Grand Entrance: Palm Sunday

Grand Entrance: Palm Sunday

Grand Entrance: Palm Sunday.

(Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:28-44; John 12:12-19).

All regular church goers are well aware of Palm Sunday. The service is a beloved part of the yearly liturgy, and it occurs the week before Easter Sunday. Palm Sunday is a triumphant service of beautiful hymns and the waving of palm branches. Many churches include the processing of church members around the church while singing, “All Glory, Laud and Honor.” The Orthodox Church celebrates the Triumphal Entry as a picture of the Son of God entering the heavenly Jerusalem to establish His reign. He is worshipped as He takes the New Jerusalem, His pure bride, to Himself as at a marriage ceremony. But does everyone know that the Triumphal Entry of Jesus is the most hyper-Messianic event in Jesus’ life on earth, apart from His birth? If Jesus wanted all the arrows to point to Him as Messiah, His grand entrance into Jerusalem on the eve of Passover would top the list.

The Expectation. During Jesus’ time there was a sharp rise in Jewish nationalism. The Jews wanted a national leader, a political Messiah, who could rescue Israel from Roman oppression. They wanted a triumphant king who would reestablish the kingdom of David. And they wouldn’t necessarily be opposed to a king like Jehu (2 Kings 9), who wasn’t afraid to spill blood in the process, using his sword to achieve freedom. Many nationalists in Jerusalem at the time were eagerly excited to see if Jesus could be the conquering king, the long-expected Messiah. Others, though, were very anxious to see this prophet Jesus who had recently captured the imagination of the people. He performed  miracles, He taught with authority, He claimed to fulfill Scripture, He stood up to those hypocritical religious authorities. He may just be the spiritual Messiah we’re looking for! In the huge crowd welcoming Jesus, there was everything from zealots to the curious onlookers to the believing disciples. And they all wanted desperately to see what this rabbi Jesus was all about.

The Timing. Jesus couldn’t have timed His grand entrance any better. Messiah fever was at a high pitch. Many eye witnesses to Jesus’ raising Lazarus from the dead were there in Jerusalem, spreading the word of His astounding miracle. The Passover was about to begin, and as usual huge crowds came from all over the Roman empire to celebrate the Exodus from Egypt and slavery. So Jesus was at the top of His popularity and approaching a very large captive audience. If He could convince the crowd of His Messiahship, there would be a flood of people returning to all parts of the known world with Jesus on their lips. If there was a good time for Jesus to make a big splash, this was the time.

The Starting Point. Jesus deliberately chose to enter Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. All observant Jews would know from rabbinic tradition and from Ezekiel 11:23 that the Mount of Olives was the very spot from which the nation’s Messiah would arrive when the time was right. Jesus knew what He was doing when He entered from there. Besides that, the Mount of Olives was uniquely positioned to advertise its travelers. The Mount was almost 2 miles from Jerusalem, and the crest of its big hill approaching the city was 100 feet above Jerusalem. So literally, the city dwellers could see Jesus coming from a mile away. There was plenty of time during His descent that the huge multitude could see Him approaching the city and get excited to welcome Him. The big crowd split into two groups, a crowd in front of Him as He entered the city, and a crowd behind Him following Jesus into Jerusalem.

The Colt. Jesus chose to approach the city while riding a donkey’s young colt. He wanted to make an obvious reference to the messianic prophecy of Zechariah 9:9. Matthew’s report of the triumphal entry was right on point. “All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying “Tell the daughters of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, lowly, and sitting on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.’” (Matt. 21:4-5). Jesus wanted to clarify the type of Messiah He intended to be. He was not a military leader or  a political savior, riding into town triumphantly on a warhorse or chariot. Instead, He is a King of peace, humble and gentle, unassuming, and unpretentious. Jesus didn’t arrive on His high horse, but instead on a lowly, domesticated animal.

The Garments. There is Scriptural precedent for spreading one’s garments onto the ground as a king passes by (2 Kings 9:13). As a matter of fact, it was Jehu himself who enjoyed that adulation. Did some of the crowd throw their garments on the ground in anticipation of the new Jehu coming to rescue them, just like in Scripture? Others were spreading their garments because it seemed like a good way to honor this prophet-king entering the city. It is traditional that included in one’s garments thrown were the prayer shawls. Many devoted disciples just may have thrown their prayer shawls onto the road to exalt King Jesus, who was the answer to all their prayers.

