On August 26, 1944 French General Charles De Gaulle led a victory parade of Allied troops down the streets of Paris. It was now clear that Nazi Germany was in its death throes. But the war was not yet won. American soldiers in parade formation marched right from the city streets into combat.
Throughout the season of Lent we have been preparing for the week Christians call “Holy Week.” Likewise, in the weeks prior to Holy Week, the Lord Jesus had been preparing His disciples for the events of that week. As they proceeded toward Jerusalem in the days and weeks before, Jesus had said to them on several occasions, more or less in the same word: “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day he will rise again.”
As Advent marks the coming of Christ’s birth and directs our attention to His triumphant return in glory on the Last Day, Lent marks the coming Passion of Christ in Holy Week, preparing us for His suffering, death, and resurrection.
Palm Sunday, the last Sunday in Lent is the celebration of Christ’s triumphant ride into Jerusalem, “…sitting on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Mt. 21:5). That’s right, a celebration during Lent! A triumphant celebration no less. Triumphant, for His ride into Jerusalem the Sunday before He suffered and died was a victory parade, in advance of His victory over sin, death, and thd devil.
We might liken it to the Allies triumphant parade through Paris during World War II, the war not yet won, but confident in the outcome. Except that Christ was more than confident in the final outcome of His war on sin and death. The outcome of this war had been assured since the LORD God had made that first Gospel Promise in the Garden of Eden where it was promised that “the Seed of the woman” would crush the head of the serpent, Satan.
On Palm Sunday Christ invites us to come with Him to Jerusalem to view His Passion, that is, His suffering and death. In His victory march through the streets of Jerusalem our resolve is strengthened to stay with Him in the Garden of Gethsemane as He is arrested, tried, and unjustly convicted and punished. Our resolve is strengthened to follow Him through the horrible sufferings we will observe on Good Friday, and to join Him in the victory celebration on Easter, marking His triumphant resurrection from the dead, having conquered His foes and ours, assuring US of final victory — as the Savior Himself has assured us: “Because I live, you will live also” (Jn. 14:19).
So this Palm Sunday we celebrate Christ’s victory ride — into Jerusalem, into Battle, on to Victory! And, like Parisians celebrating the liberating march of the Allies, we celebrate Christ’s Victory Parade year after year. As in Advent, where we look also for the triumphant coming of our Lord and Savior into this world, so also on Palm Sunday we look ahead to the final victory parade when Christ returns on the Last Day.
Then believers also will rise victorious, and the words of the holy writer shall be fulfilled: “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Php. 2:10f).
— Pastor Joel Fleischer