How should a Christian spend Palm Sunday? I pondered this yesterday as I preached at Churchill Baptist, near Tottenham. It was a joy to reunite with this congregation and to preach God’s word to them. We looked at Matthew 21 and rather than just ‘state the obvious’ I sought to preach through the text to the heart of the congregation.
As Matthew (and the other gospel writers) record the events of The Triumphal Entry, he cites the prophetic anticipation of this event. ‘This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: ‘Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’
Matthew is writing to a Jewish audience. He knows the Old Testament Scriptures and so do they. Hundreds of prophecies anticipate the birth, life, death and resurrection of the Messiah. Now as Matthew serves as an eyewitness, he describes the event of Jesus directing two disciples to acquire a donkey and her colt, and connects ‘the dots’ with Zechariah’s prediction made hundreds of years before.
It’s a profitable adventure on Palm Sunday, or on any day for that matter, to STUDY the Scriptures. If we search them (e.g. John 5:39-40), we’ll be directed to Jesus Christ, the central focus of God’s revelation.
Having been given specific instructions – “Go… Untie… Bring…” the disciples respond in obedience. “The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them.”
Wouldn’t it be amazing if this was written over our lives? Having heard the teaching of Jesus through preaching, teaching, our own study, we should go and do as instructed. As the mother of Jesus said to the servants, at the wedding in Cana of Galilee, ‘Whatever HE says to you, DO IT!’
Obedience is not an optional extra but the very core of disciple-making. Our engagement with Scripture is not for information but for transformation. The disciples understood this and so should we, just as the Great Commission demands. (….teaching them to OBEY everything I have commanded you….)
Jesus was surrounded by worshippers. A very large crowd was pressing in on Jerusalem, the city of the great King. They were there to celebrate Passover. On the road, in a spontaneous act of celebration and joy, they cut down branches from the palm trees and lay out their outer cloaks as the royal procession surrounding Jesus moves forward.
‘Hosanna to the Son of David!”\’ they shout. “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest!” Incorporating Scripture (e.g. Psalm 118:25,26 “O LORD, save us;…. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD,…”) they shouted their praise. Even the little children began to mimic the adults as they later ran through the temple courts shouting out their honour to the Son of David.
As Jesus entered Jerusalem, ‘...the whole city was stirred.’ The word Matthew opts for describes a ‘seismic’ impact. His birth had stirred the city (Matthew 2) especially as King Herod expressed his displeasure that one ‘born King of the Jews’ was a potential rival.
People were asking questions. “Who is this?” they queried. ‘This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.’ Yes, He is a prophet, but far more than a prophet. The events about to unfold over the next week will reveal exactly why He has come. He has been born to die. He will lay down His life as a full and final payment for sin.
So how did you spend your Palm Sunday? How will you spend this Holy Week? Let’s STUDY, OBEY, WORSHIP & TESTIFY–in a Christ honouring way, like the characters on this first Palm Sunday!