And when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Beth’phage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find an ass tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If any one says anything to you, you shall say, The Lord has need of them,’ and he will send them immediately.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Tell the daughter of Zion, Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of an ass.” The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the ass and the colt, and put their garments on them, and he sat thereon. Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”
Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest! Today is the start of Holy Week. The time we celebrate the last supper, the washing of feet, the crucifixion, and resurrection of our lord and savior. And today is Palm Sunday. We all have our palm branches, and are shouting hosanna to the Son of David! Hosanna in the highest! Why are we doing this?
In our text today there is no mention of Palm branches. Matthew says they cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road, it does not say they were palm branches. Only John mentions branches of Palms. Mark talks about leaves from the field, and Luke does not even mention branches or leaves at all. Why do we wave the palms? What is the need for doing this, what do we need?
Well this was a sign of who Jesus really was. The fact the crowd was waving, or throwing down palms had a meaning to those present that day, just as the colt and ass had an image. First of all most people would have just walked into Jerusalem, and some may have thought it interesting that Jesus rode into the city. Others might have known the prophesy from Zechariah 9:9 that the messiah would ride into the city on an ass and her colt. Jesus humbled himself to ride into the city on the ass, but we also need to know the rest of the prophecy from Zechariah. The essential themes of Zechariah 9 are defeat and destruction for foreign nations and the return and restoration for Israel. Those who would have known this text would have seen in Jesus the coming warrior that would bring about God’s wrath on the foreigners in their city. Jesus would be the true messianic fulfillment of the freeing of the nation of Israel from the bondage of the Romans. They needed a hero, a great king to lead them into battle. This leads us to the need for the palms. The use of palms in Maccabees was related to military victories. Were those in the crowd expecting Jesus to lead them to a great military victory? Did they see his entry as the fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah and he would lead them to the restoration of Israel and the vacating of their land by the foreigners? Is that why they were shouting Hosanna? We use the word hosanna today in our worship service, but do we know what it means? Hosanna comes from the Hebrew words yasha which means save and na meaning request. Combined they make yashana which is O, save! It is a request for salvation. Did those shouting it as Jesus triumphantly entered the city know what they were saying? They were crying for Jesus to save them from the Romans, fulfill Zechariah, and rid our land of the foreigners in our midst. We need a king, we need a savior, we need a warrior to lead us into battle, save us messiah and rid our land of these people.
So today we reenact the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and wave our palms, for the military victory, and shout Hosanna to the Son of David! Save us o son of David! Just what is it we need? A superman for a savior, one who never dies, would not think of doing something as silly as allowing himself to be handed over to be killed… What do we need? What do you need?
To look at this from a different angle and to lead us into Holy Week, what does Jesus need? There is only one thing in all of the writings of the New Testament that Jesus needs, and we see that today in our text. Then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find an ass tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If any one says anything to you, you shall say, The Lord has need of them,’ and he will send them immediately.” The only thing in all of the worlds of heaven and earth that Jesus ever says he needs is an ass and a colt. He needed to fulfill the prophecies spoken about the messiah, and fulfill the plan of the Father. Remove this cup from me if possible, yet not my will but yours be done. I need an ass to ride into Jerusalem. What do you need?
What is Palm Sunday all about? The triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, yes that is what it is about… Is it about green palms, being waved as in the need of a military victory? I do not think so. The image today is the palm, but not in the sense of green vegetation. The palm and the whole hand figure prominently in this upcoming holy week. Today palms are used to obtain the ass and colt for Jesus to ride on. The disciples use their hands to place their garments over the ass and colt for Jesus to ride on. On Thursday palms are used to wash the feet of the disciples. Even when the disciples question his washing their feet, still Jesus bows in servant hood, and shows the disciples a way of life for those who want to have a part of him. There is the palm of the hand that blesses, breaks, and distributes the bread and offers the cup of the new covenant. At the table prepared by our savior with loving hands we receive strength and direction for our discipleship walk. The palms of prayer, pressed firmly together in Gethsemane. Jesus follows the will of the father, even when he may not want to go where it leads him. It is his will, the perfect one that needs to be done, not ours. On Friday we see the hands that are nail scared as Jesus is crucified. We see in Simon of Cyrene the need to take up our cross and follow him, the fact we may suffer for our faith. Palms are not green, and may lead us to do things we are not truly willing to do. If we can truly say Hosanna to the son of David, Jesus save us, we need to be ready to use our hands and bodies in service to him.
We see in Philippians that Christ emptied himself, and was obedient to a death even a death on the cross. So should we empty ourselves, and look at what we truly need. Jesus gave up the charge of his life, and maybe this is what we need. If we can empty ourselves of any notion we are in charge, and notion we can have an equal footing with God, and offer ourselves wholly to him and his service, then maybe we will see what we need in a king, a warrior to lead us to our salvation is something we have already been given in his triumphal entry. Hosanna to the Son of David.
What do you need?