There is a saying that most of us will have heard at some point and it is a popular saying because there is plenty of truth to it:
“Actions speak louder than words.”
Jesus certainly understood this.
Today’s reading contains some powerful wordless messages. Through his actions on Palm Sunday Jesus reveals to the people of Jerusalem something about himself and about what was to come on his journey to the cross.
It starts with a choice of location. Jesus’ choice to enter Jerusalem, the centre of Jewish worship and Roman rule, at this point is a deliberate act, setting in motion the events that will unfold over the coming week.
Secondly the way in which he arrived is significant. This isn’t simply a story about moving from point A to point B, this is a sermon without words and every first century Jew watching Jesus knew it. As Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt, the people welcomed him as their saviour and king. Everything Jesus did, was a fulfilment of what the bible had predicted. The crowds knew that the praises they offered were reserved for the Messiah, and the Messiah is what they expected Jesus to be.
Jesus is purposefully going public. Until now he has gone out of his way to conceal his true identity from the public. Now all that is about to change. This ride on a colt was a powerful and revealing action and the crowd got the message.
The crowd’s actions were also powerful:
Verse 8—“Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields.” That’s strange, to throw your cloak on the dirty, manure-covered road. Unlike us, most first century Jews did not have lots of clothing. Many had only one cloak so to throw your clothing on the ground so that a donkey could step on it was a big deal. It showed that you believed this rider to be someone important. And there was a very good reason for them to believe that Jesus was important.
As soon as the Jewish people saw Jesus riding down the Mount of Olives on a donkey’s colt, their minds raced to a prophecy they’d heard all their lives. It was hope of the Jewish people…
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
And cry aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
See, your king is coming to you;
he is righteous and able to deliver,
he is humble and riding on a donkey,
a colt, the offspring of a donkey.” Zechariah 9:9
When the crowd shouts “Hosanna!” the people are asking God to fulfil His long-standing promise, to save now!
As Jesus rides into Jerusalem is forcing people to make a decision about Him Who do they think he is? What do they think he is capable of?
What decision will you make this Easter? To follow Jesus? To embrace his death and resurrection? To join with those who welcome Jesus to Jerusalem, laying down what we have and shouting Hosanna – Save Me Now?