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 Vol. 6, No. 3 

March 2004

~ Page 4 ~

Passion Sunday

By Hugo McCord

Image The Sunday (April 2, A.D. 30) before Jesus' crucifixion is called "Passion Sunday" or "Palm Sunday." From the 4th century are the "blessing and procession of palms (leaves of the date palms or twigs from locally available trees)" accompanied by singing (Britannica).

The prophet Zechariah, about 520 B.C., saw Jesus, not as a "carpenter" (Mark 6:3), but as a "king":

Rejoice with all your heart, people of Zion! Shout in triumph, people of Jerusalem! Look! Your King is coming to you: He is righteous and victorious. He is humble and rides on a donkey, on a colt, a young pack animal (Zechariah 9:9).

Jesus knew what Zechariah had predicted, and he knew where two donkeys, a mother and her son, were in Bethphage tied in front of a certain house "by the door outside on the street" (Matthew 21:1-4; Mark 11:4). Jesus asked two of his disciples to bring the donkeys to him. "So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them" (Matthew 21:6). Then they threw their garments on the colt, and set Jesus on him (Luke 19:35).

As Jesus rode along, a large crowd spread their garments on the road, and some cut branches from the trees and put them on the road (Matthew 21:8). The people going before and following fulfilled another Old Testament prediction as they shouted, "Hosanna ["Save now"] to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heavens" (Psalm 118:25-26; Matthew 21:9).

Then some of the Pharisees from the crowd said to him, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples." He replied, "I assure you that if these become quiet, the stones will cry out" (Luke 19:39-40).

What a spectacle! A king on a donkey! However, this shocking scene let people know that Jesus' kingdom was not to be military, and was not to be "of this world," and was not to be a kingdom in which his servants would "fight" (John 18:36).

The word "kingdom" in the New Testament has a three-fold meaning: (1) heaven itself, the location of God's "throne" (Isaiah 66:1), is a kingdom (Acts 14:22; 2 Timothy 4:18; 2 Peter 1:11); (2) the church and the kingdom are not identical, but it is impossible to be a member of the church without being a citizen of the kingdom (Luke 8:11; Acts 2:41; John 3:5; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Colossians 1:13, 18); (3) the kingdom is the reign of Jesus in a person's heart (Galatians 2:20; Colossians 1:27).

Jesus' kingdom is wholly spiritual, inward and invisible. His kingdom in human hearts never causes people to say, "Look! Here it is!" or, "There," "for behold," said the king, "God's kingdom is inside (entos) of you" (Luke 17:20-21). Yes, the king himself lives inside of Christians, as Paul wrote: "Christ lives in me" (Galatians 2:20), and as he told the Colossians that "Christ in you" is "the hope of glory" (1:27).

Since the king and his kingdom are both inside every Christian, it is no surprise that every good Christian owns the kingdom: of "the poor in spirit," and of those "persecuted for righteousness' sake," Jesus said "theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3, 10). Joseph Bayly has shown that no good Christian exhibits pride because the kingdom is "inside" of him (Luke 17:21), and belongs to him (Matthew 5:3, 10), and because the king himself is a resident in him (Galatians 2:20; Colossians 1:27):

King Jesus, why did you choose a lowly ass to carry you to ride in your parade? Had you no friend who owned a horse--a royal mount with spirit fit for a king to ride? Why choose an ass, a small unassuming beast of burden trained to plow not carry kings.

King Jesus, why did you choose me a lowly unimportant person to bear you in my world today? I'm poor and unimportant trained to work not carry kings--let alone the King of kings and yet you've chosen me to carry you in triumph in this world's parade.

King Jesus, keep me small so all may see how great you are; keep me humble so all may say "Blessed is he who cometh in the name of the Lord," not what a great ass he rides (Psalms of My Life).

As Jesus rode on, going down the side of Mt. Olives (2641 feet above sea level), he could see the city of Jerusalem, 500 feet below him, spread out beyond the Tyropean Valley. He began to cry. He knew what was in store 40 years away when the Roman soldiers would destroy the city where God had recorded his name:

Great is Yahweh, and greatly to be praised, in the city of our God, in his holy mountain. Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King (Psalm 48:1-2).

Half way down the Mount of Olives, from a donkey's back, Jesus was weeping, and his heart was grieving as he spoke about the people in Jerusalem:

If only you too had known, on this day, the things which make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. The days will come when your enemies will set up barricades against you, and they will encircle you, and hem you in on all sides, and they will completely destroy you, and your children with you, because you did not know the time of your visitation (Luke 19:41-44).

At the spot where Jesus, a man of 34 years, was crying, a church building has been built. It has been named the "Chapel of Dominus Flevit," meaning "the Lord wept."

Above all earthly attainments to which some devote their lives, Jesus thought that "the things that make for peace" (Luke 19:41) are most important. First, peace with God after baptism, when, as regards past sins, a sinner is "perfected forever" (Hebrews 8:12; 10:14; Acts 22:16). Second, the joy of inward peace, "not as the world gives" (John 14:27), belongs to every good Christian:

Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ... The things you have learned, and have received, and have heard and have seen in me [said Paul], these things practice, and the God of peace will be with you (Philippians 4:6-7, 9).Image

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