They were living in a deeply divided region, governed by an oppressive administration that was not their choosing, one that was regularly raising taxes and making daily survival a challenge. Under these desperate conditions, the people were hoping, praying and longing for an answer, one that would come in the form of a man. Not just any man, but one that would be their Messiah, the deliverer foretold by their ancestors, the One that would set them free.
Then, it happened. This humble but powerful young man appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, and bringing with him a message that stirred the entire population. Without the aids of our modern communication tools, word spread far and wide, and wherever a whisper of His presence was mentioned, sheer anticipation and wonder spread like wildfire.
There was something different about Jesus. His outward presence and even his home city did not point to greatness. After all, he hailed from Nazareth, and “what good could come from there?”
Many knew his modest upbringing, the son of a carpenter, and neither of those pointed to future greatness. Still, there was just something about him and his words…
For three years, Jesus walked the roadsides with a relatively small entourage, teaching and performing the most amazing of miracles. There had never been anyone like Jesus. As His fame grew, so did the haters. And it wasn’t just the Roman government that grew leery of him…so did the religious leaders of the day, the Pharisees, who were jealous of his popularity AND the amazing wisdom from which he spoke. It turned out that both of these groups of dissenters would form an alliance that would try to stop this man.
Just as His story was nearing the climax of importance, Jesus returned to Jerusalem, the epicenter of both love and hatred for Him. Approaching the city, the Bible says He found a donkey, and rode it into the city, thus fulfilling an ancient prophecy from Zechariah 9:9.
And as He rode, people began to do two things. They took palm branches from the trees, and began to wave them as flags and banners, and laying them on the road that He traveled in this bold and dangerous entrance into the city.
They also began to openly declare their faith and belief that He was more than a normal teacher. “Hosanna!” they shouted. “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” Their hope was renewed, and their joy overflowed in anticipation.
The days ahead would be unimaginably different than what they experienced in that most triumphal of entries. But the importance of that moment was not lost. Those that cheered recognized what was happening, that He was the One. Their worship and praises to God were justified and appropriate.
This weekend, some 2,000 years later, we still recognize the difference that is Jesus. He was an ordinary man who also happened to be the Son of God. And the mystery that surrounds that reality can never be completely comprehended in this life—but that doesn’t make that statement any less true.
Palm Sunday represents a recognition of hope and joy. We are not alone in our plight in this life. We have a Savior. His name is Jesus.