Sunday, March 29, 2015

Encouraging Contrasts on Palm Sunday

Imagine "a very great multitude." Imagine the mixture. Imagine the variety. Imagine the riff raff. This is how the New King James Version describes the crowd that assembled for Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem: "a very great multitude" (Matthew 21:8). A mass of people.

I don't want to stretch things too far in how I imagine this crowd, but I'm inclined to believe that this wasn't an overly orderly scene, and that this wasn't a mob that had time to spruce themselves up for the occasion. I expect there were people in ragged, dirty robes, some with dirty faces from a hard day's work, and even some body odour amidst those congested conditions. I'm imagining a chaotic scene, but with Someone serene at the centre of it all: an unruffled and unwavering Jesus, riding on a donkey into the purposes of God.

But that's not all. This crush of people was a bunch of sinners. Surely with so many there, many not even knowing why as they asked others, "Who is this?" (Matthew 21:10), there must have been sinners in the crowd. Selfish people, mean people, dishonest people, proud people. I'm sure of it.

Imagining that, I can't help but be struck by that contrast. Here's the morally unblemished Jesus working his way through an adulating crowd that is filled with moral failure. Holiness surrounded by haughtiness. For despite the excited hosannas, this is a people who are destined for such a dreadful judgment that it caused Jesus to weep as He drew near to the city saying, "If you had known... the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For days will come upon you when your enemies will... close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground" (Luke 19:41-44). 

And yet, Jesus is undaunted. He presses through, accepting their praises and pursuing their salvation. As perfect as He is, He's not put off by their dirty robes or faces, nor deterred by their sinful hearts. He presses through that multitude because they are the harassed and the helpless He wants to save. That gentle Jesus on a donkey had no plans to stop until He reached the cross!

But that's not the only contrast that occurs to me as I imagine Jesus riding through this swarming crowd. This Jesus on a donkey is the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 who plans to suffer and give His life for us. But the next time we see Him riding, we're invited to imagine the heavens opening "and behold, a white horse! And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True" (Revelation 19:11)!

Praise God that the same Jesus who died for the masses to which we belong, rose victorious and now reigns as the "King of kings and Lord of lords" (Rev. 19:16)! And He invites us to join "a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, people and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, 'Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!'" (Rev. 7:9-10).

As we open the gates of our hearts to the Saviour who rode on that donkey, we have the privilege of following a great and mighty Lord who will one day gather us all to Himself as He comes to us riding a white horse with the armies of heaven!

© 2015 by Ken Peters

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