Responsive Reading: Psalm 118: 1-2, 19-29
Gospel Lesson: Luke 19: 28-40
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
People were mad! People hated their government! They hated having to pay their taxes! They hated seeing their way of life threatened. Many people felt few ruled them. Fury was organizing in Jerusalem this year. The threat of riots was real and present. Jerusalem a town of 50,000 would soon swell to a population several times the size. Holy Week was here as they gathered for their Passover celebration. They dreaded what the Romans might do to oppress their people next.
Fear ruled many people’s lives in Jesus’ day. We know this emotion well. I think of our current political dialogue which often seems to be driven on both sides by who can propose the most fear inciting scenarios to win votes. Fear comes from all walks of life from the threat of poverty to the threat of violence. People who take “wait and see” attitudes in the age of social media we often dismiss as naive. Fear drives more of our ways of life then we can we probably realize.
When I was fifteen years old, I got a call from Grandma. Grandma wanted to know if I could travel with her to California to claim my Aunt Carol’s body. Carol hadn’t answered her phone for a few days. Not being able to get a hold of Carol was not a new occurrence. Grandma naturally assumed the worst. Pretty soon, I was supposed to help her track down a body at the Los Angeles County Morgue. We all know people like this whose actions motivated by fear who gathered on Palm Sunday.
In the midst of fear though came a rumor of hope. The previous day had just been the biggest day of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead after four days in the tomb, so as Jesus was coming to town that day. Jesus was the hot “new” act. Jesus was a new religious leader, unlike the ones who had led them down before. He was the new political messiah surging in the people’s polls who was going to confront those Roman bullies (once and for all).
When I was 10-11 years old, I thought professional wrestling was the absolute greatest thing in the world. My best friend, Danny McNabb, and I would often get together and have wrestling matches against pillows on each other’s bed. The biggest wrestling star in the world at this time was Hulk Hogan. Hogan was famous for the 24 inch “python” arms. Hogan was known for walking into arenas to Rick Derringer’s Real American. Hulk Hogan could seriously take anyone on as he body-slammed the 500 lb. Andre the Giant at Wrestlemania III. One time, my dad took a group of friends and I to watch Hogan wrestle at the Target Center. As Hogan walks into the arena on that day, he walked in such a way that he was fearless even as he prepared to do battle with forces much larger than himself.
People were waiting on Palm Sunday for a leader. They were waiting to see their Hulk Hogan stand up to the bad guys. People were waiting to see the “status-quo” blown up.
In October of 1987, the Minnesota Twins were heavy underdogs in the American League playoffs to the Detroit Tigers. The bats especially Gary Gaetti’s got hot. The Twins win the series 4-1. The Twins after having celebrated in Detroit fly back home to Minneapolis. They hear a crowd had gathered at the Metrodome. The team figures it’ll just be a few people. The Twins take a bus back from the airport to the Metrodome. It seems especially busy for 10 PM on a Monday night. The Twins step inside the Stadium 60,000 people are there. Homer Hankies are everywhere. People were longing for the euphoria of a championship. Shortly these fans dreams would be realized. Picture this scene and now imagine the crowd on Palm Sunday.
Instead of Homer Hankies though they began to gather up Palm Branches. When Jesus was going to approach they were going to throw these Palms on the ground as a way to point for their longing “Save Us” “Hosanna, Son of David”. There were those who were whipped up into a frenzy unmatched at any political rally were going even further they were throwing their shirts and cloaks on the road. I imagine onlookers had no idea what to make of this scene. When Hulk Hogan entered the ring at Target Center, he ripped off his shirt as the crowd went wild.
Jesus’ march to Jerusalem was different. Jesus was neither tall nor physically imposing. Jesus was not going to shout out fancy catch phrases like “What you gonna do when Hulkamania runs wild on you.” Jesus wasn’t going to ride in a strong white horse; rather he was going ride on a slow, pathetic donkey. The power that Jesus displayed was going to look very different than the people had previously imagined.
It was in that initial appearance on Palm Sunday that something probably began to stand out about Jesus’ intentions in the week ahead. Jesus was not looking to spit on any Roman soldiers. Jesus was going to be spit on himself.
