Day 1 - Palm Sunday

Jesus knew exactly what he was doing.  It was the Passover, and as more than 100,000 Jews made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem to celebrate, Jesus and his disciples were among them. Jesus, however, knew what was coming. He knew the leaders were ready to put him to death in order to preserve their way of life and their understanding of the Scriptures.

But instead of hiding, Jesus did the exact opposite. He told his disciples to get him a donkey. Jesus was going to very purposefully fulfill a Messianic text from Zechariah 9:9: “Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey— riding on a donkey’s colt.” (NLT) This act is exactly what the religious leaders were waiting for; an act of sedition against Rome, not to mention what they perceived as a false claim of Messiahship. This is the proof they needed to have Jesus removed from their landscape forever. This is what they needed to have Jesus killed. But it doesn’t mean that the event didn’t get under their skin.

The people had been waiting for 100’s of years for their Messiah. Jesus of Nazareth was clearly a teacher of great wisdom, a prophet, and a healer. Those who hadn’t already begun to believe in him desperately wanted to on this day. Outer garments came off and were laid down on the road as a sign of respect. Palm tree branches were swung in the air or added on the ground with the garments as people were dancing and shouting with great joy and excitement, “Praise God! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessings on the coming Kingdom of our ancestor David! praise God in the highest heaven!” (Mark 11: 9-10, NLT)
The religious leaders were furious at how many people fell for this imposter. Some of the Pharisees made their way to Jesus in the midst of this joyful mob and said, “Teacher, rebuke your followers for saying things like that.” Jesus replied, “If they kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!” (Luke 19: 39-40, NLT)

Have you ever been in a space that was so full of joy, excitement, anticipation, that you could feel it in your bones? It’s electric. That’s what was happening on Palm Sunday. The hopes and dreams of the people were seemingly coming to fruition right in front of them. And these hopes and dreams were not just theirs; they belonged to their parents, and their grandparents, and their great grandparents, for 100’s of years. Oh what joy to have your dreams come true.

It’s hard to stay in the joy and excitement of the crowd on Sunday, when you know that in just 6 days, some in that same crowd are going to shout a different set of words, “Crucify him!” But let us not forget that we serve a God who longs to answer our prayers, tend to our deepest longings, and help us experience a joy beyond our wildest imaginations. “For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory.” (2 Corinthians 1: 20, NLT)

Now it’s true that in this story, the people didn’t get a Messiah who overpowered their oppressors by force and put them on top of the kingdoms of this world. He wasn’t the Messiah they wanted, but he was the Messiah they needed. His kingdom was not of this world, but he through his life, death, and resurrection he overthrew the powers of this world and established His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. And that is what we all need.

So let us throw off the chains of this world and step onto the path with Jesus, our Messiah, as we sing together with all the saints, “Blessings on the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” Or as other translations say it, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21: 9, ESV)

By Paddy McCoy

Listen to a reflection on this topic from the One project gathering in Seattle, 2016

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