Posts Tagged With: triumphal entry

Palm Sunday and Expectations

“The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them, and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them; and He sat on the coats. Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees spreading them in the road. The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!’” (Matthew 21:6-9).

Scene from a Passion Play in Trafalgar Square, London, UK, on Good Friday in 2010, re-enacting the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. cc-by-sa/2.0 – © Stephen Craven – geograph.org.uk/p/1782823

Today begins Holy Week. Between now and next Sunday, churches of most denominations will commemorate Jesus’ final entry into Jerusalem, last Passover meal with His disciples, betrayal, arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection. Some churches will have extra worship services on Holy Thursday and Good Friday to emphasize each part of the biblical account of Jesus’ final days. Other churches will squeeze the entire passion narrative into the Palm Sunday service, hoping to accommodate church members who will not be able or willing to attend Holy Thursday and Good Friday services.

The entire passion narrative—the biblical account of the events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection—matters. It is all part of the Gospel message and, thus, is part of every Christian’s salvation testimony. We should not ignore Palm Sunday or the Last Supper to get to the crucifixion.

The sudden change of events between Palm Sunday and Good Friday is a lesson for all Christians. People can be fickle, easily tossed by the winds of popular opinion, current events, or personal circumstances. Our very faith can be shaken when we build it on a weak foundation, and we see this in the Gospels. Although some people think the biblical account describes an unrealistic change of circumstances in Jesus’ life, recent current events remind us that one’s public image can change in the twinkling of an eye.

Recently, actor/rapper Will Smith’s public image took a drastic turn. For decades, he has been a popular entertainer. He came across as a likable person. However, within a few seconds, his popularity disappeared. During the Oscar Awards show, comedian Chris Rock made a joke about Smith’s wife’s appearance. The “Fresh Prince” became enraged, ran onstage, slapped Rock, and angrily shouted and cursed at him. Since then, people who admired him lost all respect for him. I doubt Will Smith changed; it is more likely that the public saw a side of him that he had cleverly hidden from audiences. Nevertheless, within days he went from superstar to pop-culture pariah.

On Palm Sunday, the Jewish people who were in Jerusalem preparing for the Passover feast welcomed Jesus, celebrating Him as the Messiah with shouts of “Hosanna!” “Save us, Lord!” They recognized Jesus as Savior and hailed Him as their King. But five days later, they screamed “Crucify Him!” Many of the same people were in both crowds. People welcomed Him as a hero and savior on Sunday but demanded His execution on Friday morning.

Jesus had not changed. People’s perspectives did, though. Many Jewish people at the time expected a political Messiah. They thought Jesus would march into Jerusalem, cast out the oppressive Roman overlords, and establish a new Israelite empire far more glorious than the kingdoms of His ancestors, David and Solomon. Instead, Jesus chased the money-changers out of the Temple, reminded the religious leaders that the Temple was supposed to be a house of prayer for all nations (even Romans!?!), and did absolutely nothing about the political situation.

Palm Sunday Church Palms Cross. Photo courtesy of MaxPixel.net under a CCO Creative Commons license.

Jesus did not fulfill their expectations. So, they decided that He must not be the Messiah they expected.

Do we make the same mistake? Do we accept Jesus on His terms, or do we set our own terms and demand that He meets them? He is the Savior, but is He the Savior that we expect and want?

Which Jesus do we worship? Do we come to a Jesus who is supposed to make us feel good about ourselves and help us to accept ourselves just as we are with no need to change? Do we honor a Jesus who winks at our own sins but is ready to pour His wrath out upon those horrible people who sin differently than we do? Do we worship a Jesus who is going to make us rich? Maybe we have an image of Jesus who will give us whiter teeth and fresh breath, making us irresistible to the opposite sex. Perhaps we want a Jesus who will adopt our socio-political agenda, get with our program, and help us establish our ideals for social change. Maybe we want Jesus to help us with the addictions that we are really ashamed about while accepting the sins that we really enjoy. Perhaps we expect Jesus to make us feel good about who we are, soothing our consciences but not expecting us to surrender our worst character defects.

Many people worship a distorted image of Jesus. It is usually a projection of our own ideals, values, and desires. We want Him to get with our program, but that will not work. The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ is Lord. That means we need to yield to His will, not the other way around. A distorted Jesus, based on our own wishes, will eventually disappoint us.

The true Jesus did not come to grant us three wishes. Instead, He came to do the will of His Father (John 6:38). He came to bring light to the world (John 12:46). He came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). He came to give His life as a ransom (Mark 10:45) and give us eternal, abundant life (John 10:10). The list goes on. He will not fail to do the things He promised in His Word. However, if we bend His Word to suit our desires, we will be disappointed. You might twist God’s Word, but you will never twist His arm.

Who is Jesus to you? Why do you worship Him? Will you continue to trust Him even when the world does not yield to your expectations and wishes?

What do you expect Jesus to do in your life? How does it line up with Scripture? Have you ever been disappointed by Him? Share your thoughts, experiences, or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2022 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons, Current events | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

God’s Righteousness and Justice. VII: Christ our Merciful and Righteous King

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
He is just and endowed with salvation,
Humble, and mounted on a donkey,
Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

An Ash Wednesday cross on a worshiper’s forehead. Photo by Jennifer Balaska, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Many Christians began observing Lent this past week. In some churches, pastors marked congregation members’ foreheads with a cross-shaped mark using the ashes from burned palm branches from the previous year’s Palm Sunday. The pastor generally accompanies this marking by saying, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Lent reminds us of our mortality and our need for forgiveness. It reminds us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and “{T}he wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

In Lent, we are reminded of our unrighteousness and that Christ’s righteousness and mercy are our only hope. During the last Sunday of Lent, Palm Sunday, many churches will commemorate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, which was prophesied in Zechariah 9:9 (Matthew 21:5 quotes this verse as he describes Jesus riding a borrowed donkey).

