Aloha Friday Message – April 7, 2017 – Friday Before Palm Sunday

1714AFC040917 – Friday Before Palm Sunday

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Part of this message is from a lesson in 2014. It’s been updated, but you may have some déjà vu moments. Use the links, feast on the word, and share with others. This is also an answer to a question from one of our RCIA students, KM.

Zechariah 9:9Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Isaiah 53:1010 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain. When you make his life an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days; through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.

Zechariah 13:7“Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is my associate,” says the Lord of hosts. Strike the shepherd, that the sheep may be scattered; I will turn my hand against the little ones.

John 16:3232 The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me.

This is Friday before Palm Sunday, the Sunday that begins Holy Week and the Sunday before Easter. Jesus has become well-known by thousands because of his marvelous deeds – feeding thousands of people at a time, speaking with authority, giving the blind sight, curing lepers, making the lame walk, making the mute speak, and even raising the dead. Now he enters the city of Jerusalem, riding on a baby donkey. The fact that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey was, in part, a fulfillment of scripture. But there’s more. A king who rides in on a donkey is coming in peace. A king who rides in on a horse is coming in war. It is also significant that the colt Jesus’ disciples borrow is one that has never been ridden. Here the King of Peace is so gentle and so humble that even a young, never-before-ridden colt submits to Jesus’ presence. Instead of bucking him off, the colt meekly carries a full-grown man. It is interesting to me that the disciples who went to fetch it did so without question, and then they put their own cloaks on the back of the colt to make a more comfortable seat. I think it might have also been more comfortable for the colt! And you know, I think that colt’s mama walked next to him on that journey. Read it again and see if you think so, too. (See also Luke 19:29-40) To me, this prefigures Mary walking beside Jesus on the way to Golgotha.

As he rode through Jerusalem, the crowds who recognized him paid him homage: Mark 11:9-10Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”  (See also Luke 19:29-40) That word, Hosanna, is found only in the New Testament, but there are echoes of it in other places in the Old Testament, too. It means to help or to save (See Psalm 118:25 25 Save us, we beseech you, O Lord! O Lord, we beseech you, give us success! The root of the word Hosanna comes from הוֹשִׁ֘יעָ֥ה (howosiah’) {hō-wō-šî-‘āh} from יָשַׁע (yasha) {yaw-shah’} for deliver, save, salvation, victorious;  it is expressed as Hoshiya na! or HELP ME! It had meant in the past “Please save,” but eventually came to mean “Salvation is come.” In these passages in the New Testament, it means “Salvation is coming! It’s HERE!” Glory to God on High – ʾĒl ʿElyōn עֶלְיוֹן ‎ אל – God Most High as spoken by Melchizedek in Genesis 14:19). It comes from a Hebrew phrase hoshiya na. In Psalm 118:26, it is followed by “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” Over the centuries between David and Jesus, the expression hoshiya na had come to mean Salvation is now! When Jesus got on that baby donkey, he started toward Jerusalem to fulfill what had been prophesied about the Messiah, that his death would take away the veil of sin and death. He started out at a place with which we are already familiar, the home town of Lazarus.

Jesus was in Bethany, close to Bethphage Βηθφαγή, (Béthphagé) {bayth-fag-ay’} which is from an Aramaic word meaning “Place of new – or unripe – figs” near the base of the Mount of Olives. He gets on the colt in Bethany – about 2 miles from Jerusalem, and heads into town. On the way people who have seen him, who know him – some intimately, some only be reputation – get excited about seeing him, and they begin to remember Zechariah 9:9. They start pulling down palm fronds and laying them on the path in front of him or waving them in the air. The palm was a symbol of victory – even Holy Victory. In addition people were laying their cloaks down in the road and letting the little donkey pass over them. A similar event is reported in 2 Kings 9. [They hurried and took their cloaks and spread them under him on the bare steps. Then they blew the trumpet and shouted, “Jehu is king!”] Elisha had just anointed Jehu (“Yahweh is He”) {yay-hu’} as King of Israel, and had ordered him to go avenge the murders committed by Jezebel’s forces when she had the prophets slaughtered. The king, Ahab, had permitted this, and Jehu was told to destroy Ahab as well. The people were ecstatic about this and acted quickly to honor Jehu. About 875 years later, they did the same thing for Yeshua – ישוע – Jesus.

Spreading cloaks or other objects to “pave the way” was a common demonstration of respect for the dignity and power of a person – a King, a military general, even a prophet. So now we have Jesus on a baby donkey and everyone is shouting and happy and cheering and dancing and running ahead and coming back and just going nuts over what Jesus is doing. He was finally defining himself as the Messiah, the Ruler of Israel, The Son of David! And, they surely thought he was about to kick the Romans out of town as the Rightful Ruler.

