“Who are you?”
The Icon of the Entry into Jerusalem is most striking. We see our Lord seated upon a colt of a donkey. The donkey’s head is bowed low and a child is feeding the donkey. To the right is pictured the walled city of Jerusalem and at the gate are the assembled elders, one is holding a palm branch hailing him as the son of David, the Messiah but another is whispering, one is looking away, yet another is looking towards the palm tree and the remainder are looking at each other. They seem sceptical observers to the event. Their faces portray the overarching question which is voiced in the Gospel of Matthew “Who is this?” Is this the Messiah riding on a donkey?
Had they forgotten the prophet’s words:
The Coming of Zion’s King
9 Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
Our Lord Himself in the middle of the scene has his head inclined towards his disciples who are following Him to the left of the Icon. He is looking to see if they are still there? In a few days time, of course, they would not be! Only the beloved disciple remained faithful- the others hid and fled, one denied Him and another betrayed Him. Behind our Lord’s Head is the Mount of Olives, outside the city, where he would be handed over to the authorities.
Our Lord rides upon the humble beast of burden that bears the cross on its back. He holds in His left hand a scroll which the Church Fathers suggest refers to the scroll in the Book of Revelation:
3 But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. 4 I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. 5 Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”
The only ones who are active in this scene are the small children. One is cutting the branches from the tree and two others are strewing branches and garments before Christ’s path. They are often pictured in white garments for purity. In their child-like innocence and enthusiasm only they are truly engaged in this historic ride into Jerusalem.
So who is this One who comes riding into Jerusalem? This is a question that Christ Himself asked His disciples-“Who do men say that I am?” Who are you? Was the question the High Priest asked of Jesus at His first-night trial. The same question Pilate asked of Jesus when He stood before Him at the Judgement seat. It is the question that Saul asked on the road to Damascus Who are you, Lord? It is the question the Holy Fathers considered at the First Ecumenical Council in 325 A.D. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they gave the definitive answer in the Creed: He is God of God, Light of Light, True God of True God being of one essence with the Father by whom all things were made.
But this question “Who are you?” is for us to answer and confess for ourselves. We are told in the scriptures that many admired the work of Jesus but they went their own way. They witnessed the miracles and were amazed by his teaching yet they refused to accept Him. The same voices that cried out Hosanna to the Son of David after a few days cried out Crucify Him!
If Christ is King then we must follow Him to the Cross and beyond to the Resurrection. We must make our heart a throne for Him to come and reign as Sovereign Lord. Our Lord comes to us today and we have to make up our minds, to open our hearts and to commit our souls to Him as our Lord and God. Our Christian Faith is of ultimate importance.
C. S. Lewis once wrote:
“Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance, the only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”
This is no time for fair-weather Christians. We know what Christ will do to those who have a lukewarm faith. (Revelation 3:16)
The One who comes into Jerusalem today is the One Who is the Prince of Peace the Son of God, the servant and King. We cry out to Him Hosanna in the Highest. Save us O Master!
Palm Sunday 2020