Jesus’ arrival must have been a dramatic sight. For three years, He had preached and performed miracles. People got excited, convinced that He was the Messiah, the coming Great King of Israel who would overthrow the Roman authorities. Jesus had even at times said enough to confirm that He thought He was the Messiah.

The Triumphal Entry, artist unknown, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

And now, just a few days before Passover, as Jewish pilgrims from all over the Roman Empire were flooding Jerusalem, Jesus rode into the ancient capital city of Judea. He sat astride a colt, as if He was a king, while His followers shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David” (Matthew 21:9).

There was no mistaking His intentions now. In the past, He might have hinted that He was the Messiah. Now, His actions shouted it. He consciously chose to ride on a donkey, thereby fulfilling Zechariah 9:9.

Stained glass window depicting the triumphal entry of Jesus, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Albany, NY. Photo by Nheyob, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

However, His actions also shouted what kind of king He was. A conquering king would enter the city on a horse as if ready to do battle. When a king came in peace, he would ride a donkey. Jesus was contrasting Himself with many of the kings the Jews had seen in recent years. Greek rulers and Roman Caesars had come to steal, kill, and destroy. Jesus was now coming so that the people could have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10).

God’s justice intertwines itself with His other attributes. He comes not only to exercise His justice but also to reveal His humility and mercy as He brings salvation. The Jews suffered persecution and domination for centuries. God’s Great King would come to deliver His people. Zechariah 9:1–8 tells us how God would judge the nations that afflicted His chosen people.

Yet, “He will speak peace to the nations” (Zechariah 9:10). Jesus’ goal is not to destroy, but to save and redeem. He comes to destroy the works of the devil, but He comes to deliver people from Satan’s rule. Jesus’ justice and mercy mingle. Are we willing to receive His offer of peace, or do we choose to remain at odds with Him? He comes in peace to establish His righteous and just kingdom. We decide whether we will accept His terms of peace or rebel against Him. No matter which we choose, He will reign triumphant.

What do you think about Jesus’ righteousness, justice, and mercy? Share your thoughts about this or anything else related to Cornelius’ story by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons, God's Moral Attributes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Triumphal Entry, Worship, Betrayal, and Abandonment

And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:7–10, ESV)

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Scene from a Passion Play in Trafalgar Square, London, UK, on Good Friday in 2010, re-enacting the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. cc-by-sa/2.0 – © Stephen Craven – geograph.org.uk/p/1782823

Most churches celebrate Palm Sunday by distributing palm fronds to the congregation. Some churches may process, marching around either inside or outside their building. Others will simply wave the palm branches while singing a song with “Hosanna!” (a Hebrew word meaning, “Save!”) in the title or lyrics. In doing so, we join our worship with the exuberant celebration of the crowd that greeted Jesus and His disciples as they entered Jerusalem in preparation for the Passover celebration nearly 2000 years ago. We now refer to this as “the triumphal entry,” but we can easily forget how quickly things changed in Jesus’ life within a week.

On Sunday, the crowd shouted “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” By Friday morning, many of these people were in a mob shouting, “Crucify Him!” (Luke 23:18–21).

Judas Iscariot was part of the group entering Jerusalem with Jesus. Perhaps his cloak was on the colt’s back, providing a saddle for Jesus. By Thursday evening, he would betray Jesus.

Peter was there too. I can imagine him leading the way, announcing that the Messiah Jesus was coming and urging the crowd to cheer for Him as He entered. On Thursday evening, he vowed he would stand by Jesus no matter what happened (John 13:37). A few hours later, he tried to fulfill that vow—relying on his natural impulsiveness and machismo rather than the virtues Jesus had taught for the last three years—by whacking someone’s ear off during Jesus’ arrest. After that, it was all downhill. Probably less than 12 hours after declaring that he would die with Jesus, he denied three times that he even knew Him. In Jesus’ greatest hour of need, His so-called “best friend” left Him hanging (John 18:15–18, 25–27).

Ten of the other disciples, all of whom (like Peter) swore they would remain faithful to Him, ran into hiding as soon as He was arrested. As He stood trial and was crucified, the only disciple who stayed with Him was John. He was accompanied by a few women, including Jesus’ mother and Mary Magdalene.

Christians know the story so well that we can miss the point. We can learn a lot from the disciples because they are terribly human. They are a lot like us. Sometimes, they show us heroic faith that we hope to imitate. At other times, they show us just how badly we can fail. People were willing to stand by Jesus when things seemed to be going well. When times got tough, they turned on Him or abandoned Him. Sadly, none of us are immune to that temptation.

We may worship Jesus when we are in a crowd with others who are shouting and singing His praises. Do we continue to praise Him when the establishment and the culture revile and reject Him? Or, do we join in rejecting Him: If not in word or deed, do we reject Him in our hearts?

Do we sell Jesus out when financial gain is a possibility? Will we compromise our faith or ignore His commands when there is money to gain.

We can boldly profess our faith and devotion to Jesus in a church or Bible study. Do we continue to do so when surrounded by those who have not accepted Him, or do we suddenly hide our light under a basket (Matthew 5:15) and pretend we are not Christians?

Holy Week ends Lent, a season which many Christians devote to self-examination. As Easter approaches, are we ready to share the resurrected Christ with those around us? Are we willing to remain faithful to Him?

Let us prepare our hearts to sing Christ’s praises in good times and bad, when others join in song and when they refuse Him. As we wave our palm branches, let us continue to lift Jesus up so that He may draw all people unto Himself (John 12:32). As we shape our palm branches into crosses, let us take up our crosses to follow Him.

Copyright © 2018 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christian Life, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons, Holidays | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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