I never really thought much about Palm Sunday. I mean, I knew it existed and it seems like I learned about it every year in Sunday school as I grew up. But in all reality, I never really thought about what the big deal was, or how it really went down, and to be honest, I probably couldn’t have told you what exactly happened on Palm Sunday that made it Palm Sunday. So this year, being that I’m in Jerusalem during Holy Week I decided it was a good idea to probably check that situation out. So, in doing my homework, I read the account of Jesus making his way into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday in all four Gospel accounts. Here is Mark’s account so you don’t have to go look it up:
11:1 When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples2 and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. 3 If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’” 4 They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, 5 some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6 They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. 7 Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. 9 Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
11 Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.
Sunday before this one we talked about the triumphal entry. The pastor brought up something that I had never thought about before. That donkey had never had anyone sit on him before. Have you ever tried to sit on an untamed, unbroken horse or donkey? Probably not the best of ideas, they normally go crazy (according to what I’ve been told). Yet this donkey, doesn’t seem to have this problem. The idea behind this alludes to the idea that Jesus has come to bring God’s order back to the world, not only in us, but in all of creation. It is through Jesus that God is going to bring our broken world back to His original intent. That’s a fantastic image that I have missed all of these years. Amazing.
With that image in mind I moved into Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday is a strange day to me. We should be excited because God sent His son for us, and because of that we are free, and this is the day that the whole thing started. This is the day that Jesus marches into Jerusalem being declared as the Messiah. But, it is also a day that, from our point of view, looks forward to Jesus being hung on that cross to die, because we screw up. So needless to say I have slightly contradictory feelings. All of that aside, there was a procession from the top of the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem on this Palm Sunday. I, along with several of my fellow classmates walked alongside thousands of fellow believers from all over the world. We were walking in front of a group from who knows where that were singing (in Spanish) and dancing to their hearts’ content. It was beautiful. To watch such sheer joy be expressed is such a cool thing. There’s something about knowing that Jesus walked that ridiculously steep mountain 2000 years ago that grips me on the inside. It is the guy that I have learned about all my life; but it was there that I began to really picture him in the flesh. Jesus was human. Like me. Jesus had legs, and probably wasn’t a fan of hills. (That’s an assumption…but you get the idea.) Jesus breathed. I wonder how many people walked with Jesus into Jerusalem, was it a crowd of thousands like the one I witnessed? How many coats and palm branches lined the road? What would Jesus have been thinking? He knew he had to die, I bet he was a bit freaked out; being human he must have been…right?
All of that makes me think about how the only reason he had to walk that downhill slope into the city where he would be brutally killed was because of the crap we’ve done, the crap I’ve done. That breaks my heart. Our relationship with Jesus is supposed to be a love relationship. How much would it kill us to have the one we love brutally tortured and killed because of the dumb things we’ve done? I bet we would be more motivated to quit doing dumb stuff if we knew that the one we loved would be killed for it. Its so hard to think that we can’t make that effort or just don’t care enough when its Jesus. How much more does He pursue and love us than another human? Yet we still don’t know if he’s worth it….even when he gave more than we would ever ask another human to give. But he was human…and he did give that for us. I don’t know about you, but that blows my mind.
So this Palm Sunday, while I celebrated that God sent Jesus to die for me because I know the end result of resurrection and redemption, I also mourned for the fact that I personally did things (and will continue to do things) that caused the one who loves me eternally more than anything else so much pain and in the end caused him to have to die because he loves me that much. I am grateful for a day like Palm Sunday that cause so much joy and such a reality check (painful and sad though it is) all at once, because our God loves us eternally. Our God is the King of Kings and the Savior of the World. Praise God.