[Since my 2014 wordpress yearly review told me that my blog post, Free “Palm Reading” This Sunday was the most popular, I decided to make it an annual event.]
Have you ever noticed how we all hear what we want to hear, see what we want to see and believe what we want to believe? We all do this to a certain extent. The baseball game is stopped by a rain delay but, despite the weather forecast and the torrential rain we see on TV and out our window, we believe the rain is going to stop at any minute. We are watching a football game and our team is penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct. We scream at the TV [at least some of us do] because we don’t believe our player did anything wrong, while the fans of the opposing team believe the ref made the correct call. Or we’re watching a basketball game and some of us are shouting , “Where’s the fowl!? This is ridiculous!” I won’t even go into what happens while I’m watching a hockey game.
Another example [not sports related] of how people want so desperately to hear, see and believe what they want to is when they go to “fortune tellers” who use Tarot cards, crystal balls and “palm readings”. They want to learn about their future. The “fortune teller” almost always gives a positive reading and suggestions on ways the person may influence his/her future to be even better. Just by looking at the name “fortune teller”, “fortune” has two sets of synonyms: 1. “chance, accident, coincidence, serendipity, destiny, fortuity, providence, happenstance” and 2. “wealth, riches, substance, property, assets, means, possessions, treasure, estate”. With these synonyms in mind, it is more than likely that the “fortune” teller/palm reader will predict a person’s future to be productive and prosperous. After all, s/he wants the person to come back. Having a productive and prosperous life is what we all want to hear. We want to believe in the predictions of good fortune. But, can we trust Tarot cards, crystal balls and palm readings to guide our future? I don’t believe so. This kind of wishful thinking is what “Click and Clack”, on their radio show, “Car Talk” call “thinking unencumbered by the thought process.”
In Jesus‘ “Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem recorded in Matthew 21:1-9, Mark 11:1-10, Luke 19:28-48 and John 12:12-19, we read about the people in the crowd, as well as Jesus’ disciples who see and hear the same event, but believe in totally different ways about what is happening right before their eyes. Before entering Jerusalem, Jesus tells His disciples to go into the village and get a donkey. Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey to fulfill the Old Testament prophecy: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Your King comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” [Zechariah 9:9]. The crowd wave palm branches and shout, “Hosanna” [Salvation] to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna [Salvation] in the highest.”
Out of all the people present at that first Palm Sunday, the children are the ones who really understood what was going on. Their “Hosannas” are the loudest. When the chief priests and teachers of the law hear the children shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David” they tell Jesus to make the children stop. But Jesus answers them: “Have you not read, ‘From the lips of children and infants You have ordained praise?’” [See Psalm 8:2]. This reminds me of another time Jesus talks about children: “He called a little child and had him stand among them [disciples]. And He said: ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of God” [Matthew 18:2-4]. The children at the first Palm Sunday have childlike faith which enables them to see Jesus for who He really is: the One bringing salvation.
The chief priests and teachers of the law are anything but humble when they see how the crowd reacts to Jesus. Because of all the attention Jesus is getting they wanted to kill Him, “Yet they could not find any way to do it, because the people hung on His words” [Luke 19:48]. Because of their jealousy and feeling of desperation because their power and control over the people is slipping away, they miss what really is happening. They should know what Zechariah 9:9 means. They read it often enough. They should recognize Jesus as their long awaited Messiah, but they are only interested in protecting their high social and religious status. They see Jesus as a threat to the life they are accustomed to.
Many people in the crowd may have been expecting Jesus to forcefully take over the Roman occupation and become their King. At least Judas Iscariot wants a forceful takeover. “Why in the world is Jesus riding a donkey and not a white stallion – the war horse of a conquering king? What kind of king rides a donkey?” Judas and others like him may be thinking. During biblical times, in the Middle East, kings rode horses to war. Kings rode donkeys when they came in peace. King Solomon rode a donkey in I Kings 1:33. Other kings riding donkeys are found in Judges 5:10; 10:4; 12:14 and II Samuel 16:2. Jesus rides a donkey into Jerusalem as the King who would be “righteous, and having salvation, gentle” [See Zechariah 9:8-10]. Jesus is the King who brings peace, not war [See “Why would a king ride a donkey instead of a warhorse” gotQuestions.org]. This was the angels’ announcement to the shepherds when Jesus was born: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests” [Luke 2:14]. Jesus has come to die on the cross for the sins of all who would believe and follow Him and bring peace between God and mankind. That is His first mission. That is the reason for His Incarnation. His Second Coming is when Jesus will “judge the quick and the dead” [from The Apostles’ Creed]. For people, like Judas Iscariot, who want a “quick fix” from Jesus and want Him to be their conquering hero, Jesus is a disappointment to them. That’s why their shouts of “Hosanna” one Sunday, turns into “Crucify Him!” only five days later [Mark 15:13; Luke 23:21; John 19:15].
