Grace, mercy, and peace to you from the God who saves us.
Flash mobs were really popular a few years ago. Wikipedia says the first one was organized in 2003 as a social experiment. A flash mob is a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then disperse, often for the purposes of entertainment, satire, and artistic expression.
One of my friends in Lincoln has organized a group of people from her church to be a flash mob for the last several years during the December holiday shopping.
It's part of an evangelism effort. They appear to spontaneously stand up and sing a Christmas carol in the mall or another public place. They try to schedule it when there will be a large crowd present.
First, my friend sends out a message on Facebook and an email to all her friends and she announces it in church. Everyone who wants to participate gets in touch with her and she sends out the words to the song they will be doing along with the date, time and location.
They are supposed to keep all of that secret so it will be a surprise to the bystanders. She does let the newspaper and local TV people in on it because she wants the publicity for her church.
Flash mobs remind me of the crowd on that first Palm Sunday.
People spontaneously appeared. They waved Palm Branches and threw down their coats. There was a parade. Jesus made a grand entrance into Jerusalem on a colt.
The crowd shouted,
"Hosanna, blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!"
This story is very familiar to us. We re-enact it every year. It is an unusual act we perform for a brief time, one Sunday each year. We tend to think of it as a nice event, like a local parade, or a flash mob. In our view, it is just as tame as my friend's church group singing a Christmas carol in the mall. Just a really nice thing to do at church the Sunday before Easter. To our ears, the Palm Sunday crowd is shouting nice "church words,” words we sing every Sunday in our liturgy.
Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
What could be the problem with all that?
The first Palm Sunday really wasn't a nice local parade. It wasn't harmless like singing in the mall. It was a deliberate demonstration, a protest march, meant to embarrass the occupying Roman government on a holiday when there were tourists from all over the world present.
Kings made their entrance riding in on white horses. Jesus rides into town on a donkey colt. The whole thing would have looked like a skit from Saturday Night Live, where they were making fun of a political leader.
When Jesus told the the disciples to go get the colt, he told them to say that the Lord needs it and will send it back. That might have meant the owner of the colt knew our Lord Jesus and trusted he would return whatever he borrowed.
It might also mean something else. The expression, "the Lord has need of it" was a common expression in the Jewish culture.
If I said that, it meant that I need to borrow something of yours to help a person who is poor. For example, if my sewing machine was broken and I wanted to borrow yours to sew some quilts for Lutheran World Relief, I could tell you the Lord has need of it.
When you say the Lord has need of something, you are honor bound to use it to help the poor and to return it when you no longer need it. You see, helping the poor is the same as helping the Lord. I think that's why the story of borrowing the colt is mentioned in the gospels. The crowd knew Jesus was doing this for the sake of the poor.
The word "Hosanna!" means "save us we pray." The crowd is shouting for Jesus to save them and calling him the next King. This was treason. That's why the sign on the cross read, "King of the Jews."
The occupying Roman forces certainly would not appreciate having the crowd all excited over a possible new king. The Jewish leaders were trying to keep the peace over the Passover holiday by collaborating with the occupiers, so they didn't appreciate it either.
Jesus acted against the powerful people of his day when he rode into Jerusalem. He rode in for the poor and oppressed. He rode in for everyone who needs a Savior. That’s good news, because it means He did it for us.
Palm Sunday isn't just an historic event. On the first Palm Sunday the crowds follow Jesus because they believe they know who he really is. They believe he is the one who will save them. They believe he is the Messiah.
We wave our palm branches and sing our hymn because we also know Jesus is our Messiah and Savior. Unlike the crowds, we know what happens on Thursday and Friday after that first Palm Sunday. And we know the rest of the story. We know that the events this week that seem like the end of the story are not the end at all. Just wait til next week!
Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest! Amen.