Matthew 21:1-11

When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.”

This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, “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.”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.” Matthew 21:1-11

Jesus lived in the day when social media consisted of village gossip. People talked. Word spread. Life was like a giant game of post office, tall tales abounded. It is safe to say that many more people had heard of Jesus than had actually seen him. It was an exciting day when word spread that someone had heard that Jesus was coming to town. It was time for a parade.

The controversy this year in college football had to do with who gets to claim credit for winning the national championship. Officially, the champion is the University of Alabama. They beat the University of Georgia and ended the year with a record of 13-1. Unofficially, according to themselves, the University of Central Florida say they are the rightful champion. They were the only team to go undefeated, 13-0, and they beat Auburn (which had previously defeated both Georgia and Alabama.) UCF even had a big parade through Orlando to celebrate “their” championship.

What is it with parades? Turns out it was a very “Roman” thing to do. Whenever a victorious commander returned to town there was no greater honor than to celebrate with a “triumph.” Part civil ritual, part religious festival, its ultimate pay-off was an increase in honor and glory for the leader of the victory. Caesar would lead the parade – consisting of his troops, the slaves he had captured, and the various spoils of war. It was a BIG deal. A triumph would go on for days at great expense as everyone so honored sought to “out-parade” all of those who had gone before.

Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was an anti-triumph. He rode in on a donkey, not a great white war horse or a chariot pulled by four horses. No captives. No spoils. Just a crowd of hopeful, nosy, and ultimately fickle people.

So who is the real champion? Jesus and his anti-triumph or the Roman Emperor and his glorious pomp, circumstance, and power? The crowd would soon make its choice.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, your entry into Jerusalem was a surprise to everyone. The crowds greeted you with cheers. Maybe their expectations were the same as ours – that you would make everything better in their lives. They didn’t realize that your work was to make them better and, through them, to make life better for all. They didn’t understand what winning would look like for you. Change our hearts that we might stick with you long after the parade is over. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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