PALM SUNDAY 2021
A KING, A DONKEY, A PALMBRANCH AND A CLOAK
Today we celebrate Palm Sunday – and we are going to see what Palms have got to do with it.
It remembers the Triumphal Entry of Christ into Jerusalem a week before Easter Day – and we are going to ask in what way it is a “Triumph”.
And we are going to wonder what donkeys and cloaks have got to do with it too…
A NEW BEGINNING
With the government “roadmap” tantalisingly in front of us our theme this Easter is to encourage you all to make a “new beginning” as we come out of Lockdown and face a new – and uncertain – future.
A New Beginning – can you really go back to how you were before? Do you really WANT to go back to how you were before?
A New Beginning – so much has been lost, so much has changed. I was speaking to a man on Tuesday who has lost his livelihood and possibly his home. Others have lost loved ones. Can any of us really go back to how things were before?
A New Beginning – our eyes have been opened over this past year to the fragility of life. Our consciences have been pricked by the realisation that surely there must be more to life than this brief time in our mortal bodies! There is a new hope that life progresses beyond death to a paradise in eternity.
A New Beginning – are you now ready to declare that you want to make a New Beginning as you come out of this time of national Lockdown? If so, then let me offer you this day the hope of a New Beginning with the only One who can answer all your questions and meet all your needs.
And His Name? Jesus.
PALM SUNDAY – THE OFFER OF A NEW BEGINNING
- THE BIBLE STORY – MATTHEW 21: 1-11
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 fulfil 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.”’
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!’
‘Hosanna in the highest heaven!’
10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, ‘Who is this?’
11The crowds answered, ‘This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.’
- THE NEED FOR A NEW BEGINNING
The Jews of Israel had been in a National Lockdown for nearly 100 years. Their lives were controlled by the Roman Empire; their movements were limited; their taxes were harsh. They felt they were not free. They were not happy. They were looking for a New Beginning. Their prophets had promised them a coming Messiah who would save them, and free them, and be their King.
And now Jesus entered Jerusalem, seated on a donkey – as did the kings of that age when they entered their capital city. He heralded in a New Beginning – a new Kingdom of which He was the King.
If they chose to follow Him, then He offered them a New Beginning – now:
‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’ (Matthew 121: 28-30)
If they chose to follow Him, then He offered them a New Beginning – for eternity:
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand (John 10: 27-28)
If they chose to follow Him, then He offered them a New Beginning – paradise for evermore:
‘Look! God’s dwelling-place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death”[b] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ 5 He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ (Revelation 21: 3-5)
- THE NEW BEGINNING IS AN OFFER FOR US!
Just like the Jews on Palm Sunday were crying out for a New Beginning, so too are we today. And Jesus is calling you to make Him your New Beginning now – and He will fill you with hope, joy and peace as you trust in Him (Romans 15: 13).
Let’s be different. Let’s follow Him.
And what do we have to do to make this New Beginning? Want it! Follow Jesus from now on. Live His way. And you will find rest for your souls now, and life forevermore.
As we read the events of Palm Sunday we understand three things we need to do to make following Jesus our New Beginning…
- WAVE PALM BRANCHES
Accept Him joyfully into our lives for who He is:
- The Date Palm was ubiquitous in the Israel of Bible times – standing tall and stately at up to 50 feet in height. In Israel and throughout the Roman world, the waving of palm branches symbolised two things:
- Firstly, JOY: at the Festival of Tabernacles the Israelites were called to use palm branches to “rejoice before the Lord your God” (Leviticus 23: 40). As we choose to make this day a New Beginning let us follow Jesus as the King of our lives with joy – for He has promised the citizens of His Kingdom life forevermore!
- Secondly, VICTORY: laying down palm branches then was like “rolling out the red carpet” today. Roman generals returning from a successful campaign would have them strewn before them. Kings would ride into their capital city over the. As we choose to make this day a New Beginning let us follow Jesus as the King of our lives knowing and proclaiming that He has won a great victory for us – taking us out of this world of sin and death and into His Kingdom of everlasting life – that begins today.
