MY REFLECTION ON THE SIGNIFICANCE OF PALM SUNDAY AND PASSION WEEK
alm Sunday, a glorious day, a day that is usually described as the Day of Jesus Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. Before the day Jesus had sent two of His disciples to go ahead to a nearby town where they would find a colt, which is a young donkey that no one has ever ridden. He told them to untie the donkey and bring it to Him. He added that if anyone would ask what they want to do with the colt, they should say that He the Lord has need of it. Note that Jesus said nothing about what He was going to do with the colt.
Everything happened as Jesus had informed the disciples on the errand. On return, Mathew 21:7: says that the people brought the donkey to Jesus. The people spread their clothes on the donkey. Then the people sat Jesus on the donkey. The people spread their clothes on the road that Jesus would pass. Others plucked the palm tree branches and laid them on the road that Jesus would pass. Many people, the multitude, as the Bible calls them, started going before Jesus and many more were coming behind him. All of them were in joyous mood and exuberance shouting and praising Jesus saying "Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest". Note the role of the people in all these. The people were all involved in the activities of the day. It is what we call Collective Behavior in Sociology. The people were very excited about Jesus. They were hailing Him. They all wanted to be part of this significant celebration.
At this point I could not help asking "Why were the people so excited about Jesus coming in to Jerusalem?" Remember, before this event, Jesus had been performing various miracles, healing the people, teaching the people, preaching to the people and feeding the people. This meant that many, if not all of them had been touched by Jesus in one way or the other. He has fed some, He has healed some, and He has taught some. Every one of them had a personal reason to be there. Some may even have just heard of Him and were curious and wanted to see for themselves. Another reason could be that the people had come to some great awareness and revelation that Jesus was not just a Teacher, a Healer, and a Provider of food. But that Jesus was the Messiah that they have been waiting for, the Redeemer from God who would deliver them from the oppression of the Romans.
The remarkable thing about it all was that these people's response and reaction to Jesus arrival was spontaneous. Nobody told them what to do. There was no leader mobilizing this mass movement. There was no grass root organized rally to welcome Jesus. The activities and involvement ALL just happened.
The people felt a stirring within them, an urge to give something to Jesus out of the abundance of their hearts and their gratefulness for who He is and what He has done for them. Something welled up inside of them and they just started worshipping and praising Jesus. This spontaneous reaction is the most notable thing reported in the bible: Men pulling off their clothes, women spreading their shawls, on the road, younger people climbing the trees to see more of what was happening, more people tearing off more palm trees branches and children picking handful of spring flowers in Jesus path, more people running down the road just to join the crowd. Wow!!! What a sight!!!! How remarkable!!!.
My second question is: Suppose Jesus suddenly shows up physically in a congregation on Palm Sunday walking down the aisle and we know for sure that the person walking down the aisle is Jesus the Christ, what would you and I do? What would be our reactions collectively and individually to Him showing up in our space? I know, some would dismiss it as a ruse, a trick, a fake. Jesus himself has said in the last days there would be many who would call themselves by His name. Some would be skeptical and will pay no attention. Yet some would not be too surprised because Jesus has warned that He will show up like a thief in the night, and so they would indeed welcome Him. Some would remember the good things that He has done in their lives and so they would see it as an opportunity to personally worship Him in thankfulness and adoration. There will be a wide range of reactions. I don't want to guess what anybody's personal reaction would be. But I want all of us to give it a thought. We are the only one to define what our reaction would be. It is worth trying !!!!!.
However in my continued reflection I decided to focus on Jesus' reaction to all the adoration, the praises, the adulation and the excitement all around Him. This definitely was not Jesus' first visit to Jerusalem for the Passover. I am sure Jesus has been attending this annual event quietly participating in the celebration. Remember He was a Jew and the Passover is a significant religious event of the Jewish people. On the previous occasions, it did not seem that Jesus had drawn any attention to Himself. Remember at most times before now, whenever Jesus performed a miracle he would actually tell the people not to say anything about it to anyone. Then He would secretly just slip away. The case of the man born blind is an example. Jesus was in most cases private and discreet.
But on this particular Passover celebration, Jesus chose to make this grand entry, to have this elaborate parade to show up in Jerusalem, getting a donkey, riding it, and having all these people showing up in this flamboyant display of affection. Jesus was watching it all, I am sure in quiet bemusement, taking it all in, and I think quite pleased with what He saw. But note: JESUS DID NOT STOP THE PEOPLE. In fact He allowed them to mill around Him. He allowed them to stretch their hands, reaching out to Him, wanting to touch Him as He approaches, their hearts full of joy, as they all continue to revel in the momentous occasion. Jesus knew what was coming at the end of it all.
In another account in Luke 19:39-40 the Bible says that when the Pharisees saw all the excitement of the people, they were all surprised and irritated. They had hitherto been suspicious of Jesus wondering who He was, healing people, feeding people, raising people from the dead. Their suspicion of him had been growing and Jesus was becoming a threat to their position as leaders. On this day, they decided that they were not just going to stand around and do nothing. So they went near to Jesus and told Him to tell all His followers to stop all these commotion. Ah!!! Jesus gave them an astounding and astonishing response. He said that if He stopped all the people from worshipping and praising Him, all the stones on the ground would immediately rise up and replace the people, and the Pharisees would still hear the loud worship and adoration going on. WAOW!!!!
