On Sunday Christians will begin the observance of the final week before Jesus’ death and resurrection. Palm Sunday recalls his formal entry into the city of Jerusalem as Messiah. All four of the gospels say that crowds welcomed Jesus with worship, singing psalms of praise in his honor.
Thousands of pilgrims were entering the city for the festival of Passover. Many of them recognized Jesus as the miracle worker of Galilee. Others had heard how he had raised Lazarus from death. Their hopes were centered on the promised kingdom, and they praised Jesus as Messiah, the Son of David.
Jesus was riding a young donkey, not a war horse or chariot, a sign of humility and peace. This was Jesus’ deliberate choice in order to fulfill a prophecy of scripture (Zechariah 9:9). Some of the people spread their cloaks on the ground before him and waved palm branches, shouting “Hosanna!” quoting Psalm 118:25-26.
This commotion did not seem to arouse the interest of the Roman officials. They apparently thought this activity was just another part of the Jews’ Passover celebration.
The national leaders of Israel had already been conspiring to have Jesus killed. “If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation” (John 11:48). The Pharisees told Jesus to make the people stop their shouting and singing. Jesus’ reply was that if he silenced the crowd the stones would cry out in his praise! He seemed to be deliberately provoking the hostility that would lead to his death.
Jesus knew that the time had come for him to die. That is why he was now allowing the people to publicly praise him as Messiah. Heretofore he had suppressed talk of his kingship. He knew the people then did not understand the spiritual nature of his kingdom.
But now he is hurrying toward the cross and this public display would only hasten his death and resurrection. Not many days later the crowds would be shouting, “Crucify him!”
His disciples did not yet understand the significance of these events. It was not until the Lord’s resurrection had occurred and the Holy Spirit had descended that they were able to discern the meaning of the prophesies. Then they understood that his death and resurrection were necessary as a sacrifice for sinners.
They would come to understand and accept as their mission to proclaim this message. Their attitude would be meekness, the fruit of the Spirit. Their method would be loving persuasion, not military conquest. Their Master was the One who fulfilled the prophecy: “See your king comes to you righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding upon a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9).
Pastor Randy Faulkner