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Palm Sunday: what a seemingly triumphant day in comparison to the humiliation coming on Friday. The bandwagon was filling up as people came left and right to see the Christ, the One who’d raised Lazarus: the King who would bring an end to oppression and bring in the fullness of the kingdom. Not everyone was on board as we would see in the passage; a select amount of Jews ran off after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead in John 11 to tell the Pharisees. The way Scripture portrays that, it doesn’t seem that they went to sell the Pharisees on Jesus, but as with other times in the Bible, perhaps to warn them that they were being eclipsed in their influence. The jealousy of the Pharisees, much like Saul as he watched David gaining influence over the people, would boil over into a seething inner rage that would no longer remain contained in the days to follow. Our primary text today come from John 12:12-15.
There is more than one account given by the writers of the Gospels about the Triumphal Entry. The other primary account of the Triumphal Entry is found in Matthew 21:1-11:
Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me. “And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say,`The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.” All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: “Tell the daughter of Zion,`Behold, your King is coming to you, Lowly, and sitting on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.'” So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them. And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: “Hosanna to the Son of David!`Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ Hosanna in the highest!” And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, “Who is this?” So the multitudes said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.”
While the Triumphant Entry is perhaps the hallmark of Palm Sunday, take note that more than Jesus’ ride through town happened on that day: Jesus would drive out the money changers in the temple (see Matthew 21:12-13). This happened at least twice; you’ll find Him driving out the money changers in John 2:13-22, happening right after His first miracle of changing water into wine. It’s interesting to see that immediately following the beginning of Christ’s ministry through miracles and near the end of His ministry, He enters the temple in righteous anger and “cleans house.” Furthermore, the first time He went into the temple was just before Passover and the second time He went into the temple was also before Passover; these are patterns to certainly be taken into consideration. You’ll see Him going to a feast for Passover in John 2:23; He feeds the 5,000 in John 6 as Passover is at hand; the third occasion mentioned is the week of Palm Sunday, the week of His death.
Passover, by the way, is celebrated for about seven or eight days, not just a single day. It’s when the Jews celebrate the liberation from enslavement to the Egyptians as God led them out under Moses’ leadership. Passover is when they painted the two doorposts and lintel (top door post) of their homes with the blood of an unblemished lamb and the Angel of Death passed through, killing the firstborn of every family without a blood covering, as well as passing over those homes that heeded God’s instructions. You may remember that scene from “The Ten Commandments,” starring Charlton Heston; as a kid, it always put me on edge! They ate unleavened bread and fire-roasted lamb that night. What happened on that evening would continue on in memorial and celebration among the Jewish nation, both highly cultural and very foreshadowing of the Lamb of God who would come to provide all believers safety from God’s wrath by covering our sin with His righteousness.
There was much prophetic fulfillment within this particular week, including Palm Sunday. Jesus referenced Zechariah 9:9 in Matthew 21:5. Jews more than likely would draw many further connections to their Old Testament training in the growing acknowledgement that the King had come. Consider Zechariah 9:9 in connection with v. 10:
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the horse from Jerusalem; The battle bow shall be cut off. He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion shall be`from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.
They very likely saw him coming in as King and thought, “Surely the time has come for all the promises to be fulfilled.” In college, I learned a helpful analogy in regards to prophecy: when the prophets saw visions, it could be compared to looking at a mountain range from afar. In perspective, it looks like one flat 2D picture; one cannot see the valleys or distances between the peaks. So, too, prophecy may be given that does not always account for separation in timing. The prophet could see coming events but could not always see the timing in its dimension.
People of those days and people now (including us) often fail to see that the deepest solutions to life come not from a lack of resources or a lack of problems, nor a lack of pain or sense of control. What the Jews needed was a Savior who had complete authority over sin and death, and He was going to establish it that week. Did Jesus forgive sins prior to the cross? Yes, many times. He died for sins, and that’s understandable perhaps a bit more than resurrection: why did He need to rise again? Resurrection is an establishment of complete authority; if death can not hold Christ, He proves in resurrection that He has authority not only over death for Himself but over death for all those He would promise life to as well. Additionally, how could a Savior promise the hope of life to others if He couldn’t overcome death Himself? This is one of the issues that sets Christ completely apart from the false saviors of all the false religions of the world: none of them could guarantee the message they proclaimed; Jesus could.
It’s been around 2,000 years since all of this took place and still we need spiritual life and godliness far more than we need those short-term needs that won’t last. The Jews would essentially cry, “Give us liberation from the Romans!” while today the headlines seem to cry, “Put the world back the way it was in 2019!” Jesus Christ knew exactly what He was doing every step of the way to the cross. He knew what all of these actions would lead to; how it would appear to spiral out of control; how He would be humbled and scorned and murdered on the cross by godless men. With all of the events unfolding around Easter, we do well to learn the underlying truth through it all that He was always in control of the situation, even to the point of giving up His spirit on the cross. He could have run from the cross; He could have ended the Roman rule. He could have shut the Pharisees down for good; He could have saved Himself even though the mockers would insult Him saying, “He saved others, but He cannot save Himself” (Matt. 27:42). He could have done anything, but what He came to do was to make perfect atonement for sin on the cross and to raise again victorious. Even now, He has not made any accidents with your life; He’s in control.
The greatest need of mankind is Jesus Christ, not health; not wealth; not man-made prosperity. We need to pray for others this year especially as great needs and uncertainties can be a wonderful door into people’s hearts for Christ to come in. God bless you this Palm Sunday and may you keep your eyes on Him this special week. If you need Christ and know you don’t have a relationship, believe on Him for eternal life today. Recognize your wrongness, His rightness, and be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ.
Prayer: “Grace Active” from “The Valley of Vision” (A Collection of Puritan Prayers)
O God, may Thy Spirit speak in me that I may speak to Thee. Lord Jesus, great high priest, Thou hast opened a new and living way by which a fallen creature can approach Thee with acceptance. Help me to contemplate the dignity of Thy Person, the perfectness of Thy sacrifice, the effectiveness of Thy intercession. O what blessedness accompanies devotion, when under all the trials that weary me, the cares that corrode me, the fears that disturb me, the infirmities that oppress me, I can come to Thee in my need and feel peace beyond understanding! The grace that restores is necessary to preserve, lead, guard, supply, help me. And here Thy saints encourage my hope; they were once poor and are now rich, bound and are now free, tried and now are victorious. Every new duty calls for more grace than I now possess, but not more than is found in Thee, the divine treasury in whom all fullness dwells. To Thee I repair for grace upon grace, until every void made by sin be replenished and I am filled with all Thy fullness. May my desires be enlarged and my hopes emboldened, that I may honor Thee by my entire dependency and the greatness of my expectation. Do Thou be with me, and prepare me for all the smiles of prosperity, the frowns of adversity, the losses of substance, the death of friends, the days of darkness, the changes of life, and the last great change of all. May I find thy grace sufficient for all my needs.