Palm Parade

This Sunday is Palm Sunday, commemorating Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem on a donkey that began His final week before the Cross. Riding on the donkey fulfilled Zechariah’s prophecy some 550 years earlier that Jerusalem would rejoice when their king came to them “righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey.”

Huge crowds lined the way into the city shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David.” Hosanna means “O save” and can also mean “bring the victory.” They expected Jesus to claim His seat as the Messiah King to overthrow Israel’s enemies, especially the hated Romans, and usher in the Messianic Kingdom promised by God through the Old Testament prophets.

Passion week was all about confronting worldly authority, but Jesus’ Palm Parade changed the equation from man’s power to God’s Truth. He came lowly and riding on a donkey—the Suffering Messiah (see Isaiah 53)—instead of garbed in light and riding like a king on a great white horse! His message was that God’s way to Victory comes after the Cross, not before it. Jesus modeled the humble way required by God (see Micah 6:8).

The triumphant crowd at Jesus’ Palm Parade was largely the same crowd that shouted “Crucify Him!” five days later. Their expectations were not met by the man on the donkey. They wanted peace at any cost and provision from the King who fed 5000 with five loaves. Isn’t that what we want too? Peace, productivity and provision!

Now here’s the question for us. What do we expect from the man on the donkey? We know He went to the Cross instead of crushing the Romans. Yet Jesus’ Kingdom today includes some 2 billion followers around the world, while Rome has been reduced to a city of ruins, pizza and passing fashion. Which is the better way?

Again and again Jesus confronted the authorities during Passion Week calling out their hypocrisy, their people pleasing, and their faulty foundation of men’s religion and godless government. He spoke to scribes, lawyers, priests and governors, as well as the ordinary people, that week, laying out principles about paying taxes, marriage and the true meaning of the Messiah. He even foretold the fall of Jerusalem. But He did not oppose His own suffering and death on the Cross because He had come for that very purpose. To become our Passover Lamb and set people free to choose the way of the donkey and righteousness in God’s sight.
Even as priests were examining the Passover lambs for spot or blemish, the authorities examined Jesus that week. He was found faultless, a perfect sacrifice. His truth was simply too much for Governor Pilate, who threw his hands in the air over the matter. The wisdom of the world crumbled in the face of God’s eternal plan.

This coming week between Palm Sunday and Resurrection Day (Easter Sunday), I urge you to re-read the story of Jesus’ triumphant entry and examination by the powers of His day. (The narratives begin in Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19, and John 12.) Then seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and you will receive all the peace and provision you need both here on earth and in the world to come.