“Who Is This Guy?”
Matthew 21:1-11

Today is a day of celebration! Jesus has returned to Jerusalem! As he rides by on the donkey, people are dropping branches and coats on the ground, spreading them across the road as he passes. People are walking ahead of Jesus, and they are calling out, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” This is truly a great celebration.

But why? Why the sudden, spontaneous celebration? Why is this day different than any other day? Why this grand parade?

We have an advantage, we know what this return to Jerusalem means. We know he will go into the temple and overturn the tables. We know he will spend time teaching in the city. We know he will eat with his disciples in the upper room. We know he will be betrayed. We know he will die and we know he will rise from the dead! We know all these things because we have the whole story. We know the reason he has come to the city. These people with him do not have this privilege. Yet they respond in such an amazing way.

Who is this guy? Who is he that prompts such spontaneous celebration just because he walks the streets? Who today commands such attention? Justin Beiber maybe? William and Kate? Movie stars, athletes, musicians?

Jesus is none of these.

Think about it, Jesus is a homeless guy who just wanders around the countryside, and somehow he’s become the hero of these people. He’s got no money, no home, no fancy cars, no millions of views on Youtube. Jesus just walks about, talking to people.

Who does the crowd say he is? They call him a prophet, or a teacher. When have you ever had a teacher that made you want to react in such a way? I had some teachers I really liked when I was in school, but none of them did I ever want to worship like this!

So, how is it, in a world with no internet, no television, no telephones, no paparazzi, no around the clock media coverage, how can he be so popular? What is it about Jesus that makes people respond?

Well, I suppose one hint about the impact he has had on people’s lives is the fact, despite the lack of today’s information sharing, he touched people’s lives in such a way they want to celebrate when he is near. What he has done is so remarkable people cannot help but to be moved by what they hear through the grapevine about him. People have obviously heard about what he has been teaching. They have heard about what he has done by healing people. They have heard of the love he has shown. They have heard how he has shunned the religious leaders of the day and embraced the weak and the vulnerable. The news spread fast, especially for 2000 years ago.

What moves people to be drawn to him in this way? It makes me think back to the start of Jesus’ ministry. Remember when John the Baptist was thrown into prison and he sent Jesus a message? It’s in Matthew chapter 11, John sends a message to Jesus asking, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?”

Jesus responds with these words, “Go and tell John what you hear and what you see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offence at me.”

Isn’t that a beautiful response from Jesus? Jesus didn’t come out and say, “Yep, I’m him, come on out and worship me!” No, Jesus said, “Here’s what’s happening, judge for yourself.”

It’s pretty clear that three years later, a lot of people have been watching and listening because they are making the decision for themselves. Three years later, Jesus is walking into the city of Jerusalem and people are celebrating his arrival. They are calling out with shouts of “Hosanna!” which means “Save us!” because they know what he can do. They have no idea how he is going to do it, but after years of arguing and being threatened by the religious leaders, Jesus is walking straight into their stronghold. And people cannot wait to see what is going to happen.

We know what happens. Jesus stands up to them and teaches pretty directly about what their actions have been doing to people. The leaders don’t like this and they take care of him. They get him out of the way… by killing him. Problem solved, nothing else to see here folks, move along, back to as you were.

But that’s not the end of the story now is it?

The people were right! The people who heard and saw what he did, those who figured it out for themselves, they were right! He IS the one! The one we’ve been waiting for! Jesus is the Messiah, the one who has come to save.

That’s who this guy is.

He’s not a teacher. He’s not a prophet. Jesus is the Son of the living God. The one who lived out the prophetic words from Zechariah 9 where is says, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. He will cut off the chariot of Ephraim and the war-horse of Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.”

Jesus has come, he’s lived and taught about God’s wish for creation, about God’s wish to bring His people back to him in love and compassion. As mentioned in Zechariah, to end war and separation, and to bring peace to all the nations, from sea to sea and to the end of the earth.

What is our response to what Jesus has done? Do we truly celebrate the gift of God’s love he has shown for all of us? Does his presence cause us to shout in praise so that all the world can hear about the love God has sent to us?

This week, we will hear of what Jesus has done in his last few days as we gather at the various churches for lunch. We will gather on Friday to commemorate his death on the cross. The man who brought our sin upon himself, freely, so that we may know how much God loves us. And in one week we will celebrate the Risen Christ who overcame our sin and death to reign forever more with the heavenly Father.

How should we respond?

What can possibly be an appropriate act of thanksgiving for what he has done for us?

Nothing. There is nothing we can do that is worthy enough for what has been done on our behalf.

But, that’s ok! Jesus doesn’t want anything, this gift is free! So we gather here to celebrate as Jesus enters what looks like the final round of the battle. We lay down our palm branches, we sing our “hosannas”, we prepare ourselves for the battle to be fought for us.

And when it is over, we stand victorious with the King of kings and we share the stories of his life with those around us. We share the love of God with people who know no love. We invite people to learn about this gift we have been given, at a price we could never afford to pay, and has already been paid through the ultimate sacrifice. Our God died for us on a cross.

Who is this guy?

This guy is the one prophesied about in the Old Testament. He is the one who came to earth and brought peace, love, healing, hope, joy and so much more to the world. He is the one we remember when we say, “For God so loved the world he gave his only begotten son, so that all who believe in him may not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus is the one we gather for in our churches, not to mourn, but to celebrate and worship in jubilation because he was, is, and is yet to come.

Jesus Christ is the Son of our living God. This is who he is. Nothing less, yet so much more than we can ever imagine.

So as we experience Holy Week this week, let us remember to look past the cross, and to look forward to his victory in the resurrection, for through our faithfulness in him, we too stand victorious with our Lord as his kingdom spreads to the earth.