Each day of Holy Week, I am going to be posting a few thoughts on the week of Christ's Passion here on the blog. I hope these simple meditations will help prepare your heart as we advance towards Easter.
Palm Sunday (Matthew 21:1-11)
Can you imagine being in Jerusalem the day that Jesus entered on that colt? First, imagine being one of the disciples. Your sandals aren’t even hitting the street as the people have lined up their cloaks and tree branches. You can barely hear yourself think as the shouts of joy are so loud. Here, finally, the people seem to see what you’ve seen in Jesus for the last three years: He’s the Messiah. Jesus has come in the name of the Lord and finally everyone else can see it. Maybe any lingering doubts that were festering in your mind are finally silenced in the cheers of the crowd. Maybe the humiliation that you’ve endured at the hands of the Pharisees turns into a slight smugness as now all they can do is look cross in the face of Jesus’ obvious success. Maybe your years of service are finally going to pay off, and perhaps there is a seat of power waiting for you (if John and James don’t take them!). For a disciple, it seems as if the golden years are all in front of them.
Now imagine being a member of the crowd. Here, you are thinking that the deliverer of all Israel is riding in. The educated members of the crowd might remember the prophecy that said the coming King of Israel would ride in on a colt (Zech. 9:9). Finally those Romans were on their way out. Israel could finally get some power back as they looked forward to their kingdom reaching to the ends of the earth! After a whole history of oppression, the people can finally see their deliverer. Is it any wonder that the cloaks are spread out on the dusty road, palm branches are torn from their trees, and the chorus “Hosanna” meaning “save now” fills the ancient streets?
But what is going through Jesus’ mind? It is completely different from what is happening in everyone else’s mind. The people are celebrating Him now, but this celebration isn’t going to last. The people of this city are going to be turned to despising Him. Jesus is going to go from having cloaks spread out before Him to having His own cloak spread out to be gambled away (Matthew 27:35). The people have joyfully shouted to Him “Save us now,” but that will turn to derisive jeering of “Save yourself” (Matthew 27:39). The disciples who are with him in this moment will all flee when the soldiers come (Matthew 26:56). There is hardly anyone in the sight of Jesus at this moment who will not abandon or outright betray Him within the week.
Yet He rode on. He arranged to enter the city in just this way. He had to fulfill the word He gave the prophet Zechariah centuries ago. Nothing that is going to happen to Him this week is unexpected or unplanned. It’s been the plan from the beginning (Acts 2:23). Christ has been about His Father’s business His whole life, and it has now all led up to this week. Now Christ is riding through a crowd of future betrayers and cowards who all at the moment profess love and admiration of Him.
Oh, wouldn’t it be simpler to just be their political ruler? Wouldn’t it be easier to just let the cup of the Father’s wrath pass Him by? Wouldn’t it be easier to dismiss the crowds with a word so at the very least He wouldn’t have to endure the hypocrisy? But the prophecy had to be fulfilled. The work had to be done. Salvation had to be bought. He rode on.
What could motivate such action? How does one find the strength to go on? Even divine patience hates lying or those with plans to do evil (Proverbs 6:16-19). He does it because the Son loves the Father (John 17:1-5). It doesn’t matter what these people do, the Father has called Him to this work. Jesus will not turn and abandon. Jesus will not be distracted by the temporary advantages of political power. His mind strives on in love for His Father and the people He gave Him, and because of that our salvation is as secure as God’s perfect love.
Thoughts for prayer: Take a moment to rest in the fact that salvation rests on the mutual love of the Father and the Son. Thank God for your salvation acquired at great cost yet with great love