Summary: Palm Sunday sets the stage for Holy Week. More than that, it sets up in microcosm the grandest event of the end of the ages.
Palm Sunday is an essential part of the Easter experience, of the Resurrection experience. Without this day, we wouldn't have a foretaste of the Second Coming.
Palm Sunday is a place to pause before entering into the inescapable whirlwind of Holy Week.
And there is genuine cause to celebrate, as we imagine the energy of that day. [Pause]
If we can set aside what we know of how the crowd that welcomed Jesus on this day turned on Him...put that aside, as much as we can, and witness the enthusiastic crowd that welcomes King Jesus, that seems limitless in its praise of Him, that seems, even If just for a moment, to grasp how incredibly important and beautiful and life-changing is this man who rides into Jerusalem on a donkey.
City of Peace
Jerusalem. Jeru...salem. The city on a hill. The city of peace...welcomes the Prince of Peace as He comes in peace. That's perhaps the first contradiction that we'll touch on.
The very name of the City of David represents not reality but aspiration. Jerusalem, the peace city, was never a peaceful city.
The very opposite is true. It had known little rest from conflict. It had been the feather in the cap of conquering nations, the central place of the expulsion of the People of God as they were forced to go into exile.
But somehow, Jerusalem was where the deep desire for peace, external and internal, had been named. So here the city of peace welcomes the Prince of Peace and The Lord of Glory.
Preview of Second Coming
We just watched a filmed version of the Triumphal Entry (YouTube Link). It's a joyful scene. A busy scene. A scene where hundreds flock to Christ and rejoice at His arrival in Jerusalem.
There is much clammering, much shouting. "blessed is He who comes in the name of The Lord" is the refrain of the crowd, the chorus of the mob's song of welcome to Jesus, who, it should be said, they did not understand.
No doubt some are hoping this is the sign of the inauguration of a new Jewish king who will subdue the Roman overlords.
The full lyric of their song was: “Hosanna! He who comes in the name of the Lord is the blessed One—the King of Israel!” lots of Hope and aspiration, sweat and raw energy in the crowd.
It's also a scene that frustrates the religious leaders who distrust Jesus and feel threatened by Him. They think that all their efforts to challenge and suppress Jesus, their attempts to expose Him as a fraud or a heretic have failed.
The Scripture says: "Then the Pharisees said to one another, “You see? You’ve accomplished nothing. Look—the world has gone after Him!”"
But beyond all that, something else much more important is going on here. Something that the Scribes and Pharisees, you would have thought, might have known or at least wondered about, because they were familiar with the Scriptures, the Law and the Prophets, including the minor prophet Zechariah
Zechariah had written: “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. Zechariah 9:9
Ring a bell? I think so!
The book Second Samuel was written in around the 7th century BC, 700 years or so before Jesus was born. It says this of King David: "When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever". 2 Samuel 7:12-13
This was one of many Old Testament references to the coming Messiah. Little did the Pharisees know, because it was most likely still hidden and treasured in the heart of Mary the mother of Jesus, that the Angel Gabriel had said these words about Jesus even as he announced to her that she was pregnant with the Son of God:
32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” Luke 1:32-33
So, I guess you could say the Pharisees were understandably nervous. Most of them didn’t think Jesus was the Messiah, although a few were beginning to suspect it.
The Pharisee Nicodemus had been evangelized by Jesus Himself as recorded in John chapter 3.He was leaning heavily toward Jesus.
Later, after Jesus’ death and resurrection and in the early life of the church, the pharisee Gamaliel was concerned that in opposing Jesus and His followers, the religious leaders might actually be opposing God.