Not to get to deep into this coming Sunday’s message as we celebrate what is known as Palm Sunday, I find it amazing how many times in my life I’ve been caught up into something that I really didn’t know what was going on. Sometimes its been a good thing and other times something that I want no part of and that I want it quickly gone. But I think it safe to say even as now that there is much in our lives that we don’t greatly understand, have a firm grasp on or control over and we scramble in various ways to get through it and come out standing on the other side.
In John 12:12-15 we read, “The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!”” (John 12:16, ESV) It’s called Palm Sunday because it was their coats and the branches of palm trees that the people laid in the road before Jesus as He rode on that donkey on a quickly made carpeted path for royalty. To Him they shouted “Hosanna!” Hosanna is a word meaning ‘salvation has come,’ and as they fulfilled the words of an Old Testament prophet, they proclaimed the coming of the one they hoped would be their rescuing and present king.
Strange as it was, their king came in on a young donkey rather than a strong and stately steed. And, He surely wasn’t dressed as one might expect a king to dress. Yet the crowd rushed to hail Jesus who up to this time many had known as the prophet who healed. And as they hailed Him we know from the record of history that their expectations that day were not met as they had hoped. There was no quick and immediate relief to their oppression, and as the week would unfold their joy would be swallowed up later in the week by shouts for His crucifixion.
For many there was going to be disappointment. For others who knew Him well there was going to be distress and anguish. But only Jesus knew what was really going on. Only He knew the real reason that He was riding into town in this way. And though He would speak to His disciples during the week about humility and servanthood, their expectation was different, and that expectation was shattered, and their hopes were crushed when they saw Him give His life on that cross.
John 12:16 continues, “His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him.” (John 12:16, ESV) It would not be until after Jesus’ resurrection and until after they had spent time with the living Christ who they would see ascend before their eyes into heaven to wait then on the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost that they would then begin to remember and understand just what it was that He was doing that day and what He had shown and taught them in all of their days together.
On that day they joined in with the rest as they celebrated Him entering Jerusalem, probably amazed at the reaction of the crowds to this man that they had grown to know and love. And like the crowd, even they did not grasp the significance of the events going on before their eyes. The king had indeed returned to Jerusalem. It was there that He was crucified just as God had planned. This was followed by his burial in a tomb that belonged to someone else, and it was from that grave that He arose on the third day to be seen ultimately by a great many before leaving for a season. We live in that season of post-cross and pre-return.
The world is still a mess. But even in that mess we know that our God reigns and that Jesus is Lord over all creation, which means every single aspect. Palm Sunday is not about a parade and the coronation of a king gone wrong as people stood by and watched. No. It is and always has been about God sending His Son for the purpose of going to that cross to pay the penalty for our sins, be buried and then rise again on the third day so that we might have life.
When we look to the circumstances surrounding us we can be encouraged that our God has not loosened His grip on His creation. He’s got this. The praise on one day that turned to grieving later in the week two-thousand years ago did not catch God by surprise, and neither does a single circumstance of our lives today.
The prophet Isaiah wrote, “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.”” (Isaiah 12:2, ESV)