Jesus was soon going to be beaten! Jesus was soon going to be bloody! Jesus was soon going to be crucified! Jesus was soon going to be buried! The Palm Sunday crowd had seen their hopes of things getting better quickly vanish before their very eyes. Jesus like Hulk Hogan seemed not to be the hero that they sought. Now here the crowds were searching for answers moving forward.
Jesus had come to town with the promise of dramatic miracles: turning water into wine once again before people’s very eyes and conquer the Romans once and for all. The most negative of human emotions were filling these fantasies: revenge, judgment, anger, and violence. The same emotions that had led to all sorts of brokenness within the world which Jesus lived in the previous generations. Jesus was instead preparing to usher in a new kind of kingdom: a kingdom of peace, of hope, of grace, and a kingdom of mercy.
The scene that defines Holy Week, like none other, is Jesus standing in the presence of the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate. Jesus was standing before one of the most powerful men in the world. Jesus’ fate could permanently change dependent on the outcome of the meeting. Jesus could have gone out a martyr by telling Pontius Pilate off and telling him off good! Jesus could have backed down from his convictions as a way to try to escape to safety. Jesus just stood there in silence. Jesus’ Kingdom would not collapse under any threat.
Earlier in Jesus’ ministry, he had taught Nicodemus “You must be born again to see the kingdom of God.”. Only Nicodemus couldn’t make sense of Jesus’ saying because one needs to undergo death before there can be a resurrection.
There are two kinds of people in this world: optimists and pessimists. Optimists tend to see the world in terms of possibility, whereas pessimists tend to see the world in terms of reality. Pessimists tend only to view the world by the judgments of sin, death, and the devil which could afflict us. Optimists tend to look at the world by where Resurrection could take place. What we need to remember as we begin Holy Week is that Palm Sunday is not the completion of our celebration, and this is important.
Let me tell a story as told by Tim Zingale. There once was a little boy no more than ten years old. This little boy lived in a small town where there had never been a circus. He had read about circuses at school, but he had never seen an actual circus. One day when walking uptown, he saw a sign that the circus was coming to town. The boy knew that he had to go to that circus, so he began to save his allowance to attend. He began to count the days down. On the night before, he was way too excited to sleep. The boy got up before daylight and got his chores done so he could be downtown at nine AM. Shortly after nine, the great circus parade came down Main Street. The boy saw lions and tigers, elephants, bears, horses, jugglers, clowns, acrobats, and a circus band. The scene was the most exciting thing that the boy had seen in his whole life. The boy started jumping up and down because he was so excited at what he saw. When the parade ends, the boy walks up to the last man in the parade to hand him his money. The man takes it bewildered. The boy goes home joyous because this circus parade was the greatest thing that he had ever seen. The only problem was that he only saw the parade and went home before the circus began.
Our lesson for today is as we go through the ups and downs of this life. The times ahead do not promise to be easy. We will see spit and we will be spit on ourselves. Here comes Jesus riding on a colt. The colt may not look all that fancy: water, wine, wheat, and mere promise. Often in our faith, all that we can grasp onto is a promise that Resurrection might be coming soon.
A few months ago, things were looking bleak within our local community with the mine idled, but we now look ahead as see the hope of sunshine on the horizon.
Things were bleak for a time this winter and this week, but today we celebrate the birth of spring. We see this as a sign of resurrection coming forth from the earth.
Things were bleak for a time during Holy Week, yet next Sunday the sun will rise once again. Daylight will be here. Hope will stand before us. Jesus is getting ready to leap forth from the grave and appear before our very eyes. Amen
 One of my favorite commentaries on the history of Palm Sunday comes from Ed Markquart’s “The Riots of Pilate” found at sermonsfromseattle.
 Grow Doug. “Celebrate Good Times’: Welcome-home rally was an unforgettable moment for ’87 Twins team, fans.” Excerpt from “We’re Gonna Win, Twins!”. MINNPOST. 2010. Apr.10. Web. Mar.16.2016.
 Matthew 21:9
 Luke 23:1-7.
 John 3:3.
 Zingale, Tim. “Hands”. Sermon Central. 2008.Mar.10. Web. Mar.16.2016.