As a nation, isn’t it fascinating how much we love parades? On Thanksgiving Day and New Year’s Day many of us sit in front of our television sets to watch them. It has become common to honor Super Bowl or World Series teams with parades in their hometowns. Parades are often held to celebrate victories or to honor returning heroes. Several years ago there was an elderly missionary returning to the United States to retire. He and his wife had spent over 40 years serving in Africa. At this point in his life, however, he was alone. His wife and his children had all been buried for one reason or another in the soil of Africa. As he exited the plane, he saw a huge crowd of people waiting at the gate. Some of them were holding signs, some of them were waving banners, and he could even hear the sound of music above the shouting voices. For a few seconds he thought, ”Can it be? After more than 40 years of service, all of these people have actually come to welcome ME home?” He soon learned he was mistaken. On his plane was also a politician returning from a visit to Africa. During his visit he had been received royal treatment, and was now welcomed back with all the pomp and circumstance his nation could muster. As the missionary waited and waited at the airport, the contrast was almost more than he could bear. For a moment he began feeling sorry for himself and he started to pray, ”Father in Heaven, why? I’ve served you faithfully and for so long, yet look. I don’t expect much, but is it wrong that I desire that there be some kind of a welcome home?” Then, almost as if God had spoken aloud, the old missionary sensed his Lord reply, “But my son, you are not home yet.” When we watch little children learning to walk, we learn the value of open arms and of praise. They will fall, but as we encourage them they get up and try again until eventually they learn. When Jesus entered Jerusalem in this Biblical procession, everyone had the opportunity to lift their voices in praise to God. They had the opportunity to welcome Him with open arms. As we look at this parade, we see there are at least four reasons why it is prophetic.
First of all, this parade is prophetic because of the crowds. In our passage it was Passover, and Jews from all over the world were crowding into Jerusalem. News had spread that Jesus was on His way, and that He had just passed Bethphage and Bethany. There were two crowds here. One crowd was with Jesus as He was traveling from Bethany, the other crowd was coming from Jerusalem to meet him. These two masses of people coming together must have resembled two large waves of a sea. Jesus was entering the city, and as the crowds gathered around Him they welcomed Him like a conquering hero. The Jewish authorities saw this parade as well, and they were extremely frustrated as a result. It seemed nothing they did would stop people from following Jesus. The same thing happens today. Despite what unbelievers may do to discourage people from following Jesus, people still follow Him. Jesus is very much alive today. All people who follow Him have their lives forever changed for the better. Now, some of the people in this prophetic parade were just curious. They had heard that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead, and they hoped they might see something just as sensational. Most of them, however, were greeting Jesus with great emotion. They were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” The word “hosanna” is the Hebrew word for “save now” and is nearly the same thing as “God save the king!” Jesus was going to be their king, or so they thought, and it would only be a matter of time until the trumpets blasted, the call to arms was sounded, and the yoke of Roman tyranny was broken. Israel once again would be a free and sovereign state as in the days of David. Psalm 118:26 says, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord…” Scripture was being fulfilled in this prophetic parade, but not as the people perceived.
Second, this parade is prophetic because of Jesus. In this kind of situation it was nearly impossible for Jesus to speak to the crowd. An excited crowd isn’t all that interested in hearing what the celebrity has to say. They are just fascinated by the sight of the celebrity. So Jesus made His statement by His actions rather than by His words. He dramatically fulfilled Zechariah 9:9. That passage says, Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. What Jesus was saying to all the crowds that had gathered is that He is the Messiah, the Savior of Israel. It was an extremely bold visual statement. We’re likely to miss it because of the difference of our cultures. Jesus entering Jerusalem in this way would have been same as a renegade politician arriving in Washington D.C. on a plane that looked exactly like Air Force One. Jesus was definitely taking the role of the king of Israel in this parade, and so He is. Jesus was also saying that He is a special kind of king. We think of donkeys as very common, but in the Middle East they were considered very noble. Kings, princes, and judges rode upon donkeys. A king would ride upon a horse when he was preparing for war, but would ride on a donkey when he came in peace. Jesus came in peace. Zechariah said that the Messiah would come “gentle and riding on a donkey.” Jesus entered Jerusalem not as a war maker, but as a peace maker. In the same way He enters our lives today, not to destroy us, but to fulfill us. He comes to bring gentleness, love and peace. We need to understand clearly that it is through gentleness, love and peace that the kingdom of Jesus advances today. The kingdom of Jesus is not spread through turbulence, and it is not spread through excessive zeal. The kingdom of Jesus is spread by speaking the truth in love.