The Palms. Palm trees often symbolized the nation of Israel. Palms were also a symbol of triumph, of victory over death. For palm trees were somehow able to grow in the desert, overcoming the arid climate. Palm branches were the perfect choice to throw onto the road as Jesus approached. For Jesus would soon overcome death itself and flourish in an inhospitable climate of sin and unbelief. Palms, the branches of choice in this amazing victory parade.

The Acclamations. The entire crowd seemed to be caught up in Messiah fever. They continued to shout out the words from the famous messianic Psalm 118, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” There were probably a few zealots who pointed out Jesus’ genealogy in order to underline the importance of reestablishing the Davidic kingdom. Others were certainly shouting in faith, in their belief in Jesus as the true Messiah. The word hosanna literally means please save, save now, help! When shouting that word, some were referring to the salvation of their souls, and others to the salvation of their nation. Either way, the adoring crowd could easily have been exclaiming another verse from Psalm 118,This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it!” Because of the size of the  crowd, it is traditional to assume that many children were among those shouting Hosanna. Children even continued shouting those biblical acclamations in the temple soon after.

The Stones. The religious leaders were appalled as they listened to the shouts of adoration. They must have had to yell over the noise, asking Jesus to rebuke those who were yelling Hosanna. Jesus refused to silence the crowd, and He joined the long list of Hebrew Bible writers who spoke about nature rejoicing in the presence of the Lord. Jesus told the leaders, “Even the stones would cry out!” In other words, let the earth be glad; let the heavens rejoice; all the trees in the forest cry out for joy; let the rivers clap their hands; let the mountains shout for joy; the mountains shall break forth into singing; the trees of the fields shall clap their hands! (Psalms 93-99; Isaiah 55). All of nature rejoices in the Lord. Even the stones of Jerusalem will cry out in joy! It is known that graves were on each side of this approach to the city. Was Jesus thinking about gravestones here? Perhaps Jesus was exclaiming that the very grave stones would open up and rejoice in the life of the Lord!

The Intimidated. Needless to say, the Pharisees and other religious leaders didn’t know what to do. All this messianic enthusiasm was outside their control. They were exasperated as they looked at the chaotic scene. They threw up their hands in panic as they started to realize that maybe they would never be able to recapture their influence over the people. They were thoroughly intimidated by all this passion for Jesus as Messiah, and they didn’t know how to stop it. “The whole world is stampeding after him! Look! Everyone has gone to run after him!” (John 12:19). Perhaps we could pray that prayer, that the whole world will run after Jesus.

The Lament. After being surrounded by wave after wave of ecstatic rejoicing, Jesus stops and looks over the city. And He breaks into inconsolable sorrow. (Luke 19:41). He cried for those in the city who will soon suffer at the hands of their enemies. He cried over the many who will reject His peace and His offer of salvation. While everyone around Him is rejoicing, Jesus weeps in sorrow over Jerusalem. “History is lubricated by tears. Prayer, maybe most prayer, is accompanied by tears. And all of these tears are gathered up and absorbed in the tears of Jesus. (Eugene Peterson).

The Glory. Soon after most of the hubbub dies down, Jesus utters a strangely-timed comment. “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” (John 12:23). He makes it very clear to anyone listening that His glory will come though His death. This must have caused people to think about redefining what is meant by glory. After all, glory is the magnificent presence of God, the heart-stopping splendor of the Lord on earth, and all the pure light and power that comes from that presence. But Jesus talks about being glorified in death. It can’t be. Glory is what Moses saw on Mt. Sinai. Glory is what Peter, James and John witnessed at the Transfiguration. But Jesus is saying here that the bright glory of the golden harvest only comes after the deathly burial of the seeds. Anticipating the week of His Passion, Jesus says here that the glorification process will include being lifted up on the cross of the Crucifixion. But that is not the end of the process. Glory will fully arrive after Jesus is lifted up once again, this time from the bowels of the earth in the Resurrection. While Jesus talks here about glory, He suddenly prays, “Father, glorify your Name!” God, lift your Name up high so the people can see it clearly and applaud your goodness. Exalt your Name so the people can be in awe of your divine and eternal character. Make the people aware of your glorious presence in this world. Unexpectedly, to say the least, God’s voice then audibly booms out of the sky. “I have already glorified it and I will glorify it again!” The crowd still surrounding Jesus heard it, but thought it must have been thunder, or maybe even an angel had spoken. But Jesus said that the Father’s voice was heard for their benefit, that they would believe. After this dramatic scene, Jesus went into hiding. The wildly dramatic grand entrance concludes with the whimper of His absence.

All Glory Laud and Honor | With Lyrics – YouTube