“The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!'” (Matthew 21:9, NRSV)

A parade.

Children shouting, “Hosanna!”

Palm branches waving in the air.

Coats scattered across the road.

A baby donkey and a humble carpenter.

Wait! A baby donkey? And a humble carpenter?

Not exactly what the people were expecting. They were living in tough times. The oppressive Roman government and the shady deals with the religious leaders left the people marginalized at best. They were longing for freedom. They were longing for a savior. They were longing for hope.

Their image of the Messiah was one of a great warrior riding in on a huge, white horse with an army following behind him. Instead, they saw a humble carpenter whose calloused hands held onto the sides of an immature donkey.

But, we shouldn’t be all that surprised. Jesus always did the unexpected. He sat and had lunch with the tax collector. He healed the blind man with some spit and dirt. He fed the crowd with a small boy’s lunch.

Jesus always did the unexpected.

And perhaps it is because it wasunexpected that people paid attention. There was something special about this man. There was something remarkable about this moment. Remarkable enough for people to break off palm branches, lay their coats down and shout out, “Hosanna!” “Save us now!”

Too often the message the world receives from those in power – whether it be political, military, or religious – is nothing more than death-dealing. It’s a little too much like an episode of House of Cards.

Force.

Manipulation.

Bullying.

Violence.

Mixed messages.

We’ve seen it in the Middle East, in Latin America, Rwanda, Bosnia, Ferguson. We’ve even seen it at political campaign rallies.It is enough to leave us thinking that all hope is gone. 

But we follow a Messiah who humbled himself to the point of death on a cross. We follow the humble carpenter who rode into Jerusalem on a baby donkey. We follow the One who not only promoted but embodied shalom.

We are finding ourselves in a time and space where we are living in tough times. Every day brings with it new announcements, new bans, and new restrictions. On a good day, we find ourselves uncertain about tomorrow. For some of us, hope is harder to find than toilet paper. 

Yet, Palm Sunday reminds us that Hope unexpectedly rides into town.

Palm Sunday parades us into Holy Week. It is, in a sense, a beginning. It is the beginning of the week when Jesus comes face to face with the political, military, and religious powers of his day. And with every turn, we see or hear Jesus do something unexpected. In the crucifixion narrative that will unfold this week, we will see the loud and violent earthly powers be tamed by the quiet and peaceful power of the Divine.

May the Hope that rode into Jerusalem ride into your hearts this week.

Lord, God we give thanks for the symbols and reminders of your love and grace that give us hope. Be with us and bring us shalom. Amen.