Preparing for Palm Sunday
And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”
And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, (Luke 19:25-31 ESV)
He came from the west.
As Jewish people from all over the country came to Jerusalem, he came in from the west. The city of 40,000 people would have swelled to a city of 200,000 as everyone came to celebrate the Passover.
They gathered to celebrate over the course of several days how God had once saved them from oppression of a corrupt ruler in Egypt. They would celebrate how their God had freed them from their slavery. They would celebrate the power and majesty of their God and how much he loves his people. Their passions would be stirred, and they would be dangerous.
It was a perfect storm waiting to happen. All it would take was an incident…one small spark to set off a fire in God’s people to revolt and riot against the Roman Empire. It’s for that reason, he would have come from the west.
The Jewish historian, Josephus, tells us that during Passover week Rome would strengthen their presence and add more troops to Jerusalem. But they wouldn’t do this silently. In Roman fashion, there was a spectacle. They marched into the city in a mighty display of their imperial rule over the people…and Pontius Pilate led the charge.
Pilate ruled over all of Judea from Caesarea Maritima 75 miles West of Jerusalem. Leading up to Passover week, he would take legions of soldiers and march them from Caesarea Maritma…ascending up to Jerusalem to line every street, courtyard, and the temple mount.
Pilate probably rode into the city on a chariot…the symbol of Rome’s superior strength and power. He wanted to make his power and presence known. He was sending a message. Rome was in charge. He was in charge…and the Jews better play nice or they would be crushed.
But Jesus came from the east.
He didn’t display his power.
He didn’t have legions of troops with him. He had only a handful of disciples. He didn’t ride in a chariot, but rode on a donkey…a colt. A lowly animal. A beast of burden.
As Pilate ascended, Jesus descended from the Mount of Olives.
As Pilate sought to impose fear in the people…
Many look at the account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem prior to Passover (Palm Sunday) and call it his Triumphal Entry. I don’t know if Jesus would have called it the same thing. Pilate’s entry was clearly triumphant. The Roman Empire ruled with an iron fist.
But Jesus didn’t come in that moment to triumph over anyone. Jesus came with peace…true peace.
Jesus came to suffer and to serve.
Like Pilate, Jesus had a message. His message was one of humility…one of sacrifice…one of lowliness. Like the lowly beast of burden he rode, he was there to serve…to do the hard work. He saw the deep depravity of God’s people, and he wept.
He knew what was coming. He knew that in a few decades Rome would enter Jerusalem again, but this time there would be blood. There would destroy Jerusalem, and “they will not leave one stone upon another.” (Luke 19:44) They would do all of this to stop a Jewish revolt and instill “peace.”
In that moment Jesus hoped they would remember his words, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace!” (Luke 19:42)
Jesus’ entry was to show his people that peace with each other doesn’t come through force and power, but it comes through love and service and sacrifice for each other.
It’s my hope that on Palm Sunday this year we remember Jesus’s message of peace. I hope that we will remember Jesus didn’t enter in power or force, but he entered Jerusalem with humility and love. I hope that by the grace of God, we would do the same.
As we enter our workplaces, may we do so with a heart to humbly serve our coworkers.
As we enter our church, may we do so with a heart to humbly care for one another.
As we enter our communities, may we do so with a heart to humbly love our neighbors.
As we enter our homes, may we do so with a heart to humbly sacrifice for our families.
Everywhere we go, may we go with the peace and humility of Jesus Christ who did if for us first.