Palm Sunday, A Reminder to Praise God
Today is Palm Sunday and this is always a challenging day to celebrate and preach on. Palm Sunday has multiple themes, themes that at times seem almost conflicting with one another. We need to balance the events of that day with the response of the crowd just 5 days later when those who, on Sunday, cried “Hosanna” cried “Crucify Him.” One of the interesting things about that day was that the events that kicked off the most important week in history came in fulfillment to prophecy and came as a preview of what is yet to come.
Old Testament prophecies regarding the birth, life and death of the Messiah are a fascinating study in themselves. God spoke those prophecies through a variety of prophets. God used Zechariah to prophesy the events of Palm Sunday. Read Zechariah 9:9.
There were many things going on during the day we call Palm Sunday, but without a doubt the focal point of it all was the praise the people offered to Jesus. We know the details of that praise in terms of the laying down of palms and their coats and shouting hosanna. The word “hosanna” is the Greek translation of the corruption of Hebrew words found in Psalm 118:25 that originally meant “save us.” By the days of Jesus that cry had become a plea for the Messiah to come and save them. For too long they had suffered under Rome and they had become convinced that the Messiah would come as their only hope of overthrowing that government. They were convinced that as God had used Moses to set His people free from Egypt, He would use the Messiah to set them free from Rome.
The people believed Jesus was the promised Messiah and that was what they had in mind on that Sunday when they laid palms at His feet and shouted “Hosanna.” Any question about their intent and praise was eliminated when in response to the Pharisees Jesus said, as recorded in Luke 19:39, 40, “Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” Jesus was ready to fully accept the role of the Messiah, the Messiah who would give His life a ransom for the lost. The praise due Him could legitimately come to Him now. In fact, Jesus said that if the people didn’t praise Him the rocks would.
That statement is too easy to skip over in our focus on either the praise the crowd gave Jesus that day or the fact that their praise lasted but for a few days. What Jesus was saying was that as the Messiah who will give Himself for us, He was not only worthy of praise but would receive it one way or another. If we fail to recognize the truth that He deserves all praise, then He will get it from somewhere else and we will miss the blessings associated with praising Him. Praise to God is not an option, it will happen. If men will not praise Him, then His creation will and ultimately every knee will bow in praise and submission to Him.
In these difficult times it is too easy to focus on the challenges we all face and forget that our primary responsibility is to praise God. In truth we have much to praise Him for. Don’t abdicate that responsibility and privilege to the rocks. Let us all use our voices to praise Him, even when things are tough. In fact, it may be our praise in difficult times that means the most to God. It is easy to praise when all is going well but a real test of our faith is when we can praise Him in difficult times.
Palm Sunday is history and serves as a reminder that we are to worship Him. But fast forward for a moment. Fast forward 2000 plus years. Read what God said will happen as Jesus prepares to return in Revelation 7:9-10.
You can’t miss the similarities between the account of Palm Sunday and the account of the praise that will be given to Jesus in heaven. It has been called the Triumphant Entry II. I call it Palm Eternity. There we see a multitude, the palms, the shouts of praise and at the very center of it all is Jesus. Where is history going? It is going to the place of praise because the Lamb of God, slain for our sins, is worthy of true and continual praise. The scene of Palm Sunday will, in a sense, be replayed in heaven as Palm eternity. There are, however, some interesting and important differences between the first Palm Sunday celebration and Palm Eternity.
On Palm Sunday the crowd that shouted Hosanna was primarily Jewish. The crowd that will shout Hosanna in the last days will be made up of individuals from every tribe and language group. That’s because God kept His promise to Abraham that through him all the nations of the earth will be blessed. We are the recipient of that promise. In addition to those from every nation and tribe we read that the voices of the angelic world will be added to our voices in praise. What a praise chorus that will be!
Not only will many more be present, but the focus of the groups is different. Those gathered on Palm Sunday were looking for freedom from Rome and deliverance from their power over them. Those described in Revelation were rejoicing in their freedom from the penalty of sin and the very presence of sin. Because of the provision of Jesus, they had experienced a spiritual deliverance that truly set them free.
And the commitment will be different in Palm Eternity. The praise of Palm Sunday lasted less than a week, but the praise that will be given in Palm Eternity will be infinitely more lasting because then we will understand much more fully what the mission of Jesus was all about. Paul wrote that now we can only see as if through a glass dimly but then face to face. We cannot even imagine how much more will be known when we see the fullness of His glory and feel His love in ways not possible to even imagine here. Today we can see much more fully His grace than they did on Palm Sunday, but it is nothing compared to what we will understand when we are in His glorious presence.
The reality is different. On Palm Sunday the crowd looked for freedom from Roman taxes and regulations. No doubt it would have been a 100-times better than their conditions under the rule of the emperors. But the rejoicing on Palm Eternity will be because the provisions that Jesus made are infinitely better than anyone on Palm Sunday, or today for that matter, could ever have imagined. Read Revelation 7:15-17. We can add, there will be no quarantines in heaven. Will we be unable to do anything less than shout “Worthy is the Lamb?”
Palm Sunday makes for a great story. There is certainly a lot of pageantry in it. There are many, many lessons to learn. At the heart of that day was praise being offered to Jesus. It was praise in hopes of getting what they wanted, not because Jesus was truly worthy of it. It’s always easy to praise God when we want something. It’s another issue all together when we learn to praise Him for who He is, for what He did, and for all that will be ours even if that comes much later. Knowing Him and knowing He is worthy of praise does not exempt us from difficult times. Notice what John wrote in Revelation 7 of those who offered their praise at the throne. He wrote in verse 14 that they are the ones who had come out of the great tribulation. They had been through much but still praised God.
Today the questions we face as Christians are clear. In light of what we now know about the purpose of Jesus dwelling among us, and in light of the future we know will be ours because we belong to Him, how should we live?
Knowing who Jesus is and the praise He deserves, how do we approach Him in our quiet time each day? Do we approach our quiet time as an obligation to fulfill, as a necessary time out of an otherwise too full day, or do we approach Him in praise?
Palm Sunday teaches us that Jesus truly deserves praise, not just when we get what we want or think we need but we praise continually because He is worthy of it.
Let us enter the throne room often, praising Him who is creator and sustainer of all, and perhaps even more importantly, praising Him who is our Savior. He is truly worthy of eternal praise, beginning now and lasting for the rest of eternity. Let’s use some of our quarantine time to praise Him who is truly worthy of our praise.