But, he was on a donkey, not a horse. And the people understood. They identified with him.

What is it that you might learn about Jesus that would help you identify more with him, feel closer with him? I remember a story I read when I was maybe a fifth-grader. It was about a little girl of about three years who had a wooden doll named Ruth. The Roman soldiers came galloping through her village scattering the villagers. As she ran to get out of the way she fell. Her mom snatched her out of the way just as the cohort reached the place where she fell. The doll slipped out of her arms. An iron-shod hoof stepped squarely on Ruth’s face. Moments later, when the dust had settled, the little girl went back and found the ruined doll. She began to cry.

Where is YOUR Bible?

Then a man’s hand rested on her shoulder and the man’s voice said, “Here, let me have a look at that.” The little girl looked up and saw a young man in his late-twenties. He had long, dark, curly hair and gentle eyes. He was smiling. The girl handed Ruth to the man. He sat down and said, “Hmmm, I think I might be able to fix her up a little. Would you like that?” Through dirty tears the girl nodded. The man borrowed a knife from his father who was walking with him. His mother went to sit with the little girl and her mom to comfort them. He started whittling around the hoof mark. Within a few minutes, the evidence of the damage was gone and Ruth had a new face with a beautiful little smile – a smile just like the little girl’s. He handed the little girl the doll, gave her a hug, and returned to the road to continue his journey to Jerusalem with his parents. Around 5-6 years later the little girl saw him again. He was riding into the city on a baby donkey, and people were shouting “Hosanna!” When he passed by her, she held up Ruth for him to see. He winked at her and wiggled his fingers to say hello to Ruth.

Have you met Jesus in a way that made him really accessible to you? Have you heard his quiet whisper on the mountaintop? Did you see him playing with his dog in the park? Have you given him a plate of food at the shelter? Did you buy him a burger and a soft-drink? Did you hear his prophecy in a song on the radio? Did he offer you loving correction and guidance in the heart of your friend? Did he bake you a batch of your favorite cookies? Did he show up at your door with a casserole when your dad died? Did he ride with you through the storm or away from the forest fire? Could you hear the nails piercing his wrists? Did someone see Jesus in you when you did these things for others? Then Jesus was present. And you were present with him.

But, as we know, the disciples who were present with him for about three years abandoned him at the worst possible time. He had been telling them for months that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. (Matthew 16:21) In the few days that followed his entry into Jerusalem as the King of Peace, he was betrayed by a trusted friend, arrested by people who were afraid of the Romans because of the possibility that Jesus might provoke them into becoming crueler in their governance of the nation, and then he was tortured to death. This fulfilled many prophesies, especially Isaiah 53:1010 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain. When you make his life an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days; through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.

Now you know a little about the story. When you are holding your palm branches Sunday, think about that little donkey and what a privilege it was to carry Jesus. Beloved, you can carry him too; in your heart, not on your back. Spread out your best things for him and invite him to have a seat. Carry him wherever you go and once in a while, just for the sheer JOY of it, shout, I said SHOUT, “HOSANNA!!”

And, with a humble and contrite heart, let us all remember the times we also not only stopped carrying Jesus, but actually ran away from him. It was for us – for you, and even for me – that he was crushed with infirmities, bruised for our iniquity, killed as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. He did indeed suffer greatly. (See Matthew 16:21From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. The manner of his death was so horrible that even today it astonishes us and anyone would endure that willingly. And yet, he gave himself – body, and blood, soul and divinity, mind and spirit – over to Death so that we might live.

Jesus had all the body parts any man has, plus all the feelings, all the susceptibilities, and all the good things in every human life. He just didn’t have sin. But: For you, for me, for us he became sin and died to take all our sins away. (See 2 Corinthians 5:21) And that, perhaps, is what is the most important and most striking about the ways we can identify with him. I did the sin. He did the reparation. Do you remember the song “When He was On the Cross, I Was On His Mind” (↔ Music Link) which was popular around 2007 and earlier? That is another thing we have in common with Jesus. He knows our sins because he paid for every single one of them. He, and only he, could do that once for all because he loved us that well, well enough for him to lose everything so we could gain everything through his loss. Knowing that, we no longer have any reason to run from his presence. We need not be scattered. He willingly became the Perfect Lamb, the offering for our sin! If we have turned away and left him, he is still no alone because God is with him. When we are with him, God is with us, too, because Jesus is “my Lord and my God” to all who believe in him.

Remember, He loved you this much:

He still loves you that much and more. Do you need to turn around and go back to him? He’s ready and waiting. Go to him.

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Beloved!

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Aloha Friday Messages by Charles O. Todd, III is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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