Onceâ€”but only onceâ€”I preached on Palm Sunday and tried to be funny.
Note the word â€œtried.â€
How interesting, I mused in the sermon, that in Matthew (but not in John, Mark, or Luke) Jesus entered Jerusalem simultaneously riding two animals? I embellished the moment with words and gestures, attempting to help people visualize Matthew 21:6:
The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them.
There you go. He sat on â€œthem.â€ Mark and Luke only have a colt. John, hedging a bit, claimed it was a donkeyâ€™s colt. But thatâ€™s still singular! Why did Matthewâ€™s author seem to have Jesus straddling two different animals? An easy answer was Matthew viewed Jesusâ€™ life as the fulfillment of Jewish prophesies. One of those â€œpredictionsâ€ came from Zechariah. If you read Zechariah 9:9, with its longing for the coming of a humble king, youâ€™ll run across a reference to . . . one animal. But Matthew, interpreting that ancient verse, conveys it so literally that it’s as if Jesus rode multiple mounts. Continue reading →
And yet on a particular Sunday two thousand years ago, wasnâ€™t it just another mundane day?
The Jewish Sabbath had ended after Saturdayâ€™s light faded into darkness across first-century Palestine. Was that Sunday a morning where coolness lingered, providing a brief respite from the dayâ€™s inevitable heat? Orâ€”as women hurried to make the first trip to lift cooking water from the wells or men trudged toward a field to capture wandering sheepâ€”did sweat already slick cheeks before the new dayâ€™s mean-spirited sun cleared the horizon?
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Just another morning?
A Roman Centurion gazed at the empty desert sky, wondering what Rome really looked like. Heâ€™d never been there.
The blacksmith stoked his fire. An order for nails today. Thick ones. Long ones. Damn Romans and their damn demands.
While his youngest daughter trimmed his beard, a Jerusalem shopkeeper debated about raising his prices. After all, the demands would increase as the crowds multiplied around Passover. Continue reading →
â€œNow a large crowd spread their clothes on the road. Others cut palm branches off the trees and spread them on the road.â€ (Matthew 21:8)
Soon there will be fists.
But first there were palms. Open. Fingers spread. Waving.
With those palms waving, did hoarse voices bellow, â€œLook here! Remember me, Jesus?â€ Or were the loud words, â€œGod bless you! Thank you, Jesus!â€ Wouldnâ€™t that second variation be closer to the Biblical Hosanna?
Hosanna! Palm Sunday!
Did those witnessing Jesusâ€™ arrival wave leafy branches or palm leaves? (Only John referenced palm trees, theâ€”in Greekâ€”phoinix)? Some, according to several Gospels, placed cloaks on the road. Whether it was a few supporters or a rambunctious crowd, the Gospel writers depicted the greeters honoring Jesus. However, the honor was tempered by humility. Thereâ€™s that colt heâ€™s astride rather than a stallion girded for war. And the cloaks on the ground were, well, clothes still sweaty and dirty from wear. Nothing fancy. No red carpets. No paparazzi. Continue reading →