Today we celebrate the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and we begin that great week we know as Holy Week in which we commemorate the last hours of Christ's life on hearth and his glorious resurrection.
We have just read St Matthew's account of the passion to remind ourselves just what this week is all about and how important it is that we keep this week holy in honour of our Saviour who gave his life for our sakes.
On Good Friday we will hear the same passion story in the words of St John. By publicly reading these two passion accounts and by participating in them, we are helping the significance of these extraordinary events to sink home. They may have happened two thousand years or so ago, but in a certain sense they are happening right here and now.
Today is Palm Sunday and we commemorate Jesus' entry into Jerusalem at the beginning of that fateful week. His whole life had been a preparation for this final entry into Jerusalem. It could be said that by entering Jerusalem he was precipitating all that was to follow. It was a deliberate choice, he was deciding to do what had to be done, he was choosing to fulfil his purpose here on earth.
Jesus enters Jerusalem as a Messiah, but not the Messiah that was expected. Every word of the scriptures is fulfilled but his entry is not heralded by armies, angels or soldiers, he is not accompanied by dignitaries and guards. Those who welcome him to the Holy City are not rulers or priests.
No, he comes as simply as he could: he rides a donkey, his followers are fishermen and other working men and he is greeted not by the civic and religious authorities but by the common folk waving palms.
In one way everything is done properly and in accordance with what was prophesied, but looking through other eyes it is utterly shambolic and hopeless. The doubters, and those who do not understand, see nothing but a raggle-taggle group of itinerants coming up for the feast. They are blind to the significance of what they see.
But those with eyes of faith see what has been longed for by so many. They see the solemn entry of the Messiah into his Holy City to take possession of it. They see the culmination of the history of the Chosen People of Israel. They see Jesus enter Jerusalem and the stage set for the most climactic and significant drama of all time to take place.
By entering Jerusalem in such a way, sitting on a ridiculous donkey and accompanied by the poor and the lowly, Jesus is making a definitive statement about what kind of Messiah he is.
He is stating that he is a Messiah for the humble and the destitute, the disadvantaged and the outcast, the sick and the lame.
He is stating that he has come to liberate the oppressed, to comfort the broken-hearted and to heal the sick. He is a Messiah who comes to save what was lost, to reconcile the sinner and to lead his people into the ways of peace.
He comes not to rule but to serve, he comes not for glory but for salvation.
Let us rejoice and praise God that he has given us so great a redeemer!