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Eau Claire, WI 54703
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“Jesus the Anti-King”
Sermon, Year A, Palm Sunday, April 13, 2014
Plymouth United Church of Christ, Eau Claire, WI
© Rev. David J. Huber
Focus Scripture: Matthew 21:1-11

We are at the beginning of Holy Week. This is Palm Sunday today. Holy Week is one continuous experience of worship, so there will be no benediction at the end of today, or Maundy Thursday, or Good Friday. It all flows through until Easter as one long week of worship.

Today is Palm Sunday. The beginning of Jesus’ final week. This is the day that Jesus comes into Jerusalem on a donkey. In the Gospel of Matthew text we read, he comes in on a donkey and a colt (a foal of a donkey), because Matthew chose a prophetic passage out of Isaiah that included both a donkey and a colt. But let’s just say he comes in on a donkey. Comes into town in a big parade with palms waving and people shouting “Hosanna in the highest!” and “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” A wonderful prayer that was in the Psalm we read and shows up in other places in the Old Testament scriptures. They wave, they shout, and they put their cloaks down. It’s a great, wonderful parade as Jesus comes into Jerusalem.

Very much like an emperor coming into town after a victory. Or like a governor. Or some other high ranking important official or general coming in to a capitol city in triumph, proudly riding a horse or being driven on a chariot with lots of soldiers, fanfare, and people also shouting and cheering their leader or hero. Very much like that. Jesus comes into Jerusalem this way. It is a king-like or emperor-like maneuver for Jesus to come in this way.

Except that Jesus doesn't come in through the front gate, like a political ruler or military hero.

Jesus comes in through the side or the back.

He comes in not with all the official fanfare, he comes in through the side. He doesn’t come in on a horse or being driven by a chariot, but comes in on a humble donkey. Very much like his mother rode in the Christmas story. And there is no bearing of weapons. Just palms and cloaks on the ground. He enters like a king, but as an anti-king. He enters in an anti-way from what might be expected. We talked in our Soup and Scripture about the realm of God, commonwealth of God, parables of the Kingdom of Heaven as being different from ours. God’s realm as a topsy-turvy upside down version of our own. So Jesus comes in as a king, but not as a king. In an anti-way. And in a sense, by coming in that way, this also is another parable of what the Realm of God looks like.

In the Realm of God, the one who is the supposed ruler comes in on a donkey. He is the humble one. Jesus, who has preached humility, service to others, love for neighbors, uplifting those on the margins, eating with those he wasn’t supposed to eat with, bringing into his circle of friends the people he wasn’t supposed to be friends with, healing the sick. That Jesus continues to live that way even in the way he comes into Jerusalem. He does not come in as the triumphant one to enter his final week. He comes as a victim. And even there was no procession, if he had not come in on a donkey and with the palms, this is still a pretty radical action for him to come into town. Even had he and his disciples come in as they normally would, it would have been a radical move because he knows what is going to happen. He knows what is going to happen and he comes anyway. He does not come in to claim a great victory or celebrate a great victory that he’s had, he comes into Jerusalem to be the victim. To be the one that others will be victorious over.

This is not going to be an easy week for Jesus. And if you come on Maundy Thursday (and I suggest you do) you’ll hear the story of what happens that week. Or come to the Good Friday service at First Congregational at noon, and you will hear the story. You will hear how the Hosannas of today become the “Crucify him!” of Friday morning.

Then on Easter morning, as Jesus rises from the tomb, we will come to even greater joy than we know today in this Palm Sunday parade into Jerusalem. It can be difficult to know the full joy of Easter without having walked with Jesus through the whole week. Walking with Jesus through the whole experience. So I recommend that you come to one of those services, or come to both. They are very moving and meaningful experiences. The ups and the downs, the hosannas and the betrayals, the crucifixion followed by that empty tomb on Easter morning. It is a powerful faith builder to hear that story. It has been for me, anyway. To hear this story, even though I hear it every year and know how it goes and how it ends up. Still, every year, for me this is a really powerful experience and faith-building experience. It brings me closer to God.

To walk with Jesus through his whole journey strengthens my faith, and enlarges my faith.

But today is a day of joy. Our savior is coming into Jerusalem! Our king, our lord, our friend, our guide, is coming into his city to great fanfare of his friends and great joy. In a world that has too little joy, and too little hope, and too little goodness, I say, Let’s enjoy the moment today! Not dwell on what will happen the rest of the week, but enjoy today, enjoy Palm Sunday and take part in the parade and the procession and the shouting of “Hosannas!” as a way of saying a protest against darkness and against evil, “My Lord lives and the power of love is supreme!”

Part of our Christian witness is to say that evil and darkness do not get to win. Love reigns supreme. As I mentioned, at the end of the service we will hand out palms and we will have a procession around the sanctuary as we sing in joy and triumph as we remember the Hosannas and the words “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”


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Plymouth United Church of Christ
2010 Moholt Drive
Eau Claire, Wisconsin, 54703

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