When I was a little girl my father was stationed overseas and we could not go with him. In those day, we called it going “remote”. We… my mother, my siblings and I, lived with my grandmother during this time. I had an amazing father and I missed my daddy very much. Fourteen months is a long time for a little girl to go without her Daddy! But my mother and grandmother kept us busy with family life and school filled my days and the time passed. These were the days of no smart phones or computers. My daddy wrote to my mother every day and my mother wrote almost as often. Once we recorded a message to my dad on a big reel tape recorder and sent it to him. I thought that was amazing! We missed over a year of holiday’s and birthdays with my wonderful father…
When his tour was just about ending the anticipation of my daddy… my hero… coming home was almost too much to stand! I could not wait to see and hug and just be with him!
The day (or should I say night) he came home was one of the best of my life! Finally, finally what I had hopped and dreamed and longed for had come! My daddy was coming home! I remember that homecoming with tears in my eyes to this day!
You might be asking yourself, “What does Yvonne’s story have to do with Palm Sunday”? I’m so glad you asked.
Let’s shift gears for me to explain.
We need to go back in time and location to Jerusalem in the early part of the first century. It is a bustling, center-of-the-world land. Filled with people from the nation of Israel and many other nations too! It was a nation filled with Romans! Why Romans? Rome had conquered much of the world at that time and Israel was one of it’s conquests.
Let’s go back to just before the time of the Passover Feasts… a trio of God ordained Feast days. The Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of First Fruits. These were mandatory feast days for the Jews, with very few exceptions. So almost all of the Jews living in Palestine at that time were tightly gathered in Jerusalem to offer sacrifices at the temple and take part in a nationwide convocation. During this time, and especially this particular year, the city and surrounding area were also teaming with Roman soldiers keeping the “Pax Romana” or peace Roman style. There had been uprisings by the Jews and unrest. Many Jews wanted liberation from Rome!
Now let’s focus in on Jesus. During the time we are talking about, He is a miracle maker… a rebel… a rockstar! One things Jesus was not was obscure! His ministry had become renowned. Some loved Him, some hated Him, more probably followed Him to see the signs and wonders He would preform as He spoke of the kingdom of God with great authority. An authority that was blasphemous to the Jewish leadership.
One thing that was always in Jesus’ wake was controversy.
Controversy that quickly turn into a direct conflict between Jesus and the Jewish leadership. It had been building like steam in a pressure cooker. The tipping point was when Jesus raised His friend Lazarus from the dead. This had happened days before the Passover feasts!
Jesus was powerful, too powerful and his massive following a threat to the stability of Jewish leadership and Roman occupation!
Jesus spoke with an authority like never heard before. He called God HIS father. In essence, Jesus was proclaiming Himself the long awaited King of the Jews… the Messiah! So frightened of losing power and control over Israel, the religious Jewish leadership was openly trying to seek Jesus’ death. They were not looking for a king like Jesus. They did not believe He was the leader the Jews had been anticipating for centuries!
But, He was and is!
Jesus, like all good Jews, came into Jerusalem for the Passover feasts with his disciples. When the multitudes in Jerusalem heard that Jesus was entering the city they came out to the Mount of Olives (just outside the city) to meet Him.
These crowds of people started casting their cloaks down to make a road for Jesus, an ancient expression of honor and submission. They also cut branches from palm trees and some spread those before him too. Many of the crowd were carrying and waving palm branches, a symbol of victory. National victory over the oppressive Roman empire. Most in the crowd saw Jesus as the leader to set up the earthy self-rule of Israel overthrowing the Roman Empire.
They were greeting Jesus as a triumphant king, coming into the capital city to overtake it. They thought that Jesus would lead a military uprising against the Roman occupiers and usher in a government that would set all things straight. There cries of Hosannah… “save us” or “God saves” were evident of this.
Finally, the long awaited Messiah was coming home! The hero of all heroes was coming home to Israel. They had waited so long! He would make all things right again for the Jews who had been captured and overrun and abused by conquering nations for centuries! And the fulfillment of prophesy and Scripture about the Messiah was taking place before their very eyes! Prophesy and Scripture that all Jews knew full well!
Jesus, the Messiah, the King of the Jews, the Savior of the world was coming down the Mount of Olives through the throngs of ecstatic Jews riding on a donkey… the foul of a donkey. The imagery is rich and so important!
In ancient times if a king would come into a land that had been overtaken by his country riding on a white horse he came as a conquering king! He would be ready to set up HIS style of government and meter out HIS type of judgement HIS way!
The Jews were expecting their Messiah to be a riding-on-a-white-horse-kind-of-king! Full of power and fury!
However, if a king rode into a land he had overtaken riding on a donkey it was a symbol that he had come as a peaceable king. A king of kindness and grace and well, peace.
You see, this was Jesus’ kingly entrance into the capital city of Jerusalem. Jesus was coming in as THE King of peace! The peace He offered was not between the Jews and the Roman empire. It was much, much greater! It was the peace between God and man!
If only the nation Israel had understood as a whole. They had the Torah (first 5 books of the bible), the Prophets, the covenant, the Temple, the promises and more. A handful knew and believed! But for the most part the nation did not!
Jesus would die only a few days later. Nailed to the cross in the most degrading and torturous way. The sins of the whole world would be put on His sinless body. Your sins and my sins. He would die in our place and pay the debt for sin we could never pay! Then He would be raised from the dead showing He was and IS the victorious King. The King over sin and death. Our sins and eternal separation from God! And because of this here’s what Romans 5:1 says about all those who accept Jesus’ gift of salvation…
Therefore, having been justified (made not guilty of our sins because Jesus died for them in our place) by faith (believing that Jesus is your Savior and submitting your life to Him) we have peace with God!
Jesus’ first trip to planet earth was one of setting things right between God and man. Not man and man! He came to this world with a gospel of peace and forgiveness and repentance and love! And this gospel was and is for EVERYONE!
But, He is coming back! Know this like you know your own face in the mirror!!!! HE IS COMING BACK! But the next time Jesus comes back he will be riding on a white horse!
And I saw heaven opened: and behold, a white horse and He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True; and in righteousness He judges and wages war. Revelation 19:11
Are you waiting for him? Do you anticipate the Hero of the world’s second coming. When He comes again it will be to set up His kingdom on earth.
Many of us will receive palm branches today in church. A symbol of Jesus first coming as the KING OF PEACE and the salvation He offers us. A victory indeed!
But, let’s not forget to look ahead! Our King is coming! He is coming on a white horse to set all things in order! Let’s wave our palm branches before the KING… the Overcomer… the Victor…Our Redeemer!
And as the ancient throngs of early believers would say…
MARANATHA which means “THE LORD IS COMING”. Come quickly Lord Jesus!
This week’s memorization verse is…
“Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the king of Israel!” John 12:13