This week, our Jewish brothers and sisters are preparing for Seder… a retelling of the story of the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. Their story can be found in the Book of Exodus (Shemot) in the Hebrew Bible.
To Christians, today – Palm Sunday – is also a very special day. Palm Sunday is the day we celebrate the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, one week before His resurrection.
As Jesus entered the holy city, He neared the culmination of a long journey toward Golgotha. He had come to save the lost as it states in the Bible…
Luke 19:10 – “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”, and now was the time—this was the place—to secure that salvation.
Palm Sunday also marked the start of what is often called “Passion Week,” the final seven days of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Palm Sunday was the “beginning of the end” of Jesus’ work on earth.
The day began with Jesus and His disciples traveling over the Mount of Olives. The Lord sent two disciples ahead into the village of Bethphage to find an animal to ride.
They found the unbroken colt of a donkey, just as Jesus had said they would in…
Luke 19:29–30 – “When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here.”
When they untied the colt, the owners began to question them. The disciples responded with the answer Jesus had provided: “The Lord has need of it” as Jesus had instructed them in…
Luke 19:31–34 – “If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’ So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” And they said, “The Lord has need of it.”
Amazingly, the owners were satisfied with that answer and let the disciples go. “They brought [the donkey] to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it” from Luke 19:35.
As Jesus ascended toward Jerusalem, a large multitude gathered around Him. This crowd understood that Jesus was the Messiah; what they did not understand was that it wasn’t time to set up the kingdom yet—although Jesus had tried to tell them so in Luke 19:11–12.
The crowd’s actions along the road give rise to the name “Palm Sunday”
Matthew 21:8 – “A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road” These trees, as John later recorded the details, were from Palm Trees.
On that first Palm Sunday, the people also honored Jesus verbally…
Matthew 21:9 – “The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ / ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ / ‘Hosanna in the highest heaven!’”
In their praise of Jesus, the Jewish crowds were quoting…
Psalm 118:25–26 – “Save us, we pray, O Lord! O Lord, we pray, give us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! We bless you from the house of the Lord.”, an acknowledged prophecy of the Christ.
The allusion to a Messianic psalm drew resentment from the religious leaders present: “Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, as Luke 19:39 tells us ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples!’”. However, Jesus saw no need to rebuke those who told the truth. He replied, “I tell you . . . if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out” – Luke 19:40.
Some 450 to 500 years prior to Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem, the prophet Zechariah had prophesied the event we now call Palm Sunday…
Zechariah 9:9 – “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! / Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! / See, your king comes to you, / righteous and victorious, / lowly and riding on a donkey, / on a colt, the foal of a donkey”.
The prophecy was fulfilled in every particular, and it was indeed a time of rejoicing, as Jerusalem welcomed their King.
Unfortunately, the celebration was not to last. The crowds looked for a Messiah who would rescue them politically and free them nationally, but Jesus had come to save them spiritually. First things first, and mankind’s primary need is spiritual, not political, cultural, or national salvation.
Even as the coat-less multitudes waved the palm branches and shouted for joy, they missed the true reason for Jesus’ presence. They could neither see nor understand the cross… and Jesus saw this… Jesus knew this and why in…
Luke 19:41–44 “And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.””.
It is a tragic thing to see the Savior but not recognize Him for who He is. The crowds who were crying out “Hosanna!” on Palm Sunday were crying out “Crucify Him!” later that week…
Matthew 27:22–23 – “Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” And he said, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”.
There is coming a day when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord…
Philippians 2:10–11 – “so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
I would ask of all of you that you remember our Savior’s last days of his ministry here on Earth.
Over the course of this week, so many years ago, Jesus would be questioned, berated, belittled, beaten and eventually crucified. Nailed to a cross of wood, iron spikes with un-sharpened ends hammered through his hands and feet and jabbed in the ribs with a spear by a Roman soldier.
Even as he endured this, he forgave the criminal being crucified beside him and welcomed in into the Kingdom of Heaven to sit at his side by The Father.
How kind, gentle and loving He remained through his death on Earth… only to rise again after four days and appear to his disciples to make them understand His journey home and calm their weeping hearts.
There can be no greater a sacrifice made for us, forgiving our sins… the Children of a Greater God!