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"Hosanna! Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!" people shouted as they waved palm fronds and laid fronds, robes and other items on the ground for the donkey to walk on. Jesus, riding on the back of this animal, had an unusual look on his face as he rode into town. It was a look of determination that conveyed, "Nothing will prevent me from completing my mission!" Many -- perhaps hundreds -- of townsfolk were joyously, noisily crowding around Jesus and his disciples that day as they ... Wait a minute. Do we know what was happening?

In a few days, churches will have mini-dramas where children walk down the aisle waving palm branches (fronds) sweetly saying 'Hosanna to God in the Highest,' and pastors will talk or preach about Jesus riding into Jerusalem on the donkey. And why not? It'll be Palm Sunday.

But do we really understand what took place on that historic day?

In John 12:12-13 we read, "On the next day, many people who came to the Passover feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. They took branches of palm trees and went to meet him, and cried, 'Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that comes in the name of the Lord!"

Luke 19:35-39 gives more information. "They brought the donkey to Jesus, put garments on the colt, and Jesus sat on it. As he went, they spread their clothes in the path. And when Jesus came near the mount of Olives, the crowd, consisting of disciples and celebrators, began to rejoice and praise God loudly for all the mighty works they had seen. They yelled, 'Blessed is the King that comes in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.' And some of the Pharisees told him, 'Master, tell your disciples to quiet down!'"

"I can read," you might say. "But what does it all mean?"

First of all, Hosanna was a political compound-word used by the Zealots which carried the idea of "Save us now from our enemies!"

Secondly, the palm frond, or branch, was not a symbol of peace, but was the political symbol of a free National Israel.

Thirdly, the statement "Blessed is he (or 'the King') who comes in the name of the Lord" referred to the people's hope for a long-awaited Messiah -- a Military Messiah or prophet -- who would send the Romans scampering back to Rome.

Fourthly, riding in on a donkey was symbolic of a king displaying his pre-eminence.

And fifthly, the commotion sounded like another rebellion or uprising, and the Pharisees wanted the people to hush up so the Romans wouldn't come and kill them.

The populace didn't understand the meaning of the prophecy in Zechariah 9:10-11 which says, "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Look, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt the foal of a donkey. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall establish peace throughout the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your captives free from the waterless pit."

Although the people knew the prophecy, they missed the meaning. The three concepts are: the Messiah would come in peace, not war; he would be king over the entire world, not just Israel; and he would free people from the bondage of sin and death, not from a political foe.

Jesus didn't come to conquer Rome, but to conquer sin and death. But he could do this only by dying for us.

Most of the leaders in Israel -- primarily the Sanhedrin, most of whom didn't believe in angels, heaven, or resurrection; and the Pharisees, most of whom were trying to appease the Romans -- had given up on any kind of messiah. Too many pretenders had been killed with their followers, and they didn't want to go through that again. And they didn't understand what Jesus meant when in Matthew 16:3b he said, "You know how to interpret the weather signs in the sky, but you don't know how to interpret the signs of the times!"

But the common folk wanted a Messiah! The stage was now set for the final show-down. We'll continue next week.


Editorial on 04/10/2019

Print Headline: The Meaning Of Palm Sunday

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