Every year millions of people in the Christian religion observe Lent. The word Lent is derived
from the Old English word “Lencten” which means Spring. The season of Lent begins forty days prior to Easter, not counting Sundays, and ends on Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday. The fortydays are a reminder of the forty days Jesus was tempted by the Devil in the wilderness.
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and for the forty-day period believers often fast, or
abstain from certain foods, vices or activities (i.e. alcohol, smoking, chocolate, carbonated drinks, sweets, Social Media, etc.). It is intended as a time to spend reflecting on our human sinfulcondition, prayer and the teachings of Jesus Christ.
The forty days do not include Sundays as they are considered “mini-Easters” and are set aside
for joy and celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and not for abstaining and
fasting. As I stated already Lent ends on Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday (the night before Good Friday) but fasting and abstaining from certain foods or activities is still in effect through Good Friday and Saturday. The true celebration and breaking of fast happens on Easter morning when Jesus’ resurrection is observed and celebrated.
Today is Palm Sunday and this day is the beginning of what is called holy week. We will be looking at a few accounts in the Gospels that are referred as Jesus’ triumphal entry or more commonly known as Palm Sunday. This is one of a relatively few occurrences that is recorded in the life of Jesus in all four Gospel accounts. While all four are similar in subject there are some differences in the way the accounts are re-told. Today we will look at these accounts and see and celebrate the significance of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry.
John 12: 1 - 8
Six days before Passover Jesus goes to Lazarus’s house. This is the same man who Jesus resurrected from the dead. At his home a meal is prepared, and Jesus is anointed with very expensive perfume by Mary Magdalene. She uses her hair to wipe his feet. This is an act of worship on Mary’s part. In this act of worship, she is declaring the true value of Christ to her. This was a very costly act of worship. We are told that the cost of the perfume was a year’s wage. In this act Mary was declaring that there is nothing, absolutely nothing more valuable to her than Jesus.
Judas questions the “wastefulness” of this expensive oil. In reality, Judas had no care for the poor he was just a greedy thief. He tried to spiritualize his narrow sightedness by stating they could use the funds to give to the poor, but John tells us he had zero concern for the poor. Jesus rebukes Judas. He tells him to leave Mary alone because what she is doing is a good thing. There will always be opportunities to serve the poor and meet their needs, but what Mary is doing now super cedes the needs of the poor.
Mark 11:1 -11
After the meal Jesus prepares for his royal entry. Jesus and his Disciples went to Bethpage, which was near Bethany (approximately 2 miles east of Jerusalem) to the Mount of Olives. A great crowd of people followed him, and they were probably people making their pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration. According to the historian Josephus, there was one Passover where over two million people participated in Jerusalem. We are not sure if this was the normal crowd or not, but there was certainly a large gathering of people present at this time.
Matthew 21:1 - 7
Once Jesus drew near the Mount of Olives, he sent two disciples to go into town and get a colt/donkey and bring it to him. The Gospel of Matthew states that this all takes place to fulfill the words of the prophet Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” This passage is believed to be a prophecy about the coming King of Zion or the Messiah. In the prophecy the people of Israel are told to rejoice and shout because the King is coming soon. They are called to rejoice because He is a righteous king who brings salvation. This king will be a gentle and humble king and it will be evident because he will be riding on a colt’s donkey. Jesus is the TRUE king, and He could have ridden in as a warrior on a war horse, but instead he came as the King of peace and humility.
Matthew 21:8 -11
As Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the donkey the people began shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” The word Hosanna in the Greek transliteration is “Save us!” Their shouts were an exclamation of exaltation, praise, and rulership. The praises of the people were reflected by the words of Psalm 118:25, 26 “Save us, we pray, O Lord! O Lord, we pray, give us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! We bless you from the house of the Lord.” This Psalm is one of many Egyptian Hallel or praise psalms to remember God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt. These Psalms were chanted, recited, and sung during Passover and other major festivals and feasts.
The people shouted and rejoiced and put their cloaks and palm branches on the ground for Jesus to walk on. This was a sign of honor and the palm branches symbolized victory. According to theologian N.T. Wright, “They waved branches they’d cut from the trees to make a celebratory procession for him. This carried royal implications. In the long folk memory of Jerusalem and its surrounding villages, stories were still told, and some of them by this stage were written down, about the famous Judas Maccabaeus who, 200 years before, had arrived in Jerusalem after conquering the pagan armies that had oppressed Israel. He, too, was welcomed into the city by a crowd waving palm branches. And he was the start of a royal dynasty that lasted for over a hundred years.”
According to the Gospel of Luke 19:39 – 40 the religious leaders approached Jesus and told him to rebuke his disciples.
“And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”
The Pharisees knew Jesus was accepting the praise of the people as the Messiah. They would have opposed the excitement of the crowds cheering on Jesus and they absolutely did not want to see Jesus proclaimed as Messiah. They did not support the use of force unless the practice of their religion was directly involved, and they would have resisted anything that might intensify Roman intervention. There was no hope of calming the commotion by engaging the people, so they tell Jesus to quiet them down. Jesus responds by affirming that the shouting is inevitable. He says that if he were to silence them then the stones would cry out in praise to him. This was His time! This was a fore ordained moment in history. There was absolutely nothing that could silence the praise of the Messiah. It was foretold, it had to be. The Pharisee’s tell Jesus to rebuke his disciples, but Jesus rebukes the Pharisee’s for failing to see that this moment is a God ordained moment.
It is sad to see throughout the Bible how often the religiously pious miss out on or oppose those moments that God appointed. It is in these moments they are so objected to change or seeing the moment to be outside of their tradition that they convince themselves and try to convince others that God is not blessing the moment, when in fact the moment is the time that God is in fact blessing and ordaining. May we never be so blind or set in our ways and traditions that we too, miss out in the moments where God is moving, blessing, and ordaining.
Palm Sunday is a beautiful Segway into Holy week. Today, we proclaim with the people of Israel and say, “Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!” We acknowledge and worship the true King of kings and Lord of Lords. But as we have looked at this account, we are left to answer a few questions and consider some truths regarding Jesus and Palm Sunday.
To be continued…
 Wright, N.T. (2004) Matthew For Everyone Part Two p. 67 Westminster John Knox Press
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I currently live on the Gulf Coast of Florida with my beautiful family. The Lord has blessed me with over 25 years of full time ministry. He is and has been faithful.