Written by Pastor Peggy Toussaint
Palm Sunday, the final Sunday before Easter Sunday, marks the beginning of Holy Week. Christian churches distribute palms (and sometimes pussy willows) on Palm Sunday or as many churches call it – Passion Sunday – to commemorate Christ’s triumphal entrance into Jerusalem, when palm branches were placed in His path, before His arrest and Crucifixion on Good Friday. Palm Sunday this year, 2015, occurs on March 29.
The Bible reveals that when Jesus entered Jerusalem, the crowds greeted him by waving palm branches and covering his path with palm branches. Immediately following this great time of celebration in the ministry of Jesus, he begins his journey to the cross.
The biblical account of Palm Sunday can be found in Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44; and John 12:12-19. All scriptures are similar in content; let’s take a look at Matthew 21: 1 – 11:
1 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives,Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”
4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
5 “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”[a]
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna[b] to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[c]
“Hosanna[d] in the highest heaven!”
10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”
11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
John 12: Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the King of Israel!” Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written, “Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.”
And so it begins! We begin Holy Week today as Jesus rides the donkey into Jerusalem, surrounded by his disciples and others who love Him and even bystanders who are just curious who this strange man is. Riding in through the gates of a city on a donkey symbolizes that the person comes in peace and love. The opposite would be a rider on a giant steed with armor and weapons. This is Jesus in triumph, but triumph of sacrifice, sacrifice for you and for me. That is how great God’s love for us is. That is what His Passion is all about.
Video using the Travis Cottrell version of “Holy, Holy, Holy” and clips from Visual Bible’s “Jesus The Christ”
Every year as we approach this week, I ponder on the word THE PASSION. That is The Passion of Christ; that week of jubilation, then degradation, then finally crucifixion and then joyous resurrection. It is the absolute gambit of emotion – the alpha and the omega, the full circle of emotion. And what is it about this week that we name it Passion Week? This is the week that God’s passion for us is culminated in a display of perfect love – the passion of His toward us.
But what is Passion throughout the Holy Bible and how does it relate to God – how does it relate to us? Passion means fervor, ardor, zeal, delight. From the very first page through the very last, the Bible seems to demonstrate one relentless passion… that is, the Father’s passion to see those whom He has created walk in intimacy with Him. In Jeremiah 31:3 the Lord speaks to the people of Israel saying, “I have loved you with an everlasting love… and I have drawn you in loving-kindness.” This verse is so beautiful not only because it reveals the depth of the Father’s love toward us but also because it demonstrates God’s passion to draw us into His presence.
Even when the hearts of the Israelites had turned from God, the Lord said, in Isaiah 65:1, “I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name I said, “Here I am, here I am!” The Lord’s unyielding pursuit, to draw His people into an intimate, loving relationship, is as true today as it has ever been before. You see, it is and has always been God’s deepest desire that you and I walk in the garden with Him in intimacy just as Adam and Eve had once walked with Him in the Garden of Eden.
The Scripture says that the Father has counted the very hairs on our head. We often don’t realize, because this verse is so familiar, the degree to which this demonstrates how intimately the Lord is involved in our lives. We just have no idea of the effect we have on God. David’s son, Solomon, tries to portray this in the Song of Solomon where the bridegroom, who, in this passionate allegory, perhaps representing Jesus, says, “You have stolen my heart, you have stolen my heart.”
For many of us, however, this is difficult to accept… that our Christian life is not as much about our seeking an encounter with the Lord but rather, God seeking an encounter with us. (that God anxiously looks forward to every authentic moment spent with you) Think of it… Each and every moment in Heaven, the Lord is receiving perfect praise and worship from throngs of angelic worshipers. Yet, when the Lord heard that first note coming from your lips, He, without hesitation, left that beautiful worship of heaven to receive your praise and to interact with you… to be with you. That is what Scripture means when it says that the Lord inhabits the praises of His people.
I repeat for emphasis, it is and has always been God’s desire for us to walk in the garden with Him, in intimacy, just the way Adam and Eve once had. And so, in loving kindness, the Lord draws us to himself. I love to search scriptures for those verses where God calls us to himself. Like in Isaiah where the Lord spoke to Israel saying, “Come, let us reason together says the Lord, though your sins be as scarlet, I will make them whiter than snow” or when our Jesus said, “Come, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”
So, what do we need to do to really create and celebrate daily that intimacy? Just open your eyes and your mouth and ask Him to be with you, to walk with you, to stay with you. Show him your passion, your passion. God wants that intimacy with you… he doesn’t want the forms of the faith… he wants you. Jesus didn’t endure the Cross of Calvary so that we could fulfill some religious duties or follow some religious ritual. He doesn’t really care which door you walk into to worship, just so you walk in. He doesn’t care if you are Charismatic, Evangelical, Liturgical…. Whatever you feel comfortable with; whatever draws you closer to him is what He wants. Everyone is different and He knows that.
Oh, how He loves you. He wants you, your love. He wants your passion.
That is His Passion.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxTOsQ3LDE4 “How He Loves Us.” David Crowder