Reflecting on Palm Sunday

Jerusalem’s Golden Gate

Yesterday was Palm Sunday, the day on the Church calendar when we celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem at the start of Holy Week. The Scriptural accounts paint a truly amazing picture: Jesus riding into the city on a donkey while people laid down cloaks and palms before him 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)

“Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:9–10)

“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:38)

“Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (John 12:13)

Perhaps even more amazing is Jesus’ declaration that if the people were not saying these things, “the very stones would cry out” (Luke 19:40). It’s no wonder the church reenacts this celebration every year.

I think, however, that we too often separate Palm Sunday from the rest of Holy Week. Yes, the atmosphere during the Triumphal Entry was celebratory, but other than Jesus, everyone involved was clueless as to how the week would end. We are not.

The very crowds that were yelling, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” on Sunday were yelling, ““Crucify, crucify him!” on Friday. The same disciples who were laying their cloaks down before Jesus and declaring him to be King on Sunday were denying and forsaking him on Thursday night. The celebratory worship that characterized Palm Sunday did not even last the week.

I have always found this extremely convicting. How often do I declare Jesus to be King and Lord on Sunday only to consciously deny him and commit the sins he was crucified for throughout the rest of the week? It’s easy to do what the people did on Palm Sunday, to get caught up in the momentum of a crowd and worship a popular God. It is much harder to continue to follow and worship a God who suffers and dies for others and calls his followers to do the same.

For me, Palm Sunday is always a reminder that the discipleship and worship that comes easy on days like Palm Sunday and Easter also needs to characterize my life on darker days like Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Jesus calls me to faith and obedience, whether the crowds are with me or not, and even if they are outright against me.

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