Message by Rev. Scott W. Cousineau
It is nice to go somewhere and
receive a warm welcome.
It is nice when you arrive, and people
are happy to see you.
It is even nicer when they are
super-excited to see you!
Last Sunday, I recorded a little
snippet of the welcome that Renee received when she arrived home from church,
Obviously, I had been home for a
little bit … but Pip does not get excited when I arrive home without Renee. In
fact … he comes to the top of the stairs … sees that it is me … “Oh …it’s you”
… and turns and runs away.
Bain, on the other hand … is always
excited to see me. Renee sends me photos of him standing by the window watching
and waiting for my arrival. We have yet to capture a video of his reaction when
I get home, but Bain springs up in the air so high that we are at eye level
with one another.
I am certain that any pet owners
gathered here this morning could share similar stories about their arrivals and
the welcomes that they receive from their adoring pets.
This morning we celebrate a very
special and significant homecoming. Jesus returned to Jerusalem for the final
time, and as we know, he received a mixed reaction to his arrival. There were
shouts of, “Hosanna! He’s here! He’s here!”, and grumbles of, “Oh … it is him.
He is here.”
The holy city of Jerusalem was
packed with pilgrims that had come from all over the country for the Passover
festival. The streets were buzzing even before they had heard that Jesus might
make an appearance. Everyone was hustling and bustling making their
preparations for their Passover celebrations. And then the news began to
“Have you heard? HE is coming! Yes …
I heard that Jesus is coming for the festival!”
By this point, Jesus’ fame had
spread throughout the land. They had heard the stories. Some had even seen him
and heard him in person! He preached with authority. He performed miracles. He
raised Lazarus from the dead!!
His popularity grew. The throng of
followers grew. And there was talk that he was the ONE! In the shops and in the
streets, the people talked … they hoped … they dreamed. And then the news began
to spread …
“He is here! Yes … HIM … He is
coming right down Main Street! He is here!!”
They had waited for so long. They
were burdened, oppressed, occupied. They were exiles in their own country. And
then … could it be? Could their long, national nightmare be over? Had he really
come to set them free?
“Look! There he is! And he is riding
a donkey! A donkey … just like the prophet foretold!”
The prophet Zechariah had foretold
the coming of the King of Zion:
“Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
“There he is! Just like Zechariah said! Praise be to God!”
And they remembered the rest of Zechariah’s prophecy:
“I will take away the
chariots from Ephraim
and the warhorses from Jerusalem,
and the battle bow will be broken.
He will proclaim peace to
His rule will extend from sea to sea
and from the River to the ends
of the earth.” (Zechariah
“He is here! Hosanna! Save us! Our king is here!”
But, as we know, not everyone was happy to see
him. There were those Pharisees. “Oh ... it is him. He is here. And look at him
… riding in on a donkey. Who does he think he is? And, listen to the people.
There they go again with their talk of the ‘king.’ You know who is not going to
Actually … there were multiple ‘you-know-whos’
that were not going to enjoy all of that ‘king’ talk. Certainly, Herod was not
going to be pleased. The installed king of Judah did not want to hear anything
about the new king … the true king … of the people. He would surely fly into a
And then there was the emperor. The Temple
authorities had a nice little arrangement with Rome … help maintain the Pax
Romana … the Peace of Rome … and everything will be fine. But Jesus threatened
that peace. He stirred up the people with this ‘king’ talk. He was a
rabble-rouser, a nuisance.
The Sanhedrin had already made up their minds
that Jesus must die after the raising of Lazarus. And it was quite evident that
after this little demonstration, that they would have to follow through with
“He is here. Good. You made this very easy for
us, Jesus. Now let us finish this once and for all.”
And, then there were his disciples, his closest
followers. No doubt they had mixed emotions about this whole event. They had
seen Jesus, traveled with him … loved him. They had witnessed his power up
close and personal. They had shared extraordinary moments … miraculous moments
… with him. They knew the promise and the hope that he offered. They shared the
dream of the kingdom of God.
But they also knew the danger that awaited Jesus
in Jerusalem. They had tried to warn him, even dissuade him from going there.
Did he not understand what “They want to kill you means?!”
But then … he IS Jesus, after all. They had seen
him calm storms. They had seen him cure the sick, make the blind see, the lame
walk. They had even seen him raise Lazarus from the dead!!
“He wants us to get the donkey. Just like the
prophet foretold. And then he is going to ride right through the main gate. Not
the side gate, or the back door … right into the center of the city. Good Lord,
Jesus, could you not at least make a less noticeable entrance?” (Whispering … “Shhhh
… he is here. Don’t tell anyone.”)
“But … we have seen remarkable things. Jesus …
you are our king. Let us lay our cloaks upon the road. Let us extend a proper
welcome … a royal welcome!”
They sang a portion of the Hallel … a prayer of thanksgiving added to the morning service on festive
Jewish holidays. The prayer, whose Hebrew name literally means “praise,” is an
extended expression of praise and thanks to God for the many kindnesses
bestowed upon Israel.
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of
From the house of the Lord we bless you.” (Psalm 118:26)
But they changed one word: “Blessed is the
KING who comes in the name of the Lord.”
Jesus set the scene perfectly. He knew what the
prophets foretold. He had been in Bethany many times. He had arranged for the
use of the foal. The Passover festival celebrated the first Exodus event. It
was their march from slavery in Egypt to freedom. And Jesus would offer them a
new exodus … a new freedom.
He came as the fulfillment of the nation’s hopes,
their longing for a king that would offer them freedom. He offered freedom from
oppression. Freedom from hatred and violence. Freedom from sin and death.
His entrance into Jerusalem, riding on the back
of a donkey did proclaim that he was their king. Not the warrior king, riding
on the back of a stallion, but rather the king of love and peace.
It was bold and courageous. He did not ride in
the back door, or under the cover of darkness. It was his destiny to go to
Jerusalem, and he rode right down the Cardo Maximus … “Main Street” … for
everyone to see!
He rode in on a donkey to proclaim that he IS the
king of love and peace.
He IS the king of the outcast and the poor.
He is the king of the widow and the orphan.
He is the king of the bent and the broken.
He is the king of the lost and the lonely.
He is the king of all who desperately need him.
Of course, throughout the ages, the people of the
world have failed to grasp the enormity of the promise of God. Humanity has
desired a god that we can understand, a god that we can put into a box, even a
god that we can control with our prayers and hopeful wishes. Humanity has tried
to construct a god who is on our side, a god who loves us more than the other, a
god who roots for our teams, a god who looks after our interests. We would
rather not follow a pillar of fire through the wilderness of life. We would
much rather have the fire follow us … obey us.
But the Kingdom of God belongs to a very
different kind of king. He is the King of Glory.
Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey
so that the world could proclaim “He is here!”
Here is the Messiah who gives hope to all who
serve him, no matter who they are.
It is the same message for us today, the same
The Messiah is here! The King of love and peace
is here! Cast your cloaks upon the roadway before him! He is Here!
Congregational ChurchUCC, SACO MAINE12 BEACH STREET | SACO, ME 04072