The Message, April 2 (Palm Sunday), "Who Is That Man?" Matthew 21:1-11

The Message, April 2 (Palm Sunday), "Who Is That Man?" Matthew 21:1-11

Author: Rev. Scott W. Cousineau
April 04, 2023


“Who Is That Man?”
A Message by Rev. Scott W. Cousineau
Matthew 21:1-11

            For some reason, some of the people in my previous churches have had trouble remembering my name. For example, when I served the church in New London, New Hampshire, there were a group of people that called me “Chris.” Chris is close to Scott. It has a couple of the same letters in it. I served there for six years. I never corrected them.

            When I served the church in Norfolk, Massachusetts, there were a number of people who called me “Steve.” That was understandable since the interim minister’s name was Steve. (It still is. As far as I know, he has not changed it to Scott.)

            When I was in Norfolk, there was another name that I was called by some of the folks. (Careful … it was not a naughty name.) Some of the children called me … Jesus! There was actually one little boy that elevated my status. He called me “God!” I will never forget the day that I was out weeding the flower bed in front of the parsonage and as a car drove by a little face in the backseat window yelled, “Hi, GOD!!”

            If I was God, I would not have been weeding the garden by hand! I would have been like Bruce Almighty and just waved my hand and made them disappear.

            Anyway, it was very cute! And I was humbled by it. Now, I have no delusion that I am either Jesus or God. But I recognize that in their young and innocent eyes I do represent God and Jesus in their world. However, it is a tough standard to live up to! I will say that I have never had anyone take off their coats and lay them on the road in front of me.

            I know that the circumstances are a little bit different here, but as you heard, there was a slight case of mistaken identity in our story this morning. And I have to wonder if that was not all part of Jesus’ plan.

            He knew the history of kings riding into Jerusalem.
            He knew the prophecies that foretold the coming of a king riding on the back of a donkey.
            He knew of a colt … a foal … that had not been ridden, and he made the proper arrangements.
            He knew that the city would be teeming with people that were there for the Passover festival. He knew that the city would be electric with energy and enthusiasm.
            He knew that was the time.

            The people knew their history as well. They heard the buzz that a “king” was riding into the Holy City of Jerusalem.
            They remembered the story of King Jehu riding into the city and the people laying their cloaks upon the road to show their loyalty to their king.
            They remembered Simon Maccabaeus riding into the city after defeating the pagan army and the people cutting palm branches and waving them as he processed toward the Temple to cleanse the Temple after the pagans had defiled it. (1 Maccabees 13:51)
            The knew the words of the psalm and they greeted him with those words: “Blessed is the one who enters in the name of the Lord.” (Psalm 118:26)
            And they knew the verse that preceded it: “Hosanna! Save us, we beseech thee, O God!” (Psalm 118:25) “Hosanna!” “Save us! Save now!”

            For us, the modern reader and listener, the word “Hosanna!” rings differently. For us, it is a word of celebration that we sing and shout on Palm Sunday. It has become a word that is similar to “Hallelujah!” However, for the First Century folks, it was a cry of desperation. We focused upon desperation last Sunday as we explored Psalm 130. The people lining that streets of Jerusalem on this day long ago were desperate. “Save us, O God! Save us now!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven” was a cry to God and the angels. “Save us!”

            But then they got a look at the king and his delegation. “Who is that guy on the donkey?! Hey! Get out of the way!! The King is coming!!”

            Others said, “No, that IS the king!”

            “What?! Where is his horse?! Where is his sword?! His spear?! Where is his armor?! Where is his army?!”

            “That is HIM. The prophet Jesus from Nazareth.”

            “WHAT?!?! You have got to be kidding me!! That ragamuffin!!?? He could not defend himself from a kid with a stick! How will he defend himself against the Romans?! How will he defend himself from anybody?!”

            How many of them turned around and walked away? How many of them went home … disappointed?

            How many of them followed him? Curious about this unarmed prophet that people call “king”?

            The people wanted the King to save them from Rome. “Save us from these pagan occupiers!”
            The people wanted freedom from the oppression that they experienced from the Romans and the corrupt Temple authorities. “Save us, O King! Save us, O God!”

            Jesus offered them more than they were asking. He offered them a greater freedom than relief from an occupying army. The salvation that he offered relieved a much larger burden. Jesus awakened their minds to a much more significant reality.

            It was customary for prophets to express their message in dramatic fashion when they felt that their words were not enough. Jesus had been preaching and teaching the people throughout the countryside for the last three years. As he entered Jerusalem, he was able to teach them … show them … what he had been talking about.

            Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem called to mind the “Anointed One” foretold by the prophet Malachi.

            Jesus’ entry on the back of the donkey fulfilled Zechariah’s prophecy of the “gentle” king who came in peace.

            Jesus did come to defeat the occupiers … the oppressors … but not in the way that the people had expected.

            Jesus did come to cleanse the Temple, to remove those who had corrupted the faith and burdened the people.

            He did come to establish a new kingdom, the Kin-dom of God.

            Jesus did not come to lay claim to the throne in the palace. He came to lay claim to our hearts.

            Jesus must have known how the people would react. He must have known that they would be confused, even disappointed, by his arrival as the gentle king without as much as a sword. But that was all part of the lesson. He was not waiting for them to get it “right.”
            He came to offer salvation to the lost and confused.
            His Way was never the way of violence or warfare. He came to show, to teach, the Way of God, the Way of Love.
            Jesus knew exactly what he was doing.   

            The question then is for us. Will we follow him? Will we offer him out hearts?

            Or will we turn away … walk away … and wait for a salvation more to our liking?



Congregational Church