This past Sunday I got up early, bounded down the stairs and threw open the curtains. The sun was almost blinding, My heart was full of hope that spring really had arrived here in NE Ohio. I began to sing, "Christ the Lord is Risen Today..Alleluiah"
Then I stopped myself. How presumptuous of my heart to skip right over Holy Week and land smack onto Easter morning! Just because the sun made me feel good. I knew I must back up and walk through this week slowly, relearning all I possibly could of the events that led to Easter morning. How can one truly know joy unless one has also known deep sorrow? Likewise, to understand the mountaintop joy of Resurrection Sunday, one must first walk through the valley of Holy Week, beginning with Palm Sunday.
Several Old Testament prophesies were fulfilled on that day. Thousands were gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, the Jewish holiday commemorating their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Word had spread that Jesus had recently raised a man from the dead, and so when he rode into the city on a donkey, throngs ran out to greet him. They were sure their own deliverance from Roman domination was eminent. If this man was strong enough to raise the dead, surely he was strong enough to be their king. He was greeted with singing and shouting and palm branch waving.
However, in great contrast, when Jesus looked out over the city he cried bitterly over it. He knew full well that most people had totally missed the point of his coming to earth, and what kind of King he really was. He knew their thoughts were shallow, their expectations of an earthly and political nature, and he knew what lay ahead for them as a result.
I think the main reason I will celebrate Palm Sunday is that by orchestrating the events of the day (the gathering crowds, the commotion, fear, and hostility it caused) Jesus clearly demonstrated that he, with the Father, was in full control of the timetable of his death. He was not killed against his will, rather he layed down his life. He knew his time had come. On Palm Sunday, in essence, he was saying, "Here I am. Bring it on". For the cheerful celebrating quickly faded and the mood of the people quickly deteriorated as the week went on. Even his closest friends failed to see the implication of the day: "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!"