Summary: Palms Sunday - Doing the best I can is NOT what God is looking for. Looking for a different take of Palm Sunday? Here it is.
Over 2000 years ago the Sadducees had a tradition they believed the Messiah would show up four days before Passover. They kept the gates of the Temple open so that he could walk right into his rightful place. Hebrew nationalistic fervor was always at its peak on this particular day. The Romans would have all the troops on high alert this day, they feared another revolt would be attempted lead by a religious radical – as had happened in the past. Tensions were high.
The people of Jerusalem knew their Scripture well and on that day, four days before Passover, I’m sure this Scripture would come to the people’s minds.
Zech. 9:8-9 But I will defend my house against marauding forces. Never again will an oppressor overrun my people, for now I am keeping watch. Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
This is the day that Jesus enters into Jerusalem, riding on a colt. The day as predicted by Zechariah. Now Jesus would have been coming from Bethany - the Mount of Olives; Riding across the Kidron Valley -They call it a valley, but it is more like a really a steep canyon. He would have ridden across and actually right past the original city King David had built which is now and was then outside the city walls.
And coming up the ridge he would have been right outside the city wall where the Temple would have directly been sitting behind that wall - By far the most prominent structure.
Today in Jerusalem the Dome of the Rock is the most prominent feature. An Islamic holy site having been built over the ruins of the original temple. If you have seen pictures of Jerusalem this large gold dome always stands out. Right there is where Jesus was entering the city, 4 days before Passover, on a colt, right outside the Temple….
What a scene! Can you imagine? For as long as anyone can remember, there has been this tradition that four days before Passover the Messiah would come on a colt…and here is Jesus, four days before, on a colt, clearly heading toward the Temple. So the people go crazy. They set out branches in front of him, to honor him and make the way before him beautiful.
There where many visitors in Jerusalem at that time, traditional at Passover, for us – 4th of July in Washington DC. Many of these visitors would walk to the Temple branches in hand to worship. As pilgrims walked to the Temple for worship they would sing songs. One of them – well known to all was psalm 118, which is what they say to Jesus as he enters the city. They literally say in Hebrew, Lord please save us, Lord please save us now.
Were the people just getting caught up in the emotion of the day, quoting a favorite psalm as Jesus rode by? A spontaneous parade of sorts for Jesus?
For Jesus this must have been a bittersweet time. For it truly was prophecy being fulfilled and he truly was the promised Messiah and truly he deserved the praise offered him. But many of the same people excited about his entry into the city this day are the same ones that mock him as he walks with a cross on his back through the city of Jerusalem on his way to death just a few days later - and Jesus would know who these people were.
So why is everyone so excited about Jesus and then either ambivalent or against him? Well at first they have great expectations of Jesus. They praised him for two reasons: One - He preformed miracles. Just before he arrives in Jerusalem he had raised Lazarus from the dead. You know word had gotten around about that. Two - They saw him as one who could make their life better. By freeing them from the political oppression of the Romans. Jesus does not perform any miracles for people after he enters the city of Jerusalem. His teaching is serious and tough to hear. He teaches mostly on submission and commitment. Not a message that the people expected a Messiah to teach. They wanted to know how he was going to make their life easier, they wanted to hear about getting rid of their problem – the Romans.
Jesus did come to make life better, and to deal with life’s problems, but not in the way they expect...Perhaps not in the way we might expect. Jesus doesn’t come to give us a life’s philosophy or to be a great example to follow, He doesn’t even come to make us good people.He comes to deal with the burden of sin that has infected our life, that has caused us such grief hurting our relationships, creating distance between those we love, leaving us empty, and with that comes submission and commitment to God.