Palm Sunday is the day Christians remember when Jesus entered Jerusalem some 2000 years ago riding a small donkey. This day marks the beginning of what we refer to as Holy Week or Passion Week. Jews from throughout Israel and the neighboring countries had come to celebrate the annual Passover feast and the population of Jerusalem grew exponentially during this time. People lined the streets and cheered Jesus’ arrival by waving palm branches and spreading garments on the road. It was a little like the modern-day version of rolling out the red carpet for celebrities and heads of state. We read about this in Matthew 21. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” Matthew 21:8-9
Matthew 21:8-9; Mark 8:34-35, 15:16-22, 15:42-46; Luke 19:10, 23:50-51a; 2 Corinthians 6:1-2; Philippians 2:6-8; 1 Peter 2:9-10
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow m. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Mark 3:34-35
The word hosanna comes from a Hebrew word meaning “save us, we pray.” The Jews’ shouts of “hosanna” expressed the hope that their Messiah had come to set up God’s kingdom. Finally, they would be free from the despised Roman government’s rule over them. Sadly, the salvation that the people wanted that day was political and not spiritual. Jesus was riding into Jerusalem not to take care of the political problems of his people but their sin problem. As the people shouted “save us” little did they know what that would actually mean. It was true that Jesus had come to save but not the way the people expected. Their cries for salvation and their pleas that it come “now” were answered just a few days later with the crucifixion of Jesus on the cross. The spiritual salvation Jesus offers requires a commitment from everyone who wants to be his follower. They must symbolically pick up the cross and embrace it and lay everything else down that would hinder them from following Jesus.
If you were in Jerusalem when Jesus rode into the city, what do you think you would have been shouting? Do you think most followers of Jesus are more concerned about what he can give them rather than picking up their cross? What is one thing you had to lay down before you could pick up the cross? How important is surrender to commitment? Do you think some of the hard questions about life keep people from picking up the cross? What are you holding on to that keeps you from following Jesus more fully? What are you most afraid to lose? What helps you have greater courage than fear? What is the one step you can take to pick up and embrace the cross and follow him this Easter season?
Ask God to reveal anything in your life that is a hindrance and stumbling block to being willing to pick up the cross and making a commitment to follow Jesus. Prayerfully ask Him to give you the courage to lay down that thing and go forward in obedience to wherever He leads you.
Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross for me and giving me eternal life. Help me be more bold in picking up your cross and following you. I want to be more committed to you and your mission. Thank you for calling me to follow you. In the name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.