My calendar says this Sunday, April 2, 2023 is Palm Sunday. It is celebrated every year, a week before Easter. Here’s why it matters and how it applies to you. For on that day, 2,000 plus years ago, 2 parades entered a capital city of the Roman Empire, with 2 different motivations – one rode in demonstrating the power of love, while the other rode in demonstrating the love of power.
Centered in the Roman Empire was the city of Jerusalem, where Pilate was it’s governor and ruled with a strong military power and presence over the Jews in the region. There was no love lost between the Romans and the Jews in Jerusalem, as the Jews were severely taxed, oppressed, cheated, and bullied. The Romans were in charge and they found no need to hide it. History books tell the story of the Roman’s love of power.
Once a year, the Jews were required by their law, to journey to Jerusalem in order that they might celebrate the Passover Feast within the city. Pilgrims from all over would return to Jerusalem with their families and friends for this great celebration. The city population would swell to 200,000 Jews during this festive week, and all would celebrate and be empowered by remembering their deliverance from Egypt’s slavery under the leadership of Moses.
But this empowerment to such a large group of Jews also threatened the Roman rulers. The Roman’s carried a constant fear of insurrection, whether by these Jews or any other fringe group of zealots. So it became necessary for the Roman army to fortify itself and bring in reinforcements for what they viewed as a “dangerous” celebration.
And this is where, on that “Palm Sunday” (aka The Triumphal Entry) we find not just one entry into Jerusalem, but two. Not just one “parade”, but two.
Most of us have probably heard of Jesus’ triumphal entry on Palm Sunday, so I’ll come back to that.
But there was another parade that day.
Just as had happened every Passover season, in Jerusalem under Roman rule, those Roman forces were reinforced with additional soldiers and weaponry. Stationed some sixty miles away, on the Mediterrean Sea at Caesarea Maritime was a garrison of soldiers loaded with horses, soldiers and full military might. Now was their time to display their might, power, and force as they marched into Jerusalem, as expected, boldly proclaiming, “We’ll take charge, here, you peasants!”
Parade number one marched in from the west, their display was one of their love of power.
Even though they marched as they had done on each Passover, there was another parade in town that day, one demonstrating the power of love.
A Rabbi, who had accumulated many followers by performing miracles, signs and wonders, and claiming to be One with the Father, also rode into Jerusalem on that day. His parade was different, it was not one of might, but one of peace, one of the power of love.
There were no horses, Jesus rode a donkey. A lowly, animal who had been tied up and released for Him to ride upon. The Roman banners and flags were not waved or carried, only the cut down palm frons waved by jubilant, celebrants. The red, Roman regalia was no where to be seen, instead were coats and garments, removed and waved by the parade goers in honor of King Jesus. No trumpets played “Hail to the King”. The only trumpeting heard was the heralding of the crowds, “Save us, save us”, (hosanna, hosanna).
Jesus rides into Jerusalem, His triumphal entry
This year, from the East, Jesus rode into Jerusalem. This year there were two parades leading up to Passover. One entering from the West and one entering from the East. This year on display in Jerusalem were two Palm Sunday parades, one featuring the love of power and one featuring the power of love.
Jonathan Clatworthy put it this way,
On Palm Sunday, the counter revolution arrived in Jerusalem.”Palm Sunday two processions, 8.2017
The 200,000 pilgrims were astir, and asked, “Who is this? And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.” Matthew 21:10 ESV
How could this prophet Jesus raise such a stir, such a following, such a parade?
Those who followed Him had experienced miraculous feedings, weather instantly controlled, the dead raised, diseased and sick healed, total acceptance, grace, forgiveness and love. They believed Jesus was the One whom had been promised by another prophet, Zechariah, the One who would come riding on a donkey to save the Jews.
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is He, humble and mounted on a donkey.”Zechariah 9:9 ESV written 500 years before Jesus entered Jerusalem
Zechariah had foretold of Jesus’ parade that day, coming humbly, on a donkey, coming in the power of love.
What is not often included at this point, is the rest of what Zechariah foretold in that passage. Let me just summarize, because he spoke of a day when –
- there will be no more reliance on military power
- there will be no more accumulation of weapons
- His rule will be from sea to sea
- the blood of His covenant will set people free
- He will restore double to the prisoners of hope
- Zechariah 9:10-13 ESV
I love how the the Message paraphrase puts it – “I’ve had it with war – no more chariots… no more war horses in Jerusalem. No more swords, spears, bows or arrows. He’ll offer peace to the nations, a peaceful rule world wide, from the four winds to the seven seas.”
Could it be any clearer which parade on Palm Sunday provides the most to the peace and safety of those in Jerusalem? Could that same clarity be applied to us?
The parade bringing Jesus, the Prince of peace, is bringing the power of love to our life, our cities, and our world. The parade of political might and strength is bringing the love of power.
Political might and power must show their force. They love their power to control by force, fear, accusation, and fasehoods. Power hungry politicians seek reinforcements just like they did that first Palm Sunday.
But there is a counter revolution. There is another way, another parade. The one in which the kingdom of God is exalted, not man’s kingdom. Where righteousness lifts up a nation, and peacemakes are blessed. Where the pure in heart see God, and where mercy triumphs over judgment. There is another parade in town folks, where humility triumphs over pride and selfishness, and love covers a multitude of sin.
Jesus is still riding, still leading that parade of the power of love. And for centuries there have been those who have chosen to open themselves up to His powerful love.
Judgment is coming to those who parade in the love of power. Remember the rest of Zechariah’s prophecy.
We all will be participants in one of those parades, which is it for you?
The power of love or the love of power?
Celebrating Palm Sunday and the love He brought us,
- The Bible, Matthew 21:1-5; Zechariah 9:9-17; John 12:14-15
- Two Processing Parades on Palm Sunday, Rev. Rebecca Writes; beckiewrites.com/2021/
- Palm Sunday two processions; Jonathan Clatworthy, 8.2017; clatworthy.org