One of the Crowd A Sermon by David J. Droog April 5, 2009 First Presbyterian Church, Rochester, MN

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1 One of the Crowd A Sermon by David J. Droog April 5, 2009 First Presbyterian Church, Rochester, MN Folks, as I read the scripture from Luke this morning, I m going to make some running commentary about the verses as I go along. I am going to do some comparing to the other synoptic gospels; Synoptic gospels being Matthew, Mark and Luke and the word synoptic meaning to see with one eye, or to see similarly. John also reports the event but very briefly and I will be mentioning some of his viewpoint later. It is amazing how much alike these three writers report the Palm Sunday story. They saw and heard many of the same events and activities. But they also reported some differences. I listed all three texts in the bulletin, though I am going to be reading from Luke and comparing to him. I m reading from the Revised Standard Version, so if you are following along in your pew bible, it will read somewhat differently. Beginning then at the 28 th verse of the 19 th chapter: 1. And when Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany (stop) remember, I am reading from Luke Matthew does not mention Bethany but Mark does 2. When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, These two disciples are not named in any of the gospels. We might guess that because they are not named the author expects us to assume that they are Peter and Andrew, or James and John, or some combination of these four because these are the four who are usually named. On the other hand, the fact that they are not named suggests that it is not any of these four and could be any two other disciples.

2 3. He sent two of the disciples saying, Go into the village opposite The village opposite has to be either Bethany or Bethphage. The fact that Matthew does not mention Bethany might suggest that the town opposite is Bethany. Besides, Jesus was probably better known in Bethany, where Mary and Martha and Lazarus lived, so it would have been easier to secure a donkey in Bethany. 4. The village opposite, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat; untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you why are you untying it? you shall say this, The Lord has need of it. Both Matthew and Mark add here, and he will send it back here immediately. 5. So those who were sent (still not named) went away and found it as Jesus had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, Why are you untying the colt? And they said, The Lord has need of it. Matthew inserts two differences here. First he says you will find an ass and a colt with her, untie THEM. And second he tells us that this event occurred to fulfill prophecy. The difficulty is that Zechariah, through whom the prophecy came, refers to one animal, while Matthew makes it sound like Jesus rode two animals into Jerusalem. 6. And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their garments on the colt they set Jesus upon it. All three gospels report that the garments were placed on the animal(s); and while I don t know what it means exactly, I think that it is a very interesting point that Luke would suggest that the disciples physically placed Jesus on the colt, they set Jesus is the way it reads, while Matthew and Mark say simply, he sat on it. 7. As he rode along, they spread their garments on the road The disciples that had obtained the colt placed their garments right on the donkey, while the other disciples placed theirs on the road.

3 I read several commentaries that suggest that spreading one s garments on the road was not unusual for a visiting dignitary or head of state. It may still be done in some parts of the Mideast for persons of power and recognition. It is kind of a red carpet ceremony. 8. As he was now drawing near, at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples Now that is an interesting phrase, the multitude of the disciples. It suggests more than just the twelve, probably many of the people who had been following Jesus around for some time and had come to believe in him in some sense, if not as the Son of God. Obviously not everyone in the crowd was a disciple. However, Luke does use the word again, as we will see in a moment, to suggest the whole crowd and not just the disciples. Only Luke uses this phrase. Matthew says crowds and Mark says simply, many or those. 9. The whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen they were praising God for what they had seen Jesus do over the last couple months. 10. Saying, blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!... there are several points here: Luke says, blessed is the KING who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest. Note: 1. Only Luke calls him a KING, though John suggests that the king who comes will come in the name of the Lord; 2. Luke picks up the birth story, glory to God in the highest and peace on earth, contrasting the EARTHLY peace of the COMING Messiah and the HEAVENLY peace of the departing Messiah who is also the King. 3. There are no Hosannas in Luke; Mark and Matthew both begin with Hosanna and say He, not king. Matthew calls Jesus son of David of which at least one commentary said, all good Jews were called Son of David. (Parker p 12)

