Summary: There is someone coming in red and white, but not Santa. It is Jesus in a white robe stained with blood.
Jesus Christ is Coming to Town
It had since He had come to town. The last time he had been there a notable miracle had taken place. Lazarus, who had been dead for four days was raised from the dead at the command of Jesus. Jesus had raised Jairus’ daughter from the sleep of death, but that was in Galilee. The widow’s son was raided from the dead in the village of Nain. What made this miracle stand out was that it happened just outside the walls of Jerusalem. When Jesus came to Jerusalem the year before at the Feast of Tabernacles, He refused to do the signs and wonders His brothers had advised. Instead, He came teaching. But when Lazarus was raised whom everyone knew was dead, this had to be the work of either God or Satan as it was beyond what any human could do. Those who rightly saw this as being the hand of God believed, and those who believed He did this by Satan were the more determined to kill Him. Jesus came to Bethany on that occasion for the sole purpose of raising Lazarus. He quickly left, but the buzz spread like wildfire.
So when the news had gotten out that Jesus had come back to Bethany on the pilgrimage expected of every Jew to Jerusalem, the news quickly spread. Jesus of Nazareth was coming to town. The sign he had done seemed to convince many that He was the promised Jewish Messiah. The irony was that He indeed was the Messiah; he just wasn’t the one they expected. Barabbas was coming to town as well. Soon the Jews would have to choose for themselves. John clearly clues us in to the real purpose of Jesus’ visit and the Kingdom He was to rule over. In the previous passage, Mary of Bethany anoints Jesus for burial, and the indignant Judas who had hoped to get his hands on 300 pieces of silver from the sale of the spikenard, went out to sell Jesus to the authorities for thirty. The very way John brings up Palm Sunday warns us not to make too much of the uproar. On Sunday they would wave palm branches. On Friday, they would beat Him with the palms of their hands.
John’s account of Palm Sunday is a bit shorter than the other Gospels, He does not mention how the colt he rode on was acquired. He zeroes in instead on the excitement the coming of Jesus to town was causing. People started gathering from all sides unto Him. The pilgrims coming to Jerusalem came from behind and the inhabitants of the city came out to greet Him. John only mentions those who came out of the city. They came out in the way people came out of towns to meet Caesar with garlands, songs of praise, and with great pomp. This should not be missed here. The palm branches they waved are a dead giveaway to what the crowds thought. It had been the symbol of the last time the Jewish nation had won freedom from foreign oppression. And Passover was the same as our Independence Day which commemorated the delivery of Israel from Egyptian slavery. They did not come out to greet a savior who would die for their sins. Instead they came out to greet a great conqueror who would overthrow Roman tyranny.
Of course, not everyone in town felt this way. It is true that the Romans oppressed many in Palestine, but the priests had a pretty good deal. In exchange for keeping the peace, they were allowed by the Romans the privilege or wealth, influence, and power over the nation. They had a lot to lose. So they felt the need to get rid of Him, even before he cleansed the Temple the second time. They had a blinding hatred of the One who would have saved them, if they only had believed.
As the crowds grew, they shouted out a line from the 118th Psalm: “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of Yahweh!” This is one of the psalms recited at Passover time when the pilgrims would assemble. This is the same Psalm which states “This is the day the Lord has made”, which has been put into a popular praise song today. However, this psalm is far more significant for us than that. From this very psalm which talks about a terrible struggle the psalmist was dealing with are the words: “The stone the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.” In a real sense, there are overtones of judgment in this psalm. Luke mentions how the people had misunderstood the situation. In Luke Jesus weeps over the coming destruction of Jerusalem in much the same way Jeremiah had six centuries earlier. In a sense, this day which is celebrated in the church with children waving palm branches and joyful hosannas was actually the Day of the Lord, a day of judgment.