Posted by Carol Smith
We call today Palm Sunday. Here’s the story from John 12:12-13:
When the crowd heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and they began to shout, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD; Blessed is the King of Israel.”
The first words of their praise come from Psalm 118:25-26. In the Psalm, Hosanna is a cry to God to “Save us, please.” By the time of Jesus, it has become a word of praise associated with the long-awaited Messiah, who was promised to come and save Israel. The last part of their chant, “Blessed is the king of Israel,” is an addition to the Psalm and gives us some insight into what they’re hoping Jesus is here to do.
Palm branches were a sign of Jewish nationalism, used symbolically when fighting Rome for their freedom. Twice, as part of a rebellion against Rome, the Jews minted their own coins, and on them were stamped palm branches. The presence of palm branches here is more than just, “Hey we’ve got a lot of these kind of branches lying around; let’s wave those.” The waving of the palm branches gives us further insight into what it is they’re hoping Jesus is here to do.
Hosanna. Save us, please.
Save us from what? Save us how?
Our answer might be: Save us from sickness, from corrupt leaders, from oppression, from abuse, from addiction, from conflict, from hurtful relationships, from suffering, from pain.
Israel’s answer was definitely: Save us from Rome. Save us by leading us in glory-filled battle, expelling Rome from our land, and bringing peace to the land of Israel. That is the greatest thing that could possibly happen.
Jesus didn’t do that. He had greater things in mind. He had his sights set on something bigger than Rome.
The Bible teaches us that when God created the world, it was a world full of blessing, but humanity brought sin into the world and introduced a curse. It was that curse that Jesus came to defeat. Oppressive governments like Rome, sickness, abuse, addiction, conflict, hurtful relationships, suffering, and pain all were born out of that curse of sin. Jesus didn’t come just for Rome. He came to save us from what’s at the root of it all. From the curse of sin.
If Israel’s looking for a glory-filled battle that expels Rome and brings peace to their land, they might be disappointed by the events of the coming week. Disappointed, until they understand. It’s not going to be the glory-filled battle we imagine quite yet. It starts with a humiliating death that looks a lot more like defeat than victory. (But don’t worry, that’s actually part of the victory. And there’s some pretty great glory come day three.) The battle looks different, because it’s not against people, but against sin and death. He’s not going to lead us into this battle; Jesus is going to fight it on His own. Rome isn’t going to be expelled from the land, but that curse is on its way out. Political peace isn’t coming to Israel any time soon. But Jesus is bringing us an eternal peace with God and a Shalom kind of wholeness in our hearts.
When we see the palm branches on Palm Sunday, let them remind us that God thinks bigger than we do. When we ask him to save us from something, he may not give us what we ask for, because he’s got something bigger and better in mind. He sees the big picture; he sees the roots.
Discussion/Application: Where is it hard for me to yield my vision for what God ought to do in the world or in my life and let Him work his plan his way? Why do I not trust that his ideas are better than mine?
Bullet Prayer for the Day: I’ve been asking you to save me from discomfort and from the affects of sin in the world, but you have come to provide a greater, deeper, and longer-lasting salvation. Help me to trust your better vision. I invite you to work your plan, not mine, in my life, for yours is greater than anything I could even imagine.