Christians find their voice today: ‘Hosanna!’ they cry; Zion’s king is coming. ‘Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass‘ (Zech 9:9). Their arms are lifted and the palm leaves waved. ‘Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!’ The Lord’s name is exalted with hearts full of praise.
And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way.
And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.
And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this?
And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee (Mt 21:8-11)
It is the ecstasy of belief; an eschatological consummation fulfilled before the eyes. In this personal blessedness lies an eternity of hope. At last, God’s people can meet their Messiah. Now they can grow old and die, having shared the vision of the reign; knowing that it will soon be on earth as it is in heaven. The gospel will be preached, souls will be saved, people will be changed. The promise of eternal life is irresistible. Action for justice and peace draws them in.
On the other hand, nothing changes at all. It’s like a strange and bizarre children’s story. What kind of messiah rides a donkey? Can the donkey talk? Why on earth are you quoting Zechariah? What’s the Bible got to do with anything? Pray and praise away, if you want to, but it’s not for me. No, I’ve grown up. And it’s going to be hot and sunny today, and that calls for beer and a barbecue. Why should I bother going to church to hear some right-on vicar rail against Brexit and grammar schools when I’ve got the heat of the sun and a garden full of bluebells and daffodils; an Eden which sings to the glory of God? Sacred words have become slogans, and the church just shrouds them with Jesus. Today, it’s Jesus and a donkey. Children like that.
The world is sleeping in the dark, and the church is asleep in the light. Its doors aren’t closed to bodies, but they are locked shut to the life of power. We shall listen politely to one another, respecting each other’s choices. Inclusion, peace and tolerance is all. That’s nice.
The Messiah comes to conquer the powers of darkness; to judge the living and the dead.
Better just pop to Tesco to grab the beer and sausages.