I bring this up because this week marks the beginning of a series of days and Sunday’s that make up “Passion” week. This is all about the Crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. These are some of my favorite non-gift giving holidays and even better, you probably won't hear a used car salesman urging you to come down for a "Palm Sunday" fire sale. This Sunday represents Jesus “triumphal” entry into Jerusalem on the back of a small donkey. What does this mean to us?
I remember as a child, (in church) we celebrated Palm Sunday by “re-enacting” Jesus ride into Jerusalem. Sometimes there was a small donkey that was led down the aisle of our Church, usually a small child riding it. And we all had our Palm fronds waving them and placing them on the floor so that the donkey could walk on them, and we would shout “Hosanna, hosanna to the King!!” We did that and at the time I could hardly appreciate it. Mark 11:
For the Jews at that time it could be compared to Jesus “throwing his hat” into the political arena of that time, and becoming a more traditional leader of the Jews. One who would take on the Romans with physical force, maybe raise an army. As it was, Jesus was making a radical statement in riding into town on that small donkey. He was openly declaring that he was and is the King of the Jews, and the promised Messiah, who would rescue them with his sacrificial death and atonement. He was pretty brave and so were his followers who openly acknowledged what he was doing in spite of the fact that there was “no king but Caesar” as they would later proclaim at his trial.
But where did that come from, how does riding a small donkey into a town square announce his Kingship? So I googled it and here is what I found:
The symbolism of the donkey may refer to the Eastern tradition that it is an animal of peace, versus the horse, which is the animal of war. A king came riding upon a horse when he was bent on war and rode upon a donkey when he wanted to point out he was coming in peace. Jesus' entry to Jerusalem would thus symbolize his entry as the Prince of Peace, not as a war-waging king
Why did Jesus ride an donkey? First he came in peace; and there are four scriptural references:
· The prophet Zechariah wrote: “Behold, your king comes to you, triumphant and victorious. He is humble and riding on an ass, on a colt the foal of an ass.” (Zech 9:9)
· The messianic sign was at once perceived by the crowds who hailed Jesus as their king shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matt 21:9) It is an acknowledgment that Jesus is the true Davidic Messiah and king.
· Secondly, an ass is integral to the story of Abraham’s offering of Isaac, a type of the oblation of the First Born Son as a sign of obedience.
· The third reason is that King Solomon rode to his messianic coronation on a mule that had once belonged to David (1 Kgs 1:33-44).
· Fourth, King Jehu rode into Samaria (a kind of false Jerusalem) over the garments of his adherents in order to destroy the temple of the false god Baal (2 Kgs 9:11-10:28). One of the first things Christ does upon entering Jerusalem is bring judgment to the Temple which has become a den of thieves.
So what does Palm Sunday have to do with us, in this so called “modern age”. Are we celebrating something that has already happened? Or are we celebrating an event that has yet to come? I believe that celebrating Palm Sunday is about freedom, much more than celebrating the 4th of July. What freedom is that, you ask? The freedom to worship the True God, the freedom to practice that pure religion stated in James 1:27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this; to visit orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world. And even more the freedom to love one another with the pure love of Christ. A freedom that is in peril, and that can sometimes be taken for granted.
Jesus died to set us free and he must enter the city this Sunday. So we celebrate Palm Sunday, not because Jesus brings a kingdom on this earth but because when this week is over, the doors to the Kingdom in Heaven will be open for all. We celebrate this Palm Sunday because, if we believe, we have found freedom and we have found the way to bring freedom into this world. Tony Mitchell; “Thoughts from the heart on the Left” Blog 2008
In Revelation 19, John the Beloved answers the end of our question, why are be celebrating Palm Sunday? He testifies that the Savior will return and He will return in victory, entering a symbolic Jerusalem on a white horse:
11 And I saw the heaven opened; and behold, a white horse, and he that sat thereon called Faithful and True; and in righteous he doth judge and make war.
The Lord's Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem