Palm Sunday: “Walking in Glory on the Way to Suffering”
Today is Palm Sunday which is also called Passion Sunday. This is the start of the Holy Week and my prayer is: get through this week to the victory of Easter with God granting us mercifully that we, walking the way of the Cross and following Jesus, may find the Cross none other than the way of life and peace. We cannot go to Easter without going through Good Friday.
On Palm Sunday, Jesus entered Jerusalem. Commonly seen in plazas, parks is a picture of what the world considers as a symbol of power and military might, that is, a statue of a man astride on a robust warhorse with a sword in hand. This is how man conquered and instilled fear in the hearts of people they wanted to conquer. It is a universal symbol of majesty like a king being on a throne. Yet Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey. The donkey is a symbol of peace and humility. Jesus displayed these and His instruction to His disciples was: get this donkey on which no one has ever sat on. All the emperors, kings and conquerors sat on big horses which was their throne. Jesus chose a throne no earthly king has ever sat on.
Imagine with me that you can travel back in time to the first Palm Sunday – maybe through the time machine named DeLorean or going through the ancient stone called Craigh na Dun. On the first Palm Sunday, you would see the hustle and bustle of the activities preceding the Passover. The Passover is like the Independence Day of the Jews. People from all over Israel come to Jerusalem yearly to commemorate their deliverance from the power of Egypt. For those who were nationalistic, it was a time where they would incite a nationalistic spirit and it was chance for a rebellion against the superpower that was oppressing them. They were commemorating their deliverance from Egypt, but now, they are under another superpower, which is Rome, so the thought of delivering themselves again was in their minds.
It was red alert for the military of the Roman government, which is why days before, Pilate entered Jerusalem with 600 horsemen behind him and hundreds more of foot soldiers to send a message to the people, “You don’t mess with the Roman government.” Of course, Pilate, who was leading them, would be like Alexander the Great, an image of strength and power, to put dread and fear in the hearts of the people.
Traveling through time, coming from 2019, you may be standing there with one of the centurions and then all of a sudden, you hear a commotion that keeps louder and louder as it nears you. There is a procession coming from East of Jerusalem, chanting something with people holding palm branches in their hands. The faint sound comes clearer and clearer and you and the soldiers realize that what they were saying was, “Hosanna, blessed is the king who comes in name of Lord!” If you are a soldier and you heard that there was a new king, you might think that those who were chanting this were rebels because they had a king in King Herod. The soldiers may think, “Who is this guy with a small band of followers claiming that he is king and they are declaring that he is the real king?” As they came nearer, the soldiers saw that the followers did not have swords but instead had palm branches in their hands. Leading them whom they were proclaiming as king was riding on a small donkey. The soldiers could have said, “What a joke! This is no king! A true king should be riding into Jerusalem armed to the teeth with shield, sword, and riding on a big horse.”
Being with the soldiers, you would tell them, “You might not believe this, but I came from the future. I came from 2000 years from now. The king whom you are ridiculing is being commemorated worldwide every year from today with this march into Jerusalem, and they call it Palm Sunday. However, no one remembers Pilate, Herod, the Caesars or Alexander and the others, only Jesus is remembered! Unbelievable, but it is true because I came from 2019.” Jesus’ triumphal entry is the real majestic event.
Alexander the Great conquered kingdoms 300 or 400 years before Christ, and also Palestine on a warhorse. His contemporary was the prophet named Zechariah. His book in chapter 9 verses 9 and 10 says, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 10 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim And the horse from Jerusalem; and the bow of war will be cut off. And He will speak peace to the nations; And His dominion will be from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth.” Zechariah had a vision that the true king is really not somebody who had a façade of strength. The true king is humble, a king of peace, and his kingdom will have no end, and the increase to his government and of peace will have no end. It will not only be eternal, but universal spreading throughout the world until all of the earth is filled with the glory of the Lord as the water covers the sea.
