Celebrating Palm Sunday 2021

Yesterday was Palm Sunday. For all Christians, this marks the beginning of Holy Week – the week before Easter Sunday. It felt like 2020 – virtual service on our church’s channel on YouTube, no palm fronds (but there are plenty of palm trees in southern California), and socially distanced.

I have to ask the question: Has Palm Sunday lost its meaning? Has it become just another Sunday? I suspect a lot of Christians are not paying attention to our liturgical calendar unless someone reminded them. Then it becomes a “oh shoot” moment and then we try to do our best to drum up the right feelings.

I know because I have the same feelings. What can I do to change that?

First of all, Palm Sunday is not just a “Christian” event. It is also a Jewish holiday. It is the first day of Passover. All over the world, Christians and Jewish were looking to forward to a day of salvation. That was what Passover and Easter signified. The Jews remember the day of deliverance from Egypt and Christians have the day of deliverance from sin. Egypt in the Old Testament and the New Testament represented “sin” and the system of false religion and ultimately the worship of self. It ought to be more than just another Sunday in March.

Second, I consider the example of the Old Testament prophet Daniel. Daniel had been forcibly taken from his home when he was perhaps twelve years old. For the next seventy plus years, he and his friends faced indoctrination, persecution, and homesick. Even as he became the No. 3 man in the Persian Empire, Daniel was watching the clock until when God said the Jews could return from exile in Babylon to Jerusalem. By then, he was an old man and might not make the trip home. He could, however, get the younger generation ready to go. Above all, the prophet was pondering the “weeks” about the coming of the Messiah.

What most people did not realize, even in Jesus’s own time, was that Jesus entered Jerusalem, riding on a donkey with his followers shouting “Hosanna!” – was the same week that Daniel prophesied.

Jesus has come once and is coming again for his bride – the church. While we do not know the exact day, we are to be watching. Who is still watching for Jesus’s return?

Third, once Jesus entered Jerusalem, the events of the next few days fulfilled the requirements in Passover. According to Exodus and Deuteronomy, four days before Passover, a Jewish family would bring in their chosen lamb. The lamb was supposed to be the first born and without blemish. To make sure it was without blemish, the family had to examine the lamb closely. That lamb actually lived with the family for three days. Jesus was proclaimed “The Lamb of God who had come to take away the sins of the world” by his cousin John.

For the next three days that fateful month in Jerusalem, Jesus taught in the Temple. I believe that was God’s way of fulfilling his own law. The Jews had a chance to examine Jesus closely for not physical blemishes but moral blemishes. The Pharisees and the Sadducees tested him and each time, they found nothing wrong with Jesus. In fact, during his trial, they had to admit grudgingly that Jesus was indeed perfect.

Palm Sunday ought to challenge us to examine the claims of Jesus closely. Who is Jesus? What did He really say? And if what he says is true, what does that say about me? Can I live in whatever way I choose? Or do I fall at His feet and worship?

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