1-3 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.”
4-5 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.”
6-9 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!”
10 As he made his entrance into Jerusalem, the whole city was shaken. Unnerved, people were asking, “What’s going on here? Who is this?”
11 The parade crowd answered, “This is the prophet Jesus, the one from Nazareth in Galilee.”
One: The Word of Life. All: Thanks be to God.
I hit the wall this week.
It was Friday afternoon and I looked at my living room floor with a cranky eight month old and a four year old who was desperate for my attention as I had emails to respond to and my to-do list was outstripping my capacity and I just had this feeling of dread and despair wash over me. 17...18 days into self-isolation life and I knew I wasn’t in a sustainable rhythm and it was all we could do to keep our household from disintegrating into complete and utter chaos, and I thought to myself...I can’t keep this up. What am I doing? I can’t survive if this is what life is going to be like for six more weeks. I was so in my head, wrapped up with the mountain of tasks in front of me that I couldn’t see my way clear of it, couldn’t figure out a path forward other than lots of late nights or early mornings at a computer screen to finish whatever urgent tasks didn’t get completed from the day before….and that didn’t sound much like a way out.
What does this have to do with Palm Sunday?
The story we heard read for us this morning comes at a difficult time in Israel’s history. The people were living under Roman Rule, but were desperate to be their own sovereign nation again - to remember the glory days of might and power they enjoyed under King David. They yearned for a king to come and restore them to that wealth and prosperity and freedom from oppression - and Jesus seemed to fit the bill. With much of Jesus’ talk about the kingdom of God and release to the captives and miraculous healings, it seemed like Jesus was the one who was going to bring Israel back. The people expected Jesus to lead a political coup - to overthrow the government and establish Israel as an independent kingdom once more.
As he comes into the city - the wave of hopes and dreams and expectation goes before him. Though he enters on a lowly donkey, it’s as if it was a royal procession, with branches and garments strewn on the ground before him, with shouts of “Hosanna to David’s son!” “Blessed is he who comes in God’s name!” “Hosanna in highest heaven!”
“Hosanna” if you didn’t know, is a Hebrew word. We think about it as a word of praise, as a celebratory shout. But Hosanna in Hebrew means “save now”... “save us”... the people were looking to Jesus to save them from oppression, from exploitation, from poverty and hunger...and to do that through military means.
Of course, we know a bit how the story played out - that because of his subversive message of love that threatened the fabric of the empire, he was executed at the hands of the Roman government as a criminal...that the kingdom he came to establish was not one that could be built by militaristic might...that what he came to save us from was not our external circumstances, but from ourselves.
When I think about what it means that Jesus saves us - I don’t think about Jesus rescuing us from the fires of hell, or paying the price for our sins so that we don’t have to, or that Jesus steps in as a hero and graciously grants us forgiveness when we fail or falter. I think about Jesus saving us from the fact that our faults and failings don’t have to define us. Jesus saving us means that it is God who comes near to us, we don’t have to work ourselves, drive ourselves, perform ourselves into this thing called grace, and because of it, God can make beautiful things happen in the broken places of our lives. Jesus saves us from letting our brokenness become our reality.
Friday for me was a stark reminder that I needed saving. It’s not something that it’s easy for me to admit - because I’m totally someone who likes to do it all and have it together - probably like many of us - but I was drowning, I was at my limit, and as I sat with that realization for awhile, I came to understand that what had brought me to that point was a place that needs healing in my life - a place that Jesus needs to save me from - and for me it’s the need to perform, to overfunction, to meet all the needs I see and be the one that makes it all happen and if I drill down even deeper than that, it’s about the feeling that I need to prove myself because I’m young...because I’m a woman...because I feel like maybe I’m not good enough...or worthy enough...….you get the picture. Jesus needs to save me from that.
It can be a hard and scary thing to admit, that we need saving...and that we need Jesus to do it, that we can’t get there ourselves. The story from scripture tells us that upon entering the city, all of Jerusalem was unsettled and shaken. There was unrest and turmoil - who is this that has come here? Jesus coming to save us - can be a struggle - because we have to admit that we don’t have control over something in our life, we have to admit that our sins and brokenness are bigger than we are, we have to admit we can’t do it on our own and that only God can save us.
Sometimes it takes hitting a wall to come to face to face with that truth.
The gift in that, however, is that our sin, our failings, the places we’ve messed up - while real - aren’t the final word on who we are...that God loves us too much to let us be defined by our wounds...our brokenness... our sin...because God is the one who makes all things new in this beautiful resurrection life that we share in together and that we’ll celebrate more fully next week.
What would you ask God to save you from? Take a moment and think about that. Maybe something immediately jumps to mind...perhaps you snapped at your kids this morning...perhaps you’re caught in hopelessness...perhaps it’s something that you need to tease out a bit. I’m going to give you a minute to think about what within yourself you need Jesus to save you from.
When you have it take that piece of paper and marker, and write “Save me from __________” in big huge letters and hold it up to the screen. And hold it up there for a minute or two…”
Let us pray -
God, amid the parade and festivities as you entered Jerusalem, your people cried out to you - Hosanna, save us - blessed is your name. Your people this day continue to call out to you, to save us from the things that bind us...from the things that hurt us and others...from the things that cause us to stumble and fall. We ask for you to save us - to carry us - to take those broken places and breathe afresh your life that we may cling more fully to the knowledge and assurance that we are your children. Save us this day...and the next….save us this moment...and the next...and enable us to claim ourselves as your beloved, people that you have fashioned for yourself. We pray this in the name of the one who came to save us, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Pastor Melissa Yosua-Davis has been serving the community of Chebeague and its church since July 2015. She currently lives on the island with her husband and five year old son and 2 year old daughter, along with their yellow lab. Read here recent sermon excerpts, thoughts on life and faith, and current announcements for the church community. She also blogs at Going on to Perfection.