And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.” (Luke 19:36-42 ESV)
Palm Sunday, for some of us, is a memory littered with silly church games and kids with big palm branches. For others, there’s no memory of celebrating Palm Sunday at all. For others, something entirely different. Regardless of how Palm Sunday makes you feel, the historical event that actually occurred more than 2,000 years ago—Jesus entering the city of Jerusalem a week before His death—produced a variety of reactions in the people involved.
All the disciples there sang and chanted for their Messiah because they saw Him as the one fulfilling the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9.
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zechariah 9:9 ESV)
The Pharisees tried to stop the excitement for fear the Romans would get involved and seize their power and influence over the city. In stark contrast to both, Jesus used the moment to weep over the city.
Why were there such disparate attitudes around Jesus’s entry to Jerusalem? Take a moment and put yourself in each party’s position:
If we take the time to consider each party and what they are feeling, we, as believers, should be able to empathize with all three responses. Like the disciples, when things are going well for us and we can see God working in ways that we perceive as good, we praise Him. Other times, like the Pharisees, when it seems Jesus is challenging our will or our security, we want Him to go away.
And then sometimes, in our ideal moments, the Spirit works in us and we look something like Jesus in our impulses. In the midst of a raucous event, we can be beside ourselves with passion for the people we love, feel sorrow for what our love will cost us, and move forward with our mission.
Jesus wasn’t swayed by His circumstances—neither the grumbling against Him nor the crowd’s praises swayed Him. He seems outside the moment in both His grief for His wayward people and in His resolve to save them by giving His own life. He could have responded any number of ways to take control of the situation, but instead, He grieved for His people and proceeded toward His suffering. He pressed on to finish what He had to do to save His people and take His throne. Why did Jesus press on?
Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2 ESV)
While His eyes were on the city and the plight of the people grieved His heart, His eyes were also lifted up to the promised glory on the other side of the suffering before Him.
On Palm Sunday, Jesus showed He was both a suffering servant and a king. And on Palm Sunday we remember both of those facts—that He came and suffered for us and that He is still on His throne today, regardless of how we feel about Him.
So for this Palm Sunday, let’s answer these questions: