Sermon Series: Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places
Title: Look for the Unexpected
April 14, 2019
Rev. Sandy Johnson
Today is the last day of our Looking for Love series. I hope you’ve enjoyed looking for love! And I pray that we have all found it in the many places we have shared during this Lenten journey. Today we turn to finding love in unexpected places. And they were quite unexpected!
Palm Sunday! It’s Palm Sunday! There’s such a festive spirit in the air, do you feel it? Singing, dancing, waving palm branches. People shouting, Hosanna! Hosanna! It’s quite a scene, isn’t it?! We can all get caught up in the excitement of a parade, can’t we? I love parades. My favorite is going to the Electric Light Parade here in Boulder City. How many of you have witnessed the parade?
It’s held the first Saturday of December and so the weather’s usually cool, or some year’s it’s downright chilly! We take our lawn chairs and line Nevada Way and wait for the parade to begin. Thankfully there are people coming along that sell hot chocolate with marshmallows and that makes for a perfect setting for a parade of local businesses, clubs, athletic groups, horses, small cars and car clubs. Each decorated with as many lights as possible to make a splash as they roll down the street.
When I was a little girl my favorite part about parades was the candy that people threw! My parents didn’t keep candy at home so getting candy was quite a treat! I would sit on the curb in giddy anticipation of the floats who would throw candy. They I would jump up, dash out into the street and race to get a piece.
Today my favorite part is watching children’s faces as they see the beautiful lights coming down the street, eagerly awaiting the candy that is likely to be thrown.
Our scripture today is about a parade. Jesus entering Jerusalem, that was an unexpected parade. Just a few days before this episode, while they were in route to Jerusalem, Jesus had shared with his disciples that he would be handed over to the chief priests and scribes. He told them that he would be condemned to death and be given over to the Romans to be mocked, flogged and crucified. And if that wasn’t enough, Jesus told them that he would then be raised from the dead on the third day.
Scripture doesn’t share what their response was to this news, but I imagine the were scared at what was to come. As they approached Jerusalem they did so with trepidation and caution. I don’t believe they could have imagined what was to come.
Just outside of town, at Bethphage (beth-fage) on the Mount of Olives they stopped, and Jesus asked two disciples to go into the village and secure transportation for him. It appears he may have prearranged this somehow, although we aren’t told how. Jesus tells them to go get a donkey and her colt for him. He is very specific. This isn’t any donkey, it’s the one with a colt. He assures them that if anyone asks, they will be ok with it if they tell them that “the Lord needs them.”
Matthew explains to us, the reader of the scripture, why this was done.
4 This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,
5 “Tell the daughter of Zion,
Look, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
Let’s remember that this was Passover time. Do you have any idea how many people were in Jerusalem? Thirty years after Jesus was resurrected, the Roman governor did a census of the lambs slain in Jerusalem during Passover. It may surprise you to learn that they estimated a quarter of a million lambs were slain. Lambs weren’t slain one per each person, but in fact the regulation was that each lamb must accompany a party of at least ten people.
Someone want to do the math? That’s more than two and a half million people. Jerusalem was surging with people. Jews from every corner of the world came for Passover. “Jesus couldn’t have chosen a more dramatic moment” to make his historic, unexpected entrance into Jerusalem.
Here comes Jesus, sitting tall on the donkey, colt following behind. The very large crowd placed their cloaks on the ground for the donkey to walk upon. Others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road, some waved them and shouted: “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
These were accolades for a king! The crowd was receiving him as their king, an unexpected king because he wouldn’t be the type of king they thought was coming. Jesus was a servant king, one who would allow himself to be crucified for their sake. One who would take on the role of a convicted felon to set us free.
“Hosanna” that they shouted meant something very different that what we might think today. When I hear the shouts of hosanna I think of the “triumphant entry” into Jerusalem, I think of the celebratory nature of the day.
But hosanna in fact meant “save now!” Hosanna was “essentially a people’s cry for deliverance and for help in the day of their trouble; it is an oppressed people’s cry to their savior and their king.” The Jews were oppressed by the Romans and they were anxiously waiting for a king to rule them, to overthrow the Roman government and to bring peace to the land.
These enthusiastic people along the parade route believed that they were witnessing history. The man on the donkey was in fact their Messiah, their God and King come to save them from the oppression they lived under. Their disappointment come Friday when they watched him executed was days away, today they were beseeching him to save them and save them now!
There is so much unexpected in this story. The disciples were caught off guard when Jesus told them he would return to Jerusalem. Then I imagine when Jesus told them that he would die during his visit, only to be raised up on the third day was unbelievable to them. Clearly not something they were anticipating. It was an unexpected and unusual set of circumstances. The crowds receiving him as king must have been unexpected as well, especially knowing that he wouldn’t be well received later in the week by the chief priests and scribes. They were watching this parade, scheming and plotting how to end this uproar.
I suspect that the disciples were caught off guard by the fuss. But Jesus wasn’t. He knew exactly what was to happen. He knew God’s plan and was prepared to live through the worst week in history. His own torture, death, and burial. To have to watch the response of those whom he loved and who loved him in return, must have been agonizing. And even though he told the disciples what was going to happen, I can’t imagine any of them really understood the gravity of the events as they unfolded. Clearly unexpected!
So we have to ask ourselves, “what is it we expect of Jesus?” “Is he meeting our expectations?” Or more importantly, “Are we meeting his?”
Close with this video. While you’re watching I want you to consider the ways are we called to be part of something new and unexpected? Jesus was the master of the unexpected. Next Sunday we will experience the ultimate in unexpected when we find the tomb is empty!
 Matthew 20:17-19
 Matthew 21:4-5
 Barclay, William. The Daily Study Bible Series: The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 2, Revised Edition. Westminster Press, Philadelphia. 1975. Page 238.
 Matthew 21: 9