Scripture readings for 4/14
Palm Sunday is the climax of our Lenten journey of repentance and renewal. The praises of the crowd foreshadowed the victory which Jesus was to win over sin, death, and the devil. With repentant hearts we join our Lord’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem, confident of his everlasting rule and greeting him as our eternal King. May we follow him with confidence from Holy Week to Easter and from earth to heaven.
- The Gospel reading: Jesus rides into Jerusalem as a king, but he rides on to die. In that way, he brought about the promised eternal reign of forgiveness, life, and salvation.
- The Old Testament reading: Zechariah describes the coming of the Messiah using the image of the king triumphantly returning to Jerusalem from battle, having established his rule over the nations.
- The New Testament reading: The Christ who entered Jerusalem in great humility is also the Savior who will be victorious and reign over all creation.
The Gospel reading:
Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem was to establish in the public mind his claim to messiahship. The mode of entry, seated on a humble donkey, was in keeping with the biblical thought of a royal personage coming in peace. However, in his earthly poverty he even needed a borrowed animal to ride upon. The cries of greeting, with a royal carpet of garments, identified Jesus with the promised descendant of King David, the ruler of a kingdom which would last forever. But his kingdom very soon had to be rejected for God’s plan of salvation to unfold. It is still rejected by the vast majority to this day.
The Pharisees recognized the symbolism of Jesus’ manner of arrival, as well as the messianic overtones in the cries of the crowd. Also, they might have feared that shouts of praise to the king would draw a violent response from the Romans, as it could have been viewed as anti-imperial. In his reply to the Pharisees, Jesus accepts the people’s praises as appropriate, implying that he truly is Israel’s King who comes in the name of Yahweh. His kingdom is not one of earthly power and might, but an expression of peace in heaven, which the Father gives to all who come in repentance.
The Old Testament reading:
A donkey was common for transportation in biblical times. But in this context, the reference to the donkey is likely meant to evoke the image of an ideal king who rules justly and accepts his rule with humility, not pomp and arrogance. Perhaps Zechariah had in mind the entrance of King David’s son Solomon into Jerusalem on a donkey the day he was crowned king (1 Kings 1:33), and is looking forward to great David’s even Greater Son. When Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem on a donkey, the people shouted praises and blessings. The crowd certainly interpreted Jesus’ action as a claim to royalty based on this prophecy.
The New Testament reading:
Jesus laid aside his rights as God in order to become the world’s servant. During his earthly ministry, Jesus encouraged his disciples to follow this example (Mark 10:45), and St. Paul urges the Philippians and us to do the same.
Jesus did not hesitate to lay aside his godly rights and majesty by assuming human form. This he did in order to undergo the humiliation and curse of human death, to serve the greatest need of humanity. During this time of Christ’s “state of humiliation” (described in verses 6–8), Jesus did not make full use of the divine powers communicated to his human nature, was found in lowly appearance as a man, and made himself obedient to death.
After the cross, however, comes the crown. Jesus now exercises every power, prerogative and glory of the Godhead which is rightfully his. Every knee must bow, whether in wondrous gratitude for free salvation, or in facing final judgment upon its persistent rejection. Today, Christ is in his “state of exaltation” (described in verses 9–11), and he again makes full use of his power to rule over all things for the good of his people.