2. The Presentation
to the King 11:7-11
We know this story so well, I simply want to pick out one word to give us a different perspective. In Matthew's account he tells us that the whole of Jerusalem was "stirred" The Greek word is the one from which we obtain our word "seismic". Jesus arrival in Jerusalem had the impact of an earthquake. It was as if a psychological earthquake measuring 9 on the Richter scale had hit the city. Jerusalem was the epicentre. The presence of Jesus shook the city to its very foundations. Here was their King, riding on a borrowed donkey, mobbed by unsophisticated fishermen and country Gallileans. Defying the Church and State with palm branches and children's choruses. Jerusalem had never seen anything like it.
Within a week that earthquake would have torn the thick temple curtain from top to bottom. No longer would access to God be limited by race and ritual. This was His intention, to compel Jerusalem to recognise Him, even if only for an hour. They had heard His teaching, seen His miracles, now He had come to claim His city. He would stir her as by an earthquake, offering a choice - peace and reconciliation or judgement and separation. Abraham Kuyper the Dutch theologian and politician put it like this,
"When principles that run against your deepest convictions begin to win the day, then battle is your calling, and peace has become sin, you must, at the price of dearest peace, lay your convictions bare before friend and enemy with all the fire of your faith."
Jesus did so on Palm Sunday, and it led Him to the cross. The preparation for the King, the presentation to the King.
3. The Pronouncement of the King 11:12-19
Read passage. Here again we see the King asserting His royal authority. There is a magnificence and dignity even in His anger. Why did Jesus act in this way? Notice very carefully His own words. Read 11:17. Two quotations from the Old Testament prophecies are brought together. Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11 vindicated His action, one descriptive of what the house should be - a house of prayer; the other descriptive of what the house had become - a den of robbers. The house that ought to be a house of prayer had become a den of robbers, in the area reserved for non-Jews - the Court of the Gentiles, denying the world access to God.
They had turned the Temple into an ugly sight, but for one brief moment Jesus turned it into a place of beauty. In Matthew 21:14 we read of one brief moment of restoration. For one brief moment the house was no longer a den of robbers, but a house of prayer. What a picture.
The Temple court was thrown into total disarray, doves, lambs, sheep and goats running loose. People scrambling for the coins amidst the upturned money tables. But here also were the blind and the lame. The face that a moment before had flamed with indignation was soft with the radiance of compassion. This is one of the most moving pictures in the Gospels. Jesus casts out but He also takes in.
He overthrows but He also builds up. "for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations... I will gather still others to them..." Jesus did not merely quote it - he fulfilled it.
He cast out and he overthrew, but then he gathered the exiles, the outcasts, the blind and the lame. This is the King in action. What a King. Thank God for this vision of the King. I could not live in a world so full of evil if it were not for my belief in a king of justice. A king who can and does overthrow and cast out.
But thank God also, before everything is put straight, before the house is put in order, with the tables still upset, the money scattered, and the people still in confusion, this King gathers the outcasts and heals them. Like Jesus we must work as he gives us the opportunity. We must work even while the world is going astray, where ever there is arrogance and racism, where ever there is ethnic cleansing, where ever there are refugees and asylum seekers. It should not surprise us that much of this world is a war zone.
The events of Palm Sunday and the example of our Lord teach us to be in the business of rebuking injustice but also relieving injustice. Challenging evil and cleansing evil - and beginning with our own hearts. Worshipping the peace maker but working at peace making. That is why I invite you to send your palm cross to Tony Blair and urge him to work for peace in Jerusalem. Be a servant of the Prince of Peace who rode into Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday to die to take away your sin and mine. Cross the divide. Be a bridge builder. Be a peace maker this Easter. Let us pray.