By Rev. Dr. Sergio Arevalo, Jr.
Santa Ana United Methodist Church, Santa Ana, CA
Palm Sunday, April 09, 2017; 9 AM
Today is Palm Sunday and it is appropriate to recall the history of this event. The celebration of Palm Sunday originated in the Jerusalem Church around the late fourth century. The early celebration consisted of prayers, hymns, messages recited by the priest while the people walked to various holy sites throughout the city. There are three (3) important lessons that we can get from our passage today.
Matthew 21:1-3 narrates, Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front 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, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.”
There are two scenarios that we can deduce here: (1) Jesus had prior arrangement with the owner of the two animals. That’s why when he commanded his two disciples to get them, the owner gave them to his disciples. (2) Jesus knew in his mind that there were 2 animals in that village, and he asked his disciples to utter the “magic words”—“The Lord needs them!”
Whatever happened then we don’t know the details, but we know that the people involved cooperated with what Jesus had in mind. I am inclined to believe that when Jesus told, through his two disciples, He needed the 2 animals, the owner immediately gave them to his disciples. He was an awesome believer of Jesus Christ. He could give whatever he had had just to offer his services to Jesus.
In our modern times, God is asking our cooperation with His will but are we attentive enough to hear them? Are we good followers of God? Are we willing to sacrifice for the glory of God? Jesus’ religion is not easy, it demands our sacrifice, and it demands sacrificial actions.
Our passages challenge us to become bold in our faith, strong in our faith and endure hardship for the glory of God. In the book, From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, Ruth Tucker writes about Dr. Eleonor Chestnut. After arriving in China in 1893 under the American Presbyterian missions board. Dr. Chestnut built a hospital, using her own money to buy bricks and mortar. The need for her services was so great, she performed surgery in her bathroom until the building was completed. There was one operation that involved the amputation of a common laborer’s leg. Complications arose , and skin grafts were needed.
A few days later, another doctor asked Dr. Chestnut why she was limping. “Oh, It’s nothing,” was her terse reply. Finally, a nurse revealed that the skin graft for the patient, a coolie, came from Dr. Chestnut’s own leg, taken with only local anesthetic. Indeed she suffered for her mission to serve the people of God.
Not only that in 1905 during the so-called Boxer Rebellion, Dr. Chestnut and four other missionaries were killed by a mob that stormed the hospital.
I am asking myself, can I sacrifice myself when the time comes? How about you brothers and sisters, are you willing to sacrifice for the glory of God? Are you willing to give up your life, your money or even your citizenship and freedom just to glorify God?
(2) THE CONSUMMATION OF THE PROPHECY (vv.4-8)
Matthew 21:4-8 says, this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.
In this passage, it reveals the completion of God’s prophecy in Zechariah 9:9. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
In Biblical times, the regional custom called for kings and nobles arriving in procession to ride on the back of a donkey. The donkey was a symbol of peace, those who rode upon them proclaimed peaceful intentions. The laying of palm branches indicated that the king or dignitary was arriving in victory (Santa Ana Bulletin). Jesus came with humility and yet with appropriate dignity. Instead of marching on the streets like a conquering general, he comes with humility, and he comes as the Prince of Peace.
(3) THE COMING OF THE GREAT PROPHET OR THE PRINCE OF PEACE (vv.9-11)
Matthew 21:9-11 says, the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
Jesus entered Jerusalem and the crowd showed their love by spreading their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. People are shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Hosanna means “save now!” or “O save!”
Palm Sunday is also a day of reflection. Today is an appropriate time to reflect on our faith. Let us close our eyes and let us reflect on these words: How’s our faith and Christian actions for the past year? When we offer today the palms at the altar of God, can we say to ourselves that he comes as the Prince of Peace in our hearts? Is Zechariah’s prophecy consummated in our lives? Can we cooperate with Jesus’ mission on earth? Can we give up everything in our lives just to realize his missions?