Reading: Luke 19.28-40
How do you welcome someone?
Older members of the congregation may talk about "tin-kettling". When newly-weds arrived home from their honeymoon, neighbours and friends would gather round the house and bang tins, blow horns and generally make an almighty din.It would have been all expected - the couple had probably helped do it for others.
If a friend has come to visit us - or to stay a while - we open the door, greet them and bring them inside. They know they're welcome.
If an important visitor comes to town, the council would probably arrange a civic reception, inviting a whole range of people who represent different clubs, organisations and businesses in the town.
And if you are waiting for someone special to arrive, what do you do? When the Queen has visited Australia, roads along the royal route have been resurfaced, footpaths repaired, houses and fences repainted Whether people believe in a monarchy or a republic, all want to make a good impressionn.
The Jewish people were waiting for someone. They talked about the Messiah. That's their Hebrew word for the "anointed one" - the Greek word is "Christ". Kings and priests had a special mixture of oil poured on their head to show they were set apart for their important duties. But God was promising someone special - someone who would be the Messiah.
At times when they forgot to follow the Lord and the nation fell on hard times - to the point where invaders took many of them away into exile - at those times their desire became especially intense. When will the Lord send the Messiah?
Well, that would be in God's time. Problem was that many of them just wanted the King to come who would make their national situation secure. They weren't so interested in the changes of values and lifestyle for which the prophets were calling. They wanted the Lord to look after them, but the prophets were telling them they needed to return to the Lord.
Of course, we know that Jesus came as the Messiah. But Jesus kept that a secret because they wanted a political Messiah. The Jewish leaders were upset. They thought they were the judges of whether someone really was the Messiah or not. The teaching of Jesus exposed them for the hypocrites they were.
And now it is coming up to Passover again. That's the great festival when Jewish people celebrate the deliverance of their ancestors from slavery in Egypt. Jewish pilgrims from within and beyond Palestine are on the move. They can celebrate Passover wherever they live, yet they have always expressed the hope, "Next year in Jerusalem".
Quite a crowd has gathered in Bethany, a village not far from Jerusalem. They have come there because word has got out that Jesus has raised his friend Lazarus from the dead.
That crowd takes the cue from Jesus and sets off to accompany him into Jerusalem. Two disciples are sent to fetch a colt and Jesus starts to ride it down the Mount of Olives and up the other side into Jerusalem.
The crowd is excited. Jesus is declaring himself. Jerusalem, the Messiah is coming! Come out and join us in welcoming him! Palm branches and coats prepare the roadway for a royal welcome.
The Psalm for the day, Psalm 118, takes on new meaning as they welcome Jesus. "This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. O Lord, save us; O Lord, grant us success. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the Lord we bless you" (vv. 24-26).
Some people are bound to be disappointed. He is coming humbly mounted on a donkey, as the prophet foretold (Zech. 9.9) - not on a war-horse as the nationalists would have preferred.
Some of the Pharisees are upset - think Jesus should put an end to all this shouting and praising. They will be even more upset when Jesus goes into the temple and drives out all the traders and money-changers! "I tell you," Jesus says, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out" (Lk. 19.40).
The true King has come. It's a day of celebration. How do we welcome King Jesus? Are we like the political activists of 2000 years ago who wanted someone to bring social change out there? Are we like so many of the leaders and people of that time who could say, "Oh, I have my beliefs" - but don't want any call to change "me"? Are we fellow-travellers who follow the swings of public opinion? - if Jesus is popular, we will cry out "Hosanna!", but when the tables are turned, we shout, "Crucify!"
It should never really be like that when we celebrate the coming of the King! He came for us. He comes to us - "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me" (Rev. 3.20).
Open the door! Let him in! He comes to be, not only our King, but our Saviour and Friend!