|Palm Sunday, What Does It Mean To You? –by Lisa Marie Phillips|
Let’s take a trip back to Old Jerusalem. It is a bright and beautiful day. There is an air of celebration, all around you a sense of excitement. You are a Jew and for you this is a wonderful time of the year for you. You have come to Jerusalem to purify yourself ceremonially for the upcoming Passover Feast. This is a time to reflect on what God has done for the Nation of Israel. But this year there is something else in the air. It is not like all the other years you have come. There is a murmur in the crowd of a man named Jesus. Some people are saying He is the messiah that He just raised this fellow Lazarus from the dead after three days. You are hearing that the authorities are not liking this man because He claims to be the Son of God. Perhaps He is after all. Didn’t He heal alot of people? Didn’t He raise people from the dead? Didn’t the prophets talk about the coming of the Messiah? Could this indeed be Him?
The rabbis had been talking about this being the end of the sixty-ninth week that Daniel had prophesied. This was a day of great anticipation and the crowd in Jerusalem was overwhelming. Some had estimated around two million people in Jerusalem for the Passover celebration and perhaps even more due to the prophesy of Daniel.
You hear people singing. You turn your head in the direction of the noise. Your heart swells because you know that song. It is sung at every Passover time. It is part of the great Hallel. It celebrated the time of the Messiah. It is a Hymn of Thanksgiving:
Open the gates of victory
I will enter and thank the Lord
This is the Lord’s own gate,
Where the victors will enter.
I thank you for you answered me.
You have been my savior
The stone the builders rejected
Has become the cornerstone.
By the Lord has this been done.
It is wonderful in his eyes.
This is the day that the Lord has made.
Let us rejoice and be glad
Lord, grant salvation
Lord, grant great good fortune
Blessed is he
Who comes in the name of the Lord
We bless you from the Lord’s house.
The Lord is God and has given us light.
Join in procession with leafy branches
Up to the horns of the altar.
You are my God, I give you thanks
My God I offer you praise
Give thanks to the Lord who is good,
Whose love endures forever. (Psalms 118:19-29)
You look through the massive crowd that has gathered on the streets and there on a white ass covered with cloaks, you see a man. He is not dressed as a king. He does not appear to be different than any other man, and yet there is something different about him. There is a sense of peace about him. He is not haughty or proud. But He has a royal air about him. People are placing their cloaks on the ground and palm branches so that he might pass. Can all these people be wrong? Aren’t the palm branches a sign of Messianic power and the national independence movement of the Maccabees? What a wonderful day this is. The Messiah has come. He will release you from the control of the Romans. He will be your king. A thrill of hope runs through your veins. Your excitement level is high. This is it. Wow. What it must have been like for a person to be standing on the streets of Jerusalem that day.
But what about the Pharisees and the Chief Priests? How discouraging this must have been for them. Had they not a couple of days ago decided that this man had to be stopped? He could not continue to go on calling himself the Son of God. How dare He come into Jerusalem on this day? He was just trying to incite a riot. Was it not their job to keep the peace? The Roman government had put that job in their hands. If this crowd gets out of control then the soldiers will come in. They had to stop this nonsense, but how? They asked Him to stop his disciples from singing. He replied “I tell you that if these should keep silence, the stones would immediately cry out.” (Luke 19:40) They would have to work harder to figure out a way to stop this man. This must have only served to incite their hatred even more. They had already put a price on his head. Both of the religious factions of the day came together on this issue. “The Chief Priests and the Pharisees had given a command, that if anyone knew where He was, he should report it, that they might seize him.”(John 11:57) Judas had probably already begun to set Jesus up. According to the Jewish custom the Lamb was chosen for sacrifice four days before final selection for Passover. The religious leaders knew that they would get Jesus, they just did not know when. They were frustrated on this day, they said to themselves: “So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the whole world has gone after him.”(John 12:19) And with that many people in town, it must have seemed like the whole world to them. What a frustrating and disappointing day it must have been for the religious leaders that day.
What must Jesus have been thinking about? Jesus’ day started in Bethany where he had just said good-bye to one of his good friends Lazarus. It had to be a very emotional good-bye as Jesus had just brought Lazarus back from the dead a few days before that. It had to be a very tearful good-bye. It was probably more so for Him as He knew He would not be seeing Lazarus again. He began his long journey into Jerusalem but, He stopped on the Mount of Olives and sent two of His disciples to Bethphage to get a colt. He knew what the prophesies said. “Rejoice heartily, O daughter of Zion. Shout for joy, O daughter of Jerusalem! See your king shall come to you, a just savior is he, Meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foul of an ass.” (Zechariah 9:9) A colt He knew would be waiting for Him because the Father had told Him, along with the colt’s mother. What could Jesus have been thinking as he waited for his disciples to return, looking down on the city that would hold both triumph and death all in one week for Him? When the disciples came back with the colt they put their cloaks on its back and put them on the road in front of the donkey. It was a way of celebration. Jesus was surrounded by people who loved Him, and who were proclaiming His kingship. What a thrill that must have brought Him. As they continued into Jerusalem the singing grew loader as the crowd got bigger. Jesus was aware of the significance of the day. He knew that this was the day that Daniel prophesied of. He knew the significance of the donkey, which he rode into town. He knew that the people believed that He was going to take up His earthly throne. He knew the religious leaders of the day would not like it at all. How many different feelings must have been going through His head. As the city grew closer and He could see it well, He knew that the people were not ready for Him. “As He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If this day you only knew what makes for peace- but now it is hidden from your eyes.” (Luke 41-42) He knew that these same people within a week would clamor for his death and yet He still came in peace. How marvelous a Savior who would allow them to celebrate now, knowing that they would turn on Him. But He loved them and knew that these were the people whom He had come to save. They were like little children. He would allow them to be happy this day. He would give them one more chance to make Him king of their hearts. When they arrived at His Father’s House He was angry. There in the part of the temple that was known as the Court of the Gentiles where anyone could come, the vendors had opened up shop. Jesus was not angry because they were selling their wares but because of where they were selling them. How dare they take up that space so that the Gentiles could not go in and worship? Not to mention the fact that they were cheating the people. They were charging far more inside of the temple than they did outside of it. Not everyone was banished. Only those whose conscience was guilty fled from the Lord. He turned and saw a blind man and healed him. That, He knew would anger the religious men. He had children running around the temple area laughing and singing and praising Him. This had to please Him. There must have been a smile on His face as He watched them play. He must have been eager for the challenge of the Chief Priests as they came up and confronted Him on what the children were saying. “Hosanna, the Son of David!” They were angry. “Do you hear what these are saying?” they said. Jesus said to them, “Yes! Have you never read: ‘Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings you have perfect praise’?” (Matt 21: 15-16) and then He left town and went back to Bethany to spend the night. What a day that had to have been for Jesus.
When you are thinking about your Palm Sunday consider this one. What would you have thought? Where would you have been? Jesus is the King. The King of Glory. He wants to be the King of your hearts. Open your heart to Him and sing with that crowd in Jerusalem, Hosanna in the highest!
©2000 Lisa Marie Phillips all rights reserved
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