4 Mark wrote, Blessed is the kingdom of our Father DAVID and both Matthew and Mark end this piece with Hosanna in the highest! The word Hosanna means save us. And this whole section of scripture is right from the Psalter which was the Jewish hymnal of the time. If we look at Psalm 118 beginning at the 25 th verse we read, Save us, we beseech thee, O Lord! O Lord we beseech thee, give us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! In verse 27 of the same psalm it says, bind the festal procession with branches. This particular psalm was part of the liturgy that was usually saved for the Feast of Booths, which was a fall harvest festival. Part of the ceremony of that harvest was to wave branches of myrtle and willow that were woven together, and then a palm branch was added. This combination was called a lulab, and sometimes the branches themselves were referred to as hosanna because they were used with this psalm and the save us liturgy. 11. Mark s gospel ends with Hosanna in the highest. I almost wish they all did, but they don t. Luke goes onto say, and some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to him here Luke is using the word multitude to mean the whole crowd and finishes with, teacher rebuke your disciples. Jesus answered, I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out. 12. And Matthew ends with these words: and when Jesus entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred saying, Who is this? And the crowds said, this is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee. Now that is a lot of commentary for one scripture and I m going to be referring back to several items, but I want to change the focus a little bit. Why is it called Palm Sunday? In the Luke reading there is no mention of Palms, or for that matter branches. Maybe it should be called garment Sunday- all three of the synoptics

5 mention the garments, but John does not. Matthew says, {some people} cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road, but he doesn t say what kind and we know there were many kinds of trees around. And Mark specifies leafy branches cut from the fields, but again does not call them palms. For whatever reason, John s very short description of the event was chosen to name the Sunday. John specifically says branches of Palm trees, but he says nothing about laying them on the road. Let me read John s description from the 12 th chapter: The next day a great crowd that had come to the feast heard Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of Palm trees and went out to meet him, crying, Hosanna, blessed is he, who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel. And Jesus found a young ass and sat upon it; as it is written, fear not daughter of Zion; behold your king is coming sitting on an ass s colt! The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead bore witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they had heard that he had done this sign. All that commentary is interesting and it reminds us how three people can experience the same event and all see different items of importance. It also tells us how we get the whole story not from one person or one perspective, but from several. The piece I want to look at more closely however, is the crowd. We know about Jesus. We know what happens to Jesus. But who was this crowd? Who were these people? For a long time, I couldn t figure out where this crowd of people came from. Why were they there and why were they following Jesus? Oh, I recognize the crowd that was gathering for the Passover Feast, which of course was a really big holiday. Some have even suggested that Jerusalem would swell to three times its normal size during the week. But why so many specifically looking for Jesus?

6 Luke gives us a partial answer when he says that the crowd began to rejoice and praise God for all the mighty works they had seen. But we really have to turn to John to find a more complete answer to the question. According to John s chronology, just prior to this event, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. As far as the Pharisees were concerned this was, as its said, the straw that broke the camel s back, and they wanted him out of the picture. The timing for Jesus death had to be right so Jesus removed himself to another town until the Friday before Palm Sunday. By the time the people had begun to arrive for the feast, and those who knew of Jesus, began asking for him and began questioning whether or not he would even show up. After all, by this time he was a wanted criminal. The Pharisees had put out the word that he was going to be arrested. When he did show up on Sunday many of the people were already filled with great anticipation about his coming and what was going to happen to him. In addition, the news of his raising Lazarus had spread and John tells us, The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they had heard that he had done this sign. So, that is why the crowd is therethey are there in anticipation, and they are there because of this miracle. So, who was in this crowd? Well, obviously there were the disciples. Not just the 12, but also the 70, that Jesus sent out in twos to minister in towns. These were the folks who had spent the most time with Jesus. These were the folks who had given up jobs and friends and even family to follow Jesus. These were the folks who believed that Jesus was who he said he was, the Son of God. They had been there when Jesus fed the They saw the lame walk and the blind see. They heard the Sermon on the Mount, and the parables of heaven. They believed in him, even though they didn t fully understand him. They knew he had powers that could come only from God. They had experienced those powers in their own lives, and where their understanding failed them, they had faith. These were probably the ones rejoicing and praising God for all the mighty works they had seen.

