Holy Week #1: Yearning For Liberation

The events leading to the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ are detailed in the Scripture and have great significance. This week I am pondering the events of Holy Week. Historians tells us that the church began to celebrate the week preceding Easter in the 4th century. The week begins on what we call, “Palm” Sunday! I hope you’ll read, study, and worship with me as we prepare our hearts for Easter!

On Palm Sunday we celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem as king. Here’s a short account from John’s gospel –

The next day, the great crowd who had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming into Jerusalem, and went to meet him with palm branches in their hands, shouting, “God save him! ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’, God bless the king of Israel!” For Jesus had found a young ass and was seated upon it, just as the scripture foretold—‘Fear not, daughter of Zion: behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt’.

John 12:12-15

Jesus would have known that the Roman leaders often paraded into Jerusalem the week of Passover as a show of their domination, a cruel reminder of their authority, clearly intimidation to squelch any idea of insurrection. The Roman parade would be on horses, with weapons, much pomp!

Roman troops were in Jerusalem to see and to be seen. They maintained order and kept things moving. And they ensured that no protests erupted, especially on the Temple Mount — for it was during these holidays, wrote Josephus, that “sedition is most likely to break out.” It was in this bustling, bursting space,
the beating heart of the city during the great festivals,
that Jesus taught about the “kingdom of God” in the week before the feast.

Fredricksen, P. 2019

Jesus chose his entry into Jerusalem intentionally. Entering the city on a donkey was yet one more picture of His kingdom – so different than what the people were looking for, were wanting.

The crowds looked for a Messiah who would rescue them politically and free them nationally, but Jesus had come to save them spiritually. First things first, and mankind’s primary need is spiritual, not political, cultural, or national salvation.

What is Palm Sunday? 2015

Crowds gathered, waving palm branches, lining the path with branches. Palms were symbols of Jewish nationalism – much like waving our flag. It was not a neutral act. Rebels in the inter-testamental period had minted coins with palms on them. The crowds were making their expectations and hopes known by waving the green leaves. Their actions spoke of their desire for a national revolution, a national liberator. In fact, their shouts of Hosanna emphasized this fact since the meaning of Hosanna is “Save us now!”

Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem!
Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious,
yet he is humble, riding on a donkey—riding on a donkey’s colt.

Zechariah 9:9

Jesus riding into Jerusalem is no coincidence. The crowd shouting is not by chance! They wanted a liberator! But Jesus is telling these people who He is – He is revealing to them that He is a king, THE king, the Messiah, the one they were expecting! And yet, they are yearning – not for what Jesus is bringing – but for an alternative kingdom.

They seem to have been filled with admiration, and there was a show of a high affection of love, and also of a great degree of reverence, in their laying their garments on the ground for Christ to tread upon; and also of great gratitude to him, for the great and good works he had wrought, praising him with loud voices for his salvation; and earnest desires of the coming of God’s kingdom, which they supposed Jesus was now about to set up, and showed great hopes and raised expectations of it, expecting it would immediately appear; and hence were filled with joy, by which they were so animated in their acclamations, as to make the whole city ring with the noise of them; and appeared great in their zeal and forwardness to attend Jesus, and assist him without further delay, now in the time of the great feast of the Passover, to set up his kingdom. And it is easy, from nature, and the nature of the affections, to give an account why, when one affection is raised very high, that it should excite others; especially if the affection which is raised high, be that of counterfeit love, as it was in the multitude who cried Hosanna.

Jonathan Edwards, n.d.

Not all worship, even worship that seems to praise Jesus, is right, true, or good! While the crowd is praising Jesus, dreaming, hoping, wishing for physical liberation, Jesus is entering Jerusalem to submit to the cross. He knows their nationalistic hopes and He knows they lack spiritual discernment. Their hearts are far from Him. In a few short days, crowds – maybe these same people, maybe others – will cry out for His crucifixion. Even His disciples who are accompanying Him now will desert Him. In Luke’s gospel we learn that Jesus weeps over Jerusalem as He enters.

… today, even among believers with a high view of Scripture and of Jesus’ words in their red-letter Bibles, these sweeping commands from our savior to evangelize rather than seek political clout are being brushed aside as irrelevant in favor of other pursuits that are touted as more “necessary, relevant, and appropriate” to the highly charged political culture in which we now exist.

Keller, K. 2021

The lessons from Palm Sunday seem pertinent to us today.
Are we looking for a political Jesus or King Jesus?
When Jesus rode into Jerusalem, the people did not see Jesus for who He was! Who is Jesus to you?

Now to the gate of my Jerusalem,
The seething holy city of my heart,
The savior comes. But will I welcome him?
Oh crowds of easy feelings make a start;
They raise their hands, get caught up in the singing,
And think the battle won. Too soon they’ll find
The challenge, the reversal he is bringing
Changes their tune. I know what lies behind
The surface flourish that so quickly fades;
Self-interest, and fearful guardedness,
The hardness of the heart, its barricades,
And at the core, the dreadful emptiness
Of a perverted temple. Jesus come
Break my resistance and make me your home.

Malcolm Guite

Lord, you alone are worthy of our praise, true praise. You left heaven, took on flesh to be our kinsman, lived a perfect life, and submitted to the cross – the ultimate act of love and humility. On this Palm Sunday, we confess our nationalistic hopes, and desire to see your kingdom come, your will be done, your will, your way, on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

Fredricksen, P. (2019, April 20). When Jesus Celebrated Passover. Wall Street Journal.

Edwards, J. (n.d.). Religious Affections. Retrieved from https://ccel.org/ccel/edwards/affections/affections.i.html

Keller, K. (2021, March 10). The Great Commission Must Be Our Guide in These Polarizing Times. Retrieved from https://quarterly.gospelinlife.com/the-great-commission-must-be-our-guide-in-these-polarizing-times/

What is Palm Sunday? (2015, March 26). Retrieved from https://www.gotquestions.org/Palm-Sunday.html

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