Summary: Ponder the Palm Sunday Paradox 1) An almighty king rides to his death. 2) A humble king commands our praise.
Do you know what a paradox is? A paradox is a true statement that at first appears contradictory. Here’s an example: “The more you learn, the less you know.” Here’s another paradox: “Less is more.”
Christianity is filled with paradoxes. Take the Palm Sunday parade, for example. In this parade an almighty king rides to his death, and a humble king commands our praise. Let’s untangle the Palm Sunday paradox to see what we can learn about Jesus and about ourselves.
As far as we know, Palm Sunday was the only time as an adult that Jesus hitched a ride on something other than a boat. That might not seem like a big deal but Jesus draws our attention to the event by the way he acquired his ride. Instead of walking into Jerusalem as he had done dozens of times before, Jesus deliberately paused a couple of miles outside of the city and directed two of his disciples to fetch a donkey colt for him. It wasn’t that Jesus was tired and wanted to ride the last couple of miles. No, he was intent on fulfilling a prophecy that had been made over 400 years earlier that the Messiah would ride into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey (Zechariah 9). Jesus had a specific colt in mind so he told his disciples exactly where they would find this animal and what they should say when the owner asked them where they were going with his donkey. When the two disciples arrived in town they found everything as Jesus had described. The fact that Jesus knew these details demonstrates his omniscience – his divine ability to know all things.
Do you see the comfort here? If Jesus knew that a donkey was waiting for him in the next town, he certainly knows what’s down the road for you. You may not know how that medical test is going to turn out but Jesus does. Nor may you know whether or not there will be any decent jobs for you when you get done with your education but Jesus already has in mind how he plans to provide for you. Understanding that Jesus knows all things gives us confidence to follow his directions. Though Satan would have us believe otherwise, living by Jesus’ words will never send you on a fool’s errand.
The crowd that cheered Jesus as he entered Jerusalem had seen proof of this. Our text reports: “…the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord’” (Luke 19:38b). Because of the miracles they had witnessed, the Palm Sunday crowd was convinced that Jesus was a powerful king worth following. Just before his parade into Jerusalem Jesus had healed two blind men in Jericho. Think of how modern medicine has yet to give someone their sight back. Sure, doctors can improve eyesight through laser surgery but that process can also decrease one’s night vision. I doubt if those two men in Jericho had any problem with their night vision after Jesus healed them. If you’re not impressed with that miracle, then be impressed, as the crowds were, with how Jesus had raised his friend Lazarus from the dead (John 11). Jesus had done this simply by telling the dead man to come out of the tomb and he did! It’s no wonder Jesus said to Lazarus’ sister: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies” (John 11:25b).
Jesus is a great king to be sure – an almighty king since he even has power over death. But here’s the paradox. This almighty king rode into Jerusalem to die! Jesus’ choice of transportation, a donkey colt and not a white stallion, hinted at this truth. Jesus was not headed into Jerusalem as some tough general who would kick out the dreaded Romans, as many hoped he would. Instead he meekly sat on the back of a donkey like a bundle of wood headed for someone’s fireplace. Why did this almighty king ride into Jerusalem to die? The song the disciples sang as Jesus rode forth gives us the answer. “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:38b) This song is not unlike the one the angels sang at Jesus’ birth, is it? The Christmas angels proclaimed: “Peace on earth!” while the Palm Sunday crowd sang, “Peace in heaven!” With Christ’s birth God’s peace had come to earth. Now, with his approaching death, Jesus was going to bring peace to heaven. How? Like the king who surrenders to the enemy so that his army can go free, Jesus gave himself over to his heavenly Father’s justice. On the cross Jesus suffered the punishment we deserve for our sins so that God is no longer angry with us. There is now heavenly peace between God and us.