Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you. The LORD is God, and he has made his light shine upon us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar. Psalm 118:26-27
The Sunday before Easter is called Palm Sunday. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the people honored him with their equivalent of a ticker-tape parade, waving palm branches and shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” (John 12:13). These words came from Psalm 118:26. In Old Testament times, people waved palm branches during various feasts or times of celebration and gladness. Hosanna means “Save now.”
The Jews of Jesus’ day believed that He was going to save them from their Roman oppressors and become their king. They honored Him as king but did not realize that He came first as their humble Savior. If He had ridden a warhorse, they would have known He came as a conqueror. But He arrived in Jerusalem on a donkey, which meant He came in peace. They did not realize that He came to die as the Passover sacrifice, to save them from their sins.
For some time Jesus had been warning his disciples that his purpose in going to Jerusalem was to die. The disciples chose not to hear such talk of dying. Even in their last days with Jesus, they sought places of honor next to him, anticipating that he would soon establish an earthly kingdom (Mark 10:35–37).
The day before Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, he had supper in Bethany with his friends Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Mary had taken a pound of very costly perfume—pure nard—and anointed the feet of Jesus, wiping His feet with her hair. Jesus said that her action anticipated his burial (John 12:3-7). He felt more honored by what Mary had done than by the shouting crowd waving palm branches—many of whom, less than a week later, would shout, “Crucify him!”
Do not confuse this story of Mary anointing the feet of Jesus, wiping His feet with her hair and another woman who did the same thing. See Luke 7:36-38. Luke tells of a “sinful woman,” probably a prostitute. Where did this take place? How did Simon dishonor Jesus?
Read Zechariah 9:9 and compare his version of the coming of the King of Zion with the account in John 12:1-26.
Read Isaiah 29:13. Would this describe many of the people on Palm Sunday—in Jesus’ time and now?
You might also want to read Good Friday in Dig into Holidays.
Nancy J. Baker
*This devotion first appeared in The Secret Place, Spring 2009