- Focus Scripture: Matthew 21:1-10 (NKJV)
Palm Sunday is also known as Passion Sunday because it marks the beginning of Holy Week. In the focus scripture, we see that many people had gathered in Jerusalem that day to celebrate the Passover. We also see that Jesus used this occasion to make his triumphal entry into the Holy City. In doing so, he is symbolically revealed as King.
Although jubilant and triumphal are words that can be used to describe the scene, Jesus had overcome many obstacles to get to Jerusalem, which was his ultimate destination. He had been rejected in his own hometown. Pharisees, Saducees, and other religious leaders and teachers had defied him at every turn. They criticized Jesus and made false accusations against him. They tested him, challenged his authority, and even plotted to kill him. But he triumphed over it all.
And the people loved it! They probably noticed that he did not sneak into town by way of a back road. He made a grand entrance! A King’s entrance! Curiously, he didn’t ride into town like a conquering hero with pomp and power on a mighty steed leading a Roman legion in a victory parade. No. Jesus made his entrance into Jerusalem humbly, seated on a colt, an animal fit for burdens and heavy labor. And not only that; the animal on which he rode was borrowed. He made his royal entrance in a manner that was meek and lowly. It prompted people to ask: Who is this?
Who was Jesus for the Disciples?
Sometimes the answer to this question varies, depending on whom you ask and the stories they recall. It’s interesting to note that all four Gospels include this amazing story about Jesus entering Jerusalem. Disciples relate other stories about Jesus, but they cover these accounts from slightly different angles and perspectives. Getting a full picture requires putting together all the pieces. Who was Jesus for the disciples? The scripture provides information to answer this question.
“He was our prophet,” Luke said. “I remember one day in the synagogue when he announced his mission statement. Some of those in attendance were highly offended. They started to say things like. ‘Isn’t this that Carpenter?’ ‘Wasn’t his mother Mary?’ Jesus challenged them by declaring that a prophet is typically not given honor in his own hometown. Some of those in the synagogue really got upset after that. They led him to the brow of a hill and threatened to throw him over the cliff. But he simply passed through the crowd and went his way.”
“Jesus was a teacher,” Matthew announced enthusiastically. “He spoke in parables and used other methods to reveal the truth. We were with him when he taught the people on the Sabbath. Many who heard him were astonished because he spoke with such authority. News about him began to spread throughout the region.”
“He was a healer,” Peter chimed in. “One day we all stopped by my mother-in-law’s house. When Jesus saw that she was sick, he healed her. Somehow, word got out. Later that same night, people lined up all around the house. And throughout the night he laid his hands on them. He cured the infirm of their diseases and cast out demons. And they kept coming. He had to sneak away to a quiet place to get some rest the next morning, but the crowd followed him relentlessly. They kept touching him because when they did so, his power passed through to them and made them whole.”
“Speaking of power,” Mark proclaimed. “He had power over nature. One day we were in a boat crossing over to the other side. And a great windstorm rose up. The waves beat against the side of the boat. We started to take on water. We were so afraid. And there was Jesus in the back of the boat. Fast asleep. When we woke him up, we said ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we perish?’ That’s when Jesus rebuked the winds and the waves. He said, ‘Peace, be still!’ The wind ceased and there was a great calm. We were astonished and said to each other, ‘Who is this that even the wind and the sea obey him?’ ”
“He was a provider.” Mark continued. “There were a couple of times when he was speaking to crowds. Some of his sermons were long because Jesus had a lot to say to the people. And they got hungry after a while. I remember one time he fed 5,000, and another time he fed 4,000 people who had come to hear him speak. Each time, he took a child’s simple lunch of fish and bread and prayed over it, and increased it to make sure the masses were fed. And there were many baskets of scraps left over.”
“He raised the dead,” John remarked. “I was there when he brought Lazarus back to life. Mary and Martha were full of grief after their brother died. As women of faith, they understood that Lazarus would rise again in the resurrection at the end of time. When they shared this with Jesus, he said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die’.”
Peter had something to add. He was determined to have the last word. “He is the Christ, the Son of God,” Peter said with conviction. “I remember shortly after Jesus fed the 4,000, we were all at Caesarea Philippi. And Jesus asked us who people said he was. We told him what we had heard: ‘Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ And then Jesus asked, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ I remember I responded without hesitation: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus told me that flesh and blood hadn’t revealed it to me. God the Father in heaven had revealed it to me because of my faith. And such faith is the rock on which Christ builds the Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it!”
Who is Jesus for Us?
Let’s fast forward a bit. Many of us have been hurt by circumstances we encounter in today’s society. We’ve been wounded, and we’re looking for a savior to come riding into the broken places of our lives and start changing situations and fixing lives. Wounded people of faith may envision themselves as modern-day lambs. They hear the voice of Jesus, and they follow it. They have faith that the Good Shepherd will lead them to pasture. They have faith that he will feed them with the Bread of Life. He will give them Living Water from the fountain that never runs dry. Jesus will preserve them by his Spirit and make sure they have seasons of plenty in a world of great scarcity.
During this Holy Week, I urge you to reflect on Jesus’ sacrifice. Reflect on the many ways Jesus has shown up in your life, and answer this question: Who is Jesus to you?
God bless you!