Palm Sunday has passed and I have questions.
The Sunday before each Easter, known as Palm Sunday, the Christian community commemorates the day when Jesus rode into Jerusalem and his followers proclaimed him as king. All four gospels tell how Jesus rode on the back of a donkey, which signified that he came in peace. The crowds formed a parade route, grabbing whatever they could to celebrate and honor him, stripping the coats off their backs and the branches of nearby palm trees. They began to joyfully praise God in such loud voices, the entire city became aware of the demonstration.
“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.”Luke 19:38, NIV
Read the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry here.
So what are my questions?
Did they really understand who Jesus was and what He came to do? How could they praise him Sunday and kill him Friday?
Commentators have often considered that last question, speculating that all the people in the crowd thought Jesus was an earthly king, destined to deliver them from Roman’s iron grip. After hearing his teaching throughout the next week, they became disillusioned and turned on him.
First of all, the Jewish leaders, not the man in the street, had issues with Jesus. They were the ones who instigated the arrest of Jesus at night under cover of darkness. We don’t know if it was the same crowd of people Friday as it was the previous Sunday who called for his crucifixion. There were many people in Jerusalem that day, enough people to make up two entirely separate crowds.
And, as my mother taught me about the word “all”, nothing is always all. We don’t know the hearts of those in the Sunday crowd. Embedded within the crowd may have been those who truly did believe that Jesus was the promised Messiah and who were at various levels of understanding of who he was.
Besides, how could any of them, even the disciples, fully understand what he came to do? The gruesome events of Friday had not yet happened. Luke’s account does tell us that the people were praising God for all the miracles they had seen, so even if they didn’t quite get the whole picture, they knew Someone special was among them.
The crowd praised Jesus with what they knew and understood. And Jesus didn’t stop them.
Jesus initiated the Palm Sunday parade by asking his disciples to fetch the donkey. He knew a crowd would gather and proclaim him as king even if their perception of a king was off kilter.
Moreover, he didn’t cancel the praise parade, even after the Pharisees asked him twice to stop. When the Pharisees complained about his out of control disciples, Jesus replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:40)
And when the children, who were clueless but got excited because everyone else was excited, the Pharisees grumbled. I love Jesus’ answer. “Have you never read, ‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise.’?”
Maybe the children weren’t so clueless after all.
As the Messiah, the Son of God, no matter what was going to happen five days later, Jesus deserved every scrap of praise, imperfect or not, that he got.
Who else was praising Jesus that first Palm Sunday?
I imagine there was another group that erupted in praise that day. A group who did get it. Now realize, this is Karen Wingate speculation, but I imagine the hosts of heaven were watching from their spiritual domain and were having their own praise party. I envision it was anything but sedate. They were probably rocking it out! Unadulterated, uninhibited praise, glorifying the king who, through his life sacrifice five days later, would take his place as the conquering King of kings.
I don’t know whether Heaven’s praise party was simultaneous with the Palm Sunday triumphal entry. But I do know this from another chapter of Scripture. It’s going to happen. Someday, according to Revelation 5, all heaven and earth, every man, woman, and child, every ethnicity, every nation will praise the Lamb of God, the King of kings. Thousands upon thousands of angels will join the song (Rev 5:11). Every creature—in heaven, on earth, under the earth, on the sea, and within the sea–that means the animals–will will be part of it too. I suspect even the rocks will cry out.
All creation will turn their praise toward Jesus, the one who gave up life to purchase eternal life for those who join his kingdom. It will be the best praise service ever.
Read the account of Heaven’s praise service here.
I feel reassured.
Sometimes during worship services, I wonder if we’ve got this whole praise thing wrong. Do we really understand who Jesus is? Do we have mixed motives? Misguided ideas of how best to praise our God and our King Jesus? One nano-second of my mind wondering if others hear my strong high soprano voice, wishing praise leaders would choose my style of music, or wandering into thoughts about what to fix for lunch slaps me in the face. I’m not fully into worship yet myself.
Yet Jesus still accepts and encourages my praise, as imperfect, misguided, and meandering as it might be. He deserves every scrap I give him. And someday, we will all get this praise thing right. We’ll join thousands upon thousands in singing of the worthiness of the Lamb.
So, this Sunday, let’s you and I get a head start. Let’s not obsess over whether the praise team is doing it the right way or whether they are singing the best choice of songs. Let’s just let it rip, in whatever form that praise takes.
Because Jesus is worth any praise we can give him.
Check out these worship resources based on Revelation 5 to get your praise of Jesus going this week. Comment below and share your favorite praise starters.