We are coming up on Palm Sunday in several days and I can’t help but remember all the preparations for Easter when I was a little kid back at Trinity Methodist Church in Beverly Hills where I grew up. Palm Sunday, one week before Easter, was always one of the more interesting and exciting days at the church, other than the Christmas programs we put on each December during advent.
Back in those days, the children would all receive palm branches and wave them around as we entered the sanctuary and pretended that we were the procession welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem during his last week on earth before the crucifixion. I remember that we were allowed to keep the palms and we always walked to our grandparent’s house several blocks away to show them off to Grandpa and Grandma. Then, after Mom or Dad picked us up and drove us home, we would put our palms in our bedrooms and keep them for quite some time until we got tired of them later in the year. The week after Palm Sunday was Easter and that was the highlight of the church year – still is! In between these two events, though, we have Maundy Thursday and then Good Friday.
Maundy Thursday is the commemoration of the Last Supper that Jesus had with the disciples as well as the serving of the bread and the wine that marked the serving of communion, by Jesus, in that Upper Room. That was also the night that Jesus encouraged the disciples to remember Him and to serve one another. Services on Maundy Thursday also commemorate the washing of the feet of the apostles by Jesus Himself.
Then, the next day, we remember the death of Jesus on the cross. And while people throughout the world look at this event as what separates Christianity from other world religions, that is not exactly the case. After all, there have been martyrs in many of the religions of the world. What does set us apart from every other religion in the world is the fact that we have Easter – the resurrection of Jesus – that marks the only time that the leader of a religion was raised from the dead. If that singular event had not occurred, Christianity would probably have died and the memories of Jesus would have faded into the background. Needless to say, his ministry probably would have never made it 2000 years and I don’t even think that we would have the Bible. So Easter is THE day, while Palm Sunday prepares us the for events in the coming week.
And to think that it all started with Jesus on a donkey riding into Jerusalem. That is our verse for this evening – the beginning of the last week before the triumph of Easter. We are told by the apostle John, in John 12:14, “Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written…” Simple words that started the events leading to the cross and to the empty tomb.
My encouragement this evening is that Jesus entered in Jerusalem and died on the cross for everyone – to take on the sins of the world – allowing us direct access to God and a way to re-connect with the Father. My prayer is that this week-end you will take a moment to reflect on the events of the coming week and remember the earthly ministry of Jesus. After all, we will have an eternity to spend with Jesus, but it starts with the sacrifice on the cross and the resurrection of the Son of the Living God. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…