Holy Week: Palm Sunday

In Holy Weekby Stuart Owens

1 When they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage at the Mount of Olives, Jesus then sent two disciples, telling them, “Go into the village ahead of you. At once you will find a donkey tied there with her colt. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them at once.”

This took place so that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled:

Tell Daughter Zion,
“See, your King is coming to you,
gentle, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt,
the foal of a donkey.”

The disciples went and did just as Jesus directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt; then they laid their clothes on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their clothes on the road; others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them on the road. Then the crowds who went ahead of him and those who followed shouted:

Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is he who comes in the name
of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!

10 When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in an uproar, saying, “Who is this?” 11 The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Matthew 21:1-11, CSB

Today is Palm Sunday. The day gets its name from the scene we read today as Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem. John’s account of this event tells us that the branches laid on the road before Jesus were palm branches. The scene we see of this moment is reminiscent of a conquering general riding into a city he’s just taken possession of. He rides slowly, soaking in the adoration of his subjects.

In many ways, that’s what’s taking place in Jerusalem. The people there have been longing for a king to set them free from Rome’s rule. They hoped Jesus was just such a king. They shouted “Hosanna!” which we can understand to mean “Salvation! Salvation! Salvation has come!” The Jews in Jerusalem were convinced that their salvation had come to set them free. They praised him as king and declared their devotion to him.

If this were a Hollywood movie, the screen would have cut to black and the credits would have rolled. But you know that’s not where the story ended. It begs the question: what changed? How did this crowd go from cheering “Hosanna!” to “crucify him!”?

In short, the crowd didn’t actually want Jesus to be their King.

Over the next several days, as we’ll see in our readings, Jesus went on to do the opposite of what the crowd wanted and expected. He caused a scene and cost some vendors some money in the temple. He predicted the destruction of the temple and talked about wars and persecution. He spent time with the down and outs of society and upset the religious establishment. He talked about the need to die so that his blood could cover people’s sins.

The people and the leaders of Jerusalem wanted none of it. Each of them, for different reasons, was put off by what Jesus came to offer. And so they turned on him. But the reality is that Jesus doesn’t need adulation and parades in order to be King. He’s King whether we acknowledge Him as such or not.

If I look closely, I can see myself in this story. How often do I want to be king of my life rather than Christ? How often do I want Jesus to serve my plans rather than the other way around? How often do I pitch a fit when things don’t go how I’d hoped?

This Palm Sunday, let me encourage you to do some evaluation. Are there areas in your life that Jesus is not King over? Humble yourselves and let Him rule there. Are there ways you’re trying to subvert God’s plan for your life? Submit to His plans. If nothing else, today on Palm Sunday let’s give the King of the Universe His rightful worship and praise. He is surely worthy of it.