Who is this?
Matthew 21:1-11

These days we’re pretty used to catching up with all of the news of the day as we sit in front of our TV’s and relax.  We even get news updates throughout the evening as we watch our favourite shows.  We have little choice but to know what various celebrities and even criminals look like as we are constantly bombarded with footage of them.  Even when we change channels we get the same vision that we’ve seen elsewhere.  If we happened to run into say Brendan Nelson  or any other newsmaker for that matter, we would have a good chance of recognising them.  Do you think you’d recognise Jesus though? 

I wonder if it happened today what the coverage would like of his entry into Jerusalem?  Would it make the major stories, or just a little side story, maybe it would only be on SBS World News.  My guess is that no matter when it was to happen there would still be people around who would say, “Who is this?”  Its not the sort of event that would ordinarily grab our attention is it?  Maybe it is.

What if we compare this event with what happened last week in Mumbai when the Indian cricket team arrived home?  The 35 km drive from the airport took over 5 hours in the pouring rain, the crowds showered the team with flower petals and they were greeted by 40000 fans at a stadium at the end of the route, to welcome and congratulate their conquering heroes.  The whole country know who they are, they know them by name and by their achievements on the field.

Jesus had a reputation too.  The crowds said that he was the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.  People had heard about him, but didn’t necessarily recognise him.  Once they were told, there would have perhaps been more people come to take a look and to listen to what he was saying.  After all there was a crowd of people there singing his praises, “Hosanna to the Son of David, blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the highest heaven.”
I’m sure there would have been others who would have instantly dismissed the news of the prophet from Galilee and continued on with their plans for the day, not realising the importance of the man or his message.

Today we’re here worshipping at Lillydale Lake.  We’ve got our folding chairs, we’re singing songs, worshipping and even celebrating Holy Communion.  I’m sure there will be people who pass by and think, “Who are they and what are they doing here?”  Some people may be offended by our presence, but hopefully there will be some who when they realise might even come along and join in with the celebration or at least acknowledge us and the God that we are there to worship.

Even for us the celebration will be relatively short-lived.  The sub-plot of this story is the reason behind the journey into Jerusalem.  We who are gathering together know that over the coming days we will switch our focus to the passion account, the story of Jesus’ betrayal, trial and his death on the cross.  We know what’s to come and even though we also know the fulfilment of the story we can’t help ourselves but to get caught up in the emotion of the story.

There is a shift in focus and emotions for us in the coming week, just as there was a shift in thinking and experience for those who were there to observe and take part in the events of that week in Jerusalem.  They went from a jubilant entrance into an over-capacity and busy city, to death and burial and a subsequent resurrection.  We can guess that some of those who were there to welcome Jesus may well have chimed in with the angry mobs when they were shouting, “crucify him, crucify him” or they may have wondered if he truly was the Messiah if God was willing to allow him to suffer in such a terrible way.

You may even be wondering, Who is this?
This is the Son of God, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.”

What sort of God allows himself to suffer such a humiliation, to live through such pain, for the sake of those who are disobedient and turn against him?

While Dietrich Bonhoeffer was confined in a prisoner of war camp, exposed to and living amongst atrocities we couldn’t even imagine, he discovered what sort of God ours is, a "God [who] allows himself to be edged out of the world and onto the cross, and that is the way, the only way, in which God can be with us and help us...Only a suffering God can help."

Who is this?  It is our God, a God who suffers with us, who feels our pain, who lives it with us and shares it with us.  One who is humble enough to ride into town on a donkey and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.  Even though he deserves to be highly exalted, to have the name above every name, to be celebrated even more than the Indian cricket team was last week, that’s not what he was about.  He comes as a humble servant, to give his life as a ransom for many.  There were some who recognise him and spread their cloaks or branches on the road for him to ride on, but there were plenty of people who didn’t, they had no clue who he was or is.

Who is this?  This is our saviour, this is your saviour, who came into the world so that your sins could be forgiven, and so that you might confess that he is Lord and give glory to God the Father.  His name is Jesus, yes he is the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee, and no we don’t know what he looks like.  We wouldn’t recognise him if he stood right in front of us, even if he came riding up Maroondah Highway this afternoon, we wouldn’t believe that it was him, because we’ve never laid eyes on him, not that we know of anyway, but we know him by his deeds.  Through his Word we know who he is and what he did for us and how important that is to our lives and the lives of everyone in the world. 

On that basis alone we should join together with all people from every time and every place and proclaim with those who were gathered on the side of that dry and dusty road into Jerusalem, “Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest heaven!”