The First Palm Sunday: A Time of Transition
Have you ever noticed how people respond to change?
Some love it and readily adapt to it. Others gripe, grumble, and resist. But those who feel most threatened by change are the ones in charge of the old way– especially when the new way of doing things wasn’t their idea in the first place.
It’s the same today as it was in Jesus’ day.
When Jesus began His ministry, He began a transition from the law to life everlasting. The Pharisees, or teachers of the law, violently opposed Him because He threatened their secure positions socially, politically, and religiously.
But Jesus came into this world to seek and to save that which was lost. He came to save us instead of to hold us hostage to a lot of rules made up by the religious rulers of the day. And He performed miracles so that we might believe and have life in His name.
Some believed. Some didn’t. Some–like the Sanhedrin, the high Jewish Court of Chief Priests, Elders, and the Pharisees–wanted to kill Him. And the battle between good and evil raged on especially after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. But, that miracle gave the people hope.
“If He can raise Lazarus, He can raise us, too.”
Jesus’ miracles represented a real dilemma for the Pharisees. If they let Him go on teaching and working miracles, everyone would believe in Him. If everyone believed in Him, the Romans would take away their temple, their nation, and–to their way of thinking–the prestige of their position as teachers of the law.
But Caiaphas, the high priest that year, solved their problem when he said, “It is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”
The interesting thing is that Caiaphas didn’t know God had prompted him to prophesy that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation and all the scattered children of God. Caiaphas didn’t know that his actions would bring them together and make them one as Jesus said, “one flock and one Shepherd.” But Jesus knew.
When Caiaphas and the Pharisees plotted to take His life, Jesus withdrew with His disciples to Ephraim, a village near the desert, to continue teaching, encouraging, and preparing them for His death. Why? Because they would be the ones to spread the Gospel to the world.
Then six days before Passover, when the Jews celebrated God’s delivering them out of Egypt, Jesus and His disciples went back to Mary, Martha, and Lazarus’ home for a dinner in His honor. The next day a great crowd of Jews who had seen Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead heard that He was on His way to Jerusalem, so they went out to cheer for Him, wave palm branches, and shout, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord,” (John 12:13).
The whole crowd of believers shouted praises because of Jesus’ miracle, but the Pharisees jeered, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
Jesus replied, “If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
In other words, “If they don’t praise and honor Me, the stones will. The stones know –even if you don’t– that I am the Redeemer of all creation.”
I hope Jesus enjoyed that brief moment of praise during His entry into Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday. It was the only time during His ministry that He received a hero’s welcome.
But, “As He approached Jerusalem and saw the city, He wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you,’” (Luke 19:41-44).
In other words, they didn’t recognize Jesus as the Messiah. They did not recognize the time of His visitation here on earth.
As we celebrate Palm Sunday, I hope you recognize Jesus as the Messiah. I hope you will set aside a time to praise Him for who He is and all He has done for you. And if you don’t know Him as Lord and Savior of your life, I hope you will welcome a change in your beliefs and shout, “Hosanna!” For only Jesus can resurrect the dead to everlasting life.
Heavenly Father, Thank You for Your Son and for the brief time of praise He received while He was here on this earth. May He continually hear our praises now that He is safely back home with You.