Reading for Palm Sunday
Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29.
Peace be with you!
Jesus’s entrance into Jerusalem for the final time before his crucifixion takes a bit of preparation, but Jesus has it planned out to a “T.” While still on the outskirts of Jerusalem, Jesus sends two disciples to a village to get a colt and to bring it back to him. Roman officials commonly requisitioned animals and human labor. The fact that Jesus instructs the two disciples to say, “The Lord needs it” (Mark 11:3), tells the owners that a powerful man needs the colt. However, Jesus’s promise to return the colt immediately sets him apart from other rulers.
Now, the colt is significant for a few reasons. First, Jesus was the first one to ride it, which would have been an honor to an important Roman official. Jesus enters Jerusalem on a young colt as a king. Second, Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a colt fulfills Zechariah 9:9:
Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Lo, our king comes to you:
triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on a donkey
on a colt, the foal of a female donkey (NRSV).
Jesus presents himself as the long-awaited king of Israel, the Messiah. Even though the disciples and the crowd may have missed the significance, Jesus has now made it known to all that he is the Messiah. The crowd and his disciples may have acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah but may also have understood his role as being the one who would conquer the Romans as a military hero, not as the Son of God who would die for their sins and redeem them to be in a relationship with God the Father.
As we celebrate Palm Sunday, we cannot help but get caught up in the excitement of welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem. A crowd welcomes Jesus into Jerusalem by laying down their cloaks and palm branches in his path. The crowd yells, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Mark 11:9-10 NRSV). One cannot deny the excitement of the crowd, excitement that Jesus would rescue them at last from the Romans.
Jesus carries out a careful plan to reveal himself as the Messiah—the one sent by God to free believers from their sins. As readers, we can identify Jesus’s entrance into Jerusalem as a messianic action. We understand the significance behind every little details. Jesus is beginning to prepare for the events of redemption.
As we begin the Holy Week journey, put yourself in the different characters’ mindsets. Feel their fear and joy as they watch the unfolding of Jesus’s crucifixion. Ask yourself where you are in the story.
Go out into the world and shout, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Mark 11:9-10 NRSV). Welcome Jesus into your town and into your home. Celebrate Jesus’s Messianic claim. Jesus may not be a king in quite the way we expect, but he is still King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for how Jesus entered Jerusalem as king, giving us a reason to celebrate his Messianic claim. Help us to claim Jesus as our Messiah in a world where it is easier to deny him or reject what his kingship means for us. Remind us of your glory this coming Holy Week as we walk beside Jesus and watch him be the ultimate sacrifice for our sin. Thank you for your glory. Amen.
Please answer the following reflective questions in the comments below. Please agree to disagree and be respectful to each other. (If you have not already done so, please also take a moment, to sign the behavior covenant by commenting on it.) You can answer as many questions as you would like.
- Where are you in the story of Palm Sunday? Are you with the crowd shouting “Hosanna”? Or are you hiding in fear of the Pharisees? Are you understanding Jesus’s goal and confusing it with your own?
- How would your congregation welcome Jesus into your church?