When they neared Jerusalem, having arrived at Bethphage on Mount Olives, Jesus sent two disciples with these instructions: "Go over to the village across from you. You'll find a donkey tethered there, her colt with her. Untie her and bring them to me. If anyone asks what you're doing, say, 'The Master needs them!' He will send them with you." This is the full story of what was sketched earlier by the prophet: Tell Zion's daughter, "Look, your king's on his way, poised and ready, mounted On a donkey, on a colt, foal of a pack animal." The disciples went and did exactly what Jesus told them to do. They led the donkey and colt out, laid some of their clothes on them, and Jesus mounted. Nearly all the people in the crowd threw their garments down on the road, giving him a royal welcome. Others cut branches from the trees and threw them down as a welcome mat. Crowds went ahead and crowds followed, all of them calling out, "Hosanna to David's son!" "Blessed is he who comes in God's name!" "Hosanna in highest heaven!" As he made his entrance into Jerusalem, the whole city was shaken. Unnerved, people were asking, "What's going on here? Who is this?" The parade crowd answered, "This is the prophet Jesus, the one from Nazareth in Galilee."
It’s was a time of great joy and enthusiasm and praise. Waving palm branches, yelling “Hosanna!”, following Jesus as He made His way into Jerusalem. Can you picture the celebration? Can you hear the joyous cheering, see the smiles on people’s faces and the laughter in their eyes? Can you feel the exuberance of the parade? If you can’t, try to remember when you were young and witnessed the Santa Claus parade. It was a day of happiness and generosity and cheer. People believed in Jesus!
But what would have happened if Jesus hadn't continued? What if Jesus, knowing that He was riding into Jerusalem didn’t mean His conquest, but rather His death – what if He decided not to continue the journey forward? What if He came to the end of the parade route, quietly slid off the donkey and said, “Well that’s it folks. My job is done now.”
This is the first time in the lives of all of us that the entire world has been affected with, what many might call, a disaster. COVID-19 has caused the entire planet to adjust how we behave. We are encouraged, and rightly so, to stay in our homes for weeks. In the same way, we can't have social connections with others. We can't meet for worship, even though this is Holy Week, the most important and sacred time in the church's life. As a result, there are a lot of people who are anxious, stressed and hurting.
People, though they have spent many years in church and have found it comforting, may now find themselves in a spiritual desert with no oasis in sight. You may be one of those who have felt as close to God as their own breath may now feel that God is nowhere to be seen on Sunday morning, or perhaps anywhere during the week either. Because cannot currently meet on Sunday mornings or for study groups you may not find God in the practices of faith you have pursued. You may be finding yourself in a crisis of faith.
Jesus rode into Jerusalem amidst praise and thanksgiving and pleas of Hosanna! which literally means save us. Jesus rode into Jerusalem knowing He was riding towards the very powers that were determined to destroy Him. Jesus rode into all this celebration with a grieving heart and a crisis of faith. Within days, He would be kneeling in the garden of Gethsame pleading that God change the course of events so that the cross would not be the outcome. And the next day, Jesus would be hanging from that cross again pleading with God for having abandoned Him in His greatest hour of suffering. There is nothing we suffer that Jesus hasn’t suffered before us.
But what if Jesus hadn't continued the journey from the parade to the cross? If that had happened there would be no reason for us to be celebrating Palm Sunday. There would be no reason for chruches to exist. We gather as a worshiping body because Jesus did continue the journey, despite the hardships, the abandonment, the criticism, the mocking, the physical mistreatment and the loss of close friends.
And because Jesus continued His journey despite all this, we are called to continue ours. God wants us to continue in triumph. After all, we know the end of the story. Jesus doesn’t die and stay dead. He rises again. He gets and gives new life. That’s what happens BECAUSE He continued through the dry times, because He faced His crisis of faith and came through it trusting that God knew what doinGod was doing (and God always, always does).
I’m convinced Jesus wants to bring us through the difficulties and emptiness and disheartenment many of you might be facing. I can’t say I know what the other side looks like and it may look nothing like what we have now. But I do believe that if we continue our journey, believing that God knows will see us through, believing that we still have a light to shine on Jesus’ behalf in our lives, that Christ will take us through the tough stuff on into something brighter for His sake if we are faithful to Him and allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives.
As the apostle Paul says in the book of Philippians 1:27: “Above all else, you must live in a way that brings honour to the good news about Christ. Then whether I visit you or not, I will hear that all of you think alike. I will know that you are working together and that you are struggling side by side to get others to believe the good news.”