Crossed Purposes – Some thoughts for Palm Sunday

 

Read Matthew 21: 1-11.

Having a vision in life is very important. It’s one of the questions I used to ask clients when they come to see me as a Career or Life Coach. Most have never given such a concept any thought at all. We then spend time together to establish just what their vision is. A vision is something that is aspired to and becomes a guide for the way ahead. With a vision a man can get a mission. A mission is a vision with a plan of action for its realisation. Where the path and the end result can be seen. A mission can be very motivating and energising. Once committed to a mission we are better prepared to overcome the obstacles in our path. Companies put a lot of importance on producing a mission statement and expect their employees to buy into it and work toward its achievement. It has been shown that companies that have a well subscribed mission statement are likely to be more successful than those without.

This Sunday is Palm Sunday it commemorates a time 2000 years ago when Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

It is the beginning of the end of Jesus’s earthly life because it is a meeting point of different visions, a meeting point of Crossed Purposes.

  • There was the Vision of the crowd.

The crowd was large since everyone from around Palestine was making his way to Jerusalem for the Passover festival which was only 5 days away. In fact what we call Palm Sunday was known as Lamb Selection Day then. This was a time when the lamb to be sacrificed at Passover was selected (Exodus 12: 1-13). There were two main segments of the crowds around Jesus as he made his way through the City. There was the crowd who surged from all around the city itself and joining this crowd would have been those who accompanied Jesus from Bethany and from Galilee together with his close disciples. The Jericho road is the road from Galilee. So big was the crowd that the Pharisees were alarmed at Jesus’s popularity for we read: Jn.12:19 ‘So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”’

Why was Jesus so popular? Well there were probably some there out of curiosity and they pressed themselves forward in the crowd as sightseers, they had heard of or seen the miracles, especially of the raising of Lazarus, and were there to gaze on this sensational figure. Sensationalism never lasts. Those who that day regarded Jesus as a sensation were probably the most vocal in shouting for his death later. Most in the crowd were shouting “Hosanna” and waving palm leaves because they knew Jesus was the Son of David and had a vision of Jesus as a conquering King raised up to rid them of Roman rule.

It was David of course who first set up his capital as Jerusalem, and descendents had reigned there until it was destroyed by the Babylonians 600 years earlier. Since then there had been no Davidic King. Also Israel had been rescued in the past by military Kings. Their vision of Jesus was of a King who would shatter, smash and break. The crowd shouted, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” Which is a quotation from Psalm 118:26.  Some scholars consider that Psm. 118 was a conquerors psalm written to commemorate the great day of purification from the gods of Syrian rule and the battle which Judas Maccabaeus won in163BC.

Even the shouts of “Hosanna” have been misunderstood. It actually means, “Save now!” and from ancient times it was used by people seeking help and protection at the hands of the King. For example in 2 Kgs. 6:26 we read: ‘As the king of Israel was passing by on the wall, a woman cried to him, “Help me, my lord the king!”’  When the crowd shouted “Hosanna!” they did so because they recognised Jesus as King but were entreating him to save his people from Roman slavery.     

In contrast to this:

  • There was the Vision of Jesus.

From the very beginning of his ministry Jesus knew that He was commissioned by God his Father to save his people, not from the Romans but from the consequences of sin to bring about a spiritual reconciliation with God His Father. Jesus’s mission was to sacrificially conquer death and Satan. He brought to mankind God’s gift of love and salvation summed up by Jn.3:16 “For god so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus set his sights on Jerusalem where he envisioned that his mission would be completed. In Mtth.16: 21 we read “From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the Law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Jesus’s mission had been consistently misunderstood. Even his disciples had not fully comprehended. I wonder, have you really understood it? In the following verse 22 of Mtth.16 we read ‘Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” On the road from Jericho they were arguing among themselves as to who would be greatest once Jesus was crowned king.

Jesus knew what the crowd expected and that his vision and their vision were at crossed purposes. He wanted to give them one more chance to capture his vision and his real purpose so he orchestrated an entrance into Jerusalem that was sure to draw a crowd probably too large to speak to. The only way to speak to the crowd was therefore through visual imagery. The prophets of Israel often did something dramatic to get their message across when words failed. If you will not hear you must be compelled to see. We read in 1Kgs. 11:30-32 ‘and Ahijah took hold of the new cloak he was wearing and tore it into twelve pieces. Then he said to Jeroboam, “Take ten pieces for yourself, for this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘See I am going to tear the kingdom out of Solomon’s hand and give you ten tribes.”’

This is the method Jesus is employing here. This is the only time Jesus is recorded as riding rather than walking. He had walked more than 100 miles and did not need to ride so close to the end of a journey. His action was a dramatic claim to be the Messiah through the fulfilment of the prophesy written by Zechariah 9:9 ‘Rejoice greatly; O Daughter of Zion! Shout daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt the foal of a donkey.’ In those days in Palestine the donkey was not a despised animal but a noble one. When a King went to war he rode on a horse, when he came in peace he rode on a donkey. Jesus here rides on a Colt, the foal of a donkey, that had never been ridden before, this was symbolic of its being used for a sacred purpose. In Numbers 19:2 we read  ‘“This is a requirement of the law that the Lord has commanded: Tell the Israelites to bring you a red heifer without defect or blemish and that has never been under the yoke.”’ Jesus’s triumphal entrance into Jerusalem had been staged to make a point. He came not as a Messiah to save according to an earthly agenda but on a mission to save according to an eternal and spiritual agenda. Thus he came meek and lowly riding on a donkey claiming to be a king of peace not war.

The time had now come to begin to call people to a decision. The crowd had misunderstood the real purpose of Jesus’s ministry and their and his vision were at crossed purposes. One of the most dangerous things that anyone can do is to tell people that there accepted ideas are wrong. Anyone who tries to tear up by the roots a peoples’ nationalistic dreams is in trouble. But that is what Jesus was doing on that first Palm Sunday which could be regarded as the first day of his passion. Here was Jesus making a last appeal of love and making it with a courage that is heroic. It was an act of superlative courage, for it was the defiance of all that man could do; it was an act of supreme love, for it was loves last appeal before the end of his earthly ministry. 

 Jesus knew this would be the case before he entered Jerusalem and was able to use the tension that this created, causing the crowd to turn against him 5 days later, to further his own vision of a sacrificial death on the cross to fulfil God’s purposes.

What does this story say to us? How often is our will and God’s will at Crossed Purposes? Are you and I in the crowd shouting “Hosanna” because we want Jesus to do this or that for us. We want him to save us from disease, to save us from “the sky falling on our heads!” and when he doesn’t, do we get disillusioned and wonder if he is the Messiah after all.  Jesus understood the crowd and even if they did not understand Him he was able to use their fickleness to serve God’s purpose.

Likewise He can use your and my doubts and disappointments to further his eternal purposes for us as individuals and for his kingdom. All he requires of us is to remain faithful and to trust in the cross of his purpose. His mission for us should underpin or own personal mission. Not everyone in the crowd shouted “Crucify Him” let us spend this Easter week meditating on the true purpose of the cross and Jesus’s conquest over death and his resurrection and let you and I seek to align our own individual mission and purpose in life with that of God’s mission for us so that we are not at Crossed Purposes.

 

Let me finish with this prayer: Loving God, when I pray, ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done’, teach me to mean it, however, hard working towards that may be. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

 

 

 

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