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.)
Jesus’ “crying” coincides with Matthew 23:37-38 (as well as Luke 13:34): "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. 38 "Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!” REJECTION OF GOD’S SAVIOR is NEVER left unpunished. The problem is never God’s unwilling heart or desire to save, it is the fault of sinners and the hardness of THEIR HEARTS to repent. “I WANTED TO GATHER YOUR CHILDREN TOGETHER, and YOU WERE UNWILLING.” And you WOULD NOT!
Let me read John McArthur’s comments on Matt. 23:37-38 “God is utterly sovereign and therefore fully capable of bringing to pass whatever he desires (Isa. 46:10)-including the salvation of whomever he chooses (Eph. 1:4-5). Yet, he sometimes expresses a wish for that which HE does not sovereignly bring to pass (Gen. 6:6, Deut. 5:29, Ps. 81:13, Isa. 48:18. Such expressions in no way suggest a limitation on the sovereignty of God or imply any actual change in him (Num. 23:19). But these statements do reveal essential aspects of the divine character; he is full of compassion, sincerely good to all, desirous of good, not evil-and therefore not delighting in the destruction of the wicked (Ezek. 18: 32, 33:11) While affirming God’s sovereignty, one must understand his pleas for the repentance of the reprobate as well-meant appeals-and his goodness toward the wicked as a genuine mercy designed to provoke them to repentance (I would add:not destruction) (Rom. 2:4). The emotion displayed by Christ here (and in all similar passages, such as Luke 19:41) is obviously a deep, sincere passion. All Christ’s feelings must be in perfect harmony with the divine will (John 8:29)-and therefore these lamentations should not be thought of as mere exhibitions of his humanity.” (MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1403)
If Jesus was expressing what John would later write in John 1:10-11, it would sound like this: I WAS IN THE WORLD AND THE WORLD WAS MADE THROUGH ME AND YET THE WORLD DID NOT KNOW ME. I CAME TO MY OWN PEOPLE AND THEY DID NOT RECEIVE ME.
And John 3:17-19 would read: “For God did not send (ME) into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through (ME). 18 Whoever believes in (ME) is not condemned, but whoever does not believe in ME is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come (I HAVE COME) into the world, and people loved the darkness (THEIR OWN SIN AND SELVES) rather than the (ME) because their works were evil.” Their works AGREED WITH THEIR HEARTS.
Jesus cried at His own parade, not because he was emotional, not because He would fail, not because He felt sorry for himself, but because the people who had heard the message to repent, did not repent! THE CRY of CHRIST weeps for the lost because they are being “broken off”, (that is the verb associated with the word for “wept”.) broken off from God- separated from Him by their own sinful unbelief. Normally, these tears are associated with remorse due to a sense of guilt: Jesus’ tears were for the guilty who did not recognize their own sin and they would die in their own sin. Their Hosannas should have been SAVE US FROM OUR SINFUL SELVES, not from Caesar.
What made for PEACE was hidden from them
"Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.” Jerusalem means the city of peace, the people sang: “Peace in heaven!” The angels sang: “PEACE on Earth” at Jesus’ birth, but Jesus says to the people: YOU DO NOT KNOW WHAT WOULD BRING YOU PEACE! Jesus, the “Prince of Peace”, was staring them in the face and they loved the signs and miracles He did, but they did not recognize who HE WAS because... It was concealed, it was hidden from their eyes so that it would NOT become known to them.
WHY? Because of their own persistent wickedness, their own hardness of heart and rejection of God’s ways, and NOW their rejection of God’s promised Messiah. Why is there such turmoil in the World today? Why is our country on the brink of disaster? Why are such atrocities happening to those who believe and confess that Jesus is Lord? When people plead, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem,” are they REALLY doing that? You can try and “create” an atmosphere of tranquility, you can sign so-called “peace treaties” and hope that everyone keeps their end of the bargain…but ONLY THE PERSON AND WORK OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST WILL BRING PEACE! Only Jesus can provide true peace because only Jesus saves from sin and transforms hearts and lives. Only Jesus can fix what is “broken off” from God. (Now if we all had palm branches this morning, NOW WOULD BE THE TIME TO WAVE THEM!)
The world is filled with symptoms of brokenness, of being lost in sin, struggles of all kinds: We see the effects of sin and the only “cure” is in Christ alone. It is only in Christ that you receive the fruit of true love, peace and lasting joy. He produces it in you. The Prince of Peace himself had proclaimed this in His living; He was living proof, He had come to bring the peace of God that passes all understanding. He, himself is our PEACE. In a world that is constantly filled with unrest, with war, with dissention, Who wouldn’t desire peace? But Jesus said, “You did not recognize the time of his coming,” They did not recognize Jesus; instead, they crucified Him and so they would be destroyed. Sin and rejection of God’s Perfect sacrifice demands justice, and here the CRY of CHRIST also promises punishment for those who reject the perfect offering of God for sin.
God keeps ALL the promises that he has made: Jesus promised: Not one stone will remain upon another; Jerusalem and its beautiful temple as well as its people were destroyed in 70 AD as Jesus had promised. Jesus will return one day to judge the living and the dead, as He has promised.
You can’t find peace, you can’t create peace, you can’t manufacture it, peace isn’t the absence of war or unrest, peace is found in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ and ONLY in Him. Jesus brought the peace of God without armies by giving Himself as the peace offering for sin. That fulfilled message of the Gospel has been brought to the world and it was not written in the Hebrew language because the Jews rejected the Christ. It was written in the language of the Gentiles of Jesus’ time; it was written in Greek for the whole world to hear: that Jesus alone brings forgiveness and salvation through His work on the cross, received into lives by power of His Holy Spirit. The Message is that Jesus, Himself, IS the Truth and HE is our Peace, and there is no other way to enter His Kingdom than through Him, and that by faith not by works.
Verse 44 says: “Because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” Have you recognized the day He came to save, and that there is a day in which He is coming again? The “Hosannas” on Palm Sunday (which means “SAVE” or “SAVE US”) were self-centered but did not consider repentance or bringing honor to the ONE who saves. If we know the Christ, not only of Palm Sunday, but especially of the Cross, our lives will demonstrate that He indeed HAS saved us, and more and more we desire to Honor and Serve Him and Him alone. He deserves the worship of our lives. Amen
Napoleon was asked if he enjoyed the people's enthusiastic greetings, and he replied that “should circumstances change, the people would just as enthusiastically watch me die.” We know this to be true in the life of Jesus: When a hero, even God, Himself, does not give people what they want, their cheers can quickly turn into jeers. The human tide of popularity can change in a hurry; the cheerleaders on Palm Sunday disappeared by Friday. The new cry was, "Crucify him!"…but this, too, was the Sovereign will and plan of God. May our cry to our God be: Thank you for the Cross. Thank you for saving a worthless polluted sinner like myself and working to fit me into your new temple of living stones. Thank you for changing my heart, transforming me into your image. Lord, save me from my sin and self.
May our hearts be houses of prayer, worship and service for you, O Lord, places where you are worshiped and adored. May our hearts be thrones from which you reign in and through our lives, now and forever. May our hearts be holy temples to you, O God, our peace on earth, as well as our peace and glory in heaven. To the praise of your glorious name.Amen