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Rejoice in the Triumph of Palm Sunday, but Remember the Passion Week

A view of the old city of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives.
A view of the old city of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. Photo by Todd Bolen.
We should rejoice in the apparent “triumph” of that Palm Sunday. But we should also remember that for Jesus to be Israel’s Messiah, rejection and suffering were bound up in the initiation of this “Passion Week.”

Palm Sunday

The Gospels recall that the cries of the crowds greeting Jesus on His “Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 about Jerusalem’s King coming to the city. 

However, one finds another often-ignored Old Testament connection in Matthew 21:9:

“Hosanna … blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (Matt 21:9). It is easy to overlook that this expression comes from the Old Testament, specifically from Psalm 118:25. In fact, the entire psalm merits further study. The Lord Jesus explicitly cites this psalm twice more in the next two days (Matt 21:42; 23:39). Then it will be implicitly cited at the end of the event that Christians call the Last Supper on Thursday night (Mark 14:26). This mention of that text is a preview of coming attractions!

The “Triumph,” however, has a sad footnote. Mobs of Jesus’ followers—pilgrims from Galilee and some Jerusalemites—hailed him as their Messiah. While they may not have realized their hero faced a horrible, imminent death, they were sincere in their acceptance of Him. But others in Jerusalem strongly demurred. To be accepted as the Messiah of Israel demanded that Israel’s national leaders also hail him in this manner. Sadly, the leaders refused to do so. Two Gospel writers record their jealousy and perplexity at this moment (Luke 19:39; John 12:19). These religious leaders, especially the Sadducees, had already made up their minds about him (John 11:47–53, 57).

On the slope of the Mount of Olives, just off the path Jesus descended that day, there is now a beautiful chapel named the Dominus Flevit, Latin for “the Lord wept.” The builders designed the chapel to remind visitors of a teardrop. There are even ancient tear bottles included in the outside corners of the building. It commemorates the touching plea that Jesus issued to the Jewish people as He descended that slope: 

“As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, He wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.’”  

(Luke 9:41–42)

Jesus knew very well what lay ahead of him—namely, his rejection by the Jewish leadership and the Romans’ eventual destruction of their beloved Jerusalem. Ironically, these same people would condemn and execute him in just a few days! And the thought of that caused him to weep!

We should rejoice in the apparent “triumph” of that Palm Sunday. But we should also remember that for Him to be Israel’s Messiah, rejection and suffering were bound up in the initiation of this “Passion Week.”

Prayer for Reflection

“Lord Jesus, the multitudes welcomed you as the fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy. As you received their praises, you paused and wept over Jerusalem because its leaders did not join in that welcome song. May my heart also weep over the unbelief of my friends and neighbors who still do not recognize who you are. Hasten the day they join the chorus, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”

All Devotionals:

8 Daily Devotionals from Palm Sunday to Easter

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