The Grand Entrance of Hope, Peace and Joy
Rev. Michael F. Bailey
March 20, 2016
Luke 19:28-40 “After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?” just say this: “The Lord needs it.” ’ So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’They said, ‘The Lord needs it.’ Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!’ Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, order your disciples to stop.’ He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.’
Have you ever tried to make a grand entrance that didn’t turn out so grand? I suppose all of us have had an occasion when that happened. I want to share a story with you now that I have permission to share! And, after you hear the story you’ll know why I got permission. It’s a story about a grand entrance my wife made years ago that I can remember like it was yesterday.
In the days when she was acting professionally, Lauralee was in the musical, “Two by Two.” It’s the story of Noah’s Ark, though not nearly as grand as Noah’s Flood offered here at Christ Church every few years. Lauralee was performing in a round theater in Nashville. The audience surrounded the stage, which was in the center of the theater and featured ramps going up to Noah’s Ark. Toward the end of the play the Ark had landed on Mount Ararat and Noah’s sons and their wives went off stage for a while, ostensibly on shore. When they came back into the theater all of the wives were in the words the King James Version, “yea verily, great with child.”
The ramps going up to the Ark were supposed to have resin on them to keep the actors from slipping. Evidently, the ramp Lauralee went up didn’t have enough resin. About halfway up she slipped and almost fell forward and then almost fell backwards. With her “great with child appearance” the audience gasped audibly. Some even stuck their hands out to catch her. She recovered and didn’t fall and the show went on. Lauralee then exited the stage and went behind one of the several openings to backstage. While the walls of the theater appeared to be substantial they actually were painted plywood. Here’s something learned the hard way, plywood isn’t soundproof. As soon as she got behind the thin plywood wall, Lauralee spied another actor. Her non-regional professional actress voice from the stage devolved into pure Alamance County North Carolina. She said in a voice, loud enough for a third of the theater to hear, “Did you see what happened to me out there? I slipped and just about fell on my bottom!” Well, actually she didn’t say, “fell on my bottom.” If you speak “Alamance County” you know what she said she almost slipped and fell on. To make matters worse the performers had to line up and greet the audience after the show. Several audience members complimented her acting and singing, and many said they especially appreciated the last line is that she ad libbed from backstage. Sometimes our grand entrances aren’t so grand are they?
There was a grand entrance 2000 years ago, to which nothing compares. It was when Jesus came into Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday and it’s a grand entrance He would like to repeat today, into your life and heart even this day.
Jesus entry into Jerusalem was filled with meaning. Several chapters in Luke are dedicated toward his planning the entry, perhaps including prearranging the donkey. Even geography plays a part. Jesus rode into Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. And in Judaism at that time, the Messiah was expected to arrive from the Mount of Olives. And we all know that Jerusalem is the holy city believed by the folks of that time to be the place where heaven and earth touch. Moreover, riding a donkey was the fulfillment of the prophecy from Zechariah 9 stating that Israel’s King would come with humility riding a donkey. While Luke’s version doesn’t have the palm branches, which were waived at the arrival of the victorious king, it does have garments being placed on the road. This too was done to honor arriving rulers. In my minds eye, I love picturing those garments. It is unlikely that they were the fine woven garments of the merchants, priests, Pharisees and Romans. I picture the stained garment placed down by a healed leper. I can see a tattered garment thrown on the ground by a now seeing but formerly blind beggar. I suspect many of the garments were sun bleached ones worn by fisherman. I imagine the cloak of a rejected woman now loved and accepted.
It seems the disciples knew who Jesus was. They chanted the traditional welcoming Hallel Psalm for pilgrims but added the word king to it. And the joy of the disciples overflowed as they considered the mighty works they had seen in Jesus. They proclaimed him King and declared peace from earth to heaven. What can we who have heard this event related over the decades be reminded of from the familiar passage? For one thing, this passage reminds us that Christ is King of Kings and Lord of lords! And how we need a loving sovereign in our lives. We know ourselves well, most of us. We know of our multitude of problems, shortcomings and failures. Most of us know who we are and who we are called and equipped to be and the gap is great. All of this points to the fact that we have pretty much failed at self-rule.
And it is comforting to know that Jesus offers himself as the loving all powerful savior and sovereign of our lives. For our weaknesses, our loving King has strength. For our brokenness, our caring King has healing. For our sin, our forgiving King has grace. For our failures, He offers victory. For our lost-ness He has open arms and a heavenly home. For our despair, He offers empty-tomb hope. For our disquieted soul, He is our peace. In a world that seems to be spending out of control, for us to be reminded that our humble, loving, yet powerful Jesus, is sovereign over all, is comforting, hope-generating and reassuring.
This passage also reminds us that Jesus is the source of our peace and true joy. It would seem that our day is one that seeks happiness above all else. And yet happiness is short-lived. As soon as circumstances change, happiness dissipates. Happiness is ephemeral and lives lived with happiness as the highest goal are lives lived trying to catch smoke. And yet, our faith informs us that joy is a reality. Joy is a reality that is unshakable. It is a reality because Christ lives, reigns and is at work in the world! Our faith informs us of the reality of joy no matter what our circumstances are. We know that Christ, at large in the world doing mighty works, and those who have the eyes to see and the ears to hear, rejoice as the disciples did in Jerusalem long ago. And finally, this passage reminds and assures us that absolutely nothing can stop Jesus, His love and His grace.
The cauldron of Jerusalem that day was boiling. It was boiling with Pilate, Herod Antipas, Caiaphas, well-armed and trained Roman legionnaires, Pharisees, tax collectors, Temple sacrifice salesman and money changers, Barabbas-choosing crowds, Jewish nationalists all under the shadow of the hill called Golgotha. And shortly on that hill there will stand a cross with Jesus’ name on it. And yet, Christ rides on and into the cauldron. And nothing has changed about Jesus; He’s still that way! Out of love and concern, He rides into the cauldron of human hearts. His love is boundless, unleashed and unrelenting. And no matter how strong hate seems to be; no matter what barriers are put up by individuals or even harsh denominations, Jesus’ love and grace is more powerful and defeats all of these and more. You see the fact is, Jesus and His love are out to and bound to get us. His love is unceasing and unstoppable. This relentless love is here even now this morning despite our evasion, guilt and sense of unworthiness, even our brokenness and sin. He is here seeking to make a grand entry into our hearts even this day. Shall we welcome Him?
Share about a failed grand entrance or exit in your life.
Share how you are comforted by Christ as King.
Share how you find joy and peace in Christ.
Share what Christ’s unstoppable love means in your life and the life of loved ones and friends.