When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, “Why are you doing this?’ just say this, “The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.” They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” – Mark 11:1-10
It’s fitting that this Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week, is also April Fools Day. God in Jesus makes His climactic entry into Jerusalem riding on a donkey, and the crowds hail him as their king.
But as friend and pastor Thomas Daniel (Kairos Church) put it in today’s sermon, “the greatest things God will do in our lives and our world will confound our human expectations every time.” God in Jesus Christ is like a big divine, “gotcha” moment in human history- not to make us feel any more stupid than we already are much of the time, but to draw us into a mission of God that is far more glorious than what we could ever expect or imagine.
The crowds in this story, like a lot of us, are seeing what they want to see when they seek God. They’re remembering their long-held aspirations for a political hero who will ride into Jerusalem on a majestic, well-bred horse. (They don’t seem to notice that Jesus is making his entry on just another dumb ass from the next redneck village over.) That’s because they don’t get that God isn’t coming into their world to give them what they want, exactly- because what we want often pales in comparison to what God can and will do in our lives and our world.
In just a few days Jesus will make His way to the cross to conquer not by brute force but by the strength of God’s love. To vanquish, not, as the crowds would intuit, Israel’s colonizing enemy of Rome, but ultimately all worldly powers of evil and death. To begin restoring for Himself not just a chosen people but all creation in the fullness of time.
Here is where we begin, too: with a God who in Christ Jesus says, “The joke’s on you. Now follow me.” And, in a world in which Jesus rose from the dead, and invites us into resurrected life, maybe one day penguins will really fly. This BBC clip was my favorite from a series of top ten April Fools Day videos: Happy April Fools Palm Sunday!