What does Palm Sunday Mean for You?
Now think about it, because, I’m sure that we can just start rattling off a list of things that palm Sunday means. It’s the beginning of Holy Week. It’s the Sunday before Easter Sunday. It’s the time we celebrate Jesus riding the baby donkey into Jerusalem. It’s when we go to church and get palm branches and wave them and say something like, “Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna!”
But I’m not looking for those kind of answers. My question isn’t what IS Palm Sunday? My question is, What does Palm Sunday mean for you? You see, the difference in the question is, not what Palm Sunday is, but what does it mean? For YOU. Personally. In the depths of your heart.
The telling of Jesus’ dramatic entrance into Jerusalem is recorded in all four gospel. There are slight differences in each account, but for the most part all four tell the story of Jesus’ grand entrance and what happened. Today, we'll look at Luke’s telling of the story. And as we look, we'll find, what I think are some very interesting remarks that I think push us towards the question, What does Palm Sunday Mean for You?
To help us begin to process this question, let’s first break down what we see happening, as Luke tells it. Part 1 - Setting the Stage…vv. 28-34, Part 2 - The Approach…vv. 35-40, Part 3 - The Tears for a City…vv. 41-44.
Part 1 - Setting the Stage…
In verses 28-34, we find Jesus with his disciples and followers outside Jerusalem in the town of Bethany, where Mary, Martha and Lazarus lived. Now just days before, Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. This sparked significant commotion among the people and the religious leaders, who were now, more determined than ever to kill Jesus. According to John’s gospel, it was near the time for the Passover Feast, so many, many, many of the people we’re heading to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast. Combine the influx of travelers coming into the city for the festival and the news of what Jesus had just done for Lazarus, the climate was right for something crazy to happen.
For Jesus, he’s fully aware of the timing. Three years of ministry, all that he has done, all that he has taught, all that he was and why he came all pointed to what is about to happen. Soon he will be arrested, crucified, and buried.
But right now, he instructs 2 of his disciples to go up ahead, and they would find a young donkey, which had not been ridden. They were to untie it and bring it to Jesus. The disciple do as they were told, and find things just as Jesus had said.
So we have the news of Lazarus being raised from the dead, thousand or more in Jerusalem for the Passover, and now Jesus was about to make his way into the city.
Part 2 - The Approach…
In verses 35-40, the grand event begins to unfold.
The donkey is brought in. The disciple create a saddle out of their outer garments. And together they begin the track towards Jerusalem. Along the way, the people, begin laying down their cloaks on the the road, on which the donkey walked. And as they approached the city, those who were where, disciple, follower, spectator, began to joyfully praise God! I imagine that this wasn’t so much a greeting line of people shaking hands, clapping, laughing… No I suspect that this was a thunderous, booming celebration with voices shouting with great delight. this was loud. This was big. This was significant! Perhaps earth-shaking!
I mean it has to be loud because they tell Jesus to turn it down! In v 39 tells us that there were Pharisees, the religious leaders, in the crowd. They say to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.”
Now I’ve got to wonder, and wish that we could send a news crew down to Jerusalem so we could see what was happening, because I get the sense from the Pharisees that this wasn’t exceptable. Maybe it wasn’t proper. Not the way good Hebrews behaved in public. Maybe they feared that the jubilant celebration might draw the attention of the Romans. Maybe it was the fact that we’re at the time of Passover. Maybe this was to be a somber time, and what was happening outside the city walls was everything but somber.
But the people were excited! Filled with joy and caught up in the moment this was a party!! The people were celebrating God, praising God, worshiping God, and they did so with joy and passion.
But then come the religious leaders, “Jesus, hey, Jesus, stop them. Shut them up. Get them to knock this off!!”
And here’s where I think Jesus would have made a great youth pastor. Jesus says, “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” You want to know loud, come hang out with us on Tuesday or Wednesday night, because it can get a little loud. And it’s okay. It’s okay to make a little noise in worship. It’s okay to express some emotion in worship. It’s okay to make a bit of a ruckus when we glorify God.
But let’s make note of something. Who is it that these shouts are focused? Verse 37: When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to PRAISE GOD in loud voices… For What? “For all the miracles they had seen.”
Not the Messiah. Not the Son of God. The focus of the people is not so much on Jesus, at least not in the right way. The focus is on God and the king that he had sent.
Now let’s stop here for just a few minutes. Bible commentators have pointed out that within this story, we find a something incredibly telling. There are three kinds of people here in this scene.
1. Those who believe and are sold out for Jesus.
2. Those who see and hear what’s going on, and have been swept up into what’s happening, but it’s not clear just how much they understand, or how committed they will be to this king.
