, Palm Sunday is when the regular people see Jesus for who he is. Palm Sunday is celebration of you. It is here to remind me that that I don't always gets it, that I do not always have all the answers, and to remind you that sometimes you do. More often than not it is those who live faithfully following Jesus every day, who pray and read your Bibles more faithfully than I will ever know, who truly know who Jesus is, who truly understand what it means to live the kind of lives Jesus calls all of us to live. Today is a celebration that sometime the religious leaders get it wrong, but the people, the worshiping, celebrating, Jesus praising people get it right and we all have a lot to learn from their faith, from their celebration, from their words and their songs. So let us all see them, all of them, and hear them when they say, ““Hosanna!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.”
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.”