This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee
Matthew 21:11 (NIV)
There’s something about big parades that gets me pumped. On a principally chilly November day in 1992 we bundled our children into their warmest clothes and took the subway train to the King Street West station in downtown Toronto. After staking out a spot on the Yonge Street sidewalk, we waited with anticipation. It seemed like the whole city was buzzing with the news that Santa Claus was coming to town. It was amazing. More than a million people crammed the parade route. Smiling children waved Christmas pennants and parents expectantly peered up the road.
When the parade started rolling by I climbed onto a concrete flower box with video camera in hand and spent the next few hours filming the festivities. Christie and Matthew never tired. They were constantly calling out, “Look Dad! Look at that Dad! Did you see that one Mum?” And we’d wave and clap as magnificent floats, clowns, polar bears, elves, marching bands and various other parade participants passed by.
Recent arrivals from Africa, we’d never seen anything like it before. The best was kept until the very end. Santa Claus arrived with sleigh and prancing reindeer. He was laughing and shouting, “Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas everyone!” And we, not to be outdone, hollered back, “Merry Christmas Santa Claus!”
Some two-thousand years ago there was a very different sort of parade. It took place in Jerusalem during the Jewish national festival known as the Passover. Pilgrims from far and wide gathered for the ritual sacrifice of a lamb and the remembrance feast celebrating the deliverance of their forebears from Egyptian tyranny (cf. Exodus 12-13). The law demanded that every adult male Jew living within thirty-two kilometres of Jerusalem must come to the Passover. The city, normally about sixty-thousand people, was bursting at the seams with maybe more than two million. With the city crammed to overflowing, many pilgrims set up camp outside the walls and along the access roads. It was into this hustle and bustle that the announcement was quickly passed from mouth to mouth that Jesus was coming …
“The whole city was stirred” (Matthew 21:10). People thronged the Bethpage Road, all hoping to see the prophet from Nazareth – the One who’d raised Lazarus from the dead. And He came … riding on a donkey, to be received like royalty. Crowds surged ahead and thousands more followed. Paving His way with cloaks and branches they danced with joy while singing, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:38).