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The Significance Of Palm Sunday


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What was the significance of Palm Sunday, with the branch waving, and the Hosanna's?

Anyone could see it was getting out of hand. In recent weeks, the crowds had been getting bigger, the momentum was building, and it began to feel like a revolution. And the more politically astute were beginning to get anxious. The authorities were starting to make confrontational noises. There were rumours of assassination plots.

Wherever he went, he was mobbed. People came to be healed, to be taught. Some came just because they felt special when they were around him.

Jesus ministry had escalated from an itinerant preacher teaching crowds in outlying villages, to a national encounter with God-made-man. A challenge and a threat at the centre of power in Jerusalem.

When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, things really started to get out of hand. Suddenly everyone wanted to see him. They would catch a whisper that he was in some part of town, and they would literally run, and push, and shove to try to get a good view.

Then the word raced around the city – Jesus is on the move. He's coming into town. We thought he was here last night! No, seems like he left again, but he's coming back! Why?

They streamed from all parts of the city, rushing out to meet him, tearing leaves from trees, and throwing them into the road.

Throwing their coats onto the ground. Shouting, dancing, laughing, singing. It was a crazy out-of-control time. No-one knew what was happening, but there was a huge sense of significance in the air.

This felt like a page turning in history. Something was stirring, you could almost hear it, deep and strong and powerful. Something awesome, majestic, something royal.

And then, the volume goes up, and he rounds the corner. Is it him. What on earth is he doing? He's riding a bike.

He's riding a bike! He's slowly peddling up the road. And now the children are laughing, and clapping. He's going so slowly they can run alongside. But … a bike?

And yet, the sense of the majestic, the royal, the powerful, didn’t leave. If anything, it became stronger, as they watched.

And as Jesus slowly peddles along the road entering the city, the crowds singing becomes worshipful. While some are being swept along in the emotion, some in the crowd, maybe those who have been healed or comforted or reaffirmed, are evidently adoring him.

Then someone starts to sing an old hymn from ancient times, written by King David. “Hosanna”. “Save us we pray”. Some in the crowd must think it's a strange choice of song, and yet, it seems fitting. Maybe they recall that old song, which has some great words.

Psalm 118
16 The LORD's right hand is lifted high; the LORD's right hand has done mighty things!"
19 Open for me the gates of righteousness
24 This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you.
25 Hosanna! LORD save us!

The sense of the presence and majesty of God is heightened as they sing.

But there's something else in the air. There's a tension, an edge of anxiety in the crowd. But more than that, somehow there's an aquiescence, a sense of inevitability, almost a dread surrounding Jesus. Something else is going on here.

The song goes on...

Psalm 118:27
The LORD is God, and he has made his light shine upon us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar.

This is the song they sang, as they led the sacrificial animal to the altar. They would tie it to the hooks on the altar corners, to stop the animal escaping. The word boughs had a kind of double meaning – it also meant cords – to tie the animal with.

It was a strange song to sing on such an occasion, wasn't it? What is going on?

Simply that all Jesus has talked about for the last three years, those strange stories always with a twist in the tail, about the Kingdom, are to be fulfilled.

The politics of this Kingdom of Heaven he has spoken about, are to be demonstrated.

The way God’s heavenly society is to run, is to be shown on earth.

The principles of the Kingdom, are to be earthed in the reality of this day.

He has taught:

Lose your life to gain it.

Give rather than receive.

Don’t worry about looking after No. 1.

Attend first to other’s needs.

Love those who despise you.

The meek will inherit the earth.

Rejoice when you are persecuted.

If you are hungry for righteousness, the time will come when you will be satisfied.

Now all that is going to be demonstrated, not because that demonstration will be any more understandable than his words, but because that is the way the Kingdom of Heaven works. It cannot work any other way.

So they see the King of kings, becoming the Servant of All.

The power of God laid aside, taking on vulnerability, because anyone who loves must become weak, vulnerable, and trust themselves within the power of another.

Power to reject, power to despise, power to accept, power to love, power to hate. The puny power of man can do all of this, because God is taking the lowest place.

Because, in the Kingdom of God, greatness = humility.

God, on a bike. God, sat by a bedside. God, cooking breakfast. God, washing the disciples feet.

If you and I want to be in the Kingdom, we must have the Spirit of the King in our lives. And he will ask us to give up power, to give up self, to follow the path of humility, to put others first.

Because if he calls us to follow him, then we have to do the same.

Psalm 118
1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.
2 Let Israel say: "His love endures forever."
3 Let the house of Aaron say: "His love endures forever."
4 Let those who fear the LORD say: "His love endures forever."
5 In my anguish I cried to the LORD, and he answered by setting me free.
6 The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?
7 The LORD is with me; he is my helper. I will look in triumph on my enemies.
8 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man.
9 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.
10 All the nations surrounded me, but in the name of the LORD I cut them off.
11 They surrounded me on every side, but in the name of the LORD I cut them off.
12 They swarmed around me like bees, but they died out as quickly as burning thorns; in the name of the LORD I cut them off.
13 I was pushed back and about to fall, but the LORD helped me.
14 The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.
15 Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous: "The LORD's right hand has done mighty things!
16 The LORD's right hand is lifted high; the LORD's right hand has done mighty things!"
17 I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done.
18 The LORD has chastened me severely, but he has not given me over to death.
19 Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to the LORD.
20 This is the gate of the LORD through which the righteous may enter.
21 I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation.
22 The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone;
23 the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
25 O LORD, save us; O LORD, grant us success.
26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you.
27 The LORD is God, and he has made his light shine upon us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar.
28 You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you.
29 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.
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