Well, I started last week with a plan to have my own dedicated Holy Week. I did not want to distract from or get in the way from the Christian Holy Week that starts today, Palm Sunday.
Ending my holy week with some thoughts on what Palm Sunday means to me. This is day 1 of the Easter week, which commemorates that final week of Jesus Christ’s life. There is much to say about each day of the events that led to the Martyrdom or Crucifixion. Here is my brief view of that Sunday in his life. I am a born rebel, btw. The greatest heroes in the world for me are the ones that flip the proverbial finger at the institutions of the day, shake them at their core, and bring real light and truth into the world. Gandhi, Martin Luther King for example. The one redeeming quality of Donald Trump, is this very notion in my mind. The utmost hero in that regard for me was Jesus Christ, the ultimate antagonist and rebel of his day. Ok, my apologies, I just put Christ into the same sentence as a rude gesture, and Donald Trump – which was worse? However, my point is that Jesus’ was clearly a teacher, rabbi, a leader who was not shy about disrupting the status quo.
The Sunday before his death was no different. Jesus Christ’s actions on this day were calculated. He has spend three years teaching and travelling in Jerusalem and surrounding areas. He had stirred controversy, built a following and dodged any of the opportunities to thwart his efforts by Jewish religious leadership. He had certainly stayed under the radar of Roman authorities. Palm Sunday would be different. He was going to be very public in a very outstanding way. He was going to be very in the face of the established religious leaders, they would not be able to ignore or brush under the rug what would happen in Jerusalem this time.
He had just stayed some close friends the night before in Bethany. That is where he spend the Sabbath (Saturday). Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. You will remember that is written in the biblical account that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. This is significant, his fame was spreading rapidly since this had been rumored. This had caused some celebrity, multitudes would be gathered wherever Christ would make an appearance.
He took the journey from Bethany to Jerusalem, which by my calculations is about 3 miles. On the way, he asked some of his followers to get messages out ahead of his arrival in Jerusalem. He asked them to find a small donkey in a village they passed by. Please realize the significance. Jesus must have known very well the message that he was preparing to send. In Hebrew scripture there was a foretelling that the Messiah would come from the East, the direction of the Mount of Olives. That he would come “sitting upon an ass”. The entrance of the east wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem was known as the Golden Gate and was aid that it was the Gate of Mercy, the one in which the Messiah would ride in glory in the end times. It was also foretold that the Messiah would be known as a King of Peace, bringing an end to warfare for the Jewish people. FYI – this Palm Sunday event that Jesus orchestrated is why he is always referred to in Christianity as the Prince of Peace.
So Jesus came riding in from the East on a donkey (an ass), adorned in the robes of his disciples. Riding through the gates of Jerusalem on a donkey as opposed to a horse was an act of peace, not war. He then came through the Mercy Gate on the East end of the Temple mount, riding the ass and pulling a small colt foal as the scripture had foretold. To emphasize the statement even further, hordes of people were gathered to greet him, clamoring to see the miracle worker. He rode in triumphantly and as he did so something amazing happened. The people began waiving palm leaves and cloaks and started singing from one of the famed Psalms of David and then begin to lay the palms at his feet as he comes into the Temple grounds.
This act alone was enough to send shock-waves into the religious leadership of the day. He was effectively claiming to be the Messiah, the people were receiving him that way and he also was directly fulfilling Jewish prophecy. Controversial indeed! Whether you believe in the divinity of Christ, that he was a great religious leader, there is one thing you have to admit. He was an absolute master at influencing the hearts and minds of the people around him. The impact of that moment on Palm Sunday are still being felt today as billions of people are preparing to proclaim him the “Savior of the World” today.
Of course, this was not the only event that marked Palm Sunday. He also beings preaching confounding doctrine in the Temple area, surrounding himself with younger people to avoid being arrested. He begins speaking in parables so as to avoid being directly accused of violating any laws. His parables become increasingly inflammatory. In an altercation inside the temple, he states that he could build the temple in 3 days if it were to be destroyed. What he talking about the building, or was he issuing a challenge? Slay me and watch what happens? Destroy my body and in three days, I will restore it again.
He then built a makeshift whip and then started to chase all the money traders and merchant men selling wares out of the Temple. He effectively threw people out what he said was “My Father’s House.”
The day ends with Jesus attending an invitation for dinner, in which a woman uses expensive ointment, her tears and her own hair to wash his feet. The well to do man was not quite prepared for the verbal dressing down he would get that evening when he tried to accuse Jesus of not being a prophet if he could not tell what a sinful woman this was that touched him. Jesus prophesied his death and in the same breath reminded the man that he had forgotten, at the very least, to extend common decency to his guests. In that moment, he concluded the day with perhaps the most controversial act and statement of the day. He looked directly at the woman and told her – “Thy Sins Are Forgiven.”
The gloves were off now. Not only did he orchestrate the triumphal entry, but the people had also proclaimed him Messiah. He taught controversial doctrines on the very porch of the temple, cleansed the temple of money sellers on the most profitable week of the year, directly challenged Jewish authorities to attempt to slay him and proclaimed that he had the right to forgive sins.
Yeah, big day. That is how the last week of his life starts!