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Palm Branches

So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!’ And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,

‘Fear not, daughter of Zion;
behold, your king is coming,
sitting on a donkey’s colt!’ ~ John 12:13-15, ESV (cf. Psalm 118:25-26; Zechariah 9:9)

 

Today is the beginning of Holy Week or Passion Week, and it is so called because this week begins on Palm Sunday and ends on Resurrection Sunday. In other words, from this Sunday to next Sunday, Christian believers all over the world will be commemorating the suffering, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ.

Additionally, Palm Sunday (or Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion) is Christian believers’ moveable feast (a religious holiday that falls on different dates in different years). This moveable feast, however, always falls on the Sunday before Resurrection Sunday.

According to the Holy Bible’s Passion narratives, several days before Christ Jesus’ Passion actually begins, the Lord, while riding on the back of a young donkey, makes His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Palm Sunday, for Christ Jesus, is the day He journeys from Bethany, down the Mount of Olives, and into Jerusalem. Palm Sunday also is the day on which the Lord’s trip to Jerusalem becomes a parade to beat all parades, because it ends up being a parade of pain! Indeed, of all of the New Testament’s accounts of the Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, only the writer of the Gospel According to Saint Luke records that, as Christ Jesus draws nearer to the end of His journey, He weeps over Jerusalem and her citizens, and He weeps for His followers who would suffer for His sake and for the sake of His Gospel (cf. Luke 19:41-44).

On that Palm Sunday, nearly 2000 years ago, the Jewish people who went before Christ Jesus lined both sides of the trail ahead of the Lord, and some of them laid their garments on the ground, while others laid their palm leaves and branches in His way, so as to make the trail from Bethany to Jerusalem smoother for the Lord. Their actions, however, are examples of classic irony, especially since the palm leaves and branches they used symbolize a military victory. Put differently, the Lord’s Jewish brothers and sisters thought that His coming would gain a great military victory for them, one that would result in them being delivered from all of their oppressors, which is the main reason why these Jewish people were crying “Hosanna” or “save us.” Ironically, Christ Jesus’ First Coming is so that He would gain the victory over sin, but He achieves this victory by dying on the cross!

Despite the fact that the prophet Zechariah not only declares that Israel’s “King” is on His way but also describes the Lord’s triumphal entry, some five centuries before the birth of Christ Jesus (Zechariah prophesies around 520 B.C.; cf. Zechariah 1:1), both the crowd that went before the Lord, toward the city of Jerusalem, and the crowd that was behind Him (cf. Matthew 21:9; Mark 11:9), for the most part, saw Him as their promised military King who would defeat all of their enemies. However, what they didn’t take note of was the fact that, as prophet Zechariah specifically says, the Jewish King comes riding into the holy city on the back of a young donkey.

There can be no misunderstanding that the young donkey that prophet Zechariah predicts the Jewish King will ride symbolizes the peace mission this King would be fulfilling. Yet, it is obvious that so many of the Lord’s Jewish people’s eyes are closed to His true identity and to His God-given mission (cf. John 1:11). For sure, this spiritual blindness is mainly why the people in the two Palm Sunday crowds only want Christ Jesus to be the One who has come to fight their battles so that, as previously mentioned, they once and for all would be saved/delivered from their oppressors!

Therefore, because the crowd that is before Christ Jesus is spreading palm leaves and branches, and because both crowds are shouting “Hosanna,” yet they purposely are paying very little attention to the fact that Christ Jesus isn’t entering Jerusalem on a horse’s back, especially since a horse symbolizes war, it is evident that these two crowds’ love and respect shown to Christ Jesus via their palm leaves and branches, as well as their “Hosanna” shouts, only prove that both crowds are more concerned about who and what they expect the Lord to be and do, instead of proving that these crowds are certain about who Christ Jesus truly is and what He specifically has come to do.

Proof positive of this last statement comes some four days later. After the people in these two crowds collectively see that their desired and expected King and Savior has been brutally beaten beyond recognition, this united crowd’s Palm Sunday mood changes from adulation and affection to the Crucifixion Day’s disparagement and loathing. This now angry mob is showing Christ Jesus how much they detest and disrespect Him, especially when they repeatedly cry out in Luke 23:21: “Crucify him! Crucify Him!”

For all of the above reasons, we Christian believers who, beginning on this Palm Sunday and ending on Resurrection Sunday, will be commemorating our Lord’s suffering, crucifixion, and resurrection need to remember that, like the two combined Palm Sunday crowds in Jesus the Christ’s day, too many of us often only are showing the Lord we love and respect Him, primarily because we expect Him to do what we want Him to do for us. That’s why we need to remember that on Palm Sunday 2012, if we do not humbly serve our Lord, because we long to know and willingly obey God’s Will for our lives and His Will for our world, but instead serve Him because we are seeking Him for our own selfish desires, then there is no doubt that on 2012’s Resurrection Sunday we will continue to see our resurrected Christ Jesus as our personal supernatural genie, rather than revere Him as our only Lord and Savior!

In other words, without a genuine display of humility and without an unselfish display of our love and respect for our Lord’s atoning sacrifice, our compassion for His cruel suffering and merciless crucifixion will never measure up to the compassion Christ Jesus showed the world, when He fulfilled the prophecy about the Lord being the One pierced for our rebellions, crushed for our habitual sins, and punished just so that we could have peace and forgiveness  (cf. Isaiah 53:5). Put differently, whenever we are too busy thinking about ourselves and what we can get from Christ Jesus, we NEVER will be truly moved by our knowledge and understanding of the pain and suffering that were ahead for Christ Jesus, nor will we be moved by the sorrow our Lord demonstrated for the pain and suffering that were ahead for those who loved and followed Him. For these reasons, our “fake” compassion NEVER will measure up to our Lord’s compassion!

Once again, only our genuine humility, our unselfish desire to display love and respect for Christ Jesus’ atoning sacrifice, AND our public acknowledgment of Christ Jesus being our Lord and Savior to whom we have surrendered totally to His Desires and to His Lordship will cause the Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, and His victory over death, Hell, and the grave on Resurrection Sunday, to manifest an authentic deliverance in our lives! That’s why, like Christ Jesus, on this Palm Sunday, and every day, we need to be more concerned about the pain and suffering of others, as well as intensely empathetic and extraordinarily compassionate about Christ Jesus’ pain and suffering. Anything less will make our Palm Sunday’s welcomes and shouts for Christ Jesus just as superficial as were the welcomes and shouts for Him that the crowds on our Lord’s Palm Sunday displayed.

The bottom line is that, when Christ Jesus’ Passion does not move us, this result only can be because we, who were once habitual sinners, have forgotten that we are the ones who have inflicted this suffering on Christ Jesus. For this reason, we never should be a part of any crowd that ONLY can put on an impressive demonstration of humility, obedience, total surrender, love, and respect for Christ Jesus, while we are in a worship service, but then once we are outside the “church” doors we join forces with the kind of crowd that swiftly abandons Him!

So that we never move from being faithful followers of our Lord to being His fickle friends, who with alacrity welcome Christ Jesus with palm leaves and branches and shouts of Hosanna, but then turn against Him just as quickly as we supported Him, we, therefore, must remain His faithful followers by intentionally spending this Holy Week or Passion Week meditating on Christ Jesus’ Passion. Additionally, we indisputably must live a voluntarily obedient and a totally committed to Christ Jesus life, 24/7!