Apr 13, 2014 1
Can we remember from our Sunday School lessons – Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey, the crowds of common people going wild, welcoming him with shouts of praise, laying down their garments and palms spread before him on the dusty road. The images are strong; we took away mementoes of the cut palms we often kept for a year. The facts of the story were clear enough.
Jesus entered Jerusalem, having recently performed mighty miracles of healing and even raising Lazarus from the dead. The population marveled at His wisdom and power; His preaching and moral challenges; His feeding of peoples’ empty stomachs and empty souls.
By all accounts (even of skeptics of the day, and secular historians) Jesus was making a triumphal entry, as, today, a rock star or political favorite would do.
We even remember the anomalies: Why get in the face of the Jewish temple leaders who were poised to take Him down; why challenge the Roman authorities who tolerated everything except revolution among the Jewish masses? Or, why not walk boldly, why not enter on a charging horse, why not organize the adoring public?
We understood in Sunday School. Numerous prophecies were being fulfilled, down to the donkey and how it would be obtained by the disciples. We understood the meaning and significance of it all. But the multitudes that week in Jerusalem did not understand everything. Even the disciples themselves understood little.
We can recall those stories, and cherish those images, in the same way many of us tucked the palms behind pictures on the wall, or atop the bookcase with our Bibles. But have we forgotten the points of significance about Palm Sunday, the same way the people around Jesus never really understood everything?
They called out “Hosanna” and “Son of David” and shouted “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” but we know that the general enthusiasm of the crowd was for one they hoped would be a political savior. They craned their necks to see the one who performed all those miracles… but perhaps as curiosity to see a magician or celebrity. There probably were more shouts of “prophet” than “Savior,” but in either event the Chief Priests felt threatened.
In other words, many of those people hailed Jesus as the hope of quick fixes; momentary comfort; or as an emergency manager.
How about today? Jesus, after all, without much imagining on our part, is riding down that dusty road still, coming towards us. Do WE know who He is? Before you say “Of course,” remember that his disciples, who lived and traveled and ate and slept with Him for three and a half years – who saw miracles, had their lives touched, heard divine wisdom – even they did not understand everything about Him.
To many in the Jerusalem crowd, this Jesus was many things, but not always the Son of God, their Savior. With their passions and grievances, many of those people knew what they wanted, but they did not know what they needed. And day by day, the following week, the cheering people fell away. Remember, “He came unto his own, and His own received him not.”
I call Palm Sunday the national “Pick Your Own Savior” day, because this understanding, or lack of understanding, infects our lives no less. We, too, might speak words like “Lord” and “Master.” But how many people mostly regard Jesus as a crutch during crises? As a good-luck charm instead of the One who died for our sins? To how many of us is He a stranger… until we need Him?
Are we, too, like the rabble in Jerusalem? Oftentimes, we too know what we want from God, but we don’t seek what we truly need from Him. We lay down palm leaves according to our momentary agendas… for the health-crisis Jesus… or the financial-problems Jesus. But He is Lord of ALL: that is why He rode straight into Jerusalem.
Do we really think God’s plan is for us to pick our own Savior?
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The Jews of Jerusalem shouted “Hosanna!” based on the Hebrew word in Psalm 118:25 – “Save now, I beseech thee, O Lord: O Lord, I beseech thee, send now prosperity!” It has come to us a pure shout of praise, but had a subtext for those who laid palms.