The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem.23 12:13 So they took branches of palm trees24 and went out to meet him. They began to shout,25“Hosanna!26 Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!27 Blessed is28 the king of Israel!” 12:14 Jesus found a young donkey29 and sat on it, just as it is written, 12:15 “Do not be afraid, people of Zion;30 look, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt!”31 12:16 (His disciples did not understand these things when they first happened,32 but when Jesus was glorified,33 then they remembered that these things were written about him and that these things had happened34 to him.). (John 12:12-16 ESV).
The observance of Palm Sunday in the church calendar marks a movement in the life of Jesus and in the history of salvation. As Jesus faced the cross the promise of ancient prophecy, going all the way back to Genesis 3:15, was being fulfilled:
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15 ESV).
God’s promise to redeem mankind through the progeny of Eve, was coming to pass on that climactic day in which King Jesus rode in majestic humility to his divine destiny in Jerusalem. Yet that covenant called for Jesus to” bruise the head” of the Evil One who had diabolically induced the darkened hearts of men to crucify the Lord of glory. How could bruising the head of the Evil come about by Jesus yielding himself to a week of torture concluding in death upon the cross? How can life come through death? How can victory come through apparent defeat? This is the enigmatic, mysterious nature of Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday is a victorious day to herald crucifixion. Maundy Thursday (from “mandatum” or command, in which Jesus commanded, “love one another” and “do this in remembrance of me” was given in that moving night, in that first commemoration of the New Passover), Good Friday, Black Saturday, in which our Lord lay dead in the tomb, and Easter Sunday, the new “Eighth Day of Creation” all depend on the gateway: Palm Sunday.
Those believers and congregations who seek to mark time according to the life of Jesus, and that is the reason for the church’s calendar, are reminded each year of the Palm Sunday paradox of faith. In rejoicing, sorrow may follow, yet in Christ, all sorrows must ultimately yield to the empty tomb. Let that give you a Palm Sunday hope this day in your life.
Today, as the children process with palms and we sing hymns old and new, and worship silently and vocally, privately and together, we live the paradox of Palm Sunday. And do we not also live that paradox in our families and our lives out in the world? Part of the Christian life is learning to embrace the paradoxes, accept the mysteries of life and death, as part of the plan of God that doesn’t always make sense at first. The dynamic element that bridges that gap between the paradoxical clefts of life is the gift of faith; faith in Jesus Christ, the crucified, risen, and ascended Savior, who is coming again. He is the constant in the world of change. He is the paradox that give life:
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).