The Lord GOD has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them. Morning after morning He opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back. I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.
The Lord GOD is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame.(P) The word of the Lord.
All who see me scoff at me; they mock me with parted lips, they wag their heads: "He relied on the Lord; let Him deliver him, let Him rescue him, if He loves him." (R)
Indeed, many dogs surround me, a pack of evildoers closes in upon me; they have pierced my hands and my feet; I can count all my bones. (R)
They divide my garments among them, and for my vesture they cast lots. But you, O Lord, be not far from me; O my help, hasten to aid me. (R)
I will proclaim your name to my brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will praise you: "You who fear the Lord, praise Him; all you descendants of Jacob, give glory to Him; revere Him, all you descendants of Israel!" (R)
Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on Earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.(P) The word of the Lord.
When Jesus and the disciples drew near Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, "Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find an ass tethered, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them here to me. And if anyone should say anything to you, reply, "The Master has need of them." Then he will send them at once." This happened so that what had been spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled: "Say to the daughter of Zion, "Behold, your king comes to you, meek and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.""
The disciples went and did as Jesus had ordered them. They brought the ass and the colt and laid their cloaks over them, and he sat upon them. The very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds preceding him and those following kept crying out and saying: "Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest." And when he entered Jerusalem the whole city was shaken and asked, "Who is this?" And the crowds replied, "This is Jesus the prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee."(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
For the full version of the text see our Good Friday » posting.
Today we remember how Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey. We call it Palm Sunday because the people were so happy that they welcomed Jesus into their city by spreading their cloaks and palm branches on the road, and by singing songs of praise to the Lord. They cried out "Hosanna" which means "God saves" in Hebrew. Today also marks the beginning of Holy Week or Passion Week - a time when we focus on the trial, the condemnation, the suffering, and then the death of Our Lord. That is to say, from today we shall read and reflect on all the events which took place in the last days of Jesus' life on Earth. The whole celebration is very significant not only to Christians but to all human beings because those momentous events have changed the history of humankind and the lives of millions of people. I believe that just pondering the events for a few fleeting moments can change the life of anyone with pure devotion and faith.
However, first and foremost we must know who Jesus is. We heard in today's text from the gospel of Matthew, "And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was shaken and asked, "Who is this?"" Didn't they know who Jesus is? Surely they must have known. And yet what might have led them to ask such a question? Was it because of the place, the time, the occasion and the manner in which he made his entrance?
First, Jesus was asking his disciples to go ahead of him into a village, and fetch a donkey from an unknown person for his journey to Jerusalem. He instructed them to reply to anyone who asked why they were taking the donkey, "The Master has need of it." It looks as if Jesus was asking them to steal the animal. The disciples might have been embarrassed to carry out Jesus' request as they did not know whose donkey they should be asking for. Moreover they were probably left wondering what Jesus was up to.
Second, Jesus was entering into Jerusalem during one of the most important festivals in the Jewish calendar, the Passover. At the Passover the Jews commemorate their liberation from slavery and the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt which took place 3000 years before Christ. Certainly the Jews might have been angered and offended by the disturbance that Jesus had created with his trip to Jerusalem.
Third, Jesus and his disciples knew the danger awaiting them in Jerusalem. There had already been attempts to capture Jesus. When Jesus predicted his suffering Peter even took him aside and rebuked him. He said, "Heaven preserve you, Lord, this must not happen to you" Matthew (16:22). And yet Jesus made the decision to go back to Jerusalem. The disciples probably were uncertain and anxious about the future and afraid of the crowd's reaction.
Therefore, the question from the crowds, "Who is this?", must have been asked in fear or in wonder or in anger or in delight or in hope. With the question the people wanted to know where he came from; what he has done; what he is doing; what he will do and why and by whose authority and power he has chosen this time and place to carry out the works of God and so on. What is the answer to their question of "Who is this"?
In the same gospel text Matthew provides three answers.
Were all these answers acceptable to the crowds? Of course, no one might has disputed the basic information that Jesus is from Nazareth. Remember, when Jesus had said, "I am the bread that has come down from heaven", people were saying, "Surely this is Jesus son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know" John (6:41-42). So there is no doubt that the people knew Jesus and his family well.
There was probably also no problem in accepting Jesus as a prophet. Many people saw him as a prophet because his teachings and works were like those of the great prophets of the past, Elijah, Jeremiah or John the Baptist. They recognized Jesus' knowledge of the scriptures and appreciated his wisdom. Seeing Jesus doing the works of a prophet such as healing the sick, casting out demons, calming storms, multiplying loaves and fishes and even raising the dead they realized that Jesus was no ordinary man but a man with special divine power.
They also perhaps easily accepted that Jesus is the Son of David because Joseph the father of Jesus was a descendant of David. However, what was prophesied to David was the coming of the Messiah, the Christ, the anointed great king. Thus when the crowds welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem with cries of "Hosanna to the Son of David!" they were only acclaiming that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior of the world and the king of the universe. However, the Messiah would be a humble One and a suffering One. Besides, Jesus himself claimed that he is the Son of God. The claims of Christ are many and varied. He said that he existed before Abraham, John (8:58), and that he was equal with the Father, John (5:17). Jesus also claimed the authority to forgive sins, Mark (2:5-7), which the Scriptures say was something that God alone could do, Isaiah (43:25). There are also others who called him the Son of God. For instance in the gospel of John (1:49-50) we read that Nathanael said to Jesus, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the king of Israel." From the gospel of Matthew (16:15-17) we hear the declaration of Simon Peter who said to Jesus, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God." So it was this claim and declaration that "Jesus is Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God" that led him to his suffering and crucifixion which redeemed the whole human race.
Friends, what do these answers mean to you? Who is this Jesus to you? Do you see him just as a man from Nazareth or the descendant of David or a prophet or do you also see Him as Christ, the Messiah? Are you a true believer of Jesus Christ or just a curious onlooker or a skeptic? If you are one of those still in the darkness of unbelief I invite you today to seek our Lord Jesus with true devotion and faith, and ask him to fill your life with his presence. You can put the question to Jesus himself in any manner you like, in fear or in wonder or in anger or in delight or in hope. The Lord Himself will reveal his identity lovingly to you because he has willingly, joyfully and mercifully offered himself as a sacrifice to redeem every soul for God. Let us count us among those who have not seen Him yet believe in Him.(P) Amen.
God Bless You!