A Victory Parade unlike Any Other! (Luke 19:28-40)

Posted: March 27, 2013 in Uncategorized

If you’re even the slightest bit interested in sports, you know that this weekend marked the start of one of the year’s biggest sports events – typically called “March Madness” for its exciting games, surprise finishes, and buzzer beaters; the NCAA College Basketball Tournament is underway.

And so, on Monday, April 8, a National Champion will be crowned, the iconic theme song “One Shining Moment” will be played and one team will celebrate their spot at the top of the college basketball world.

And then they’ll return home as champions.  Their home town will throw a victory parade.  Fans will line up on the sides of streets that serve as the parade route, shouting for the team’s attention, hoping to get a glimpse of the championship trophy, maybe even an acknowledging glance in their direction.  The cheers of adoring fans will be so loud that they’ll be heard from miles away.

If you’re a fan like me, then maybe you even tuned in last Sunday evening when the brackets were announced on CBS.  Perhaps you watched with eager excitement to see where the Michigan Wolverines would play or who would be Michigan State’s first opponent.

No doubt there were certain amounts of cheering when the pairings were announced, especially for those teams whose tournament futures were less-certain than others.  However, I’m not sure that there were any ticker-tape victory parades thrown last Sunday.  I’m not sure that fans lined the streets to cheer their teams for making it into the tournament. To use an over-used cliché, throwing a victory parade before any tournament games were even played would be “putting the cart before the horse.”  Even in this world of star athletes making guarantees of victory, you just don’t throw a parade until that victory actually happens, because nothing is certain.

That’s what makes the scene of today’s Gospel reading so surprising.  This wasn’t just your everyday, ordinary trip into Israel’s capital city for Jesus.  This was his trip towards his final battle in the spiritual war for mankind’s soul; yet before the final battle was even fought, here was Jesus riding in to Jerusalem on his victory parade!  And what a parade it was: in fact, it was a victory parade unlike any other.

You know the scene and the back-story.  Jesus and his disciples were heading to Jerusalem, like so many other Jews, to celebrate the most important of Jewish religious festivals – the Passover.  As Jesus and his disciples gathered outside Jerusalem, on that famous mountain known as the Mount of Olives, Jesus gave a few instructions to two of them.  Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden.  Untie it and bring it here.

That might seem a bit of a strange request from our Savior.  It might seem that he’s almost encouraging “borrowing” something that didn’t belong to him.  Yet, knowing that Jesus never committed any sin, we can understand that a few possibilities might be more realistic.  Perhaps, Jesus was good friends with the colt’s owners; they might have even some of his disciples.  Maybe, Jesus had even set up a little arrangement with them, and had asked them ahead of time if he could borrow their colt for just this purpose.  Finally, however, it doesn’t really matter, does it?

Jesus even prepared his disciples for the answer they were to give.  If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?, tell him, ‘The Lord needs it.’

And so the disciples did just as they were told.  And imagine that – despite any skeptical thoughts they may have had, everything was just as Jesus promised.  There was the colt, tied up as Jesus said.  And sure enough, as they were untying it, its owners asked them what they were doing.  And what a surprise, they even allowed them to borrowed it as they responded the way Jesus told them to!

Fast forward to the top of the Mount of Olives where these disciples had brought the young donkey to Jesus.  Watch as Jesus’ disciples remove their outer cloaks – likely their finest pieces of clothing – and lay a few of them across the donkey’s back to create a make-shift saddle.  Watch as the others lay their outer cloaks on the dusty, dirty, rocky road ahead of Jesus.  Others cut palm branches and laid them down, too.

And as Jesus’ began making his way down the mountain, the word began to spread that Jesus was making his way into Jerusalem.  People from all over began to gather along the roadside.  Some had seen Jesus’ miracles: maybe they had been there for the feeding of the five thousand or the wedding at Cana; maybe they had heard of his miraculous healing, or his driving demons out of the possessed.  Some had probably even come from the nearby village of Bethany, where not too long ago they had been grieving outside the tomb of Lazarus when Jesus miraculously raised that young man from the dead.

Now, they gathered, hoping to catch another glimpse of their favorite teacher.  One by one, voices joined together until the shouts became one: Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna!  Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!

As faithful Jews, they had likely memorized the Old Testament promises regarding the promised King of kings, and they knew this scene looked familiar.  The whispers in the crowd may have aided their memory: remember what the prophet Zecheriah said?  See your king comes to you…riding on a donkey, on a colt – the foal of a donkey.  Do you see what this is?  Here’s the one we’ve been waiting for! 

But I don’t think that they really understood the significance of this victory parade for Jesus.  You see, he wasn’t riding into Jerusalem as a king; he was riding into Jerusalem as the Savior-King.  He wasn’t riding into Jerusalem to fulfill their wildest dreams – be it freedom from Rome, a daily supply of their basic desires and wishes, or the restoration of glory days long-gone.

No, Jesus – as the Savior-King – was riding into Jerusalem to fulfill their deepest need.  And so, he was riding into Jerusalem to die.  Jesus knew it; in the verses following today’s lesson, Jesus mourns the Jewish rejection that would happen four days later.  Yet he rode in anyway.

Why? Because he knew that this was a war that we could not win.  Try as we might, the stage was too big and the task was too much to handle.  We were overmatched and dead in the water.  So Jesus mounted that donkey, rode into Jerusalem through cheering crowds – all to make his way toward’s Calvary and his death.  As the Apostle Paul once wrote in Romans: at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Yes, Christ rode in to Jerusalem this Palm Sunday so many years ago that he might lay down his life – the ultimate sacrifice – in order to win the spiritual war for your soul and mine.

But this isn’t the way that you would imagine for a Savior-King riding on his way to war!  In times of war, Kings rode war-horses, not donkeys!  But Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey was a symbol of peace. You see, donkeys used for the everyday tasks of transporting grain or plowing fields, tasks more often during times of peace than times of war.  So what’s the Savior-King doing riding a donkey on his way to war?

You know that answer too.  It’s because the battle was as good as done already!  Yes, from the very moment that God promised our salvation in the Garden…even now as Jesus’ rides into Jerusalem…the end result was never in question, but always as good as done!  Why the Palm Sunday victory parade?  Because from God’s perspective, victory was already won and in hand!

It was that victory which was announced at Jesus’ birth, where the angels sang words similar to those shouted by the crowds lining the streets for the Savior-King.  Thirty-three years earlier, the angels sang, Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests above the hills outside BethlehemVictory was just as certain then as it was here on the path down the Mount of Olives; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!, the people shouted as Jesus made his way into Jerusalem. 

Had the Savior-King’s enemies remembered this, then perhaps they might have been cowering in fear instead of bold in defiance.  Yet, the devil even then was at work, using the religious leaders of Israel to come up with bloated charges false charges of religious blasphemy.  Even now, the Savior-King’s enemies plotted his death while dreaming of their own victory.

But any victory that they imagined would be short-lived.  For on this day, from the back of a donkey, surrounded by waving palm branches, the Savior-King announced victory over his enemies – a victory for you and for me! A victory that meant peace in heaven; peace between God and man.

This Thursday night, as the altar is stripped and words sung which remind us of our Savior’s abandonment in the Garden of Gethsemane – remember that he had already held his victory parade!  As we remember our Savior crucified on Golgatha, the blood, the agony, the suffering of hell which he endured – let us remember our Savior’s victorious ride into Jerusalem!

Yes, he rides into Jerusalem this morning to declare the war won for you and for me! It’s in the bag!  It’s a victory parade like none other: The Savior-King is victorious before its even begun!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Amen!

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