- LAY DOWN OUR CLOAKS FOR HIM
Give Him everything that we have:
- Firstly, it is symbolic of our giving our all to Him: The cloak covered, kept you warm, provided your place of sleep. So, when a person spread their cloaks before a King, they are saying that “we give You all that we have and all that we need”. To make this a New Beginning we need to give our everything to Him – all that we have and all that we are.
- Secondly, spreading garments out for someone to walk on was more than an act of chivalry (i.e., spreading your coat over puddle so a lady does not soil her feet). In the Old Testament the Israelites spread their cloaks out for the new king Jehu to walk on (2 Kings 9: 13) – as an act of submission and honour and loyalty. To make this a New Beginning we need to honour Jesus in everything and submit to His rule over our lives.
- BE A DONKEY!
Choose to live for Him from this day onwards:
- We think of horses as being the animals of choice for royalty – but this is Biblically not so! In fact, although Solomon had thousands of horses the Israelites were told to not put their trust in horses – symbols of war and power and wealth – because they were to put their trust in the Lord (Ps 20: 7). The donkey was the real “work horse” of Israel.
- Contrary to common perception, donkeys are anything but stupid. In fact, once their owner gains their trust, they can be willing and companionable partners and very dependable. It is said that they actually do not work their best unless they trust the one they are working for. Once they feel comfortable with the owner, donkeys will do almost anything within their limits, and as a bonus, they need minimal training.
- Being surefooted and having excellent eyesight, they are able to navigate rocky desert terrain and find paths that the human eye may not even be able to see. They will actually lead the way without having to be guided.
- The donkey that Jesus rode on was untrained – and yet with Jesus sitting on, it rode steadily under His divine and yet gentle guidance. And, understanding that the donkey was the animal on which a king rode into their capital city, the crowds would have had no doubt as to what they were witnessing. Here was the King!
- And what relevance does this have to us? When we choose to make this day a New Beginning, let us choose to become His servant for the rest of our lives. Let us choose to allow Him to direct our lives. As a true “spiritual donkey” we declare that He is now our King and we will serve Him in whatever way He asks and we will go wherever He sends us.
- When Balaam’s donkey spoke (Numbers 22: 21-32), it showed a vision (it alone could see the Angel) and a wisdom (it alone knew to turn aside) that the great Balaam did not have. Let us be proud to be a “spiritual donkey” and go forward under the guidance of our King with a vision and a wisdom that will see us through this life and into eternity.
THE CHALLENGE: WHO IS KING IN YOUR LIFE?
Who, or what, has been “king” in your life? Who, or what, has ruled you thus far?
Has it been a need of “acceptance, acquisition and achievement”?
Has it been your job, your wife or your hobbies?
The Coronavirus pandemic has shown the flimsy nature of all these things, the fragility of life as we have known it.
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, He declared a new Kingdom – one of following Him, joyfulness in Him, giving our all for Him, living for Him – one of love, joy and peace and the promise of eternal life in Paradise.
What about you? Are you ready to make a New Beginning? Are you ready to wave your palm branches to Him, lay your cloaks before Him, and be His wise and reliable “spiritual donkeys”?
Who is King in your life?
Who is going to be King from this time onwards?
APPENDIX: THE BIBLE STORY IN THE OTHER GOSPELS
- MARK 11
As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, 2 saying to them, ‘Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone asks you, “Why are you doing this?” say, “The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.”’
4 They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, 5 some people standing there asked, ‘What are you doing, untying that colt?’ 6 They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. 7 When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. 9 Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,
‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’[b]
10 ‘Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!’
‘Hosanna in the highest heaven!’
11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.
- LUKE 19
28 After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30 ‘Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?” say, “The Lord needs it.”’
32 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’
34 They replied, ‘The Lord needs it.’
35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.
37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
38 ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!’[b]
‘Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’
39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples!’
40 ‘I tell you,’ he replied, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.’
41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 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. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognise the time of God’s coming to you.’
- JOHN 12
12 The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,
‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’[d]
‘Blessed is the king of Israel!’
14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written:
15 ‘Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion;
see, your king is coming,
seated on a donkey’s colt.’[e]
16 At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realise that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him.
17 Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. 18 Many people, because they had heard that he had performed this sign, went out to meet him. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, ‘See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!’