The crowd was flowing down the mountain like a river, down the stately slope of the Mount of Olives shouting for joy and making an incredible racket. There was a multitude of them, that much was plain even from the great distance of the mighty walls of Jerusalem. Perhaps there were hundreds, perhaps many hundreds. At the very center was one man—every eye was fixed on him, every voice shouted for him, every hand was raised in praise of him. He alone sat atop a horse and he had a noble bearing about him, like one who knew his own great worth. And as he rode along, the adoring multitude of his followers kept spreading their cloaks on the road so that even the hooves of his steed might be spared the indignity of touching dirt. Was this an aristocrat from the old tribes of Israel? Was this a long forgotten prince of the line of David? Was this a warrior king ready to lead the people to glory again? Word spread quickly through Jerusalem, someone was coming to the city, someone new, someone important, and the people rushed to see who was at the head of this great procession.
But as the great multitude came near to the gates of Jerusalem, what had been an indistinct mass of humanity when viewed from afar began to come into focus. And this was certainly no gathering of the aristocracy. This was a mob of the dregs of humanity, flotsam and jetsam storm tossed by the seas of life. There was one wearing leper’s rags though her skin showed no sign of the disease, and another whose course voice and sunburned skin betrayed him as a day-laborer, and there was one who just a week ago had been playing at being blind begging on the Jericho road, and there was a woman whose youth seemed prematurely faded, perhaps by an unforgiving profession. And the man at the center of it all? Well he was riding no royal steed, no battle tested charger. Instead, it looked like his followers had stolen some fleabag farmyard work horse. The animal did not seem accustomed to being ridden, and the man looked ridiculous atop the poor scrawny creature.
That’s the story of Jesus coming to Jerusalem. Now if this was supposed to be Jesus’ big entrance, it looks like he blew it. Understand Jerusalem had a high bar for big entrances. Jerusalem had seen magnificent king David stripped down to his skin dancing through the streets having recovered the Ark of the Covenant itself. And Jerusalem had seen King Josiah tear down all the foreign idols, Baal and Molech and Nehushtan, and burn them all as fuel for the great bonfire of his reformation. And Jerusalem had seen the treasures of the temple torn down and hacked apart and carried away by Rome’s invincible legions marching in lockstep beneath Caesar’s golden eagles. By almost any standard—and certainly by Jerusalem’s standards—Jesus’ big entrance was pretty sad. Jesus had no army and his entourage was made up of the poor and the pitiable, the witless and the wandering, the beaten down and the broken. He had ladies of the night as his ladies in waiting, and he had illiterate fisherman as his most learned advisors.
But you know what the most remarkable thing is? This sorry little parade was spectacularly effective. The people were spellbound. The people were seized by a mad and impossible hope: this finally was a king for them! Here was an impoverished-king who lifted leaders up from among the poor, an unbiased-king who respected women and listened to their wisdom, a healer-king who saw the wretchedness of lepers and the blind as something more than a cautionary tale. Perched atop a scrawny colt, gingerly hoofing it’s way across the dirty cloaks and palms spread hastily across the road, Jesus held court for the first time in the Kingdom of God. It looks like foolishness, but when you come face to face with the Kingdom of God, even a dead stone couldn’t help but shout for joy.
But, and there had to be a “but” right? But, if that’s what the kingdom of God is like, if Jesus has for his courtiers those who know what it means to walk a long way down the wrong road, if imperfection is in the job description for those who have a share in Jesus reign, then that means I am all out of excuses for why I can’t be a part of the kingdom of God. My failings as a man don’t excuse me from following Jesus, my faithless doubts and fears don’t excuse me from following Jesus
Maybe you’re someone who is well aware that you’re not perfect. I can’t be the only one around here who’s not perfect. Maybe you’re someone who is carrying around some shame, some doubt, some loneliness that makes you think you’re unworthy of being a follower of Jesus. Perhaps when you pray you feel like a hypocrite, because why would God love a person who feels so unlovely in themselves? If you’re a person who is being held back from following Jesus because you think you’re not worthy, I’ve got news for you—being imperfect doesn’t get you off the hook. You see we’re all caught up in a great big crowd of people just like us, storm tossed flotsam and jetsam each with our own wrinkles our own scars and secret places that might seem to make us poor choices for Jesus’ grand royal entourage. But don’t you see? Don’t you see that the procession of the kingdom of God has already begun? And the fanfare is already swelling with the voices of imperfect people just like you and me. Jesus is coming down the road and the shouts are ringing out and the ground is covered with worries and failures and private shames, people all around have ripped their inadequacies from their shoulders, they have torn their fears from around their shoulders and spread them on the ground before the king like a carpet of cloaks. Jesus’ path is covered in debt collectors notices that say a person is worth less than nothing, Jesus’ path is covered in empty liquor cases stealing life away drop by drop. Jesus’ path is covered with pink slips and eviction notices and divorce papers, so thick there isn’t a spot of ground left and Jesus is trampling them all that into the dirt. Jesus has taken our inadequacies and made them a path, a path of healing and redemption, a path that’s headed straight into Jerusalem, straight into the Holy City, straight into the promised land. Friends, won’t you walk with Him?