The mission of this King and His kingdom is peace. Psalm 33:17 says that a horse is a false hope for victory. It is not by man’s might or power that we conquer and subdue the earth. It is by the Spirit of God. Jesus’ followers were crying out, “Hosanna” which means to save us now. Save us now from the false ideology of using people, of manipulating people, and killing them so that there will be more for us. There is the practice of eugenics which determines if a human being deserves to live at birth because of genetic defects or having undesirable traits as they will be a threat to using the resources of the earth.
The King of the kingdom of God gives His life away. He serves and He is whom we follow. Five days from Palm Sunday, Jesus will show the way it is in this kingdom. He will show how is King and what kind of King He is. Five days from Palm Sunday is His coronation, and He will be crowned with a crown of thorns because He is absorbing all the evil – everything that man could throw at Him – and He will forgive them. He will sit on His throne which is the cross. He will wage war against the true enemy, which is principalities and powers and everything that destroys us and causes us to sin. On His throne, the cross, He will use His sharp two-edged sword which proceeds from His mouth. He will slay the enemy by saying, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.” The sharp two-edged sword with these words slays the enemy, and He will win the victory through this.
Philippians 2:5-11 says, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped.” Jesus is called the Second Adam. The first Adam was tempted by the serpent to grasp the opportunity to be like God. Jesus is equal to God, but He did not regard that as something to be grasped. Instead,“7 He emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Jesus humbled Himself, became obedient to His Father, and gave His life for the sake of the many. This is how Jesus gained the victory – not by trampling down on men; not but manipulating or threatening or conquering violently but by serving them and giving His life for them.
This is our God! This is our Lord! This is our King - the King of kings and the Lord of lords! I believe in the way Jesus rules and reigns. His law is love and His gospel is peace and there is no end to its increase. There are Caesar wannabes all over. There are Alexander the Great wannabes. They think that their muscles and big arms and chest, which is a false façade, false bravado, is the real image of strength. Sometimes, we pity them because many times, the reason they try to project such image is because they are insecure and they don’t want people to see their real weakness inside of them. God’s weakness is greater than man’s strength. God’s foolishness is greater than man’s wisdom so this is why we follow Jesus.
Jesus’s throne is the cross. The Cross is foolishness to man; it is foolishness to Greeks and stumbling blocks to Jews. The Cross may be weakness in the sight of others, but it is God’s strength. Though it looks foolish to wise men, it is God’s wisdom. This is how Jesus gained the victory. For this reason, God highly exalted Him and made every knee bow to Him and made every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.
In His kingdom, what is ridiculous is men trying to look strong on their own, when real strength is sitting at Jesus’ feet and acknowledging that we are nothing apart from Him. Real strength is perfected in weakness. What would look ridiculous is an image of a man in a warhorse or the superheroes because real strength and real wisdom and real reigning come from God.
Our mandate from Genesis is to rule the earth and to subdue it by serving not by climbing on people or using and manipulating people. It is by giving our lives to serve them. We would look ridiculous in the eyes of God and His people if we try to be a Caesar or an Alexander the Great or Rambo or Terminator. In the kingdom of God, the wise are shamed, the powerful are neutered, the arrogant are humbled, and the least are exalted. The servant of all is honored! We belong to an upside down kingdom and a peculiar kingdom.
I ask you then this question: who will you follow? Which procession will you join? Is it somebody with a big horse and a sword in hand or this meek, humble, Lord of lords and King of kings, mounted on a donkey whose followers wielded and waved Palm branches who are humble, peaceful, obedient to Him.
We sing, “Hosanna, Hosanna, see Him ride in majesty.” Only by understanding the kingdom of God will we see a Jesus mounted on a donkey riding in majesty. If we use the eyes of the world, what majesty looks like is a big horse and a steel sword. We will see Jesus ride in majesty with the eyes of faith, with the eyes of those who belong to the kingdom of God.
May Holy Week help us to have Jesus’ attitude in us – of humility, of obedience, of peace. May this week help us see the way it is in the kingdom of our God.