Admiration or Adoration
This coming Sunday is “Palm Sunday.” It’s related to Holy Week (Holy Week being the week before Easter and Easter Week being the week following). But why do we call it Palm Sunday? It’s named after a tree, the branches of which were used to celebrate the arrival of the Messiah in Jerusalem as the throngs waved their fronds. Palms in that day were used to welcome kings. “Palms” are only mentioned in John 12:13.
As we look forward to Easter, Palm Sunday begins to solidify the truth of the event that defines our faith. If the Resurrection is not true, there is no point in what we believe; our hope is in vain. So, how does Palm Sunday make a case for the truth of the resurrection? It is one piece of a timeline, laid out centuries prior to Christ, which not only predicted Palm Sunday, but also gave us a peek at events of the end times that were impossible apart from the resurrection of Jesus!
Over 500 years earlier, Daniel (of “lion’s den” fame) was given a glimpse into the future. In Daniel chapter 9, God’s messenger, the angel Gabriel, urged him to “consider the matter, and understand the vision” (Daniel 9:23). What matter? What vision? The matter had to do with the timing—the actual date—of the unveiling of the Messiah in Jerusalem, and the vision provided a calendar of sorts.
Gabriel laid out a 490-year timeline that included the rebuilding of Jerusalem (in ruins during Daniel’s time), the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday), His crucifixion, the introduction of the antichrist and the final period of seven years before Christ’s return. According to Daniel’s vision, the waving of palms welcomed Jesus at exactly the day predicted by Daniel! That completed 483 of the 490 years predicted. So, seven years of that prophecy still remain to wrap up history.
Those seven years could begin at any moment. Nothing remains to be fulfilled before the clock starts ticking concerning that Tribulation period. Two thousand years ago, the problem was that people didn’t really anticipate Christ arriving in the way He did. They weren’t living in expectation of His appearing. In other words, they didn’t really know Him. Those same problems exist today.
The story behind Palm Sunday is a study in the fickleness of people. Some of the very same folks who had welcomed Jesus with palm fronds on Sunday were calling for His crucifixion by Friday. “Sunday’s Savior” had become “Friday’s felon” in the minds of the frond-waving crowd. Their response was nothing more than a reflection of the group dynamic taking place on those days. They seemed to conform to the leanings of the moment. Do we ever do that?
We may marvel at how the crowd could have changed so much, but in a way it happens every weekend. Thousands of people, singing the praises of God on Sunday, often demonstrate less-than-worshipful attitudes during the week. They hide their association with Jesus. Then, the next Sunday, they’re back to praising Jesus. The Holy Week was simply a preview of the vacillating nature of people’s attitudes toward Christ. Without literally crying out “Crucify Him,” they nonetheless turn their backs on Him as a weekly pattern.
That first Palm Sunday was filled with admirers, rather than adorers who could truly acknowledge Him for who and what He actually is. Today, many admire, or give mental ascent, to the idea of who Jesus is without adoring Him, loving Him, worshipping Him. Like the disciples initially did, when the heat is on, they hide their association with Him.
“Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” —Matthew 21:9