READ LUKE 19:28–40
Today, on Palm Sunday, we enter into the final week of Jesus' life before his crucifixion. In some ways this week is an encapsulation of his entire life and ministry. It's a concentrated view of how Jesus lived, what he taught, how he suffered, and how he worked for us and our salvation. As we enter this Holy Week we must come to grips with who we are dealing with. Understanding the proper identity of Jesus is essential to understanding the point of his suffering and resurrection. Without a proper view of who Jesus is, we'll never properly understand what he did.This is why the events of Palm Sunday are helpful for us. Jesus' actions on this day display what he believed about himself and his mission.
Who did Jesus believe himself to be? Consider how he acted on this particular day. For one, Luke tells us he was pretty direct in giving orders. This wasn't the feel-good, serene, take-it-as-it-comes view of Jesus that we often like to have. Today, Jesus was setting the agenda. He was the one dictating actions. He commanded, his disciples responded. He spoke, they got to work. So when he said "Go into the village..." and followed up with what appears like grand-theft-donkey, he's not speaking with an indecisive, "whatever-man" attitude. He's clearly speaking like a leader.
Then there is the command itself. As his disciples were quick to point out (probably for their own well-being), "what should we say when they ask, 'why are you untying that colt?" Jesus' answer is just as directive and clear. It shows us exactly who he believed himself to be. When they ask you, "say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’ Do you see that description of himself there? The Lord. Jesus believed himself not to be a great teacher, or a moral instructor, or a spiritual director. He uses the title of a king. In fact he takes the title of king to himself. To be "The Lord" was Jesus saying of himself that he was the reigning ruler over all things. He directs and leads like a king, and he believes himself to be the King.
Then there is the actual parade into Jerusalem itself. He rides in on an unridden colt as his followers spread their cloaks as a kind of red-carpet before him and wave palm branches. There is a joyful party entering the city shouting, rejoicing and praising. And there at the heart of that rejoicing and celebration is a profound declaration. This crowd of followers with Jesus are declaring "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!" Even the crowd is worshipping Jesus as the King over all Kings. They believe and see him as the leader, savior-King they have been looking for. Notice what Jesus doesn't do. He doesn't stop them. He doesn't hinder their praise or downplay what they are saying. He receives the worship they offer to him in it's clarity. He allows them to call him the King.
Even when the religious people try and get Jesus to rebuke the crowd because of their obvious (at least to the Pharisees) misunderstanding of who Jesus is, he won't do it. He invokes nature and says, "If the crowd won't worship me as King, the rocks will!"
Now, come back and consider the implications of who Jesus is from a look at Palm Sunday. Jesus speaks like a king, he calls himself the King, and the crowds worship and celebrate him as King. Jesus' identity is crucial to understanding this week and the events in it. And it also leads us to an important question. Is Jesus really the King?
Sure we can chalk Jesus up to be a nice teacher, or a moral person, some sort of spiritual guru. But we can't escape the fact that Jesus believed and acted, and was followed by people who clearly identified him as the King.
As C.S. Lewis so poignantly put it:
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
Palm Sunday shows us the King. Are we ready to serve and follow him?