Palm Sunday

April 9, 2017


Can you imagine the spectacle that Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was that Palm Sunday morning?

People shouting, others crying out the words of Psalm 118, “Hosanna to the King,” many waving palms, others throwing palms and even their coats down upon the road, so that the donkey upon which Jesus is riding does not even touch the dirt or cobblestones.  Did you catch that? Jesus is riding upon a donkey, it is the first and last time that we read of him riding upon any sort of animal.  I can imagine his disciples are surrounding him like some sort of body guard, making sure that no one tries anything crazy, and that he is not pulled off the animal in the middle of the chaos that is his entry into Jerusalem.

Now that processional was a spectacle!  For what is a spectacle other than a planned even that is big, grand and draws the attention of people, right?  A spectacle is for the people, even as it communicates something to the people, like an inauguration of a president, or the crowning of a queen, a Hollywood awards show, or the motorcade of a king.  And I am not speaking amiss if I define Palm Sunday as a spectacle, for that, I believe is what Jesus wanted it to be.

As I have said before, Jesus uses his actions, his miracles, and his physical travels to communicate to the people.  His miracles are signs pointing to his power, and today he is using his entry into Jerusalem to communicate something as well.  Jesus does not just use words to say what he means.  I know I keep bringing this up, but I do because it is important.

Jesus can communicate important facts about himself without saying a thing, and this is important because his words could get him killed, and that is something that he doesn’t want to happen until the time is right.

So, instead of declaring himself as God’s anointed One, rather than proclaiming that he is the Messiah, Jesus simply rides into Jerusalem sitting upon a donkey, and the people then react, creating a procession for him to enter Jerusalem!

Today’s scripture from Matthew shows us Jesus’ intent when he sends the two disciples ahead to secure the donkey and its foal for him to ride into the city sitting upon.  As Jesus knew, the people would understand immediately what he was doing when he entered the city in such a manner…he was declaring himself king.

Jesus knew that the people knew their history, and that they understood that the Messiah would declare himself in the same way that Kings David and Solomon had declared themselves at the beginning of their reigns, which was by riding into Jerusalem sitting upon a donkey.

King David and his son Solomon after him signified their aim to be servant-kings by riding the humble donkey into Jerusalem.  A donkey also signified that the king was coming in peace, whereas a horse or a chariot signified they were coming for war.

Yet it was not only the means and style of Jesus’ entry that spoke to the people, but it was also all that they had seen and heard of Jesus in the preceding days, weeks and months.  The word had been spreading through the people concerning Jesus, and the excitement about what he could do and who he might be, was growing and coming to a peak.  Between Jesus’ teaching and his miracles people were already declaring him some sort of prophet, but then, on Palm Sunday they understood…he is the Christ, he is the King, and he is telling them so simply by riding a donkey.

We don’t need to be so astute at reading Jesus’ non-verbal clues, for we know that he is the king, our king, because he says so, and so do his apostles and the biblical writers, and…well, we know who he is, for we know what he has done for us, he has died to give us life.

We know that Jesus didn’t come to rule on earth for a time, like King David or King Solomon, no, Jesus came to earth so as to give us salvation by his death, defeat of sin, and resurrection to new life.  His greatest miracle and his finest gift, is for us new life with him forever.  In our faith, Jesus rules as our King in our hearts, forever.

It is in Jesus and his love for us, and our growing love for him, that we receive the forgiveness of our sins, a call to a new and true purpose, and the command to love, and so testify to what we have seen and heard.

Like the crowd that day as Jesus rode into Jerusalem, shouting, “Hosanna to the highest!” to their newly realized king, we too get to announce to the world what we believe, the Jesus is king still today.  We get to wave our proverbial palm branches so that all may see and hear what we believe, “Jesus is our humble King, and Savior of the world!”

We get to do this!  The question is, “How?”

How can we proclaim Jesus as Savior and King in a way that people may want to listen, and can actually hear?  That is the question.

In the West, in Europe, in Norway, in a culture that is more and more atheistic and removed from not just Christianity, but religion at all, how we do we speak that our words, our actions, that our testimony may be heard?

It is a tricky question, and one not easily answered, but, but one that we can try and answer every day.

First of all, as people of Jesus we need to live our lives genuinely, and honestly.  Meaning, the world smells a fake, and an unacknowledged hypocrite easily and with scorn.  I know I do, and if I a Christian pastor react with disgust to other Christian leaders whom seem to be speaking in one way, and living in another, how do you think the non-believing world reacts?

This doesn’t pertain only to leaders, but to all of us whom bear Jesus’ name.

As I create relationships and friendships, I need to be who I am with my new friends and acquaintances, warts and all.  Does Jesus expect me to be perfect?  No!  He knows I am a failure, and a sinner, that’s why in his love he came to earth, to forgive me and redeem me.

So, if Jesus isn’t expecting perfection, how can I, and how can I pretend to others that somehow I am perfect, simply because I am a Christian.

Jesus didn’t tell us to call others to perfection, but rather to his love and forgiveness.

So, being genuine and honest starts a relationship off on the right foot.  Yet, we cannot end there, next we need to remember Jesus’ gracious love and forgiving ways towards us, and then try and offer the same to our family, friends, acquaintances, co-workers, schoolmates, and the person on the street.  Will we always succeed?  No!  But we have got to keep trying.

Then, then, as we have created trust and a relationship of honesty, love, and forgiveness we can continue to testify to the importance of Jesus for our lives.  Remember, we are sharing our faith in Jesus, and the realities we know in our lives, we are not trying to scientifically prove God’s existence.  Our proof of God lives in our hearts and lives, not in a computer model, algorithm, or…well, I guess what I am trying to say is, our Christianity, my Christianity is my faith, not a debatable fact, nor a scientific paper.  We have the miracle of science to understand God’s world, to better our place in it, and to see God’s hand at work, but it is not the basis for our faith.

Faith is just that…faith, belief, hope, all based on God’s love. Our faith lives in Jesus Christ come to earth to save us for himself. Our faith grows through Jesus’ gift of forgiveness, his righteousness given to us. Our relationship with Jesus; is our faith, our beliefs, and it is to be lived, lived and shared in love.


Bible References

  • Philippians 5:2 - 11
  • Matthew 27:11 - 54



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