Stones praising Jesus, Inanimate objects coming alive to sing praises to Jesus the Lord of Lords, Jesus the King of Kings, Jesus the Glorious one. What Jesus was saying is if we humans do not find it in our hearts to praise Him, lifeless things would rise up in replacement and continue the worship and adoration of the Lord. The truth is by allowing the exuberance of the people, Jesus expects it, He desires it, and He approves of it. Remarkable isn't. David in Psalm 150:6 says "Let everything that has breadth praise the Lord". Thank God for the various enactments of Palm Sunday in all the mainstream Christian demonstrations all over the world that celebrate the Palm Sunday. Many of them demonstrate in their own way, in various measures their exuberances for the Lord, giving due honour to Jesus in all those processions throughout the world.
On Palm Sunday while celebrating Jesus Triumphal Entry to Jerusalem, we are reminded that it is the beginning of the Passion Week, at times called the Holy Week, the week when the reason for Jesus coming to earth became fulfilled. In the excitement of Palm Sunday we are usually reminded that it was during the Passion Week that Jesus was arrested, tried, found guilty, sentenced to death, nailed to the cross, where He died on Good Friday. It was during the Passion Week Jesus was dragged to the Criminal Justice system, before the Roman Judges. False charges were brought against Him by the prosecutor. He was accused of all sorts of things, including calling Himself the Messiah. Jesus was required to defend Himself. He did not have the privilege of a defense lawyer. In His defense the bible indicated Jesus said nothing. He had known all these would happen and it would all lead to the fulfillment of His sojourn on earth.
It was during the Passion Week that Jesus had the Last Supper with His disciples, and initiated what we call the Eucharist or Communion which is a significant ritual and practice that all Christians are required to participate in. It was during the Passion Week that Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray and sweats of blood flowed from his body. It was during the Passion Week that Jesus was beaten with the whip, and received 39 lashes on His body.
It was specifically during the Passion Week that the reason Jesus came to the world was fulfilled. Jesus came to rescue us from the miry clay, to take us from darkness into His marvelous light, to save us from sin, to reconcile us with the Father so that we might have eternal life, and be able to stand spotless before God at the end of time. It was during the Passion Week that the question of "who killed Jesus" came up. Jesus Himself answered the question; He said that nobody had any control over his life not even the rulers of Rome. He said that He WILLING gave up His life for mankind, to achieve salvation for all, for you and for me. Note the willingness on the part of Jesus. He was not coerced into doing anything. Jesus did not resist arrest. He did not refuse trial. He did not evade the punishment for the trumped up charges against Him. Even though not guilty of anything, He was condemned to death. He willingly allowed the punishment and willingly went through with it. We can spend a long time thinking of the implication of all these. Food for thought!!!!
It was during the Passion Week that Jesus forgave one of the thieves on the cross, crucified alongside with Him that we may know that there is Salvation even at the last moment. It was during the Passion Week that Jesus said "It is finished", when after all the suffering, He hung his head and expired, the indication of a "fait accompli" meaning that He has accomplished all that He came to do. It was during the Passion Week that the whole world began to realize the importance of the Death of Jesus on the Cross, (the Crux of the Cross, as some theologians call it). Many others have been crucified on the Cross. But Jesus' death on the Cross is different. It has its own significance. The picture of Jesus on the Cross moves us to see ourselves as new person in Christ. Accepting Jesus on the Cross is accepting Jesus full pardon and complete forgiveness of sins. The Death of Jesus on the Cross calls us to repentance and complete trust in Jesus as a Personal Savior.
Passion Week was very emotional for Jesus, for His disciples, for His family, and for all around Him. Passion Week ahead also has a lot of meaning for us. It is the time for us to allow ourselves some thoughts about the Passion of our Lord Jesus Himself. It is a time to walk that last journey with Him, allowing us to experience in a slight portion of what He experienced during that week. It is a time of sober Reflection, a time of Triumph, and a time of Hope.
Finally the Passion Week is a time to be reminded of what must be at the end of time. Eschatology it is called. Revelation 7:9-10 says "After these I looked and saw a great multitude which no one can count, people of all nations, tribes, tongues, different languages standing before the Lamb, Jesus, clothed with white robes with Palm branches in their hands crying out with a loud voice saying "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb". Verse 13 reads "Then one of the elders answered saying to me who are these arrayed in white robes and where did they come from?" Verse 14 adds: "So he said to me these are the ones who have come out of tribulation and washed their robes and made them White in the Blood of the Lamb". The Blood of the Lamb was shed during the Passion Week. The Blood of the Lamb cleanses us, when we simply accept Jesus as the Saviour. The Blood of the Lamb makes us white when we acknowledge it and allow it to flow over us.
At the end of Passion Week we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus. Everything that Jesus did during the Passion Week was sealed and made secure by His VICTORY in Resurrection. The Resurrection establishes Jesus supremacy over death. As we can see, the Significance of Palm Sunday and the Significance of Passion Week are intertwined. They both MUST NOT BE LOST on us. Palm Sunday is also a Dress Rehearsal of what we will be doing at the end of time: all dressed up in white, with palms in our hands, singing praises to our God. We know this because we have been given the hope and the assurance that we are among the Saved and the Sanctified ones because we have received what was achieved at the Cross, during the Passion Week.
May we be counted among the multitudes and multitudes and multitudes clothed in White, with Palms in hands forever singing praises to the Lamb who died on the Cross. Amen Amen Amen.