Greg's Blog

A Second Look at Palm Sunday

by Greg Laurie on Mar 26, 2021

We’ve all been angry at one time or another and said things that we regretted. When the adrenaline wore off, we realized how foolish it was to make such a statement or to do such a thing.

As a result, we perceive anger as a negative thing in most cases. But I would suggest that anger can be a good thing, even for a Christian. There was a time when Jesus Christ Himself was angry, and He’s someone we want to emulate in every way.

Personally, I’m interested in knowing what angers God. I’m also interested in knowing what saddens Him, because I don’t want to cause either anger or sadness in the heart of God.

This weekend we’re celebrating Palm Sunday. It’s a day we generally associate with excitement, celebration, joy, and happiness as we remember how palm branches were laid down before the Messiah as He made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

But it also was a day when Jesus expressed both anger and sorrow, because things were not as they should have been.

There was a sense among the multitudes (and even among the disciples to some degree) that Jesus would give the call, the charge, and He would establish the kingdom of God then and there.

As a result, excitement began to build as the people heard that Jesus was coming into Jerusalem. The city teemed with pilgrims who were visiting for Passover, and the name of Jesus was on everyone’s lips. His popularity has swelled to its highest point yet.

And as He made His way into the city on a donkey, the celebration began.

His hour had come

Now, riding into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey was definitely an attention-getter, because it had great symbolic meaning to both the Romans and the Jews. When the Romans returned from a battle, the general would ride into the city in a triumphal procession, declaring himself as the conqueror. In the Romans’ minds, this is what Christ was doing.

But the Jews who were conversant with Scripture would have recognized this as a fulfillment of messianic prophecy: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9 NKJV).

For the most part, Jesus had been lying low. Sure, He had opened His heart to His disciples. When the multitudes wanted to make Him king, He resisted their advances. And He would often say that His hour had not yet come. He was talking about the hour of his betrayal, arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection.

But now His hour had come. And He deliberately was doing something to force the authorities’ hands. He wanted to do something dramatic, something that would get the attention of the people, something that would say, “All right, let’s go! I’m ready!”

You see, Jesus was in complete control of the circumstances around him. He wasn’t going to the cross as a victim but as a victor. It isn’t that everything was going well on Palm Sunday and then suddenly fell apart. Everything was going according to plan—divine plan.

And Jesus, much to the shock of everyone who observed it, was weeping. Being God, He knew the future. He knew that Jerusalem would face utter destruction in 40 years. In A.D. 70, Titus and the Roman legions would march into Jerusalem and slaughter more than 600,000 Jews. Their beloved temple would be burned to the ground and dismantled stone by stone, exactly fulfilling Jesus’ prophecy that day (see Luke 19:42–44).

Yes, Jesus was sad. But He also was angry. Luke’s Gospel tells us, “Then Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people selling animals for sacrifices. He said to them, ‘The Scriptures declare, “My Temple will be a house of prayer,” but you have turned it into a den of thieves'” (19:45–46 NKJV).

I love this image of Jesus, because so often in religious art, He’s portrayed as anemic and wimpy. He doesn’t look like He could turn over a stick, much less a table. But the Jesus of the Bible knew indignation, even anger, when something wasn’t right. And the problem was that people were being kept away from the Temple.

A hospital for sinners

They were being ripped off. When they arrived with their sacrificial animals, something would be conveniently wrong with them. Then they had to buy an “approved” animal at an inflated price to be able to approach God.

Not only that, but when non-Jews came to the Temple to worship God, they were kept at arm’s length.

So Jesus did something dramatic. He turned over their tables and drove them out. Jesus cleaned house because things were a mess. He essentially was saying, “Don’t turn people away when they’re coming to find God.”

The church today is a place to worship, to learn, and to use our gifts. But let’s also remember that it’s a place for people to find God. It isn’t a museum for saints; it’s a hospital for sinners. People need to feel welcomed and loved.

As Jesus rode into Jerusalem that day, the crowds misunderstood why He had come. Basically they wanted Jesus on their own terms. They wanted a deliverer and a Messiah who conformed to their plans. They wanted Jesus to destroy Rome but not their cherished sins or their hypocritical, superficial religion.

The same can be true of us. We can celebrate Palm Sunday along with Easter, but does it really impact us? We can celebrate Jesus’ resurrection yet live as though He were still dead. We can sing the praises of a Jesus who will bring us success, prosperity, and personal happiness, but then recoil from the one who requires obedience, commitment, and sacrifice.

Jesus will not be Lord on our terms; He will be Lord on His. He will not be what we expect Him to be; He will be what He is. Therefore, we need to adapt and adjust to His plan and purpose for our lives.

Learn more about Pastor Greg Laurie.

This article was originally published at WND.com.

Join us every weekend on Harvest at Home for an online worship experience.

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