The Deeper Meaning of Palm Sunday

Saturday, April 8, 2017


The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” Matthew 21:9

Millions of Christians will be celebrating Palm Sunday tomorrow. It is typically a day that commemorates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, kicking off what is called Passion Week which culminates with Easter, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. Although there is nothing wrong with the way Palm Sunday is celebrated, there is a much bigger picture that is missed because we fail to read this event in the context of the entire 21st chapter of Matthew. Take a moment and read that chapter, taking note of all the events that take place during this story.

I don't know if you noticed, but in this context, the focus is not on people waving palm branches but on Jesus waving a whip in the temple and bringing an indictment against the Church. You see, Jesus didn't enter Jerusalem to enjoy a parade. His intention was to go to the temple and clean house. The crowds expected him to save them from the tyranny of the Roman Emperor but he knew they needed to be saved from the oppressive regime of religious men. The only thing worse than living under the iron fist of an evil government is living under the brutal dictatorship of dead religion. Before he could tear the veil in the temple, Jesus had to destroy the curtain of religiosity that blocked man's view of God's grace through Christ.

Just what had become of the Church that made Jesus so upset? Instead of it being a place of prayer, a place where God was exalted, they had turned it into a den of robbers, a place where man was exalted. Instead of bringing people to God to be healed, they were pushing them away from him so they could get rich. This is why he whipped the religious people and drove them out. Then he showed them what the Church should look like - he healed those that were there.

What would happen if Jesus rode into our cities today and made his way into our churches? I think there would be a lot of house cleaning. A lot of what I see in today's Church parallels this story in Matthew 21. Instead of a place of freedom found in a Savior, it has become a place of bondage to empty religion. Instead of people being healed, they are given a prescription to merely ease their pain. Instead of a message of grace, they are given a message of condemnation. We wave palm branches to show Jesus the way into our kingdom when we should be waving the cross to show people the way into his kingdom. Palm Sunday is not about a parade to celebrate what we have done. It's about a funeral procession where we show the world what Christ has done and how they can find grace.

As we celebrate Palm Sunday tomorrow may it point people to the cross of Christ and his kingdom of grace where they can find healing. Let us make the Church a house of prayer once again.

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