Palm Sunday

This week marks the beginning of Holy Week for Western Christianity; Orthodox and Celtic Christianity date Easter differently so for argument’s sake, bear with me.

And if you are Protestant Evangelical Southern Baptist or “non-denominational” (it just means a Baptist church with a cool website according to Christian comedian Tim Hawkins), there is no particular liturgy for Palm Sunday. You might borrow from the Anglican or Episcopalian by reading a Collect or do responsive reading, but that’s about it. I do remember back at the Hyde Park Christian Alliance church in Chicago, we got real Palm branches.

As Pastor Jim at HPCA recollected as a boy, it was the only Sunday where he could drag in tree branches and leaves and not get yelled at for making a mess.

So what does Palm Sunday really mean? It’s the day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey while His disciples lay their coats before him and the crowd yelled “Hosanna!”. To the Roman garrison watching, this must have been a weird procession. Romans who might have witnessed a Triumph in Rome would have seen a long procession with the victorious army in front, the conquered slaves behind, and the conquering general in a chariot pulled by 4 magnificent horses. However, Jesus had not quite won yet. That was just 4-5 short days away.

Instead of a foreign perspective, let’s take the Jewish perspective. Palm Sunday was also the first day of the week before Passover. It is the day that the sacrificial lamb would be brought into the house before its slaughter for the meal. The lamb was taken into the house on the 10th of the month and the meal was prepared and eaten on the 14th of the month. Now, why would they do that? Simple answer: inspection for purity according to Exodus 12.

Louis the Lamb had to be inspected for physical flaws.

  • All four legs? check
  • Able to walk normally? check
  • Has both ears and can hear? check
  • Has both clear eyes and can see? check
  • No weird tumors or growth? check
  • Right size and age? check

If Louis the Lamb does not pass, then it’s up to Logan the Lamb. Goats were an alternative so George the Goat might be used instead.

Jesus was the same; he enter the city of Jerusalem and 4 days later offered up. The one thing that all 4 Gospels do is to dedicate anywhere from a quarter to a third of the book on just Holy Week. Why? Same reason as why Louis the Lamb was inspected. Just as they looked for physical flaws for the Passover lamb, they have to find moral laws for the Ultimate Passover Lamb. Whether by design or inadvertently, everyone came up to Jesus that week and tested Him.

  • Consistent teaching? check
  • 100% observance of the Laws of Moses? check
  • Not a political insurrectionist? check
  • No psychological problems? check

As I read the Gospel accounts, I am surprised by how unflappable Jesus is. He knows exactly what was in their hearts and minds. He knows exactly that they will keep coming back in tag teams like wrestling. Yet, Jesus never loses his temper. He never lies or backtracks. He deals with each group – the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and his disciples – kindly and firmly.

You do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. – Matthew 22: 28-30

God has the final word: the Scriptures points to Jesus as the Lamb of God and the power of God to raise Jesus from the dead. (Spoiler alert! Jesus does come back.)

If your church has a Holy Week meditation, go for it.

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