What about Jesus’ disciples? Did they have a clue of what’s going on during the first Palm Sunday? Jesus talks to His disciples about His death several times and that it would take place in Jerusalem [Matthew 16:21-28; 17:22-23; Mark 8:31-33; 9:30-32; Luke 9:22-27] In the Gospel According to John, chapters 13 to 17, Jesus also mentions His “going away” several times to prepare His disciples for His departure [See “Jesus Predicts His Death” WIKIPEDIA]. In Mark 9:31b-32, Jesus clearly states what is going to happen to Him, but his disciples are clueless:
“‘The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men, They will kill Him, and after three days He will rise.’ But they did not understand what He meant and were afraid to ask Him about it.”
In Matthew 20:18-19, Jesus makes it even clearer for His disciples:
“We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn Him to death and will turn Him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day He will be raised to life!”
What are the disciples thinking when they finally enter Jerusalem with the crown waving palms, laying cloaks in Jesus’ path and shouting all kinds of accolades? “We must have heard wrong. It was late and we were tired and must have misunderstood Jesus.” Before we are too hard on the disciples, how many times are we clueless about what Jesus is doing in our lives? Even though the disciples dodn’t understand everything about Jesus and what He was saying or doing, they continue to follow Him, except one [Judas Iscariot].
Two disciples in particular have been given a bum rap: Peter, among many other “foot-in-mouth” statements, for denying Jesus three times [See Mark 14:66-72], and Thomas, for saying, “Let us also go that we may die with Him [See John 11:16] and “Unless I see His nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand in His side, I will not believe it” [See John 20:25].
Even though Peter denies knowing Jesus three times, he is the only disciple who follows Jesus on the darkest of all nights. He might have run away, but he does come back to see what is going to happen to his dear Friend. Unlike Judas who hangs himself for forsaking Jesus [See Matthew 27:5], Peter weeps bitterly, repents and Jesus restores him and he becomes one of the greatest leaders in the 1st Century Church [See Matthew 26:75; Luke 22:60-62 and John 21:15-19].
Thomas is thought of, by many Christians, as the “Eeyore” of the group of Jesus’ disciples; always looking at the dark side of life. I used to think that way about Thomas, but now I think differently. Perhaps Thomas is the only disciple who understood Jesus when He talked about His death. If this is the case, Thomas shows great courage in following Jesus into Jerusalem. He is also known as the “Doubting Thomas” for his lack of faith, fearing to have his heart broken again. Even so, Thomas still stays connected with the other disciples. Thomas is the first disciple who recognizes Jesus as “My Lord and my God!” [See John 20:28].
Who is Jesus to you? What do you see in Him? What do you believe about Him? Would you rather believe what you want to believe, thinking life should always be a “bowl of cherries”? Would you rather rely on fortune tellers who tell you only what you want to hear? Would you rather not deal with Jesus and “be unencumbered by the thought process”? Are you disappointed in Jesus because He is not doing what you want Him to do? Do you see Jesus as a threat to the lifestyle you have grown accustomed to? Or do you have a childlike faith and when you see Jesus you see what your Loving Heavenly Father is like? A childlike faith is when you don’t have all the answers, but that’s okay because your “Abba Father” does [See Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:6]. Do you feel so guilty that you think God will never forgive you or have you tasted God’s goodness, forgiveness and grace through His One and Only Son Who died to set you free from guilt and shame and the tyranny of sin [See Romans 6:18]. Do you know that Jesus loves you unconditionally regardless where you are in your journey of faith? Do you see Jesus as I do: “my Lord and my God!”? I pray that you do.
May the Peace of Jesus the King Fill Our Hearts with God’s Love!