Mar 26, 2010
As we enter Passion Week, we journey with Jesus on the pivotal days of His march towards suffering- the anguish of rejection and desertion, the parade of mock trials (6 of them), the humiliation, the beatings and whippings, and ultimately, the horrors of the crucifixion. Clearly the tenor of the week, for Christ, is heavy, ominous. And this is why I’ve found that the beginning of this week, what we call Palm Sunday, is a strangely mixed celebration.
Think of the dynamics of that event. We’re told that Jesus Himself set the events in motion by arranging for two of His disciples to acquire a donkey for Him to ride. As He mounts this humble beast and begins a slow descent towards Jerusalem, something breaks loose. We’re told in Luke that His disciples suddenly burst into loud praise to God for all of the amazing miracles of Jesus. As far as we know, this is the first time that any group had ever done anything of the kind, which tells me that the Holy Spirit was clearly the force behind this adoration.
Then, again fueled by the Spirit of God, whole crowds of people begin to pile on the praise, echoing the cry from the psalms, “Hosanna! (“Save us, God!”) Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” The scene- just picture it- is intense. People are throwing their cloaks to the ground to pave the way for a royal procession. There is a mad scramble to pull branches from palm trees as makeshift symbols to honor a kingly coronation. The religious leaders are seething, the crowds are screaming, the disciples are wide-eyed in awe, and the whole city is stirred with the burning question, “Is this our Messiah, ready to deliver us form Roman oppression?” And Jesus is… weeping.
Why is Jesus crying? Because He knew. He knew that many of the same voices who were now crying loud Hosanna’s would days later be screaming, “Crucify Him!” He knew how suddenly songs of praise would turn to chants of hatred. He knew how fickle, how foolish, how deeply broken the human heart can be. He knew how much it would cost Him to redeem those same hearts- even those who would soon be part of His execution. He knew the awful fate of a nation that would repeatedly reject it’s God and Savior. He knew.
And that’s why I find Palm Sunday such a curious celebration. We call it a Triumphal Entry, but the triumph seems so short-lived, at least at first. But instead I’ve learned to see Palm Sunday as a kind of preview- a sneak peek at the victory march that we yet await. You see, there is a day yet coming when Jesus will once more parade into Jerusalem. This time He will be riding a white stallion, not a small donkey. On that day, every knee will bow before the King, and there will be no question about His authority, no doubts about His identity. One day, Jesus will return with a kind of power and authority that this world has never seen.
And that’s what I have come to love about Palm Sunday. The first procession paves the way for the second. Because of His suffering and sacrifice, Jesus has earned the place of undisputed honor and glory for all time and in every place. He has the right to rule over all things and all people for all time. Starting with me. Starting with my heart, with my life, this day and every day. And with yours.