by Rev. Margaret Rountree, Associate Pastor
After telling this story, Jesus went on toward Jerusalem, walking ahead of his disciples. As he came to the towns of Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives, he sent two disciples ahead. “Go into that village over there,” he told them. “As you enter it, you will see a young donkey tied there that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks, ‘Why are you untying that colt?’ just say, ‘The Lord needs it.’”
So they went and found the colt, just as Jesus had said. And sure enough, as they were untying it, the owners asked them, “Why are you untying that colt?” And the disciples simply replied, “The Lord needs it.”
So they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their garments over it for him to ride on. As he rode along, the crowds spread out their garments on the road ahead of him. When he reached the place where the road started down the Mount of Olives, all of his followers began to shout and sing as they walked along, praising God for all the wonderful miracles they had seen. “Blessings on the King who comes in the name of the LORD! Peace in heaven, and glory in highest heaven!”
But some of the Pharisees among the crowd said, “Teacher, rebuke your followers for saying things like that!” He replied, “If they kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!”
But as he came closer to Jerusalem and saw the city ahead, he began to weep. “How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes. Before long your enemies will build ramparts against your walls and encircle you and close in on you from every side. They will crush you into the ground, and your children with you. Your enemies will not leave a single stone in place, because you did not recognize it when God visited you.”
Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday is the last Sunday in Lent and the Sunday before Easter. It marks the beginning of Holy Week and commemorates Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem for the Jewish holiday of Passover, which celebrates the Israelites’ liberation from slavery in Egypt and the “passing over” of the forces of destruction, or the sparing of the firstborns of the Israelites, when God struck down the land of Egypt on the eve of the exodus. To announce that He was indeed the Messiah, Jesus chose a time when all Israel would be gathered in Jerusalem, a place where huge crowds could see him. Jesus knew that many people were coming to Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish Passover feast, that many people had either seen or heard of the miracles He had performed, and finally that Jerusalem was indeed His final destination and the place where He would be put to death. So, Jesus rides a young donkey into Jerusalem and is greeted by a large crowd with palm branches shouting expressions of praise such as, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” and in Matthew’s account “Hosanna to the Son of David!” The people put their coats and palm branches on the ground as Jesus passes by them. It’s an all too familiar story for us- Jesus riding on top of a donkey into the city of Jerusalem. Luke’s account of Palm Sunday is my very favorite because this Gospel writer highlights the two polar opposite reactions of the crowd and of Christ.
First, the crowds in verses 35-40. From all of the accounts of Jesus entering Jerusalem, it is evident that while there was a great crowd involved in welcoming Jesus to Jerusalem, many of the people of Jerusalem were not involved. The majority of those involved in this celebration were those not from Jerusalem, those pilgrims who had come to Jerusalem, either to celebrate the Passover or to follow Jesus there or both. The second thing we need to know about the crowd gathered on that day is that no one really understood the meaning and significance of what they were doing as they welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem. In verse 37, we are informed that Jesus was praised simply for His miracles. You have to wonder how many people simply got caught up in the excitement and the activity on that day, without really knowing/understanding what was happening.
Then there is the reaction from Jesus in verses 41-44. We read that when Jesus approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept, for the people of Jerusalem failed to see how the Messiah would bring peace on Earth. The majority of the people thought that this peace would be accomplished by sword and by force. They therefore supposed that when the Messiah came, He would utilize military might and throw off the shackles of Rome. It was not by Christ’s use of force and power, nor by the death of His enemies that the kingdom would be brought about, no. Rather, in stark contrast, it would be by His death at the hand of His enemies. It was not triumph by brute political and physical power which would bring in the kingdom but the tragedy of the cross and the miracle of the resurrection.
As Jesus rode into the city on top of a young donkey, He was claiming that He indeed was the Messiah, the Son of God, and our Passover Lamb. And the people of Jerusalem failed to see this! They were spiritually blind to the One who would save the entire world from sin and death eternal.
As we enter into Holy Week and celebrate Easter next Sunday, please don't get caught up in all the excitement and activity, without seeing and knowing what has truly happened for you and for me. Please do not reject Christ because you fail to acknowledge Him for who He really is. Please do not be blind to what is so clearly right in front of you! Do not be like the people of Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday in history. Jesus Christ is so much more than just a great prophet and wise man. He is the Christ, Lord of Lords, Alpha and Omega, the Son of God, Light of the World, King of Kings, the Lamb of God, the Author of Life, the Good Shepherd, Immanuel, our Redeemer, the Horn of Salvation, the Light of the World, Lord of All, the Prince of Peace, the Messiah, the Resurrection and Life, our Passover Lamb and the Savior of all people. May our eyes be opened to the truth of who Jesus Christ really is this Easter.
Our Good and Gracious Heavenly Father,
May we be a people no longer trapped by our own spiritual blindness but rather a people whose eyes have been forever opened by our perfect, spotless Passover Lamb who was slain so that we could be forever saved. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.