Monday, April 14, 2014

A Little Something Extra...Palm Sunday

Jesus' Triumphal Entry

Jesus and His disciples have been traveling to Jerusalem for quite some time now. Jesus knows that His hour is drawing near. Soon it will be time to fulfill His destiny, to do what He came to do, to die on the cross and rise again. 

Until now, He has usually kept quiet about His identity, ordering His disciples not to tell anyone Who He really is (not that they completely understand anyway). He has often tried to downplay His miracles, too, for He doesn't want the people to get the wrong idea about Him. They have been hoping for a certain type of Messiah, one who will defeat the Romans in a grand military victory, free Israel from the oppression of other nations, and make it a ruling power in the world. But this is not what Jesus has come to do. He is not a warrior Messiah. He is not a political ruler. He is not the type of king that the people have been looking for.

Now, however, Jesus is ready to enter into Jerusalem, and finally He claims the role of Messianic King, but He does so in a highly symbolic fashion that speaks of His true nature and His real intention.

Jesus begins by sending two disciples to a neighboring village with some highly specific instructions. They are to find a tethered ass and colt, untie them, and bring them to Him. If anyone asks what they are doing, they are to reply, “The master needs them.” 

Jesus knows exactly how things will play out. Nothing is a surprise to Him, for He is God. He acts deliberately and with great precision. Also, with this order, Jesus is claiming the status of a VIP. The Romans practiced angaria, which means that people of high rank could claim property or labor from people of lower rank. Jesus, of course, as the Creator, has a right to everything and everybody, and here He asserts that right just a little bit although we can be sure that the animals' owner received them back when Jesus was finished.

By claiming an ass and colt, Jesus is also fulfilling a prophecy given in Zechariah 9:9: “See, your king shall come…riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass.” Jesus truly is the king of Israel, but He is coming in humility and peace on a lowly colt rather than majestically on a warhorse. 

The disciples obey Jesus and bring the animals to Him. They throw their cloaks over the beasts in a gesture of reverence and honor for a newly crowned king. Soon a large crowd gathers, and the people lay their cloaks on the road, giving Jesus the Israelite form of the red carpet treatment. They are acknowledging His kingship. 

The members of the crowd also cut palm branches and line the road with them. Perhaps they remember Psalm 118, which describes a victorious entry into Jerusalem, complete with a “festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar” (verse 27). Jesus is indeed going to the altar, not the one in the Temple, but rather the altar of the cross. 

The palms also signify the Feast of Tabernacles, during which the Israelites would wave palm branches and other plants while singing hymns. The Feast of Tabernacles was a harvest festival, but it also looked forward to the coming of the Messiah. The Messiah, of course, has now arrived, and the crowd, probably without fully understanding what they are doing, drop their palms before Him in homage.

As they proceed, the people in crowd call out, “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest.” Hosanna means “Please save!” or “Save now!” Indeed, Jesus is a Savior greater than than they realize, for He will not merely save Israel from the Romans. He will save the whole world from sin and death and eternal separation from God.

Jesus is also the Son of David. He descends from David's line in His human family, so He has royal blood. He is also the Son of David Who is to come, the Messiah Who will rule forever. The people realize this, but they don't understand the depth of meaning involved when they call out “Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord.” Jesus does indeed come in the name of God, for Jesus is God Himself, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. The Israelites have no idea that they are blessing God when they bless Jesus. 

The whole city is stunned by Jesus' triumphant entry. They wonder Who He is and how He dares to take a place at the center of such a procession. The crowd responds, identifying Jesus as a prophet from Nazareth in Galilee. Little do they know Who He really is. Little do they know that their God has come among them in the flesh. Little do they know that in a few days He will die on the cross. Little do they know that three days after that He will rise from the dead. Little do they know that the world will never be the same. The King has come to His city. Jesus the Messiah has finally arrived.

No comments:

Post a Comment