Palm Sunday is a turning point in our journey of faith with Jesus. We walk alongside Him as He enters the holy city of Jerusalem for the last time. His fame as a messenger of God has travelled far. He is riding in triumph and humility on the back of a donkey. The crowd has spread their cloaks on the ground before Him and has strewn His path with palm branches.
Jesus had to go to Jerusalem for the same reason the apostle Paul knew he had to go to Athens, then Ephesus, then on to Rome. The gospel had to be declared in places that served as the crossroads of cultures and ideas. The message had to be preached in places where the world was always coming and going so people who heard it could take the message with them where they went. The same thing happened on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came to the disciples and gave them the ability to speak in different languages. People who heard the Good News in their own language could take the message back to their home countries.
In Jesus’ time, spreading one’s garments on the street was an act of homage reserved for royalty. This suggests that the Israelites recognized Jesus’ claim to be King of the Jews. This claim was recognized by the crowd’s shout of “Hosanna!” The people showed that they were receiving Christ as royalty by spreading their clothes and palm branches on the road before Him and shouting words meant only for the Messiah.
Jesus entered Jerusalem not on a horse as a symbol of power, but on a donkey as a symbol of humility. He is the peaceful king of the people of God, not a revolutionary with political interests. Pride swells our heads and our hearts. We tend to think more highly of ourselves than we should. Jesus did not consider equality with God as something to flaunt. He humbled Himself to death on a cross. We as believers are challenged to follow the same example. Jesus kept His eye on God, and so should we.
The time had arrived for Jesus to be presented to Israel as the Messiah. Jesus chose to act out this truth in a public and memorable way, especially memorable for the two disciples who had the task of bringing Him the lowly animal He would ride on into Jerusalem. His instructions to them could only come from one with supernatural knowledge. Just as the donkey was untied for Jesus’ purpose, we must unleash ourselves for God’s business. He is preparing the church to be a vessel ushering in a great harvest of souls. He is preparing us to be a major force in His great harvest.
The Messiah would re-establish the kingdom founded by David-a kingdom reuniting feuding peoples into one nation. That kingdom would bring all the People of God from the far corners of the world back home where they belonged. The Son of David would establish an everlasting reign.
Jesus came on an animal of peace, not of war. The crowd wanted Him to grab a sword and wave that sword to show what He and His followers would do to the Romans. Instead, He had an olive branch between His fingers. The crowd that shouted “Hosanna” on Palm Sunday would shout “Crucify Him” on Good Friday.
As the crowds entered the city gates during Jesus’ Triumphal Entry, their zeal grabbed the attention of all of Jerusalem’s citizens. When Matthew wrote that the city was moved, he used a Greek term related to the English word “seismic.”
The pilgrims coming to Passover were excited. They were hoping for a new Exodus, for a new return from the captivity of Babylon, and freedom from Roman rule. Many people believed that Jesus was the Messiah. Pilgrims came to Jerusalem by the hundreds and thousands for the Passover festival. Since the people had a history of rebelling against the Romans, Roman governors would plan for additional security during Passover. As Jesus entered Jerusalem from the east, Roman soldiers were entering the city from the west. They were coming because of the crowds that were in Jerusalem for the Passover festival. They incited fear in the crowd. On the other hand, the crowd cleared the way for Jesus and hailed His presence.
The crowd proclaimed Jesus as the king in Jerusalem who has come as an outsider, a prophet from Galilee. He was proclaimed as Lord. He came to replace Pilate’s system of rule. When we proclaim Jesus as Lord, we proclaim that it is possible for those with power to use it as Jesus used His power.
Jesus, as God’s all-knowing Son, saw humanity more clearly and completely than any sociologist or psychologist. He wasn’t surprised by the change in the crowd’s attitude mere days after His triumphant entry. He had seen it before. He was there when ten divine miracles paved the way for freedom of God’s people from the Egyptians. He heard the Israelites’ complaints in the desert. He saw their reluctance to immediately entering the Promised Land.
The crowd heard His words and believed that He was the man who had been sent to free them. Unfortunately they were disappointed. He didn’t do any of the things they expected of Him. Instead, He threw the moneychangers out of the temple. He cursed a fig tree. He told the people to pay their taxes to the oppressive Roman government. He taught the people that true greatness is to be found in servanthood.
For the crowd, this was a disappointing experience. The people wanted Jesus to give them earthly freedom, but God had a higher purpose in sending Jesus into Jerusalem. He sent Jesus to free humanity not from earthly oppression, but from the oppression of sin. Jesus came in peace. He came to bring peace between mankind and God. He came to break the barriers that exist between God and us. He came so that we may find a peace that passes all understanding.
All of these events were part of God’s plan. What happens to our plans if we pause to confirm whether or not the Lord has need of all we are doing? Do all of our preparations reflect what God has planned for us? Do we respond to what God has asked of us? When we obey God, we are given an opportunity to bring others to Jesus.
During Passover week, Jesus taught about faithful workers in God’s kingdom. He encouraged people to work faithfully without delay, and He encourages us to do the same thing today. Do it now! If you died today, would you be happy with the level of service you have given to God’s kingdom? if not, we must be more involved in serving others.
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