Sunday, April 14, 2019
Preparing Our Hearts For Easter: Palm Leaves of the Heart
Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44
The story of Palm Sunday recognizes Jesus’ final entry into Jerusalem for the conclusive and climatic demonstration of His true identity and mission. Jesus was among a large crowd of Jewish worshippers moving toward the city of Jerusalem. Because of the importance of the Passover, the road to Jerusalem had become overcrowded with many pilgrims making their way to the holy city. Among the travelers would have been people from Galilee who had heard of Jesus and had become familiar with His ministry in that region; in their excitement they formed an entourage around Jesus that steadily grew in number. Joining the excitement were Jews from within the city who had come out to greet Jesus. There were also those joining the excitement who had heard of Lazarus being raised; they had hoped to catch a glimpse of the One who had brought him back to life, if not a glimpse of Lazarus himself. As the crowds merged together, the Bible describes how people picked up palm branches and began to create a literal fanfare. The Palm branch was a sign of Jewish nationalism and was used in celebrating victories; palm branches were also used in festive celebrations (perhaps even intended to be used as a part of Passover). John witnessed this crowd of pilgrims all around Jesus spontaneously lifting palm branches and singing to Him; this must have been such a sight to behold.
Yet, in the midst of the joy and excitement, there was something amiss. When Jesus actually entered the city, He was not mounted triumphantly upon a horse; He was riding a young colt. Most every recorded observation of this story recognizes that the crowd was disappointed in how Jesus presented Himself. They were interested in a kingly rule being established at that very moment. Jesus, however, fulfilled prophecy, and His Father’s will, by entering peacefully and purposefully on a colt. He demonstrated His obedient and peaceful fulfillment of the call of Calvary’s cross, and the sacrifice for sin He would offer just days after his entrance into Jerusalem. Many interpretations of this story define the crowd as either those who days later yelled, “crucify Him,” or at minimum, those who would retreat quietly in fear of religious adherents who yelled crucify. In either case, the crowd was fickle in their excitement about Jesus, and more sympathetic toward their own needs and desires than Jesus’ true identity as savior and redeemer of mankind. This offers the following reflections:
- Reflecting on the disappointment many in the crowd experienced when realizing Jesus had not come in the way they had hope, do I place conditions on my devotion to Jesus (serving Him joyfully when all is well, but venting frustrations instead of praise when things don’t go my way)?
- Reflecting on how easily the excitement of the crowd ceased, do I selectively join in the praise (only when I feel like it, or only when I am completely comfortable with the setting of worship surrounding me)?
- Reflecting on the intimidation from the disdain of Jewish leaders against those who cried “Hosanna,” Do I easily cower away from a demonstrative commitment to Jesus when I am not surrounded by those who share my joy of serving Him?
These reflections help us to honestly consider how we sometimes act like the fickle crowd that originally sang, “Hosanna.” May we not lose focus of the one simple fact of this story: Jesus is King of all and He has come! May we worship Him, follow Him in commitment, and honor Him daily with our actions and attitudes in the way our King deserves. Today, raise the palm leaves of your heart.