Today is Palm Sunday and the churches around the world celebrate Christ’s triumphal entry into his own city, Jerusalem, to complete his work as the saviour of the world, to suffer and die and to rise again.
In ancient times, palm branches symbolised goodness and victory. They were often depicted on coins and important buildings. King Solomon had palm branches carved into the walls and doors of the temples (1 King 6:29). At the end of the bible, in the book of Revelation, people from every nation and every tongue raise palm branches to honour Jesus (Rev. 7:9).
Palm Sunday commemorates the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem when he was welcomed with palm branches spread on his path. This then led to his arrest on Maundy Thursday and his crucifixion on Good Friday. Therefore, Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week and the final week of lent.
Jesus goes into Jerusalem from Bethphage and Bethany riding on a colt, the foal of donkey. It was a colt on which no one had ever ridden and the disciples brought it to Jesus.
Jesus sat on the colt and entered into Jerusalem. As he went along, the people spread their clothes on the road, others spread palm branches which they cut from the fields and shouted, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” The crowd honoured him as the king and Messiah.
However, the crowd didn’t expect a suffering Messiah who would die on the cross. They were expecting a deliverer who would deliver them from Roman rule and grant them, freedom. However, Jesus had come to give true freedom – freedom from our sins and life eternal. The people were praising him for all the good things that he had said and done. The Pharisees however, were not amused and asked Jesus to rebuke his disciples so that they would not utter such blasphemies and shouts of acclamation. However, Jesus tells them that the stones will cry out if they were asked to stop.
So, what is the role of this Messiah? Zechariah reminds us that he is righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt – the foal of a donkey (Zech. 9:9).
The prophet is reminding us that the Messiah is different from the other kings of Israel or other nations who were flawed and reflected only very imperfectly the character of God. But the Messiah is the perfect representation of God. He is the agent through whom God’s salvation is made available. He is gentle and humble as shown by his mode of transport. He brings peace and is not one who proclaims war. The Messiah therefore is God’s final offer to us and it would be perilous indeed to spurn it.
On Palm Sunday we are reminded once again that Jesus has come into this world to enable us to make peace with God. However, his own people didn’t recognise Jesus. They didn’t know the day of God’s coming to them and ended up crucifying him.
However, God in his providence brought about salvation through this which is made available to the whole world. Not all rejected him, and around that crucified king gathered a new people of God who were destined to herald the good news of his kingdom to the ends of the earth.
This morning as we too enter into Jerusalem with Jesus may we truly appropriate the salvation and the forgiveness of sins that he offers to us.
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