3. Those who see what’s happening, but outright reject what’s happening.
Those who believe and are sold out for Jesus…
These are the disciples, those who have committed themselves to Jesus, who have followed him. These are those who are obedient. They retrieve the donkey, walk along side Jesus, and are investing themselves in his teachings. They’re not perfect. They don’t quite understand everything that’s happening, but they’re in it.
Those who see and hear, yet they seem to simply be people who are swept up in the commotion of the moment. These are the people who happen to be in the right place at the right time. They’ve heard about Jesus, they’ve heard what he’s done for Lazarus, and here he is, riding into the city with a reception fit for a king. I mean, that’s what they want after all, a king.
Then there’s those who see what’s happening, and it’s just to stop. This movement is dangerous. it must be stopped. Jesus must be stopped.
I titled this mornings message, What does Palm Sunday Mean for You?
It’s a question that I hope you can answer. I mean, it’s pretty important that you know the answer. Because the commentators are right. Isn’t that kinda funny, some crazy youth guy telling you that the Bible commentators are right?
That’s crazy. Jay must have flipped his lid. Gone a loopy, or something. No, but let’s look at this.
Part 3 - The Tears for a City…
Look with me again at vv. 41-44. Jesus approaches the city. Verse 41, “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it." In the midst of all the craziness happening around him, Jesus looks out across the city and he weeps. Not a, “Oh, I think I’ve got something in my eye.” cool, manly diversion. No, Jesus weeps. He looks and he sees and there is an emotional change, a deep heavy sadness, a sorrow that leads to grief which leads him to tears. And Jesus says, in verse 42, “If you, even you had only known on this day what would bring you peace - but now it is hidden from your eyes."
In Eugene Peterson’s The Message, he says it this way…
41-44 "When the city came into view, he wept over it. “If you had only recognized this day, and everything that was good for you! But now it’s too late. In the days ahead your enemies are going to bring up their heavy artillery and surround you, pressing in from every side. They’ll smash you and your babies on the pavement. Not one stone will be left intact. All this because you didn’t recognize and welcome God’s personal visit.”
So what is Jesus talking about? Well, he’s talking about destruction. The destruction, specifically of the city and the temple. He says, Your enemies will rise up against you. They will press in on you, and they will crush you. And this happens, 70 AD, Jerusalem is crushed by Rome.
But there’s more to this than just a city being toppled. More then Jesus weeping over stone and mortar, I think Jesus is weeping over the fact that the people are missing it. That in all this time, they failed to see Jesus for who he really was. And now, here he is, about to go willingly to the cross, to die for the sins of the world, to demonstrate his love, his agape love to the world, and the world is missing it. And because the world is missing it, the truth of who he really is, is now hidden from them. They can’t see it, even if they wanted to.
Now we might ask why, and I have some thoughts as to why, but we don’t have time to explore all of those thoughts. So let me say, that for them, for what God was doing, this was what God did. But that’s not the case for us. You see, were almost 2000 years past the resurrection, 2000 years past the crucifixion, 2000 years past the triumphant ride into Jerusalem, and we can see. We can see because we have the truth right here in front of us.
The story, the history, the life-changing evidence of God’s love is right here. And so we read…That Jesus Christ came into this world to save sinners!
How? By dying.
In the arrest, in the beating, in the scourging. In being nailed to the cross. In being taunted, harassed, abused. Spit upon. Stripped. He died. His final breath expelling the words, It is finished. He died. He was buried. Then 3 days later, God did what only God can do and he raised his son, Jesus the Christ, from the died.
The sin debt, paid.
Death, overcome and conquered.
Everything made new.
So what does Palm Sunday mean for you?
For the believer, this week marks a time for us to remember how God demonstrates his great love for us. And so today, we too rejoice. There should be joy in our hearts as we shout, Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna! Because we’re not like the Pharisee who tried to silence the crowd. And we’re not like the people swept up in the excitement of the moment, cheering for a great miracle worker, but miss the truth. No, we rejoice because like the disciple, we know that Jesus is the son of God, who dies for the sins of the world.
For those who have not yet, put their trust in God, an opportunity to know his grace and love. To move from the crowd, swept up into the excitement of what happening around them, and into the arms of a God who welcomes, forgives, and rescues.
Make today more than the beginning of a holiday, make it the day to surrender your life to God!
*What Does Palm Sunday Mean For You, was a sermon preached by Jay on Sunday, March 20th, 2016, Palm Sunday. This is a copy of the manuscript, adapted for the blog. You can also list to the sermon podcast by clicking the link below.
Jay Higham is a veteran youth worker of over 28 years; having worked with students in the local church and Christian camping settings. Jay is currently serving as the director of family ministry at a church, located in West Virginia. Jay has been married to Amy for over 23 years. Together, they are raising 5 kids, (4 boys and 1 girl). Jay is an aspiring author, blogger, speaker, vlogger, and social media junkie. He is passionate about student ministry, family ministry, and training youth workers to love and serve their students with passion and excellence.