Who Is This? from Joseph Taber on Vimeo.
II Samuel 6:1-5, 17-19
1David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. 2David and all the people with him set out and went from Baale-judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the Lord of hosts who is enthroned on the cherubim. 3They carried the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart 4with the ark of God; and Ahio went in front of the ark. 5David and all the house of Israel were dancing before the Lord with all their might, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals.
17 They brought in the ark of the Lord, and set it in its place, inside the tent that David had pitched for it; and David offered burnt-offerings and offerings of well-being before the Lord. 18When David had finished offering the burnt-offerings and the offerings of well-being, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts, 19and distributed food among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, to each a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins. Then all the people went back to their homes.
This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God
1When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2saying to them, "Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. 3If anyone says anything to you, just say this, 'The Lord needs them.' And he will send them immediately." 4This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,
5"Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey."
6The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed themselves 7they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 8A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!"
10When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, "Who is this?" 11The crowds were saying, "This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee."
This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God.
Emotions are running high in the city of Jerusalem. The time of the Passover festival is at hand, a moment to celebrate freedom from Egypt. But this year, like in years past, that celebration happens beneath the flag of the Roman Empire. The governor of Rome makes a point each year to be in town, along with his troops, for this freedom festival. They are there to remind Jerusalem that Rome is in charge. They are there to be the hands of Caesar, the face of the empire.
The empire shows up in force to keep the peace, to maintain order. After all, the Jewish people have long resented foreign rule, and this Passover festival reminds them of when their God brought down a mighty empire and set them free. Every year, a few zealots take it upon themselves to try and force their God's hand by stirring up a riot in the holy city.
Rome is there to stop it. To prevent it. To punish it.
Emotions are running high in the city of Jerusalem. The city swells with visitors on pilgrimage a the priests prepare themselves for the Passover celebration. Those who lead in the temple are well aware of what's going on around them. They understand the might of the Roman Empire, and that resistance to Roman rule is met with harsh consequences.
After all, Roman rule isn't so bad. They're in the promised land, after all, it's better than the Babylonian Exile. The temple is grand, and the worshipping life there is always busy. The Romans keep the bandits to a minimum, and they let the Jewish people worship their own way. But a riot, or worse, a revolt, could change all that. The Jewish leaders know that lives are at stake, and so is their national identity. Rome has wiped civilizations off the map in the past, and even God's chosen people could be scattered to the winds like the ten lost tribes of the old Northern Kingdom of Israel.
But it's okay for now, the priests have their delicate balance worked out, how to celebrate their history without inciting anyone to riot. Perhaps their festival will be someone more muted than in previous years, but at least there won't be any conflict. They've smoothed things over with the Roman authorities, made the appropriate connections with Herod, and have worked out strategies to keep the zealots from gaining too much influence over the crowd. Emotions are running high in the city of Jerusalem. Now is the time to preach peace, to preach patience. The priests know all the key players in the city, and have a plan to deal with each of them.
Outside the city of Jerusalem, in Bethphage at the mount of Olives, the crowds swirl around Jesus of Nazareth in Galilee. There's an excitement in the air as they approach Jerusalem. Jesus is coming to Jerusalem, for the first time since his ministry began, this holy prophet will worship in the holy temple. The crowds that have followed him, from his closest disciples to those who have heard about his deeds of power, are eager to hear what he teaches and to see what is able to do in the center of Jewish religious life.
Jesus waits with the crowd outside the city and sends two disciples to retrieve a ride, “saying to them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, 'The Lord needs them.' And he will send them immediately.’ Performance art, meant to leave those who see it scratching their heads. “While it was customary for pilgrims to arrive by foot, his action would have seemed only slightly unusual to outsiders.” Those with eyes to see, however, would see the fulfillment of what was spoken by the Prophet Zechariah: "Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Those who recognized the actions of a prophet would perceive Jesus’s actions as announcement that challenged the way things were. This Jesus of Nazareth came to upset the unchanging balance of human life.
It doesn’t take long for the unchanging balance to feel Christ’s challenge. “A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!’”
Hosanna means “save us now!” The crowds who had followed Jesus to Bethphage and now escorted him into Jerusalem knew that this Jesus of Nazareth in Galilee had the power to save, but it may not have been the salvation they expected. Because his deeds of power are set aside as he gently and humbly rides into the city.
The Son of David has entered his hereditary capital, and the Spirit of the Lord is upon him. This is the true king of Israel. Yet he is humble and gentle, sitting on a donkey, rather than in the back of a war-chariot. Instead of swords and spears, his followers wave branches cut from the trees. His path is strewn with cloaks and branches, not with enemies he has vanquished in battle. This is the liberator, God's anointed one, crowds follow him and cities shake before him.
“When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, "Who is this?" The crowds were saying, ‘This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.’” Emotions are running high in the city of Jerusalem, and the delicate balance is threatened by the presence of Jesus. What’s more, these unruly crowds don’t fit our expectations. This is not a rebellious mob trying to oust Rome, these are common folk who are enacting an unexpected celebration. “‘The whole city’ fails to recognize Jesus’s kingship, and the ‘crowds’ name him only as a prophet, a correct and important title, but one that goes only so far.” For this man is a prophet, and more. This Jesus is a priest, and more. Jesus of Nazareth in Galilee is a king, and more.
Who is this?
The way we answer that question has profound implications for our life. It cannot be a meaningless question, because it has set the city of Jerusalem on its edge, and emotions are running high in the city of Jerusalem. Do the priests see a conflict? Do the Romans see a rebel? Do the crowds see a liberator?
Who is this?
This man is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. This man is the promise of Emmanuel, God-with-us. This man in the Messiah, God’s only Son. This man is the Lord of heaven and earth. This man is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through him. This man is the Word made flesh.
We tell and retell this story year after year, and we know that "The son of David enters David's city, but the only throne he finds is a cross." We know that "Hosanna" and "Who is this?" will be overtaken by "Crucify Him!" and "Give us Barabbas" before Friday. Jesus of Nazareth in Galilee will be unjustly condemned for blasphemy and sedition, and the Empire of Rome will execute him by nailing him to a cross.
To preserve the peace, this Jesus must die. To maintain the balance, this Jesus must die. To fulfill God’s purpose, foretold by the prophets, this Jesus must die.
Emotions are running high in the city of Jerusalem. Our Lord rides in majesty with the sounds of hosanna surrounding him. He rides into the city to celebrate, and to become the passover sacrifice that finally frees all people.
Our task is to follow him to the upper room, to the cross, and then to what waits for us on the other side.
Hosanna in the highest heaven.