Many of us will remember the story of Jesus deeply moved and weeping at the tomb of Lazarus (in John 11). 

Did Jesus weep on Palm Sunday?  

I don’t recollect anything of that sort. For us as young children, Palm Sunday was a festival of joy. We often marched around the church building, happily waving palm branches and singing ‘Hosanna’.

However, Luke 19 narrates that Jesus did weep as he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey—this event is often, referred to as the triumphant entry. As he looked over Jerusalem, his body was wracked with deep sobs.

The disciples and the crowds shouted jubilantly. They thought the long-awaited warrior-Messiah had finally arrived. But Jesus wept.

The people shouted ‘Hosanna’—an expression which originally meant ‘Save us’ but later became a term of praise. (This bit, however, is not mentioned in Luke.) They expected this Messiah to deliver them from the shackles of Roman rule. Maybe he would be like the famous Judas Maccabeus, who two hundred years ago had delivered them from the hated Seleucid rulers. Of course, they—often like us—were badly mistaken.

Why did Jesus weep?

Jesus clearly foresaw the horrible destruction just around the corner. In one short generation, Jerusalem would be engulfed with unbearable sorrows. 

Superpower Rome, already in control, would soon march in with brutal retaliation for Jerusalem’s rebellion. General Titus and his armies would destroy the city and the beloved temple and brutally humiliate this nation that claimed to belong to God. 

God’s Plan, from the beginning, was Israel 

We must recognize a monumental truth: God had chosen Israel to bring his revelation and salvation to the whole world. Jerusalem was a chosen and called city. For a thousand years, God had been preparing the nation, through his prophets, to be ready to meet her Messiah. But what a long history of disobedience and rebellion! 

God’s Pain

How does one fathom the parental pain of God? Instead of recognizing and welcoming Jesus the Messiah, the leaders of God’s people are about to arrest the God-sent Messiah on trumped-up charges and rush him through a trial during the unearthly hours of the night. The Roman authorities would then pull the skin off his back in a brutal flogging, and finally execute him in a surpassingly pitiless manner, like the worst of criminals. 

Jesus weeps for God’s people and Jerusalem

However, on Palm Sunday, Jesus does not weep for his impending sorrows. He weeps for the city of God’s people. 

He weeps for us. We who often do not understand the time of God’s visitation. We say we want God, and yet we want God on our terms. We decide how God should relate to us. 

Jerusalem would rebel and take up arms against master Rome, only to be brutally crushed. Yes, Jesus weeps for us, for like Jerusalem, we too do not know that it is the way of the cross that makes for our peace. 

What does Palm Sunday mean for us?

Palm Sunday begins the traditional holy week, the week whereby faith we make our own pilgrimage to the foot of the cross, and beyond. The cross of Jesus is where we find the absolute and final solution for all our ills.

But do we recognize the danger that lurks around the corner? Rome, the deceptive kingdom! The worldly kingdom of power and might seeks to pull us all in. But Jesus wants Jerusalem to repent and believe in God’s kingdom, being ushered in by God’s kingly Messiah on a cross.

Jesus as Israel

Jesus came to fulfil what Israel had failed to accomplish. Now representing Israel, Jesus was about to take the judgement of Israel upon himself. On the Cross, He would bear all the sins of Israel and the whole world. And then, in himself, he would redefine and reconstruct Israel as all those who would believe in him. 

The clash of kingdoms

Friends, there is a religious story that we sometimes concoct; born out of our traditions, our casual ideas, where we handle God at a comfortable distance. Is that our story?

Or do we tend to believe the powerful story of worldly power—the story of Rome, the story of power and money? Or would we be willing to believe the proclamation of the kingdom? Jesus said: “The time is fulfilled; the kingdom has come. Repent and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). 

And to welcome us into the kingdom life, Jesus went through the agonies of that week, the culmination of his earthly journey. So that we would believe this story and entrust our lives to this Messiah.

Trusting the Master with our ultimate security 

And as we stare at the havoc that a pandemic has wreaked and the horror and suffering of armed conflicts in our world, we cry ‘Hosanna’ to a Saviour who has promised us the ultimate security. He is the Resurrection and the Life!

May we with faith enter into and relive the events of this holy week and find at the end of it, a risen Saviour waiting for us. Not weeping this time for us, but rather comforting us with his nail-pierced hands and his words of comfort, ‘Peace be with you!’

Let us enter God’s story and live this truth! 

Photo by GiniGeo_Photography on Pixabay

Rev Dr Jacob Cherian serves on the Faculty of Southern Asia Bible College, Bangalore.