Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Significance of Palm Sunday

There is an excellent, detailed article about Palm Sunday, over at the WorldNet Daily website. There are many links included within the article which provide additional information about the Biblical history and significance of Palm Sunday.

The following excerpt is at the end of the article:

Jesus and his supporters began their descent from the Mount of Olives, following the road that faced the Second Temple and its massive platform, then the single largest man-made structure in the world. Whereas David's journey on this section of road had been marked by widespread weeping, heads covered in sorrow, robes and cloaks torn in grief, Jesus' followers were exuberant, lining the roadway with their cloaks and palm branches – making a smooth path so unlike the one the barefoot David walked.

And they were boisterous: "Hosanna to the Son of David!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!" "Blessed is the King of Israel!" "Hosanna in the highest!"

"Hosanna" – hosha'na in Hebrew. "Save now!"

By now, the crowd was massive and it distressed some of the Pharisees who watched. "Look, the world has gone after Him!" they said, echoing "The hearts of the men of Israel are with Absalom."

A demonstration like this could upset the Romans, especially if it continued into the city walls.

"Teacher," they said to Jesus, "Rebuke your disciples!"

Jesus refused. David may have been pelted with curses and stones, but on this day, he said, those stones would cry out to praise Him if His followers were silenced.

The gospels of Matthew and Luke both record Jesus stopping in the midst of the pandemonium and weeping over Jerusalem. In a dirge that mirrored David's for his dead son Absalom, Jesus cried, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem ..."


Anyone there that day who didn't understand what Jesus had just done simply wasn't paying attention. His dramatic use of history and geography left few ambiguities. It certainly wasn't ambiguous to those who began plotting to derail the Galilean before His apparent ambitions brought the wrath of Rome down on everyone's head.

Enter Judas, the treasurer for Jesus and his disciples. He's another link to David's story.

He, like David's most trusted counselor, Ahithophel, who had advised Absalom on how best to capture and kill the king, was a traitor. Judas told Jesus' enemies where his rabbi could be found and led the Temple guards to Gethsemane to take Him prisoner. His stint as a traitor, however, was short-lived and ended in suicide. So was that of his predecessor, Ahithophel.

"Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and ... threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself."

"Now when Ahithophel saw that his advice was not followed, he saddled a donkey, and arose and went home to his house, to his city. Then he put his household in order, and hanged himself ..."
Jesus' re-enactment of the Davidic drama had, by all appearances, been a catastrophic failure.

The masses that followed Him to Jerusalem scattered. Some, undoubtedly, joined the crowd that called for His crucifixion. His top disciple denied ever knowing Him. He was turned over to the Romans, stripped and executed.

Some king. Some restoration. Some making the past right again.


Even the disciples missed it. They'd heard Him talking about doing His Father's will which, He kept saying, included Him being killed. But the miracles and the crowds and the adulation on that perfect Sunday as He came down the Mount of Olives had made it easy to ignore what Jesus had said was really happening. And now, it was easy to see it all as one big failure.

But it wasn't.

Jesus had succeeded beyond anyone's imagination. He had reclaimed a kingdom – his Father's kingdom. He had conquered – sin and death, those twin tyrants that had occupied and oppressed all creation since Adam. The old church creed says he descended into hell – it's the image of a conqueror marching through his enemy's capital, wreaking havoc and collecting spoils, like Sherman through Atlanta. And, the gospels conclude with Him ascending into Heaven, enthroned to rule forever.

Hail, King Jesus! Hosha'na!

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