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"Sir, we wish to see Jesus" John 12:21
Palm Sunday   PALM SUNDAY

When Jesus was about 33 years of age he went up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. The Gospels are quite explicit in telling us that he knew it would be the last time for him. He mounted a donkey at Bethany, just over the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives and then descended the western slope into the city of Jerusalem itself. People strew their cloaks and branches of palm along the way. The palm was a sign of victory or triumph. This entry was an inaugural event and it took place on the first day of the week, which is a Sunday. Thus the commemoration of his entry occurs on Palm Sunday.

The expectation of the populace was that Jesus would set things right religiously and politically and economically. These were the expectations they had for the Messiah, son of David, who was to be Yahweh's anointed representative on earth. The corruption of the Temple establishment would be cleaned up. The domination by the foreign power of Rome would be vanquished. The poor would be fed. The theme of Passover is deliverance from bondage and the people were anticipating a new act of God to liberate them from their present oppression. Their expectations ran high, very high. But their expectations were dashed over the next several days and by the end of the week the crowd had turned against Jesus. The establishment was already against him. They had long perceived him as a threat to their power.

Jesus didn't set things right nor did he make the promises any king would to reassure his subjects. As for the Temple he prophesied its destruction. As for liberation from Rome he spoke of giving the emperor his due. And as for the material wellbeing of the poor he had on an earlier occasion rebuked the crowds by saying, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” Very few, if any, including his most intimate associates could discern a message of liberation in what he was saying.

We think small. God thinks big. It would have been a grand act of liberation to fulfill the expectations of the people of Jerusalem. But it could not compare to the greater act of liberation God was accomplishing through his Messiah. The prophet Isaiah spoke of this greater act when declared, “And he will destroy on this mountain (Jerusalem) the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is cast over all nations; he will swallow up death forever. Then Yahweh God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for Yahweh has spoken.”

The generation who saw Jesus enter Jerusalem and every previous and subsequent generation face a common enemy. The Jews and every race and nation face a common enemy. The poor and the rich together face a common enemy. And we are all absolutely powerless to defeat it. That enemy is death, and Jesus rode into Jerusalem to face it and destroy it forever and to deliver all who are held captive by its power.

(Painting by Master of Therison)

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