28 After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.
29 When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, 30 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. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” 32 So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 They said, “The Lord needs it.” 35 Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36 As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road.37 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, 38 saying,
“Blessed is the king
who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
and glory in the highest heaven!”
39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”
Luke 19: 28-40 NRSV
The Gospels have some very intriguing contrasts. In this week’s pericope, we find Jesus riding humbly into Jerusalem. We know from the other Gospels that there were crowds waiting to welcome Him. They all wave palm branches and proclaim the Good News of the King’s arrival at the prompting of the Disciples.
Even more interesting is when we read and share this particular story. It’s true that the Passion narrative follows a distinct track of events, but it’s also quite intriguing that we read a story of celebration in the midst of Lent.
Because, you see, Lent is about decrease and reverence. The invitation to enter the spiritual wilderness alongside Jesus and contemplate the complexities of life, the missteps, the world, and our place in it. We hear stories of temptation as satan tries his best to deter Jesus from His ministry and tries his best to pull us away. We hear stories of miracles with deep theological implications and applications.
We get shaken to our very core as the Spirit of God confronts us with a mirror challenging us to change who we are and focus more completely on the mission of God in the midst of a broken and hurting world.
We know what is coming soon after Jesus arrives. Many a tear has been shed at a Good Friday service over the crucifixion and killing of Jesus. We know where this Lent journey goes. We know that the Cross stands upon the hill like a haunting shadow slowly following behind Jesus in all he says and does.
And yet, we have Palm Sunday. We have a parade. We have jubilation. We have excitement. We have joy. Between the desert and the Cross, we have nothing short of a party that the whole city of Jerusalem is invited to.
And what we find is that Jesus takes every step He can to arrive humbly, but the crowds and the Disciples will not allow it. They boast and cheer on their King as He rides in on a donkey as the embodiment of peace.
This part of the story is a reminder of two things. First, Lent is not all about struggle. Lent prompts us into repentance, but it also calls us to much more: it calls us to celebrate. Our relationship with God is not simply pleading and apologizing, it is much more.
Because God answers.
God does not leave us in the vulnerability of our sin. No, God responds. God responds with grace, and mercy, and love. God responds by wrapping the naked vulnerability repentance brings us to with a Robe of Love.
This brings us to the second part of this portion of the story: God answers prayers. God answered the prayers and pleas of the Jewish people and Christ came into the world. At a time when they were celebrating the Passover and all the political and divine waters it brings, Jesus rides in and invites the Jewish people to party.
We can sit here all day and rattle off the allusions to Jesus that we find in the Old Testament. The spiritual starvation of the Jewish people time and time again left them hungry and desperate for their true King and Savior to arrive.
And here He was.
God answered God’s people.
God answers us.
The question is: Are we willing to celebrate this or bury it under the sands of grief?
Because that’s what we do, isn’t it? We preach on the Pharisees plotting against Jesus, Judas betraying Jesus, the arrest and trial of Jesus, and the coming result of His entrance into Jerusalem. We rarely give Palm Sunday its due as a celebratory event.
Maybe we have gotten overcome by the narratives that have defined our lives and our churches. There is a time for regret and shame for the death of Christ. However, this should not overshadow our walk. There should be ample room for celebration, joy, and parades in our lives.
The fact that this event occurs five days before the crucifixion is God’s reminder of that.
So take a moment today to celebrate the arrival of the King and the joy He brought into your life when He arrived. And He keeps arriving. And He keeps coming into the city of our hearts. And He constantly calls us to celebrate in the Light.
Dust off those Sunday suits.
Shake the sand out of your shoes.
The King has arrived.
Hosanna in the highest!