Humility – Trust – Identity – Identifying – the church (people of God / followers of Jesus)
Matthew 21:1-11 –
When 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 you 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 them; 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.”
We know this passage inside and out – right? We’ve seen it acted out in passion plays. We know how the story ends. So, knowing the entire narrative may cloud our reading of it again and cause us to not hear the lesson we can learn from it even today.
The common Jewish people expected a messiah to come one day. They expected it to be a man who would ride in on a war horse and save them from the oppressive Roman government that they were experiencing. Jesus wants to set a different tone for his reign, and so he chooses a humble servant animal to sit upon as he makes his entrance into the city where he will experience great suffering and even death on a cross at the end of that very week.
Jesus teaches humility and service to others, and in so doing fulfills a prophecy:
v. 5 – “Look, your king is coming to you humble and riding on a donkey.” (Isaiah 62:11; Zechariah 9:9).
Jesus teaches trust – in him …
v. 8 – “The disciples went and did just as Jesus had directed them.”
Don’t we wonder what they thought as they walked to the man who had the donkey? Did they say to one another, “What are we doing?” Or, “This will never work.” Or, “If Jesus says so, it must be so. Let us trust in him and do as he says.”
Jesus teaches us to identify who he is …
v. 10 – “Who is this?”
v. 11 – “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”
And, Jesus teaches us to identify who we are …
That is, if we are truly his followers – then we know who he is, we know that he expects us to trust in him and to do as he leads and guides us to, and we know that we, like him, are called to be humble servants of others.
Jesus said three times to Simon Peter,
“Do you love me? Feed my lambs.”
“Do you love me? Tend my sheep.”
“Do you love me? Feed my sheep.”
Poet Ann Weems writes:
He said, “Feed my sheep.”
There were no conditions:
Least of all, feed my sheep if they deserve it.
Feed my sheep if you feel like it.
Feed my sheep if you have any leftovers.
Feed my sheep if the mood strikes you.
… if the economy’s OK …
… if you’re not too busy …
No conditions … just, “Feed my sheep.”
Could it be that God’s Kingdom will come
when each lamb is fed?
We who have agreed to keep covenant
are called to feed sheep
even when it means the grazing will be done
on our own front lawns.
(Ann Weems, “Searching for Shalom: Resources for Creative Worship,” [Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1991], 47).
Who are we? Humble servants of Christ, our Lord, who go about each and every day following where Christ leads us, following his directives on our lives, knowing who he is and who we are because of him.
Sisters and brothers, let us go into this day knowing all this, believing all this, leaning into all this, and living out all this. May it be so. In Christ’s name, Amen.
Rev. Susan Carter Wiggins