This coming Sunday we will be celebrating Palm Sunday which will mark the beginning of the Holy Week when we would relive the Passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. Palm Sunday historically commemorates the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem before his Crucifixion.
According to all four Gospels accounts, on that day, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a borrowed donkey. The disciples spread their cloaks on the donkey for Jesus to sit on, and the multitudes came out to welcome Him, laying before Him their cloaks and the branches of palm trees. The people hailed and praised Him as the conquering King who came in the name of the Lord to free them from the cruel and suppressive rule of the powerful Romans. As He rode to the temple, where He had taught the people, healed them, and drove out the money-changers and merchants they shouted “Hosanna,Hosanna” at the top of their voices.
However Jesus was quick to point out to them that He did not come with might to defeat the Romans. Which king would come as a lowly servant on a donkey, not a prancing steed, not in royal robes, but on the clothes of the poor and humble?
Jesus made it clear that He came not to conquer by force as earthly kings, but by love, humility, mercy, and His own sacrifice for His people. His was not a kingdom of powerful armies and splendor, but of lowliness and servant hood. He conquered not nations, but hearts and minds of the people. He did not come just to preach but came to show them how to live by what he preached.
When He failed in their expectations, when He refused to lead them in a massive revolt against the Roman occupiers and those who collaborated with them, the crowds quickly turned on Him. Within just a few days, their Hosannas changed to cries of “Crucify Him!”. Those who hailed Him as a hero soon rejected and abandoned Him.
What is the significance of Jesus’ triumphant entry today?
On Palm Sunday year after year we wave blessed palms as the priest makes his entry into the church. We enact the scene of Jesus entering Jerusalem in triumph and glory and read his Passion. Is Palm Sunday all about blessing and waving of palms? Surely it must mean much more than just enacting a historic event.
We should realize that Jesus did not enter Jerusalem to fight and win the Romans but to humbly subdue to them, their cruel injustice. Jesus entered Jerusalem to face his imminent torture and death on the cross which he was well aware of. He took it willingly and placed full trust in God. Jesus was willing to walk the path of truth knowing very well that it is going to cause him immense suffering and death on the cross.
Jesus did not just preach but practiced to the fullest every word he preached. Very few people, including those who profess to be followers of Christ, have withstood bravely to defend their principles in life.
We too are very often asked to bear witness to truth in our daily lives. Are we willing to walk the path of righteousness in an environment of hostility and ridicule? Are we willing and bold enough stand firm to our principles in facing up to the challenges in life? Many of us may think we would but only to succumb to the temptations of greed, lust and hatred.
The main reason we succumb to temptations is our lack of faith and trust in God. Real faith is tested not during good times but at times of great trouble and difficulty. It is easy to say we trust God when we have everything going our way but it is more important to hold on to that unwavering trust when we are encountered with failure after failure and even when struck by one tragedy after another. God will answer our answer our prayers but often in ways we do not recognize or comprehend. Whatever He gives is what we deserve and is the best in the circumstances we are in.
Jesus was well aware the multitudes of people who welcomed him like a King will betray him a few days later. They will dessert him to go through his torture and death in great pain and agony all by himself. Many sympathized with Him but did not have the courage to be by his side when it mattered most as they feared the wrath of those in power.
Many of us too would have experienced the betrayal by those close to us in times of real need in our struggles to defend truth and justice. We may have been let down by those close to us, our spouse, children and friends in our struggles to build an environment of love and concern. When we are young, powerful and wealthy many flock to us but the moment we lose all the so-called friends leave us to continue your journey all alone. Do we have the courage to carry on enduring the pain and turmoil in walking the path of righteousness?
Christ’s message is simple. It is one of peace with God who dwells in those around us, not of temporal peace. It simply means Jesus is living in every person we meet, in everyone in need. The question is whether we are willing to reach out to Him in those around us. If we are not then waving palms and shouting “Alleluia” and “Hosanna” will all be in vain.
Palm Sunday should not just a day to show our love for Jesus by waving some palms and shouting “Hosanna”. It should a day to welcome him into our hearts. If Jesus has made a triumphal entry into our hearts, He will reign there in peace and love. As His followers, do we exhibit those same qualities for the world to see the true King living and reigning in triumph in us?