Palm Sunday: What Did The First Palm Sunday Look Like?
By James Bruyn
We remember Palm Sunday as the day where Jesus rode through Jerusalem on a donkey, as the crowds shouted “Hosanna to the Son of David, Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord, Blessed is the kingdom of our father David, Peace in heaven and glory in the highest, Hosanna in the highest!” James Bruyn provides us with a descriptive account of what the first Palm Sunday would have looked like, and what it means for us today.
Palm Sunday: A Joyful Procession
It was a bright day in early spring when the festive procession set out from a home in Bethany. This was the day when the world would know that Jesus, the Son of David, was also the Son of God and the King of the Jews. In just a few days the world would see the Prince of Peace triumph over the forces of evil.
As Jesus set out for his Royal and Messianic entry into Jerusalem, he was accompanied by his disciples and other guests from the Sabbath feast in Bethany. Soon they were joined by those who had experienced Jesus’ authority over nature, demons, sickness, sin, religious rituals and the systems of this world. Others who had found forgiveness, peace, love and hope quickly merged with the crowd. Bystanders who had heard Jesus teach, or whom he had fed, or who had heard of the raising of Lazarus joined the throng. There were even Pharisees amongst the crowd, whose hearts were filled with bitterness, jealousy, and hatred.
Jesus had no infrastructure, no corporation, no social media accounts. He depended on the charity of others for food and shelter and had only a small group of faithful followers. Yet he achieved worldwide fame.
Jesus sent two of his disciples ahead into town. There they would find a donkey’s colt tied by the side of the road that had never been ridden before. The owners of the colt gladly offered its use for the entry of the Teacher of Nazareth into Jerusalem.
They travelled along a broad well-defined mountain-track that wound over rock and loose stones, with fig trees here and there growing out of the rocky soil. There was a steep downward slope on the left and the sloping sides of the Mount of Olives on the right.
Somewhere along this path, the disciples returned with the donkey.
Hosanna To Son Of David!
Eager to see Jesus, the crowds waved palm branches that they cut down along the way. Their enthusiasm was infectious as they greeted Jesus with loud Hosannas! Reaching Jesus, they spread their garments on the colt for Jesus to sit on. Unwrapping their loose cloaks on their shoulders, they stretched them along the rough path to form a momentary carpet as Jesus approached. Others tore down branches from the trees and gardens through which they passed, strewing them as matting in His way as they joined in the Hosanna of welcoming praise.
They followed the triumphant progress of Israel’s King – “gentle, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt the foal of a beast of burden” (Matt 21:5, NASB). Gradually the long procession swept up and over the ridge and began the descent toward Jerusalem. As they reached the point of the road where the City of David first suddenly emerges into view, the crowd began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen. As the burning words of joy and praise passed from person to person– the words of David’s Psalms echoed across the way … “Hosanna to the Son of David, Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord, Blessed is the kingdom of our father David, Peace in heaven and glory in the highest, Hosanna in the highest!”
The Pharisees React
While these shouts of praise rang out, the Pharisees, mingling with the crowd turned to one another with angry frowns. They made a desperate appeal to the Master Himself, whom they so bitterly hated, to rebuke the honest zeal of the people. With a touch of quick and righteous indignation, Jesus pointed to the rocks and stones, telling the leaders of Israel that if the people held their peace, that the very stones would immediately cry out.
As the procession advanced, the road descended a slight hill, and their glimpse of the city was hidden behind a ridge of the Mount of Olives. A few moments later, they climbed a rugged ascent and reached a smooth ledge where in an instant the whole city burst into view. Standing on this ledge the crowd would have seen the spread of the Temple Courts, with a backdrop of its gardens and suburbs on the western plateau behind.
Jesus Prepares To Depart His Kingdom
With loud and deep lamentation, Jesus paused and wept. Jesus didn’t weep for the beauty, glory, and security of the Jerusalem which he saw before Him. Jesus wept for Jerusalem a city that did not recognize the time of God’s coming. The silence and desolateness of pending death and destruction by the Hand of God broke his heart! Yet Jesus knew that the stone which the builders rejected, would soon become the chief cornerstone upon which we can build our lives.
On that bright spring day, the excitable, fickle population streamed before Him through the City-gates, down the narrow streets up to the Temple. The tramp of their feet and their shouts of acclamations brought men, women, and children into the streets and onto the housetops. Curious onlookers cried out ‘Who is He?” and the crowds answered ‘This is Jesus the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee’.
Jesus alone was silent and sad amongst this excited crowd. The marks of the tears He had wept over Jerusalem were still on His cheek. He was the suffering servant who will take away our weaknesses, and bear our diseases, who came to win our hearts with love. It wasn’t an earthly King who entered His city in triumph, but a heavenly King about to depart to His Kingdom. Jesus was preparing to depart by the way of the cross.
What Palm Sunday Means For Us Today
Today our hearts can be filled with shouts of Hosanna, shouts of praise, for the risen Christ hears and answers our prayers. We know that Christ has the ultimate authority over nature, demons, sickness, sin, religious rituals, and the systems and leaders of this world. We have experienced forgiveness, peace, love, and joy. We rest in an eternal hope. We have a merciful and faithful high priest who is seated at God’s right hand, interceding for us.
Today we give thanks to the Lord for He is good; for his lovingkindness is everlasting.
James Bruyn is a bi-vocational visionary leader, writer, and speaker who enjoys helping individuals integrate their faith in God with their daily life. James leads a ministry to Christians in the marketplace in Calgary, provides leadership coaching, and consults for the rail industry. James produces Marketplace Ministry for our Christian internet radio station, HopeStreamRadio. Contact us if you would like to learn more about how God changes lives.
James is passionate about connecting the rich promises of our loving Heavenly Father that we find in the Bible, with the joys and challenges of living out our faith in the workplace. James writes a weekly devotional at marketplace-ministry.ca/blog
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