Palm Sunday
Kylejohnson   -  

Palm Sunday is such a momentous day, a day we, the church, celebrates the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. We call it Palm Sunday because of the palm branches and coats that people spread out before Jesus, a sort of a carpet of praise toward Israel’s long-awaited Messiah.

Not everyone praised. The Pharisees had a problem, not with the branches or the coats, but according to Luke they had a problem with the phrase “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” They try to get Jesus to make the people stop because this was not just any phrase, this was the phrase that was reserved for Israel’s Savior.

The Pharisee’s understood that this phrase was found in the poetry of their scriptures. Psalm 118 rejoices in the presence of the Savior. In verse 22, the Savior is called the cornerstone which is rejected. That rejection sets off the day of salvation (verse 23). Israel thought that day might never come but it does and Psalm 118:25 captures the hope when it says, “Save us, we pray, O Lord!”

This salvation will come through one person, the anointed one, the Messiah, the one sent to rescue his people. So, the shout goes out in Psalm 118:26 “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” This crowd, making its way into Jerusalem with Jesus is taking its cues from Psalm 118. That is why the Pharisees tell Jesus to stop them. “Do you hear what they are saying? They think you are the Messiah, the one who has come to save us. Tell them to stop!”

Jesus does not stop them, instead he points out that if they stop the very stones will cry out! Why? Because he is the Messiah, the one who has come to rescue his people. However, that is where the people now had a problem. They were all hip on having a Savior. They wanted a Savior, one who would march into the streets and free them from the Gentile oppressors, even if it had to happen by force, even if it took threats and plagues and a sea divided in two as they could so readily recount from their history. They wanted another exodus, one that threw out the Romans.

Instead, what they got by Friday morning was a beat up, bruised, and bloodied man who was in Roman custody. A man who was rejected by their own leaders and standing next to the infamous criminal known as Barabbas. They wanted an insurmountable king but at least from the outside what they got was a beaten blasphemer.

The Palm Sunday praise of “Blessed is He” from this same crowd would turn into betrayal chants of “crucify him!” That is what makes Palm Sunday a bit of a tragedy. Yet, as we see their blindness, we should not really expect that we would be any different. We know our hearts apart from God’s grace and forgiveness. If we could hear the crowd, we would probably recognize our own voices shouting along with theirs. Shouts of praise on Palm Sunday that turn to shouts of “Crucify Him!” on Good Friday.

Thankfully, we remember Jesus’ words, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:23.

-Pastor Ken Harste