Text: Matthew 21: 1-11
When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying 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. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,“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.”The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 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!”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
Matt Redman is an English Christian Worship leader. He mentions of a time when he was just entertaining and not worshipping. People came and thanked him and he felt this was not worship. He consulted his pastor. His pastor said that they would try a season to do away with the sound system and the guitars. He said “let people come to the Church with their voices and prayers to worship Jesus.” Let Jesus be the focus. The pastor reminded “Let us be producers of Worship and not just consumers.” After a season devoid of guitars and sound system the Church set their focus on following and worshipping Jesus. It is in such a background Redman composed one of the most amazing and meaningful songs “When the Music fades..”. For those who are unfamiliar with the song here is a snippet.
‘When the music fades, all is stripped away, and I simply come / Longing just to bring something that’s of worth that will bless your heart… / I’m coming back to the heart of worship, and it’s all about You, Jesus.’
When we look at the text we see a juncture in Jesus ministry where he was at the zenith of popularity. People were crowding to see Jesus enter Jerusalem where they spread their cloaks to welcome Jesus coming riding on a Donkey. They were all shouting Hosanna. Hosanna means save us now. Save us from what? If we were to be in place of the people in Jerusalem, if we said Hosanna, what would it mean? Save us from what?
The people who gathered to welcome Jesus were not welcoming the Son of God. He was a political Messiah who they thought would save Israelites from the strong hold of Roman Imperialism. The background of this event was Passover which celebrated Israel’s freedom from Egypt and the clutches of Pharaoh. In such a context, the freedom from Roman Imperialism was envisaged. The crowd followed a Miracle Maker. He was doing wonders. He is a superstar. They will benefit if he continues. Jesus was their hero who assured them security and hope. When one reads John Chapter 6, we see a prelude to this. When Jesus feeds the Five thousand people throng to make him the king. But when Jesus sits down and teaches his ways we have people deserting him one by one. At this day when people sing Hosanna, the whole city is with him. He has men and woman on his side. But when we fast forward it to the Calvary we see Jesus lonely on the Cross. Where did the people go? Where did the people who removed their cloak and spread it on the ground to welcome Jesus go?
Philip Yancey says that our journey of faith is divided into 3 stages. A)Childhood, B)Adulthood and C)Parenthood.
He says that in our faith journey we develop a childlike faith. We have wonder in our eyes. We have faith and we expect that all things will be fine. God will take care of us and he will protect us. This innocence of the faith is very important. It is this faith that keeps us going. We believe in miracles. But this faith focuses on what good can God do to me? What am I receiving? I am the most important entity.
Adulthood of faith is when we are not convinced about many things. We doubt some understandings of faith. We rebel. We question. We are not satisfied with the answers. We have doubts. We have genuine questions about existence of God. We are not sure if our faith makes sense at all. This is an important part of faith journey. There is space for doubt in our journey of faith. I remember my own rebellions where I questioned the need for church, the need for faith, the need for liturgy. There were times when I found the worship so boring that inside the worship order I kept another book so that I could read it. I strictly do not advocate this but my period of rebellion and questioning were very maturely handled by my parents.
Parenthood is that stage in faith when the focus is not I. I grow to get over my self-obsession. I learn that life is all about giving. My parents always sacrificed for me, they had sleepless nights when I was ill, they had confusions about my choices. But their prayer was that I do things pleasing to the Lord.” My child should have what I did not have and my child should grow like I never could” is the wish of a parent. Parent stage of faith is when we practice what Jesus asked ““If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”(Luke 9: 23) I remember that when I was struggling with all my doubts and questions I encountered a special man. I was so obsessed with my act of rebellion that I did not see any hope. I met Dax Mathews at Kamshet Mission Field, which is popularly known as Lonavala Mission. Dax embodies a life of sacrifice and faith. Before joining Maharashtra Village Mission, he was helping tribal communities with livelihood issues by teaching them different techniques of agriculture. He realized that denying oneself and taking up the Cross means to serve people more disadvantaged than us. A person who grew up in urban background went to the villages of Maharashtra and lived with minimum comforts. His only aim was to serve people. Dax does not speak much. He looks very ordinary. But his actions and his convictions have helped me to understand that Faith is about giving, it is about sacrificing and displacing myself from the pedestal of life. Dax today is doing his Bachelors in Divinity from Dharmajyothi Vidyapeeth. His teachers and classmates alike bear witness to the uniqueness of his conviction and passion for mission.
Now to the question where did the people go who sang ‘Hosanna.’ Well they quit as the road to the cross is about denying ourselves. They went away sad like the Rich young man who loved eternal life but could not sell his riches. We also want to follow Christ as long as we get something and how good if we could just avoid the cross. We want Christianity without the Cross.
As a Child, I first saw the game of lemon and spoon in Sunday school. I loved it. In normal athletics I never failed to come last. So here was my sure road to success. Lemon and spoon was slow and I knew I could make it. The race was about to begin. The whistle blew. We with the spoon in our mouth and lemon on top of it, started to race towards the finishing line. As I had hoped I was the first one to reach the mark. I must have done celebrations that could put Usain Bolt to shame. But the man at the finishing line seemed to ignore me. He told me to stand aside. I thought to myself, this man does not know how to appreciate a winner. But before I could start rejoicing again, the Sunday school teacher announced the name of the winners and she forgot to take my name. Or so I thought. I am sure you must have guessed it. I was the first one to reach. But my spoon had no lemon. In my craze to come first i ran fast but had lost the the most important thing. I had lost the lemon
We live in a time where getting ahead of others is important. Success is about getting ahead of others. Religion is about gaining divine favour. Where more than serving others it is more important to know who will go to heaven, who is born again and who is the chosen one. We have finished the race. But we have lost the lemon.
Hosanna “Lord Save us from our Self-love”. Amen
Rev Merin Mathew
Mar Thoma Syrian Church