This week’s eNewsletter feature story
Is written by Jim Teague,
FPCE director of communications
“Exult greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem! Behold: Your king is coming to you, a just savior is he, humble, and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9)
In ancient times, palm branches served symbolically as “tokens of joy and triumph.”1 When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, the people celebrating his arrival treated him with the same kind of adoration as a conquering military leader or hero of the people.
Because we know the rest of the story, we can see that they were right, but also clearly lacked a full understanding of what Jesus came to accomplish. Most Jews of his day expected the Messiah to set them free from Roman captivity and reestablish their place as a sovereign force in the Middle East and Mediterranean world. His victory would result in the Temple of Jerusalem receiving its proper respect and serving, once again, as the cornerstone of Jewish worship and sacrifice.
Imagine, then, how you might have felt if you had been one of those who had brought palms to the street, laid them before Jesus as he came by on the donkey, and then witnessed his crucifixion a week later at Golgotha. Your own people calling out for that crucifixion!
Ever put your hopes into something or someone, only to be let down at the very last minute? I’m talking about something more than the kind of thing a sports fan might go through at the end of a season or tight game, or having a recipe go wrong at a family gathering. Disappointing? Sure. Devastating? Not really.
This past year seems as though it has had more than its fair share of serious upsets and tragedies. Some of us have lost jobs we thought we would be in until we retired. Others have suffered the separation of distance from loved ones, close friends and long-time acquaintances. Some achieved milestones we wanted to celebrate with many others, giving public thanks to God in the process. Many of us have lost family members – whether to COVID-19 or something else – and been unable to mourn with others in the way we had hoped to honor the lives no longer with us.
For us, the palm branches we laid down were our future plans, our expectations of grand celebrations or exciting travel plans, or hoped-for and deeply necessary time with family.
It can be tempting to believe we are defeated because of these losses. Were we foolish to have had such expectations? Did God somehow need to break us of our desire to have these things?
I don’t think so.
Jesus did not silence or shame the crowds as they celebrated his arrival, though he knew well what awaited him. He didn’t shout them down saying, “You fools! I’m not that kind of king! I’m bigger than that. I’m better than what you are hoping for!”
Not to mention his foreknowledge of the ways in which his people would betray him.
Instead, he moved steadily forward, fulfilling Old Testament prophecy, and confounding the hearts of those who wanted the Glory and Power to reflect on themselves in the process.
This Sunday, some of us will return to the First Pres Sanctuary for live (and live-streamed) worship. It is a step forward, if not anywhere close to the final destination. To be honest, we are still not sure what the destination looks like or how long it will take to get there.
A couple of details about Sunday:
– If you are coming, please register here before Noon on Friday.
– If you are watching live online at 10 a.m. Sunday, you can do so from the button on the church website, on YouTube, or on Facebook.
– There will not be any Zoom activities after the service this Sunday or on Easter Sunday.
– You will notice the website has changed (hopefully for the better). If you are having any difficulty at all, contact firstname.lastname@example.org via email and we will do our best to help you out.
When I think of the residents of Jerusalem who laid their palms down before Jesus only to see him raised and crucified on the Cross, I can imagine being sorely disappointed and maybe even a little ashamed. Had I been duped or made the fool? I might even, like Peter, want to deny knowing Jesus or having had anything to do with him.
As we know, we still live in an “in-between time” between the resurrection of Jesus and his triumphant return in the second coming. Our current times may incite us to question the value of our faith, but I am confident we can lay down the palms of our hearts knowing that day of great celebration is still to come.
See you Sunday in person or online,
Director of Communications
1Zavada, Jack. “Why Are Palm Branches Used on Palm Sunday?” Learn Religions, Aug. 29, 2020, learnreligions.com/palm-branches-bible-story-summary-701202.