Rev. Rosemary Webb
14th April 2019
The Path from Bethany

One of the joys about visiting the Holy Land is that the memories stay with you, I can remember standing at the end of the footpath in Bethany and wondering how it would feel for me, walking this very path that our Lord trod.

Contrary to the expectations of the Pharisees and teachers, Jesus, The Messiah, hadn’t come to earth to sit on a throne. He hadn’t been born to show power and old-fashioned authority, he had come to show compassion to show us what God’s love is like, to show us the meaning of the scriptures. And now he was about to walk into Jerusalem to suffer and die so that we might have salvation.

Looking back perhaps we think it should have been a joyless procession but the people around Jesus didn’t know what lay ahead. And they were on their way to celebrate the Passover, that greatest of Jewish festivals. Recalling leaving Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, the giving of the commandments, the wandering in the wilderness, and the eventual journey into Canaan. God had done all this for them and they were going to the Temple to celebrate. And they did know what the prophets had said, for they were religious Jews. The Scriptures said that when the Messiah arrived, he would come riding on a donkey.

So, from the moment two people were sent to find the colt and tell the owners ‘The Lord needs it’ then all who heard it (except the Pharisees) knew this must be the Messiah. Yes, they had always believed it, and now here he was fulfilling the scriptures. And were they excited for surely, he was coming to lead an uprising. he would ride right up to Herod’s palace and sit on his throne, and order the Romans out. They were about to be liberated and were they ecstatic!

The Jews may not have recognised Jesus at first, but they did know the scriptures, and yes it was all coming true. So, the people welcomed Jesus with joy, they threw their cloaks on the ground, and praised God singing Hosanna.

The Pharisees were furious and tried to stop the crowd, for this was not what they were expecting or what they wanted and when that didn’t succeed, they asked Jesus to stop them, but he told them it would be useless to try. If the people will not shout: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord,” then God will give the stones voices and they will shout. It didn’t matter how it happened but Almighty God would ensure that Christ will be proclaimed as King on that day.

The tragedy was that the Pharisees were so sure they were right, that Jesus would have come to earth in glory, not born in a stable, that they still couldn’t believe him.

The passage from Isaiah seems to be a prophesy of what was to come but the Pharisees still they could not believe, perhaps it was because it was not what they wanted to hear. For this servant was saying that he had no reason to be humiliated, mocked, for he is certain that he is doing God’s will.

The servant in the passage challenges by asking who are those who hate him, who declare him guilty, he taunts those who are against him by asking them to confront him. The servant’s confidence comes from what had gone before, the fact he is God, and God is now helping him to confront his enemies. A fact he shows when he says ‘as it is the Lord God who helps me; who will declare me guilty?

But sadly, for the people of Israel their teachers didn’t listen to the word of God, they only listened to what they wanted to hear. Something which we today must be careful not to do.

But Jesus, who is God, knew what the Father wanted, knew that God loved him, and went forward along that path from Bethany in the knowledge that he was right and the Pharisees were wrong.

Today there was many people who love Christmas, a little baby being born, but Lent and Easter is a struggle, That Jesus being made to suffer isn’t right?

People may say, but look what was to happen three days later Jesus was dead, he had been abused, insulted, attacked and then nailed to a cross to die in agony, talking about the ride on the donkey as if it was a celebration is stupid. After all anyone can sit on a donkey and attract attention Perhaps they think that Jesus was making a fool of himself walking as if in celebration.

But it was celebration. We should celebrate that the earthly Christ, a human like us, was brave enough to do it knowing what lay ahead. He did it because he knew he must follow that footpath so that he could save us, buy salvation for us. And we must celebrate it.

We must give thanks that Jesus walked along that path with those going to celebrate the Passover, that Christ was obedient unto death, even death on a cross with two criminals, Jesus did this for us and we must never forget it.

Luke 19: 28-40