I woke my wife and kids early. I had heard about this exciting day and did not want to miss it. There was a sense of apprehension in the air. So many people were in the city, gathering for the festival. It was elbow to elbow at the market, trying to find the produce of the day. This time is even more challenging because everyone is trying to prepare the same basic meals – it is the time of celebration of Passover. Passover has always helped us to remember what God had done and a powerful reminder of what he could still do. If only…if only this was not just an ordinary Passover. If only things were different. We are tired of bondage. We are tired of the lack of freedom. We are tired. Just to hear from God one more time would be an answered prayer. To hear something other than what we have been doing wrong would be a welcome message.
Today, though, seems to have its own intrigue. My neighbors tell me there is a prophet coming through town and many are gathering to welcome him. Some rumor this may be the long awaited Messiah. If it is, in fact, the Messiah, then he has a lot of work to do. So much is wrong in our land. Political powers will be difficult to tumble. I don’t envy this position. But I do find a little glimmer of hope…the butterflies gathering in the pit of my stomach as I consider the possibilities. What if God really has sent the Messiah he promised? What if this man really does have the answers? What if this is really the day we meet the Anointed One? What if…could it be…is there any way? With all these questions, I decide that me and my family will gather and see for ourselves.
So we dress and head out earlier than usual. We want to get a good view – I hear the crowds will be thick today – like a parade in the center of town. With some many in the city, that is definitely a possibility. We find our way to the right spot. My kids can see and experience. We all want to catch a glimpse. As I look around, I notice that people have brought cloths and palm leaves to lay down on the road. Now I know something is going to happen today. This is reserved for the best of the best. In the excitement, I ask my wife and kids to stay where they are and hold my spot. I run out to find palm leaves for us. I don’t have to go far, the trees line the way. So I grab one for each of us and bring them back. The kids immediately start to try them out – they wave so beautifully in the air. I have to remind them not to hit anyone with them. They find they can divide the ends and watch all of it waive like fingers in the air. They think it is funny to look like they are waiving their own hands with the palms.
It wasn’t long until we hear the shouts. He must be coming. The excitement is electric. We can hardly wait. I am a little blown away as he comes into view. It is a man on a donkey. My first thought is that this doesn’t look so regal or powerful. It all looks so…plain and ordinary. He isn’t dressed in warrior’s clothes or even the clothes of a king. He looks like me, like we could be family. He doesn’t seem to be welcoming all of the praises but instead, he looks concerned. The look on his face makes him appear as though he is a million miles away. He isn’t at all what I pictured would be coming through. He has a peaceful sense about him. But we shout with the rest and waive our palm leaves. I can’t keep my eyes off of him. There is something about him…something so very different. If he is the Messiah, he’s not like any I have read about or imagined. This could be even more interesting than I originally thought. I’m not sure this guy wants to conquer kingdoms. He doesn’t even look like he’s ready for any battle at all. Maybe we got it wrong…
*Today is Palm Sunday. It is a day that marks the beginning of Holy Week. For this beginning, I wanted to take you there for just a moment. What must it have been like on that first celebration? It may not have been as clear as we want to make it. It may not have been the celebration we think it would be. Most had no clue what Jesus was about to do and why. It was based really on a hope and a curiosity. They needed something to believe in, that this life they were living would not always be like it was. They wanted to a Savior, but weren’t sure what that even meant. Sometimes, neither do we.
I find myself in the crowd hoping for one thing but finding out that I don’t have it all figured out. I don’t know everything about this man on a donkey. I don’t fully understand what he was about to do. They wanted a political redeemer. We often want Jesus to be who we want him to be…to answer our prayers the way we want…to give us the things we think we need…to be there at our beckoned call for our every whim. But what if Jesus is so much more? What if we miss who he is because we haven’t decided who we want him to be? What does it mean for Jesus to be the Christ…the Messiah…the long awaited one? I think it means surrender. I think it means giving ourselves to the ONE…completely. Jesus is much more than they imagined on that first day…and he is so much more than we can imagine today. On this Palm Sunday, I am reminded to simply surrender…my intentions, my notions, my ideas of who he is…surrender my life to Jesus.
Happy Palm Sunday!
The message today is based on Matthew 21:1-11
21 When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.[a]” 4 This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,
5 “Tell the daughter of Zion,
Look, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; 7 they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 8 A very large crowd[b] spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
10 When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” 11 The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Note: It is my intention to take this “family” I began writing about from the beginning through the week long journey of Holy Week. Check out the writings for this week to follow the journey.