It was a day that began the most tragic, most beautiful, most holy, most victorious week in all of human history.
Down through the centuries, the celebration and commemoration has endured in most Christian circles. Varying in degree and form, the Church global unites in its remembrance of this incredible moment in history
And yet, as one reads the account of the first “Palm Sunday,” that original day of the Triumphal Entry, one is struck by an unexpected revelation:
The day of great celebration was also a day of great contradiction.
You see – the Triumphal Entry of Christ into Jerusalem was not a day of united praise and promotion. It was wrought with division and difficulty – as much of Christ’s ministry was.
Perhaps the contradictions present in the account give a foreboding glimpse into the turn of events, hearts, and minds that Passion Week brings. Perhaps it simply reveals the transience and indecisiveness of humanity.
Look at just a few:
The King of Kings riding a donkey’s colt…
The children praising and the learned scoffing…
The adoring praisers turning murderous rioters…
The healing of the lowly and rejection of the esteemed…
The rejoicing crowds and the weeping Christ.
None of it makes sense.
Isn’t 21st century life much the same?
And yet….there in the midst of it all…God is sovereignly working, orchestrating every moment for His purposes, according to His perfect plan.
““Tell the people of Jerusalem, ‘Look, your King is coming to you. He is humble, riding on a donkey—riding on a donkey’s colt.’” Matthew 21:5 (NLT)
The text is quoted by an eye witness — but it was originally written by Zechariah, a prophet who lived well over four centuries before Jesus ever rode into Jerusalem on that donkey’s colt. Even in centuries of divine silence, political chaos, and unimaginable personal suffering, God’s plan still came to pass – word-for-word.
And since our God does not change, the same is yet true today. What His Word has promised about the future will happen in His perfect timing — word-for-word.
Yes, God is sovereign. But how do we react when in the midst of seemingly contradictory life situations? Or, more specifically, how should we act?
I think we can find our answer in the characters of the Palm Sunday story. Let’s look together at five:
1. The crowds – quite content to be jubilant in their praise of the King on the colt. The Bible tells us their joy came from seeing His works (John 12:17-18, 37). However, praise based on works will never last (see Heb. 3), and soon the pressures of this world will entice us to turn on our Savior, just as the crowd did. We can never approach God solely on the basis of His miraculous works. It will lead only to temperamental praise and lukewarm devotion.
2. The disciples – not quite aware of the significance of what was happening (John 12:16) but yet completely obedient, even when Jesus’ command may not have made sense (Matt. 21:2-3, 6). They are an example to us: We may not understand exactly how God is working in a situation, but we can obey His voice no matter what He commands us to do. So doing might even enable us to be part of fulfilling prophecy, as was the case with the disciples!
3. The Pharisees – Supposedly the most religious of all, the Pharisees were more concerned about their own reputation than the fact that the Messiah – about whom they had devoted their lives to studying and waiting – was right in front of them. Literally. Their pride caused them to seek to silence the praise of the people (Luke 19:39) and forbade their own from expressing belief in Christ (John 12:42). Studying God’s Word is a healthy and worthwhile discipline to which all should aspire (cf. 2 Tim. 2:15). However, we must beware that learning does not lead to pride, for pride blinds the eyes and banishes the heart…so that Christ can stand right in front of us, and we will not see Him.
4. The blind and lame – upon arriving in Jerusalem, Jesus touched and healed those in need, as was characteristic. Despite the roaring praise of the crowd, He deliberately seeks out those lowest in society, those in greatest need, those with the least to offer in return for His kindness and compassion. How much more should we turn a deaf ear to the praise of the world and seek to minister to those in desperate straits!
5. The children – in the temple, it was not the Pharisees, the priests, or the scribes who sang the praise of Christ. It was the children. Perhaps this is why Jesus elsewhere exhorts His disciples to come to His kingdom as little children – innocent, full of wonder and faith. Sometimes, when it comes to faith in Christ, it would behoove us to put the books, commentaries, sermons, and lexicons away, quit trying to explain what we see, and simply…wonder at the beauty and majesty that is our Savior and our Lord.
Five characters. Five different responses.
This Palm Sunday, God confronted me with the question: Which am I?
Which are you? Really?
Because masquerades don’t last forever.
Palm Sunday teaches us that.
Five days later, much had changed.
Palms of praise turn into palms pierced.
Rapturous praise became riotous protest.
Adoring faces turn into angry fists.
Worship and triumph disintegrate into whips and thorns.
Palm Sunday. Good Friday.
Five days apart.
The King on a colt.
The King on a cross.
The Servant God.
Of the end.
Of the beginning.
“Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”