This upcoming Sunday is Palm Sunday and it’s the day that we joyfully remember Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem at the end of His earthly ministry. After Palm Sunday comes Easter when we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection and conquering death. In between these Sundays, there are lots of events that spiral into Jesus’ death on the cross on Good Friday.
With that said, I really like Palm Sunday because it’s a giant party to celebrate Jesus! In the Gospels, when we read about His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, it’s a massive outpouring of celebrating, exalting, heralding, welcoming and worshipping Jesus. Indeed, according to Matthew 21:10, all of Jerusalem was in an uproar to acknowledge and welcome Jesus!
To honor Jesus’ arrival, the crowds laid out palm branches and their coats or garments on the road for His entrance (hence the term “Palm Sunday”). Everyone behind and in front of Jesus was shouting,“Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9). So as Jesus made His way into Jerusalem, He was in the middle of a huge crowd of people who were expressing an overflow of welcome and excitement for Jesus coming to Jerusalem.
Why was there such an outpouring of people and adulation for Jesus coming into Jerusalem?
- The current trend – Maybe the people celebrating Jesus’ arrival didn’t really know who Jesus was and maybe they were caught up in a mob mentality to welcome a prophet from Galilee, as it says in Matthew 21:11.
- Political reasons – Maybe lots of the people celebrating Jesus expected Him to be the man to overturn the Roman occupation and establish Israel as an independent country.
- Divine intervention – Maybe there were some folks in the crowd who had heard about or experienced Jesus’ miracles, healings and supernatural provisions.
- Counter-point to the religious oppression – Maybe there were people in the crowd who saw Jesus as an alternative to the daily norm for Jews endeavoring to sincerely worship God.
I suppose that the crowd who turned out to welcome Jesus into Jerusalem was comprised of a wide variety of people with diverse motives and hopes. And maybe our modern world isn’t all that different, in terms of what people want from Jesus, including popular trends. No doubt that there are plenty of people who see Jesus mostly from a political viewpoint, wanting Him to establish righteousness governance. It’s equally true that there are plenty of people who both want and need miracles from Jesus. And there’s definitely a pocket of people who want Jesus to overthrow the established religious traditions and conventions that can be oppressive and exclusive. We all have our motives for desiring and welcoming Jesus.
What I would like to consider in relation to our various motives is how this crowd of celebrators turned on Jesus in less than a week and called for His crucifixion. I bring this to your attention because crowds can be really fickle – zealous and jubilant one day and malicious and deadly within a few short days.
How do we avoid such severe swings in perceiving Jesus? I would suggest that we pay attention to our motives for celebrating Jesus. If we have purely political motives for promoting Jesus, then we might fall victim to being disappointed and disillusioned if political outcomes don’t agree with our convictions. If we have purely religious motives for promoting Jesus, trying to control and manipulate people to align with our convictions, then we could be vulnerable to bitterness and disdain for those who are “other.”
When we think about celebrating Jesus on this Palm Sunday, let’s worship Jesus for Who He truly is: the Savior of the world, lover of our souls, sacrifice for our shortcomings, God’s Son and our Good Shepherd. Let’s allow Jesus to be lots better and bigger than the tiny political and religious paradigms that constrict His true identity!