It Starts Out With A Parade

Palm Sunday, March 24th, 2013

Luke 19:28-40, Isaiah 50:4-9a, Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29, Philippians 2:5-11, Luke 23:1-49

Preached by Pastor Anna C. Haugen, Augustana and Birka Lutheran Churches, Underwood, ND

May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my heart, be acceptable in your sight, my rock and my redeemer.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

It starts out with a parade.  Crowds cheer, people wave, everyone has turned out to see Jesus, the one they hope will be the good king, the Messiah, that God has promised them.  They hope he will throw out the Romans.  They hope he will throw out the Roman occupying army.  They hope he will feed them.  They hope he will heal them.  The disciples hope they will see more deeds of power from Jesus—a show, to prove they’ve picked the right teacher to follow.  We’ve all been to parades.  We’ve all had fun at them, watching the spectacle, and afterwards we often have some kind of celebration afterwards to keep the excitement going.  It’s a party!  It’s a break from normal, boring life!  In Jesus’ day, in a world without sports teams, movies and television, the internet, a parade would have been a huge thing.  A holiday, even if only for an hour, from the workaday world.  But this parade is different.  This parade doesn’t lead to a barbeque, or a picnic, or a Thanksgiving dinner.  This parade leads to the cross.

Our modern parades take a lot of stage management: closing off streets, setting up the order entries move in, regulating the people who sell food and water, and, for larger parades, television coverage.  Individual parade entries take lots of effort to arrange—costumes, vehicles, music, prizes to give away.  This parade took stage management, too.  Notice how carefully Jesus sets the whole thing up.  He tells his disciples where and how to get the donkey he’s going to ride, right down to the words they say.  This parade was not an accident.

None of the things that happened to Jesus in his last week were an accident.  Not the parade on Sunday, not the last supper with his disciples where he instituted Communion and commanded them to love one another, not his arrest in the garden nor his trial nor his execution.  At each step along the way, Jesus knew what was coming.  He prayed to be spared, in the Garden of Gethsemane, but he went forward to his death anyway.

Other people were managing things, too.  Notice how deftly the authorities arranged things.  Jesus was a threat to their power, an agitator who stirred up the crowds and threatened the status quo, so they got rid of him.  They knew he was innocent of the charges laid against him; everyone from Pilate to the centurion at the foot of the cross to the criminals who were crucified with Jesus knew that he was innocent, that this was a miscarriage of justice.  Yet still they went forward, more concerned with preserving their own power and authority and privilege than they were in seeing justice done.

Such injustice is still found in our world, today.  Turn on the news and you will hear stories of corruption and injustice all around the world, from political and religious leaders.  You’ll find it in small local groups, and in nations, in corporations and in churches.  All too often we put our own interests above doing the right thing.  This world is broken by sin and death.  Check any news source, and you’ll find it.  Listen to children talk about being bullied at school, and you’ll hear it.  Watch adults jockey for power and position and you’ll see it.  People put a lot of time and effort into running things for their own advantage, and all too often they don’t see or care what consequences those actions have for others.

Thank God that we’re not the only ones planning things.  Thank God we’re not the only ones at work in the world.  Thank God that our sinfulness, our brokenness, is not the end of the story.  God is at work in the world.  God chose to send Jesus into this world, knowing the cost and the consequences.  And so when Jesus came to Jerusalem one last time, when he told his disciples to go fetch a colt for him to ride, he knew what would happen.  He knew that the crowds that followed him would be the final straw for the leaders who saw him as a threat.  He knew that they would not rest until he was dead.  And he knew that, through his death, he would bring life to all people, healing for our brokenness and forgiveness for our sins.

Let us pray.  Everlasting God, in your endless love for the world you sent our Lord Jesus Christ to take on our nature and to suffer death on the cross.  In your mercy enable us to share in his obedience to your will and in the glorious victory of his resurrection, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Amen.

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