1 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”
4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
5 “Say to Daughter Zion,
‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”
11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”Matthew 21:1-11
Let’s say that a father goes to the store alone to buy groceries for his family to protect them from the coronavirus. He brings the groceries home and makes sure his family is in another room or outside as he cleans each item before putting is away. He washes his hands and then makes contact with his family. Over the next few days, his symptoms begin to show, so he isolates himself and his wife sterilizes the whole house. No one else gets sick, but he gets worse with the coughing, sneezing, fever and short breath. His symptoms grow so bad, he is taken to the hospital, put on fluids and a ventilator, but the weakness and shallow breaths continue to grow worse until no more breaths at all. The father knew the risks of going out but went anyway to protect his family and in doing so he gave his life to keep them safe, healthy and alive. True love is not flashy, but humble. True love puts the interests of others first, like a father who risks exposure to a virus to provide for his family.
Putting your own needs on hold for others is true love, but it is not easy. I’m sure fathers remember a time when they could drive their truck to work and bring home takeout for the family without a care. I’m sure wives remember a time when their husbands would take them out to dinner at a restaurant packed full of people without a care. I’m sure we all remember what it was like to hug or shake hands with someone else without a care. Now, these past few weeks have put into perspective what it takes to care for others. Fathers drive the family minivan to pick up groceries to last a week or two, rather than their truck to grab a meal to last one night. Wives settle for date night with pizza and Oreos on the living room floor surrounded by kids’ toys, rather than a glass of wine, white linen tablecloth and delicacies made by the hands of local chefs. All of us have begun to realize how good we had it when we could look up from our phones to talk with a person face to face rather than rely on screens as the only way to have a conversation with someone. All the feelings of how good they had it took over the people the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, the day we now call Palm Sunday.
The crowds loved the Jesus they were used to seeing. The crowds loved the Jesus who did not worry about getting sick because he healed sick people. The crowds loved the Jesus who did not worry about picking up groceries because he could feed 5000 with just a few loaves of bread and small fish. They loved the Jesus who did not worry about taking the family minivan to work because he could walk on water. The crowds even loved Jesus riding a donkey into Jerusalem where they greeted him like a king with shouts of praise laying down palm branches and their cloaks like a red carpet because they believed he was going there to sit on a throne to rule for them. Instead, Jesus was there to fulfill the words of the prophet Zechariah from 500 years before, 5 “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’” The donkey was a beast of burden, not the white stallion of a king. The crowds loved the Jesus who worked miracles, but what about a humble Jesus whose miracle was attached to sin and death?
You want a Jesus that performs miracles, not a humble Jesus. You would much rather be in the crowd welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, than in the small group standing at the cross a few days later wondering what happened. Jesus came to Jerusalem this last time on Palm Sunday to give his life on the cross to take away your sins and give you eternal life. You read this in your Bible and hear it in sermons, but what does the humble Jesus do for you when you are in isolation and under the threat of a virus? What does he mean for you when you want what is in your mind and heart to change from guilt and sadness to joy and peace? Why does it seem like the Jesus of miracles has stopped and been replaced with a humble Jesus who was able to rise from the dead for me, yet does not make my life feel better?
Jesus was welcomed as a King by crowds on Palm Sunday who a few days later saw him mocked as a prisoner left to die on a cross. Some of those who welcomed him abandoned him, some who praised him mocked him because Jesus did not look like he could give them what they wanted. You have abandoned Jesus and mocked him by losing hope in his true love for you. Jesus’ love for you does not always look like what you want. Instead, his love for you was the humble service of what you need as Paul wrote in Philippians 2, 7 … “he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” This is a true, friend, servant, someone who looks out for your best interests. This is Jesus, the humble King. Not a king who looks like triumph and power, but one who actually fights the battles you need won.
God recorded what Jesus did in the Bible for you to understand what you need from Jesus as your King. Jesus as your King during a time of isolation and the threat of a virus means you have protection. You are protected from death through his resurrection, you are protected from loneliness through his presence, his angels and his Word and you are protected through your love for others by isolating yourself to prevent the spread of disease. Jesus as your King when you want what is in your mind and heart to change from guilt and sadness to joy and peace means you have forgiveness, not a demand to be better. When we gather together, we acknowledge our sins, but we also have Jesus’ forgiveness. When we leave church or after the livestream, we have joy as God’s people through whom God does good things. Jesus is not seen by you now but Paul wrote in Philippians 2, 9 “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” When it seems like Jesus has stopped being the Jesus of miracles, the problem lies with you and me.
Jesus served you in ways that fulfill your deepest needs. With Jesus there is a person who walked into a crowded city infected with hatred, sin and unbelief toward him to die so that you would have the cure for your sin infected heart. With Jesus you have a new purpose as one of his people, part of his kingdom and in a position of power with the King of heaven and earth giving you guidance, wisdom, encouragement and love. This is why you and I have every good reason to greet Jesus today and each day in prayer and praise with the words from Matthew 2 that the crowds shouted on Palm Sunday, 9 … “’Hosanna to the Son of David!’ ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Hosanna in the highest heaven!’” Hosanna means “please save.”
True love is humble. It is like a father who puts the interests of his family above his own, but that love can be done by a believer or an unbeliever. There are examples of humble love by those who praise Jesus as their King and those who do not recognize him as their King. A father with faith or without faith can live his whole life with humble, servant caring for his family even to the point of death. But the dad who does not believe dies leaving his family without hope to see him again. While, the father who believes dies looking forward to seeing his family again with Jesus in heaven. These last few weeks have changed the way your life looks. When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday, he was welcomed as a king, and by the end of the week, he was lying in a tomb. Those who followed Jesus had their lives changed forever the first Holy Week from Palm Sunday to Easter. Use this time when things are different to consider what you have treated as important in your life and what Jesus you have been hoping in. Use this time to hope in the humble Jesus and put what is important to him first in your life.
Jesus serves as a true king. Jesus is the King you need, the one who saved you from sin and death, the humble King. You are part of his kingdom to serve him and others with humility. His throne is hidden from our eyes now, but one day you will stand before him. Give thanks each day that your King serves with humility. Amen.