And the crowds that went before (Jesus) and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Matthew 21:
I love high humidity. Occasional bouts with mold and mildew aside, Florida is a paradise for folks like me. Having said that, I will tell you that when my wife and I spent a month in Israel back in 1988 I was, figuratively speaking, a fish out of water. All sense of the sacred aside, my first impression of the geography around Jerusalem was that it was really, really dry. I thought about that fact as I contemplated Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem which many Christians will celebrate tomorrow as Palm Sunday.
The picture of a man riding on a donkey was not especially unusual in first century Israel, so what motivated people to throw their cloaks and palm branches on the ground before him as he entered the city? The people had probably heard about this prophet from Nazareth who went about preaching love and performing miracles, but very few had any idea at all who they were really welcoming. Yet here they were shouting “Hosanna," literally, “save us” or “rescue us."
These were a people who had been looking for a promised Messiah who would deliver them from what seemed to be perpetual bondage to one empire after another for the last 600 years. Disappointment built upon disappointment as the Lord allowed his people to live through a spiritual drought which left them as dry as the surrounding countryside. People who are desperate will follow anything or anyone who brings hope of deliverance - even a young carpenter riding a colt. They were about to receive more than they could ever have imagined.
Only a few years ago Jesus had been journeying from Jerusalem to Galilee when he stopped to rest at a well only to encounter a Samaritan woman. He asked her for a drink of water, and what ensued was one of the great conversations recorded in the Bible. In the middle of the discussion the Lord said this to her,
Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. John 4:13,14
When a person is dying of thirst spiritually, there is only one source who can provide life-giving water. Jesus. The glorious part of the process is that our Lord has no litmus test for who is allowed to come to him. The people during his triumphal entry so long ago did not know that they were welcoming the very Son of God, yet he waded right into their midst where he would shortly take up his cross and lay his life down to provide the “Living water” they so desperately needed.
Twenty-one centuries removed from that first Palm Sunday we are in another spiritual drought. People are thirsting for something or someone to slake their thirst, to give them hope, to give their lives meaning. Many have tried to drink the Kool-Aid offered by the likes of government, riches, power, beauty, sex, or intellect only to find themselves made sick by its bitter aftertaste. Beginning tomorrow there will be a lot of press given to Jesus for the next week. As always, he will arrive in a manner much different than the rich and powerful of our era, but perhaps, just perhaps, some of those who are thirsty will be drawn to him without even realizing who they are welcoming into their lives. That’s alright. Jesus will be delighted to come in and make himself at home in their hearts. There will be plenty of time for them to get to know him in the days to come. Perhaps, just perhaps, you number among them.
The Rev. Mike Hesse is senior pastor of Immanuel Anglican Church in Destin.