7 There was another group of people in this crowd, the almost believers. This group wanted to believe but just couldn t quite convince themselves that Jesus might actually be the Messiah, the long awaited Christ. These were the people who always seemed to be around him. They too had seen the lame walk, they saw the lepers healed; they were fed by those loaves and fish. They saw those demons cast into a herd of swine. They saw Jairus daughter ALIVE after she had been declared dead. They had talked to Lazarus about what it was like to be dead and now alive. But instead of seeing the Son of God, instead of seeing the power of God, instead of seeing the life and resurrection, what they saw was a new king. This was the king that would come and bring peace to their land. This was the king that would come and overthrow the Roman government. This was the king that was going to put the Jews back in control of their own destiny. This was not GOD S Christ. This was THEIR Christ- the one they wanted and expected to come. I suspect that it was these people who shouted HOSANNA SAVE US! It was these who probably laid their garments on the road and received and treated Christ like a king. Not everyone thought Jesus was a king. People who had not been part of the welcoming committee but saw and heard all the commotion as Jesus entered Jerusalem asked some of those from the crowd, Who is this? And those who answered said, This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee. The response was, Just another prophet! Just another one of God s messengers claiming to tell us what God is thinking and saying, and not even from anyplace very important, Nazareth, that little farming village up north! We ve had these prophets around for century s he s nobody special. Just a prophet. These members of the crowd did not expect anything very special from Jesus. They weren t convinced of his power or even his reputation, in spite of what they had heard from others. They weren t going to believe he had raised anybody from the dead. They weren t impressed. Just a prophet! The only reason they were in this crowd was to see what was going on. As has been noted, A crowd gathers a crowd.

8 There was another group of people in this crowd that Luke tells us about, the Pharisees! At this point in time these were Jesus worst enemies. These were the folks who wanted him put to death because too many people were following him and listening to his teachings. Some had stopped listening to the Pharisees, who were the religious leaders of the day. THEY were supposed to determine and interpret the law; THEY were supposed to be the respected leaders. Jesus had claimed to be the Son of God. That was blasphemy! He had performed all kinds of miracles that were leading people away. He had, on more than one occasion made the Pharisees look like whitewashed tombs- all show and no substance. He was creating such a stir that THEY wanted him out of the way all he had to do was leave and keep his mouth shut, and if he wasn t willing to do that, then he would have to die! The Pharisees were waiting for him on this Palm Sunday. They had already said he was going to be arrested if he showed up. When the word spread that he was coming into Jerusalem, they, like so many others hurried out to the gate to see. Is it really him? The crowd is in a frenzy. They are excited. The anticipation has worked them into a lather. Here comes the great miracle worker! Here comes the next king of Israel! Here he comes! Hosanna in the highest! The crowd is acting as if this really is the Messiah and the Pharisees can t believe it. They are scared. What kind of political aspirations might this itinerant preacher have? Why is he letting them honor him like this? Certainly Jesus knows he is not the Messiah. What is the matter with him? Teacher, tell them to be quiet! Do not let them blaspheme God like this. Rebuke them! I cannot stop them! If not these folks, if not this crowd, then God would raise up the stones themselves to shout Hosannas. Not all the Pharisees were against Jesus. Remember that Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were also Pharisees, and they were probably in this crowd. Remember these are the two who asked for Jesus body after the crucifixion. It was in Joseph s tomb that the body was laid.

9 There were others in the crowd. Probably some Roman soldiers to keep the crowd under control. Probably some pick-pockets. Probably some innocent by-standers and travelers who just got caught up in the movement as the crowd made its way into the city. If you were in the crowd, who would you be? One of the twelve? Or the 70? Believers for sure! An almost believer- One of those who wanted to make Jesus King? We d all like perfection here on earth, wouldn t we? One of those who just wanted to see what was happening? One of the Pharisees who wanted Jesus out of the way? Or just an innocent bystander? Who would you be? I want to believe that there is a lot of disciple in all of us; That those who come to church, come because we believe that Jesus is indeed the Son of God and we know his power in our lives. I want to believe that we are believers. I like to believe that we are the 70 who have been sent out to demonstrate that power to others, to make real this Jesus we call Savior. I want to believe that because of our belief, the universal church will grow. I like to believe that the children that are nurtured here will be disciples now and in the future and that they will be one of the crowd that follows Jesus simply because Jesus has need of us. I d like to believe that every person will come to believe that Jesus Christ is their personal Savior and that he came so that we might all have abundant life. I want to believe that we are willing to show others the mighty works of God in our lives, so that this crowd will draw others, and that together we can all Rejoice and praise God for the mighty works we have seen! Who would you be? Amen.

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