COVER STORY – Palm Sunday
One of the fun parts about attending a professional basketball game is the home team player introductions. The lights dim, the pump-up music plays, spotlights pan around the crowd, and the stadium announcer stretches every syllable of the star player’s name so the fans can cheer for longer. But sometimes the cheers turn to boos if the star’s performance doesn’t live up to expectations.
Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is an excellent demonstration of the contrast between Jesus’ dual nature of true God and true Man. He was given the praise He deserves, yet demonstrated His perfect humility. “And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” Hosanna in the highest!’” (Matthew 21:8-9) The big event on Palm Sunday is often called the triumphal entry. The crowd hailed Him as the promised Son of David and laid their clothes before Him. He got such a star treatment that it bothered the Pharisees: “And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, ‘Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.’ But He answered and said to them, ‘I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.’” (Luke 19:39-40) Jesus’ response to them showed that His glory as true God would not be removed from Him. But Jesus’ royal parade was also marked by the perfect humility that He demonstrated on earth. He did not come on a royal horse or with a company of angels. Rather, He humbly sat upon a borrowed donkey. These details together reveal the King of heaven, Who was willing to humble Himself to be like us.
This is also an excellent demonstration of the joy brought by Christ’s victory over death contrasted with the sorrow that God has over those who reject Him. “Therefore the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of his tomb and raised him from the dead, bore witness. For this reason the people also met Him, because they heard that He had done this sign.” (John 12:17-18) The people of Bethany who had seen Jesus call Lazarus from his tomb had been waiting for an opportunity to praise the One with power over death. Their cheering was infectious. The Pharisees felt helpless against such public approval: “The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, ‘You see that you are accomplishing nothing. Look, the world has gone after Him!’” (John 12:19) The Holy Spirit was at work! The popular opinion of the Jewish population had swung to the Messiah’s favor, but Jesus knew that it would not last. “Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, ‘If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.’” (Luke 19:41-42) As Jesus wept over the city, we, too, see the tragedy of the situation. The euphoric mob that cheered Jesus would soon shout for his death. So many of those who personally witnessed His miracles would reject His message of forgiveness of sins.
As the basketball player’s performance doesn’t always match the crowd’s expectations, so also Jesus’ work as the Savior from sin didn’t match the Jews’ hope for a military messiah. Little did they know how much greater Jesus’ work was than delivering them from the Romans. Praise Jesus, true God and true Man, for His glorious and humble work as our Savior!
Ross Kok is a teacher at Holy Cross Lutheran School in Phoenix, Arizona.