Despite all the joyous celebrations and festivities, Palm Sunday is not a joyful day. Yes, Christ entered Jerusalem as King, with people ecstatically crying out, "Hosanna! Praise the Lord!" but He was recognized as true King, as Messiah and Conqueror of death only after going through beatings, scourging and crucifixion. The same people who cried "Hosanna!" in five days would scream in madness "Crucify!"
Below is the sermon delivered on this Feast day.
Hosanna! Praise God! He is finally here! The King has arrived! We are finally saved!
Jesus was riding on a major wave of popularity. Just yesterday He resurrected Lazarus, who wasn’t just dead, he was 4 days dead and buried and began to decompose. News spread fast. By the time He was entering Jerusalem people were in anticipation to meet Him.
It wasn’t the first time He had raised someone from the dead, but it was the most definitive to date. For three years He was preaching among them, ministering to them, healing them. Now people saw enough, they were convinced that He was the promised Messiah, the Liberator, who would free them from Roman rule and establish Israel as the main power in the world.
It was a very festive and joyous day. But what sort of a King was Christ? In about a week He would tell Pontius Pilate, “If My Kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight” (John 18:36). Every kingdom in human history was built with violence, oppression, and money. Christ never used violence, did not force people to follow Him, and had no money, yet He was met as a King.
But again, what sort of a King was He? He does not enter the city on a chariot, as a conqueror, with pride and pomp, rejoicing in His glory. No, He rides a donkey, a symbol for humility. People completely misread the signs.
Jesus had no army, no money, no earthly power, all He had was a donkey and 12 disciples, who would run away as soon as trouble hit. Israelites expected someone who would make Israel great again, but got Christ, who came there to die.
The jubilation died as quickly as it arose. And all because Christ did not conform to the standards of a king the people were expecting. Healing the sick and raising the dead back to life – they liked. Preaching about peace and love, humility and self-sacrifice, especially the love of one’s enemies (you mean they had to love those Romans who occupied their land) – this the people definitely did not like.
We say that humanity has been developing, evolving, improving in the course of its existence. I don’t believe that for one minute. Circumstances change, times change, but people remain the same. We are exactly the same as those Jews 2000 years ago, who yelled “Hosanna” to Christ.
In their mind they had an idea of who God is and how He should act, and we have the same ideas. We try to define God, instead of letting God define us. We are trying to tell Him how and what He should do to us, instead of letting His will and grace work in our lives.
We are making the same mistake those people made, when they met Christ as a victorious redeemer, instead of a humble Savior. And we’ve been making this mistake ever since He was crucified and resurrected.
We like our freedom, especially living today, in a 21st century Western civilization. And words like, “reject yourself, take up your cross, and follow Me,” scare the life out of us. That’s why we try to create such a god in our heads who would not bother us, would not make us do uncomfortable things, like fasting or helping others, who would always tell us that he loves us no matter what we become.
In a way, we create our own "christ", but it is not the same Christ who entered Jerusalem on a donkey and died for us on the cross. The "christ" in our imagination is ... ourselves, we become our own little gods.
Just like the people in Jerusalem, we completely misread the signs of who Christ is and what He has done, and continues to do. As someone who has the power over death, He hands Himself over to death, so that we would be able to partake of His resurrection.
The only reason Christ became man, took on the human nature, was to go through death in it and then be resurrected. When He destroyed the power of death, He didn’t do it only as God, but as a human as well.
This is the sign of true God, the sign of divine love – God, who loves us so much that He dies for us. This is the sign that today’s feast day is emphasizing. Those who joyously yelled “Hosanna” today, will in 6 days scream their lungs out, crying, “Crucify Him, His blood is on us and on our children.”
Christ entered Jerusalem as the King, and He would be enthroned on the Cross six days later. In the coming week we will go with Him on a journey of His triumph – from today, when He is recognized as King, to the Last Supper, to His betrayal by Judas, to Him being arrested and humiliated, to the crucifixion, His death and burial.
We will take His lifeless body and put it in a cave, only to see it disappear, and then to find out the He is risen, that He has conquered death by death. As the true King, He spilled only His own blood to save all.
Our King is here. Our Messiah has arrived to liberate us and give us a chance at salvation, for an everlasting life with Him in His promised Kingdom.
As we meet Him today, let us prepare ourselves to go on a journey of suffering with Him, so that we would not sell and betray Him like Judas, but will follow Him, even to the Cross.