Preaching on one of the great feast days of the church can prove a bit of a challenge for pastors who have preached from the same texts on the same occasions over many years. Palm Sunday or to give it a more official ecclesiastical title, The Feast of the Entrance of Our Lord Jesus Christ into Jerusalem – I’m certainly not high church, but there is something rather grand about that title – poses its own particular challenge.
For a start the texts are more limited than Easter proper or Christmas. Additionally, you know that the story is incomplete because it’s what happens in the next seven days that is going to shake the world and change history.
Despite those caveats, the events of Palm Sunday are an incredible revelation of the heart of God and the impact the presence of Christ has on people.
Even though we know that the people who hailed Christ as King on Palm Sunday would call for Him to be crucified before the week was out, the impact He had upon them was astounding. A people who were under the heel of Roman rule greeted Him with unsolicited excitement and praise. And before we point to this as evidence of the fickleness of public opinion, we should remember that Jesus did not reject their praise and defended their enthusiasm in the face of opposition from the Pharisees (Luke 19.38-40)
Palm Sunday is a reminder that when Jesus is present, people in the most difficult of situations find hope and joy. Hearts locked up in pain and grief are unlocked by the presence and power of Jesus. Palm Sunday reminds us that Jesu can restore broken hearts.
Secondly, the events of Palm Sunday remind us that God wants to reconnect with a lost humanity.
Jesus could have ridden into Jerusalem on a white horse. Or He could have found a camel. Or He could have walked. His chosen mode of transport was a donkey (Mark 12.7). Why? Undoubtedly He was conscious that He was fulfilling a prophecy made by Zechariah (Zechariah 9.9). He was also making a huge statement: He was a king, but He was a particular kind of king. He was a king coming seeking peace. Commentators say that the palm branches waved by the crowds symbolise a nationalistic desire for revolution. Jesus, they say, was under pressure to lead an army against the Romans. If that is true, entering the city on a donkey underlines His desire for peace.
Jesus is not captive to any political idea, left, right or centre. He did not come to destroy His enemies, He came to destroy enmity. He did not come to kill those hostile to Him. He came to kill hostility. He loved the Jews. And the Romans. He loves Christians. And Jews. And Jihadists. And atheists. And you. And your family. And your neighbour.
His desire is to bring peace between people and God.
Finally, Palm Sunday reminds us that when we follow Jesus, He rewrites the story of our lives. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that He writes our story into His story.
When Jesus sent His disciples to look for a donkey, it was just another thing to be done. Just another part of the operation to bring Jesus into Jerusalem. It was only when they looked back on that day that they realised they had been caught up in the purpose of God. God had been writing history and they had been part of it (John 12.16).
We do things every day that might not look significant in themselves. However, they all count. And even if we don’t see their significance now, one day we will.
May Palm Sunday, the Feast of the Entrance of Our Lord Jesus Christ into Jerusalem always remind us that He is still seeking an entrance into the lives of lost people today.