Sunday, March 24, 2013

Holy Week Meditation: The Triumphal Entry

One of my readers asked me if I'd consider writing some Holy Week meditations, as we enter into this last week of Lent before we celebrate Easter Sunday. So I'm going to try to do that, and I hope to post one per day for the week, a different meditation, devotional, or brief thought on some of the most poignant scenes at the end of Jesus' life. Today is Palm Sunday, so I'm going to start off by writing some thoughts about Jesus' triumphal entry, which is what we celebrate today. Many of us are probably familiar with the story . . . The week before his death, Jesus entered Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, and huge crowds of people spread palm branches in the path before him and shouted praises to him.

The gospel of Luke describes the scene: "When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" 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." (Luke 19:37-40)

All of the other gospels, except Luke, also report that the crowds shouted, "Hosanna!" which means "Save us!" Only Luke's gospel tells us that the crowds proclaimed, "Glory in the highest!" Interestingly, it is also only in Luke's gospel that this same phrase was proclaimed by angels the night Christ was born . . . "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men!" (Luke 2:14) In Luke's portrayal, the glory of God framed Jesus' entire life, from the night of his birth all the way until the week of his death. This was Luke's theme, all the way through . . . the glory of God embodied in humanity, humbled, brought to earth to save our fallen race. Humbled so much that even in one of the most triumphant scenes of His life, Jesus chose to ride on a simple donkey, unadorned, unassuming, a King in the very unexpected garb of a commoner.

Luke also reports that the crowd cried out, "Peace in heaven!" during Jesus' triumphal entry (check out verse 38). This seems an unusual contrast to the proclamation of the angels at Christ's birth: "Peace on earth!" I have never noticed this before today and am not quite sure what to make of it. But could it be that at his birth, the angels proclaimed peace on earth because the planet was sin-stricken and grieving, but about to receive its long-awaited King, the one who would tear down the barriers and bring true peace to men? And at Jesus' triumphal entry, just days before he suffered and died, could it be that the crowds who adored him were symbolically, prophetically, claiming peace in heaven because heaven grieved--as a Father grieved over the impending death of His only Son for the world He loved?

We don't know for sure, but we do know that Christ perfectly fulfilled Zechariah's prophecy: "Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the warhorses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth." (Zechariah 9:9-10)

And if His people hadn't cried out in praise, the rocks would have broken their silence and burst into song.

So His praise will always be on my lips.

And a song for the occasion: Hosanna

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