Devotional Thoughts for March 24, 2013/Palm Sunday
- Jesus' Royal Entry Into Jerusalem (St.John 12:12-19)
At length the time of the end had come to Jesus' public ministry. Jesus was about make entry into Jerusalem as King; King of the Jews, as Heir of David's royal line, with all symbolic, typical, and prophetic important attaching to it. Yet not as Israel after the flesh expected its Messiah was the Son of David to make triumphal entrance, not as proud triumph of war - conquest, but in the 'meek' rule of peace.
The crowd consisted of pilgrims who, as we have been told in 11:55 had come up for the passover in abundance, to purify themselves so as to be proper to celebrate the sacred festive of passover. Some of them were Galileans, who were excited at the arrival of the Galilean prophet or rabbi; others welcomed the opportunity to give fitting salutation to him who had recently raised Lazarus of Bethany (El-Azariye) from dead.
The palm branches which carried have given their name to anniversary of this event in the Christian calendar; Palm Sunday (though the day does not appear to have been on Sunday by John's chronology). What did the palm branches signify? Palm branches played no prescribed part at passover; it was at tabernacles that the people were commanded to rejoice before the Lord seven days with 'branches of palm trees' (Lev.23:40). From the time of Maccabees palms or palm-branches had been used as a national symbol. Palm-branches figured in the procession which celebrated the re-dedication of the temple in 164 BC (2 Macc.10:7). "Hosanna......King of Israel" these greetings are an elaboration of Ps.118:25, from a psalm of thanksgiving to the God of Israel for a victory granted to His people. The crowd, spelt out plainly what the psalmist meant, and what they meant. They had their own clear ideas of what the King Israel would do; Jesus, without repudiating the title which they gave Him, the military and political ideas which they associated with it by His continued action.
All this amazing enthusiasm and display of devotion had been very close to the surface not seated deeply enough. Much of the praise was worldly in content and motive, like the self-seekers who uttered it. They were reeds shaken by the wind, but deciding now which way the wind was definitely blowing. They were ready to turn about and join in the hoarse cry "crucify" when it became necessary to reign the favor of an evil religious hierarchy. Much of the enthusiasm was sincere, but still sadly mistaken as to the meaning and destination. Jesus did not enter Jerusalem in triumph as a mere creature of circumstance. He deliberately furnished the exciting impulse which touch off the popular demonstration. It was evidently the part of a deep-set purpose of the Master. He always kept full command of His campaign and refused to allow others, whether friend, disciples or foe, to dictate or even announce prematurely the course He followed. He parried the thrusts of His enemies and checked the movements of self-seeking friends.
His triumphal entry was the second and final climax in the popular movement which Jesus inaugurated. Since no one could foretell what Jesus would do, everything was tense with the excitement and expectation. He had not even made any prearrangement with the owners of the colt, He intended to ride. He selected two disciples and commanded them to go to the neighboring village of Bethphage (House of figs) and do the extraordinary thing. They were told exactly where they would find an ass and her colt tied in front a house which was situated where two roads met or in a curious bend in the road (Bethany, Bethphage, Mk.11:4, Gk.Text). They were not told to go into the house and ask permission to take the animals, but to untie the animals and take them without asking permission. They were given explanation to those who questioned them: "The Lord hath need for him."
Although Jesus brought it about that He entered the city in such a startling Messianic acclaim, yet His purpose was not selfish ambition or vain display. The triumphal entry cannot be separated from His crucifixion, even the latter cannot be separated from His resurrection. Jesus was deliberately coming up to Jerusalem to give His life as a ransom for the sins of the mankind, it was God's will that the sacrifice should be made in such a public manner that the attention of the world and the ages should be concentrated upon it. He was not to be assassinated or killed in a dark alley or His death in secret. The proof of crucifixion, burial and resurrection were to be made incontestable by the fact that the attention of the nation Israel and the rest of the world were concentrated upon those events. The triumphal entry threw down the gauntlet to the wicked leaders of the nation and the religious leaders in such a fashion that they could not silence or destroy the people who proclaim it. Thus the historical facts which are the foundation of the Christian gospel were tested in the most severe and terrible manner which the devil could invent at the very outset. Thus those in succeeding centuries, who, not having seen were yet to be asked to believe, should have the most complete and unshakable basis for their faith.
The triumphal entry was the prelude to the climatic teaching of Jesus in the furious days of discussion that followed in the temple. By this means Jesus sought to break the bonds of false tradition and false religious leadership which enslaved the nation of Israel. He earnestly sought to save Pharisees and Sadducees themselves from the bondage of the devil. The idea of Jesus deliberately riding triumphantly into the holy city, with praise of uncounted thousands who excitedly hailed Him as the Messiah seem to be opposite of the humble spiritual program which Jesus had promulgated. A closer study, however, shows that even in the hour of triumph, with eyes of the nation upon Him, He pursued the same spiritual course that He had in the homes of the sick and the outcast as He taught and ministered. He was to be seen meeting "triumph and disaster" and treating 'those two imposters just the same.' Although the triumphal entry stirred selfish followers to false hopes, it did not stir Jesus to false speech or action. Here as everywhere else there is seen the absolute perfection of God Himself in the person of His Son. It gave dramatic opportunity to contrast the worldly and the heavenly, and show once and for all that He would not batter His spiritual program for anything the world might offer.
The ancient world was not unaccustomed to triumphal processions, kings and military leaders riding in gilded chariots through the streets surrounded by legions in their armored might displaying the rich booty of their conquest. Contrast with those, the Son of God riding into Jerusalem on a young colt, the foal of an ass, surrounded by followers who sang of peace and of God's coming kingdom. Jesus of Nazareth was riding into Jerusalem not to destroy His foes, but to voluntarily to give His life to save them and all others who would accept God's mercy. Verily Caesar in all his glory and splendor was not arrayed as this ONE who came with the purity, humility and simplicity of heaven. "Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest." Amen.
(Wish every ICON reader a happy Hosanna and a blessed, sacred passion week and a wonderful mighty Resurrection of Our Lord). Amen, At His humble service,
Fr.Dr.V.C.Varghese, Sugar Land, Tx.