Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written, “Do not be afraid, O Daughter of
Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” At first, his disciples did not
understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been
written about him and that they had done these things to him (John 12:14-16).
They did not understand. The crowds, the rulers, his enemies, and his friends—they didn’t comprehend all that was happening on the day of the palm-branch parade. They probably did expect this ride of Jesus into Jerusalem was something special. Maybe now he would make his move to claim the throne of Israel. His followers hoped that. The Jewish leaders feared that. The Romans were not sure what to think. As that Sunday came to a close, people were still not certain what it all meant. It reminds us of the words about his birth, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”
Many from Galilee considered him a hero. Crowds of people all across Israel had seen his miracles and heard his teachings. Word had spread that he had raised Lazarus from the dead. Expectations were running high. His mere appearance sparked a joyous uproar. The triumphant entry into Jerusalem seemed to be a spontaneous event.
It was not.
It had been planned in heaven long ago. It had been foretold with clear words. The Apostle John could quote the words: “See, your king comes to you…” (Zechariah 9:9). The disciples did not think of those words on Palm Sunday. On that glorious day, they never suspected that Good Friday was down the road. Only after, only after Jesus had risen from the dead, did they realize they had played a part in fulfilling an ancient prophecy with a history-changing event. Only after Easter did they see how the pieces of God’s plan of salvation fit together.
They came to understand that Jesus would not be an earthly king; they would not sit next to him as he ruled from Jerusalem. But on Palm Sunday, Golgotha and an empty grave had never entered their minds. It makes us wonder what all we don’t understand about the happenings in our lives. We, too, live in days of confusion and change. Hopes and fears now mix together. As the disciples did back then, we believe that the hand of God is in what we now see. But our picture is still blurred, and the ending uncertain.
Has Scripture told us that days like these were coming? Probably in greater detail than we realize. We do know Jesus warned about terrible times. The word, pandemic, fits into that picture. But not the word worry. We are specifically told not to worry. The Bible’s words, “Fear not!” to God’s people were not given as an invitation, but as a reassuring directive. Think of a drill instructor saying: “You will stand at attention!”
Then think of these words:
“You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday” (Psalm 91:5,6). We have heard the words. We resolve not to fear.
The disciples eventually came to understand the confusing days of Holy Week. Holy Writ had told of this. They just hadn’t recognized it while it was happening. Clarity came after—only after all this had taken place. Only then were they able to see the loving hand of God behind such distressing events. One day we, too, will clearly understand how events in our lives also fit into a perfect plan. After our God shows us, we will be amazed to see how blessed we have been all along. But only after.
We can wait without fear until then, can’t we?
We pray: Lord Jesus, your ride into Jerusalem to the cries of “Hosanna!” fills us with joy. We smile to see you hailed as a King. It pains us to think of what will happen to you by the end of the week. But It thrills us to know that the next Sunday is coming. Keep us safe in the hollow of your nail-pierced hands as we pass through the days of our lives. Remind us that after all this is over, we will understand, rejoice, and thank you in Easter joy. Amen.
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer
WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military
Provided by WELS Ministry to the Military