Each year, our Palm Sunday tradition is to read the story of the first Palm Sunday, when Jesus triumph ally entered Jerusalem. This year, we read the story as it is written in Matthew, chapter 21, verses one through eleven. Please read along with me.
Proclamation of the Scripture Matthew 21:1-11
As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples,
saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me.
If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”
This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
“Say to Daughter Zion,
‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”
The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them.
They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on.
A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.
The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”
The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Here ends this reading of the word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
In 1841, Scottish journalist Charles Mackay published the book Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. His book was the first deep dive into the dangers of crowd psychology – people caught up in crowd-mentality often become carried away. Mackay talked about the Dutch Tulip Economic bubble of the 1630s when people became so obsessed with their tulip bulb expenditures until the entire market collapsed and ruined the finances of many people who got caught up in the buying trend. Mackay also wrote about witch hunts in Europe and philosophical delusions that led to people supporting alchemists and fortune tellers.
Some of us may have invested in Beanie Babies or Precious Moment figurines thinking we would eventually have a huge payout. But, the trend faded and people stopped lining up to buy the products, and our investments turned to dust.
On the first Palm Sunday, Jesus entered Jerusalem and a crowd surrounded him. The crowd grew and grew as it heard other people shouting and pandemonium breaking out on the streets of Jerusalem. They saw Jesus entering the city on the back of the donkey and believed him to be the messiah, which he was. But, Jesus didn’t do the things they expected the messiah to do – he wasn’t a warlord, he wasn’t a fighter, he wasn’t a zealot prepared to overthrow the Roman oppressors.
So, the crowd became carried away with their shouting and rejoicing, but they weren’t prepared for the reality of who Jesus was – Jesus came to earth to teach us about God’s love. Jesus came to earth to remind us to love each other, even the people who don’t fit in or are different than the norm. Jesus came to earth to tell non-Jews, and sinners, and outcasts, and sad people that we are loved by God too. Jesus came to teach us, love us, and die for us. And, this is not what the crowds expected.
Like Jesus, sometimes in our lives we have been rejected for who we are. We aren’t what people expect. WE aren’t who people thought we were. We are too weird, or too athletic, or too friendly, or too liberal, or too conservative, or too in-in-the-middle. We are rejected for things that we have no control over. We are rejected for who we are.
Jesus came to earth and was rejected. He wasn’t the kind of messiah people expected. The people of Nazareth, his hometown, chased him out of town. He was nearly stoned when he said things people didn’t want to hear. The religious leaders who should have embraced him turned against Jesus. After he was arrested, even Jesus closest friends, his disciples, pretended to not know him. Jesus was rejected by the people he came to save. Jesus was rejected for who he was….for who he is.
Friends, we must take heart that Jesus understands what it is like to be rejected. Jesus understands how we feel when we are rejected. And, Jesus asks us to do better. Jesus asks us to be better than the people who have hurt us and turned against us. We are called to love each other. We are called to love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves. We are called to love the people who others reject. We are called to love the outcasts, and the oddballs, and the people without homes, and the people who are food insecure, and the people who are different than we are. We are called to do better and to live out the teachings of Jesus as we warmly embrace those who are hurting and lonely and sad and rejected.
Over the next few days, we will walk with Jesus to the cross. We will remember the tragic and sad things that happened to Jesus in his final hours on earth…the meal he shared with this friends….his time of prayer in the garden…his arrest, his trial, his beatings, his pain….We will spend hours waiting with Jesus as he suffered on the cross, as he died….we will spend hours mourning him and remembering the anguish felt by his friends when they believed death was the final word. And, then, next Sunday, we will celebrate the greatest miracle the world has ever experienced…..but we can’t get ahead of ourselves. We must be rejected alongside of Jesus, and feel his pain and agony, before we get to next Sunday.
Let us live out the good news of Jesus Christ. Let us treat others with love and compassion, welcoming people with open arms who are not welcomed everywhere they go, today and all days.