Then, we see that this parade is prophetic because of the donkey’s owners. Let’s listen again to what Luke says about these people. Verse 33 says, As they were untying the colt [donkey], its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” Evidently this donkey had more than one owner. Donkeys were expensive, and it is likely that one person couldn’t afford a good donkey, so two or more persons pooled their resources. Have we ever wondered how Jesus knew this donkey was there? Was it a miraculous sign that Jesus was somehow able to discern the location of this animal? Well, it is certainly possible, but it is also possible that Jesus had been in that area several times previously, and had seen the donkey there. Maybe He knew where this colt was kept. Maybe He knew the owners and had explained to them that one day He would have a need for the animal. Regardless, the day finally arrives. Jesus needs the donkey, tells the disciples where to find it, and what to say if the owners question them. Everything went smoothly. The disciples got the donkey, were asked what they were doing, and they replied. Donkeys were prized possessions. They were a means of transportation. The livelihood of the farmers depended on these animals. They pulled plows and they carried loads to various destinations. Jesus told the disciples to say, “the Lord needs it.” When the owners heard of the opportunity to help, they gave. When they gave that donkey, they were giving the best they had. It was no small favor. Now let’s try to identify the most important thing in our lives today. Is it our money, it is our time, it is our house, our car, or something else? Is it a person? Our answer will reveal a lot about ourselves and our values. Now, let’s think what would happen if Jesus knocked on your door and said, I have need of “that,” whatever “that” is. Would you give it? Would you surrender that possession to him as these owners surrendered the donkey? Listen to Matthew 19:29 …Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. Jim Elliot, the great missionary pilot, once said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” We have a challenge before us by our vision team to hire a part-time worship leader. It will not happen however, if you do not tithe generously and regularly, with no strings attached (in other words, gifts that are not designated for a particular fund). “Well, pastor, that would involve too much of a sacrifice for me!” Sacrificial giving is at the heart of following Jesus. The owners of the donkey did it – you’re called to do it as well.
Then, this parade is prophetic because of the donkey itself. Donkeys have played an important role in the Bible. It was a donkey that taught Balaam a valuable lesson. It was a donkey that carried Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem. It was a donkey that carried the baby Jesus into Egypt to escape King Herod. Now, near the end of His earthly ministry, we see a donkey carrying Jesus for his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Many of us here admire horses. My wife Jeannie loves horses. Anyone who would volunteer to clean stables just to be near horses has to have a real passion for them. Horses are beautiful animals. They have coats that shine in the sun. They have flowing manes that ripple in the breeze, and long, graceful legs that will cover many miles. Horses have soft eyes, and they make a sound that radiates power and strength. Jesus wasn’t riding a horse however, but a donkey. So on the road to Jerusalem this little donkey hears people shouting, “Hosanna!” He sees people spreading their coats on the road in front of him. The reason is that he is carrying the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. This little donkey is in the place that normally a majestic stallion would occupy. Because of Jesus this donkey has become something special. The point is that when Jesus is ruling our lives, there is a transformation that occurs. We would love to think of ourselves like this horse – majestic, beautiful, sleek, shiny. The truth is however, you and I are not like this horse – we are a donkey. There is another term that applies as well, but that term is not appropriate for this setting. A donkey’s hair looks like ours does when we first awaken in the morning and haven’t combed it. His tail is raggedy. His mane is nothing beautiful to behold. His ears are oversized, and they flop as he moves from one place to another. The braying sounds of a donkey doesn’t impress us, its just rather annoying. Each one of us acts like a donkey, and has the stubbornness of a donkey. If we are left alone, we will never be anything other than a donkey. When our lives are placed under the control of Jesus however, and when He is present in us, we become something very special. He transforms us into someone who is useful in God’s work, and has a very special purpose for Jesus.
On this Palm Sunday, Jesus is here in this place. He is saying, “I have need of you.” How will you respond? Will you turn your back on Him as the Pharisees did? Will you support Him only for a moment, then turn and reject Him, as the crowd did? Will you be just a donkey, stubborn and braying, or will you be transformed into something greater? Jesus is calling you to be part of a prophetic parade of people who are submitted to Him – what will your choice be?