Yesterday was Palm Sunday in the Christian church, the day of the commemoration of entry into Jerusalem by Jesus during which palm branches were waved as Jesus entered the Holy City, to his death on a cross.
It is the beginning of Holy Week, which includes Maundy Thursday and Good Friday (His crucifixion) with the word Maundy pointing to the giving of the new commandment in John 13:34-35. It also marks the evening (Thursday) in which He instituted the Sacrament of Holy Communion. And then on Sunday, He arose from the dead.
Jesus’ entry into the city was on the back of a donkey, precisely as Prophet Zechariah prophesied around the year 500 BC:
ESV Zechariah 9:9 “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
There was a huge crowd gathered there for the annual Passover celebration, and many, as they watched Him riding, would have grasped the significance of his humble means of transportation as pointing to His Kingship, but yet not understanding the nature of His kingdom. This is always difficult for us humans, for we are able to recognize the office of a king, but do we always understand the nature of the kingdom of a king??
A New Testament writer gave this description as to the nature of Jesus’ kingdom: “He came as a servant, but with absolute kingly authority.”
What were the people expecting Jesus the Messiah to do when he arrived in Jerusalem? Well, for the most part, they were looking for a king who would overthrow the oppressive Roman government, thereby setting them free. But how confused they must have been when the events later in the week showed something quite different, in that this “Saviour” died a terrible death on a Roman cross like any other criminal of their day. They did not understand that He came to set them free in a far different manner that what they were thinking they needed.
Throughout the ages, Christians have recognized the importance and the benefit of having a special focus on the events of Holy Week. In these events are seen the love of God for all humanity, the wrath of God against our sin, and the Man by which He bought us back to Himself.
Martin Luther wrote that it is good to meditate on the passion of Christ during this Holy Week. (The passion accounts are recorded in Matthew 26-27, Mark 14-15, Luke 22-23 and John 18-19.) He stated that we need to be reminded that His suffering was greater than any other man ever suffered, further saying that many have died on a cross, but only One has suffered under the entire guilt and condemnation of all the sin of the world, past, present and future.
It was for my sin and your sin that Jesus suffered and died . . . in order that we might be freed from the guilt and the power of sin so that we might come to experience what real freedom is: Free from bondage to serving self, to being free to love others as Christ loves us.
The importance of setting quiet time aside during this week to read and meditate over these scriptures cannot be overestimated. Let us remember that Christ died to reveal His kingdom to the world. It was in His dying that He showed the power of God, for in His death, life came forth.