(The photo above is one I took of the narrow streets of present day Jerusalem.)
We celebrate Jesus’ final entry into Jerusalem as “Palm Sunday” because the people threw their coats on the road for a make-shift red carpet, and they tore off palm branches to wave in the air as they yelled, “Hosanna! Hosanna!”
Have you ever wondered why they were waving palm branches? I always assumed that it was simply something they did to honor a king, but there was so much more going on that day than what we learned in Sunday School.
Thanks to a good friend of mine, I learned that the people were waving the branches as they did when celebrating Sukkot, the Feast of the Tabernacles. (Thank you Maureen.) This was a feast ordained by God to commemorate their exodus from Egypt(Leviticus 23:33-44). The Lord instructed them to live in small huts during the week to remember their forty year journey in the desert where God dwelt in the tabernacle with them. The roofs of the huts constructed for this week of celebration were covered with Palm branches.
The Feast of Tabernacles is celebrated in the fall around harvest. Though Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem was in the spring, their actions and words symbolized their belief that Messiah had come to dwell with them.
The words the people were crying out as Jesus entered the city were actually Psalm 118, a psalm recited each day of the feast. Read these verses:
“O Lord, save us (Hosanna); O Lord, grant us success. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the Lord we bless you. The Lord is God, and he has made his light shine upon us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar.” (Psalm 118:25-27)
The people were waving the palm branches as they walked toward the Temple where they would lay the branches against the wall.
I remember teaching about Palm Sunday for a children’s sermon years ago. I was sitting on the front steps of a very tiny Methodist sanctuary. There were a handful of adults in the pews and five or so sets of eyes and little hands and feet sitting around me as I told this story.
I told the kids and the congregation to put on their imagination caps and envision Jesus walking into our church and down the center aisle toward our little gang. I encouraged them to clap and yell as He walked in.
The small crowd clapped and whooped and hollered and gave Jesus their most exciting welcome and praise. I taught this story that day as the one time when all of the people actually recognized Jesus as the Messiah and worshiped Him.
But the word Hosanna means save. The people were actually crying out to Jesus:
” Save us!”
The teacher who revealed this truth to me cried out passionately as the people would have. She reenacted this scene with such desperation that I could no longer see this as just a moment of praise. They were begging Jesus to save His people from Roman rule.
Just as God had brought them out of Egypt and to the Promise Land, they begged for a land of their own.
Jesus, however, didn’t ride into town that day on a strong, white horse–the symbol of war. He rode on a colt. This was the sign of peace. As He rode through Jerusalem, the people were begging Him to be their savior, their physical savior who would free them from oppression. But Jesus clearly demonstrated His intent.
He did not come to make war but to bring peace.
Can you imagine the people getting angry at Jesus as they realized He was not riding the right kind of animal to save them?
Jesus’ actions spoke loudly to the people, “I have not come to make war.”
I wonder . . . is that what caused them to yell “Crucify!” just a page later?
Though Jesus rode on a donkey, we know the salvation He did bring was so much greater than what the people wanted. Their request was temporary. His actions were eternal.
Have you been asking Jesus to save you from something, and it seems He is riding a donkey of peace rather than a white horse?
Take heart. Even if His actions do not seem an answer to your plea, believe He has a good plan. Worship Him as the One True Eternal Savior of your soul. He isn’t finished. His actions are perfect for our lives.
And He will dwell among us, “tabernacle”, and we will celebrate Sukkot much as the people did the day Jesus entered Jerusalem. Read this scripture in Revelation:
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes, and peoples and languages standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands, and crying out in a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9.10.)
What problem do you need to trust Jesus to handle differently than you planned? Can you trust His timing?
Let’s pray the last few verses of Psalm 118 together:
“You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.”
Much love my friends,