Today’s is Palm Sunday. Today we staged a little drama to recall Jesus’ “triumphal” entry into Jerusalem. We sang “Hosanna!, Hosanna!
” God Saves us! God Saves us! Hosanna is a cry of praise and help. It is also also a cry of encouragement, much like what we would shout out at a sports event. “Go, Canucks, Go.” As fans, we are appealing to the team to give more. We are calling upon them to dig deeper.
If we were part of the crowd there on the day Jesus rode the donkey into Jerusalem, we would be both stating that we need saving, calling for God to intervene, to help, and at the same time, we would be cheering and praising. That is what the shout “Hosanna” evokes. It is a call for God’s intervention and at the same time praise. It expresses confidence: “God saves us!” “God saves us!” or Just “God saves!” “God saves!” It is both an appeal and an acclamation. It is what we sing about and think about on Palm Sunday. At least that’s what we should be doing, right? In fact, that’s what we just did.
But, let’s look again at today’s reading from Luke’s gospel. Do we see any Hosannas? Did we hear the word when it was read? No, we did not. Now that is interesting, isn’t it?
A “triumphal” entry without any “Hosannas.” Perhaps this version of the Palm Sunday story has missed out on something. Did Luke forget something? No, Luke did not.
Luke’s version of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, is part of Jesus of Nazareth’s passage through his “field ministry” in Galilee and Samaria, and his journey from the country to the center of everything, the Holy City Jerusalem. Luke’s’ version of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is different for a good reason. In Luke, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is not so “triumphal” intentionally. In Luke, Jesus’ entry is a “Reconciling Ride.” It is a clear example of the “reconciling” ministry of Jesus Christ.
That phrase,” the reconciling ministry of Jesus Christ,” are the words which I took from our vision statement. The one we are working on to define ourselves. To tell the world who we are. To tell a potential candidate for ministry in this church who we are. We are “continuing the reconciling ministry of Jesus Christ”
We talked about that “continuing” , the future, last week when we thought about something “smelling so good.” Something good was coming out of God’s oven. Something good is cooking in God’s kitchen. It’s all about expectations, anticipations, the future.
Today we look at what “it” is. The “it” is “the reconciling ministry.” The “it” is following Jesus on his “reconciling ride.” Luke offers us a great opportunity to look at that.
The other three gospels present Jesus as one who has already had an impact and his reputation has preceded him. He rides through the East Gate and is greeted inside the city by crowds who call on him and acclaim him as the savior of the nation, the son of David, the anointed one of God who is ready to lead them in reclaiming the power to God’s people. Just as King David defeated all the enemies of God’s people and unified Israel. They expect a deliverer. They expect a leader who will defeat the Roman oppressors. They expect someone who will defeat their enemies and set them free. Just as Moses did. This is the Passover season, after all. They are celebrating God’s triumph over Pharaoh and their deliverance from bondage in Egypt. That is why they have journeyed into the city, the Holy City, to the temple, with all the gatherings of friends and family, all to celebrate— to celebrate deliverance, liberation and triumph.
But Jesus has another kind of liberation in mind. The “triumph” he ushers in is a victory of another kind. That is all there in three of the four gospels.
But Luke’s gospel is different. It is written for a different audience. The other three gospels are written mainly for Jews, sons and daughters of the promise to Abraham. They live in hope of experiencing the fulfilment of God’s promise.
God will send a Messiah, an anointed one, like King David, to re-establish the pre-eminence of Israel. The early “church”, the people who are gathered to hear these stories, the first “believers” who are listening to someone reading from Matthew, Mark or John, in a house church, they have built up this expectation. They are mainly adherent Jews. They know the Torah, the Law and the Prophets. They know the stories of the chosen people— all about the children of Israel.
Luke’s readers are not Jews, for the most part. They are Gentiles, Greek-speaking, non- Jews. They don’t identify with the liberation and deliverance narratives. Luke presents a version of the story which offers these non-Jews, the people who have not been inheritors of God’s promise because of their birth, the same kind of deliverance.
Luke is taking the promise made to Jews and he is bringing it, and offering it to non-Jews. This liberation and this deliverance—the “saving” is for all people. Jesus brings it all together. He is “reconciling.” He takes the promise made to one group and offers it to everyone—to the world. That is why Luke’s story of the ride into the city, the Holy City, is a “reconciling ride.” Luke reconciles God’s faithfulness, God’s love, the Good News, to all.
Let’s look closely at how this is accomplished in Luke. First of all, we look at geography. Jesus is on the Mount of Olives, outside Jerusalem, coming toward the city from the East—Bethany, where we were last week. The events today all take place outside the city’s walls, just as the roadway levels before the city’s wall and gate. This is important symbolically. The salvation enactment is not just in Jerusalem, temple-centered, Israel-centered—it happens outside.
Secondly, the different language is critical. And this is very important as the Gentile church grew. We have already noted there are no “Hosannas,” no references to God saves us from our oppressors – either Pharaoh or Rome. There is only one acknowledgement of Jesus’ divine authority, the whole multitude of disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power they had seen. ( v.37)
They have witnessed Jesus’ miracles, his healings, his casting out of demons. They are acknowledging his power, his special relationship with God the Father. And they do so by saying, “Blessed is the King!” Not “save us”, but “You are our blessed King.” “Blessed are you.” It’s like today we sing, “God save our Gracious Queen.” We acknowledge her sovereignty and authority over us. This is an acceptance of Jesus’ authority in their lives. Through Jesus they are “reconciled” to God. Jesus’ divine authority. Blessed is the King, who comes in the name of the Lord. And what is Jesus’ response to this acclamation, this accolade? Silence. He rides silently. But they continue with, Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”
Peace in heaven! A heavenly peace. Not a peace imposed by the Roman conqueror. Not a peace that is coerced through oppression, fear, and submission to power, the spear, the lash and the cruel humiliating death of the cross—all forms of Roman control. No, not that kind of peace- the Pax Romana. But a heavenly peace. The peace of Christ.
That’s the origin of our greeting. That is the heavenly peace, the forgiveness, the reconciling of differences, the opening of the heart, the compassion and love that we acknowledge when we say, “The Peace of Christ be with you.” A heavenly blessing, an undeserved grace—a reconciliatory peace, bringing God into our relationships with others. God is coming, riding in silence, in humility on a donkey and we can experience the peace that he is capturing. Not a victory, not a triumph, not a war whoop, but a meek response.
The shouts of acclaim disturb the temple leaders—the Pharisees. They petition Jesus to quit. The disciples should stop inciting others with their acclamations of peace. Jesus replies, I tell you, if they were silent the stones would shout out. (v.40) Jesus is saying that this message of “peace” is too vital, too critical, too universal, it is too much needed and desired—even the stones would shout it out.
This is Luke’s version. Luke’s reconciliatory ride. What a blessing we have from God’s word today. What a wonderful convergence of scripture, of the re-formation of our vision of our future together, and a redefinition of our liturgy. Our practice, our “Passing of the Peace.”
As we continue to acknowledge our forgiveness, the forgiveness of all humanity in God’s amazing gift through Jesus this Holy Week, we recall how Luke’s story began. Way back in the opening chapters of his gospel. We remember Luke’s first story, the story of shepherds in the fields outside Bethlehem. We remember the praises of the heavenly hosts saying: Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth, peace…. The peace of heaven, this peace of heaven is once again offered and bestowed upon all of God’s people, all of God’s children, the peace of our reconciling King is bestowed upon us all on this Palm Sunday in Jesus through the “reconciling ride.”