Summary: The celebration of Palm Sunday has always been a bittersweet moment in the life of the Church: the palm branch represented victory, triumph and peace, but the people in the Palm Sunday Parade missed the distinct KIND of victory and peace demonstrated.
The Palm Sunday Surprise
The celebration of Palm Sunday has always been a bittersweet moment in the life of the Church: Symbolically the palm branch represented victory, triumph and peace, but the cries of the people in the Palm Sunday Jesus Parade missed the distinct KIND of victory and peace which the Messiah alone would bring, namely, peace with God through the forgiveness of sins and eternal life with Him.
“The Jesus Parade”
We pick up Luke’s recording of the “Jesus Parade” in Luke 19:36: “And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. 37 As he was drawing near--already on the way down the Mount of Olives--the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, 38 saying, "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" 39 And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples." 40 He answered, "I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out."
To us in the 21st century, this may not seem like much of an event: One man on a colt, people paving the roadway with their coats and waving palm branches, but in Jesus’ day, a display like this was a definite political statement; it was an event to honor a winner and celebrate triumph. Little did most of the people realize that when they exclaimed the words, “Blessed is the King, who comes in the name of the Lord,” they were directly fulfilling the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9 (and other OT verses): “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
Luke alone records this important part of the journey as Jesus continued in the parade, and as he looked out over Jerusalem…We read Jesus’ reaction in verses 41-44: “And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 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. 43 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 44 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."
Jesus “wept” over the city.
In our society, if you were honored in a parade, you would be expected to wave to the crowd with sort of a “slow motion” wave, and nod your head approvingly. I always get a laugh out of those who “blow kisses” back to their admiring audience. But Jesus responds in Luke with quite a SURPRISING response: Jesus ”wept” over the city, it was NOT just because He was humanly sensitive and caring. The word used for “wept” here means that He WAILED: He “cried out as a mourner in a funeral procession”, not as the guest of honor in a victory parade.
It is NOT a “personal pity party” that He is celebrating through His tears because He knew every excruciating part of the journey before the next Sabbath. He isn’t grieving the loss of His own life or the pain and agony of rejection, but He sees the bigger picture! He is grieving the loss of the lives and hearts of the people because THEY will reject Him as the Messiah sent from God! The people seemed to recognize limited “kingship” in Jesus but certainly not the fact that Jesus had come to be the Prince of Peace, the one who had come to Sovereignly die for the lost sheep of Israel.
Jesus wailed because HE was God’s Gift to humankind, the Son of God, coming first of all to Israel, God’s chosen people. God created them to be HIS OWN PEOPLE, He chose them. “The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” (Deut. 7:7-8) He spoke to them through His Word, and it was recorded in Hebrew, the language of the Jews because Yahweh, the one eternal true God, was known as “The God of the Hebrews”. He had chosen to reveal Himself to THEM and He covenanted with THEM, and all throughout the Old Testament journey, God continued to be faithful, and now Jesus knew that Israel would choose to crucify Him as a sinner and reject Him as their Messiah. (Part of God’s plan which we studied in Romans.)