The Parade of Palms
“On the next day the large crowd who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” – John 12:12-13
Palm Sunday is a significant day within Church history and the framework of Christianity. Historically it marks the beginning of the Passion Week. It celebrates Jesus’ triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem, which served as a public declaration to His claim as King of the Jews. Let us ponder a few details surrounding this great event in the life of our Lord.
In our passage above, we read of a scene buzzing with excitement. To begin with, Jesus entered Jerusalem as he rode on a donkey, a detail prophesized by the prophet Zechariah hundreds of years earlier. Zechariah 9:9 says, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” His method of transportation signified His humility. Earthly Kings or military heroes would have entered with an impressive caravan of chariots followed by an entourage of prominent citizens. But that was not the case with our Lord. Instead, He rode on a borrowed donkey with simple coat as a saddle, followed by an entourage of social outcasts and common peasants.
Then there are the palm branches waved by the crowd in celebration of His arrival into the city. But why did they wave palm branches? It was part of the Roman culture of the day to use palm branches as instruments of celebration. When well-respected citizens such as soldiers or athletes were honored, oftentimes they would be greeted in this fashion. It was similar to how today we celebrate a person by standing and clapping. And so this parade of palms was a natural response from the crowd that day. After they waved the palms, the Bible tells us that they placed them on the ground, clearing a path for Jesus to enter the city.
Yet this same crowd by the end of the week demanded His execution. Their cheers of celebration had changed to jeers for crucifixion. The same people who had cried “Hail Him, hail Him!” now cried “Nail Him, nail Him!” And in only five short days the loving crowd turned into an angry mob. They had welcomed him into Jerusalem thinking He came as an earthly king to overthrow Roman government. The crowd desired a revolt against Rome. However, when this did not happen, they quickly had a change of heart.
Why the sudden change? Are people really that fickle? Are people really that easily persuaded by the masses? I would suggest the answer is an emphatic yes. Truth be known, their response is an indictment on the human heart. It is easy for a person to get caught up in the moment like the crowd that day. Blending in with the crowd is the easy path. Shouting praise to the Lord is easy when everyone else is doing the same. It is so easy to mesh with the masses. It is much more difficult to follow Christ when it is unpopular to do so.
God has not called us to a chameleon like faith. Instead, He has called us to radical commitment to Him. We must remember that honoring the Lord with our lips is a farce if we do not honor Him with our hearts. Eventually, time will tell our real position and stance with Christ, just as it did with the crowd.
What about you? Are you willing to stand for Christ, even when the crowd hurls insults at Him? Are you willing to go against the grain and be a Christ follower rather than a crowd pleaser? Ponder these things today, and may we be fully committed in our allegiance to Christ as we celebrate today the triumphal entry of our Lord.
– Pastor Eric