Read Mark 11:1-11
Instantly most of us think of palm branches, donkeys and Easter. It’s one of the best recognized Christian holidays on our calendar.
In some churches, children hear the story in Sunday school, wave palm branches while marching through the aisles of a worship service and picture themselves welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem. Nothing substitutes, however, for actually standing on the Mount of Olives to imagine the scene on the first Palm Sunday 2000 years ago. It’s a moving moment, even for the stoics.
The shouts of the crowd long ago provide some of the most familiar words in the Bible: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Mark 11:9b). Zechariah’s prediction was fulfilled in this moment: “See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, and a colt, the fall of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9b).
What was behind the events of that first Palm Sunday? Some Bible students believe that, when the people waved palm branches, they were making a political statement – like waving a national flag to commemorate when the Maccabees revolted against Antiochus, the Syrian tyrant. After all, palm branches were used to celebrate that victory!
For sure, some in the crowd hoped that Jesus would reestablish the glory of the Davidic kingdom to Israel. They thought He might be the One to fulfill the words of Isaiah: “In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.” (Isaiah 2:2).
The first coming of Christ was not designed to establish a political kingdom, however. In the eternal plan of the Father, Jesus came as a Suffering Servant who would be “…pierced for our transgressions, …crushed for our iniquities”. (Isaiah 53:5). Clearly “the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6b).
A few days after that first Palm Sunday, the religious leaders stirred up the crowd to yell, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Talk about the whim of public opinion! Is it hard to imagine that some of the same people who wanted to crown Jesus as king demanded His death a few days later?
Well, it’s not hard for me. As I look honestly at the cracks, crevices and corners of my life, I see the inconsistency, rebellion and sin in my own heart. I recognize that, at times, I “speak out of both sides of my mouth.” I pledge undying love and loyalty to my Lord and Savior yet still choose to disobey his clear guidance for my life.
I understand what Paul meant when he said:
“I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me” (Romans 7:21-24).
Is there any hope? Am I just doomed to imitate the fickleness of the 1st Century crowd that ultimately called for the crucifixion of my Lord?
The only answer is to immerse my heart, mind and soul with the following words of Romans: “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord…Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 7:25;8:1-2).