‘They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,’Hosanna!’ ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ […] So the Pharisees said to one another, ‘See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!’’ John 12:13,19
We arrive at the beginning of Holy Week, the most important week in the year and it is extremely sad that we cannot gather together to reflect on Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. But whether we are together or whether we are apart each one us can reflect upon the events of Holy Week and consider afresh what it means to follow Jesus. And we begin this holy week by observing those who are quick to hail Jesus as king. As we have studied our way through the first part of this Gospel we have been seeing the ‘signs’ of who Jesus is: God come to earth. God who comes to give healing, and joy, and life to those who will accept Him and who will follow Him. All the way through our studies we have seen the crowds and the disciples puzzling over who Jesus is, and just when they think they know, Jesus does something unexpected. Jesus is a faithful Jew, but He spends time with sinners! Jesus is a powerful healer from God, but He heals on the Sabbath! Jesus loves God’s Law, but criticises those who try to make others follow it as the elders taught! Jesus pays taxes to Cesar, but commands His disciples to call no one ‘Lord’ except God Himself! Jesus just doesn’t fit the box, or wear the label people expect Him to. ‘Who is He?’ ask the disciples. ‘Who is He?’ ask the crowds. And finally, in today’s reading everyone thinks they have finally got their answer.
For a long time, the Jewish people have been waiting for the Messiah, the one of King David’s line, who they thought would sweep in, destroy the enemies of Israel in mighty battles, and bring peace and happiness to the land. One of the places they looked to in the Scriptures was Zechariah 9:9 which prophesied that people would recognise this Messiah, this king, for they would see Him entering Jerusalem on a donkey. And when Jesus sits himself on a donkey, quoting from the prophecy of Zechariah (v.15), well He couldn’t be clearer. The crowds cut down palm leaves - a symbol of Israel - and lay their cloaks on the road, and proclaim, v.13: ‘Blessed is the king of Israel!’. Here comes the Messiah, and the crowds are ready for the victory lap before a shot has even been fired. ‘Here is our king’ they say, ‘we will follow Him anywhere’. But in a week’s time, the voices that shouted ‘Hosanna’ will be shouting ‘crucify’ once they realise that Jesus is not the king they wanted, or the king they expected. Jesus has come to serve, not rule. Jesus has come to die, not kill. And the crowd want none of it. And, if we’re honest, in much the same way, we too find ourselves shouting for Jesus on a Sunday, and then turning our backs on His way of living on a Monday. We’re happy to follow Jesus when life is easy, but when life is hard … not so much. And that’s why we need to reflect afresh on this passage - especially in these difficult times - and to ask ourselves the tough question: who is my king? Is it Jesus, or is it really myself? And looking our selfishness in the face, we should then confess the times we have put the crown on our own head, and once again kneel and throw our crowns at Jesus’ feet. Having done that in our hearts, we are then called to get up and begin again to serve the world, beginning with our next door neighbour and those on our street. In these times of lockdown what that means in practice is extremely restricted. But one way we can serve is to pray. Pray for our church family, pray for our street, pray for our schools and pray for our nation. King Jesus commands us to pray for His world, not just on Sundays, but everyday, and the question we’re left with after reading our passage is ‘will we obey’. This week, let’s be praying like we’ve never prayed before, and showing ourselves, and our families, who really is the king fo our lives. Amen. (from Rev. Mike)