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 that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” (Matthew 21:8,9)
As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him (Luke 23:26,27).
It seems that everyone likes a parade. People stand to see flags waving and troops marching. People cheer. But people will also stand to see a line of cars with lights on, being led by a hearse. No one cheers then. Some might weep.
The account of the last week before the crucifixion of Jesus highlights two parades. Some bystanders saw both of them. Cheers arose at the first one. Pitiful wailing marked the next one. It was the difference between a Sunday and a Friday.
It was a matter of expectations.
On Palm Sunday, the crowds were expecting the fulfillment of hopes for a life free of Roman rule—a life of riches, power and glory. They thought Jesus would bring them heaven on earth. On Good Friday, those hopes crumbled. They wept not just for the condemned Jesus, but also for the death of their fond hopes.
When we think of Good Friday, our thoughts may quickly run to the crowds shouting, Crucify him! But there was another group of people there. These people had pinned their hopes upon Jesus of Nazareth being the Messiah. In the words of downcast Cleopas walking to Emmaus on the evening of Easter, “But we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21).
We remember the crowd that came down with Jesus from Galilee. We consider the shell-shocked Disciples. We give thought to all the people in Jerusalem who expected Jesus to be their Savior.
For them, the parade to Golgotha was worse than a funeral procession. Death had not yet struck. More torture, and then dying, was yet to happen. Where do we fit into this? We watch from a great distance in time as well as in miles. We can look in at both parades at once. We know where each of them ends.
On a Sunday, we join in the songs of “Hosanna!” The next Friday, we sing, “Lord Jesus, you are going forth for me your life to offer.” It seems we can’t watch one of the parades without thinking of the other. And we shouldn’t. We need to see people cheering Jesus on his way to win our salvation. We need to see people weeping for Jesus as he battles for our salvation. One parade flows into the other.
But what about a third one? Surely, the empty tomb must have caused a commotion. Would not a crowd greater than on Palm Sunday have rushed to cheer the victorious, resurrected Jesus marching through the streets of Jerusalem? Would that not be the best parade of all? It did not happen. There was no Easter parade. There was no public victory march. After he conquered death as the King of kings and Lord of lords, he showed himself only to his believers.
One day, however, that third parade will take place. Again, some will cheer, and some will wail. But it will be a most glorious procession. We know the name of the day when this will happen. We just don’t know when that day will come. We call it, “The Last Day.” It’s the day when the saints come marching in.
That’s a parade we don’t want to miss.
We pray: Lord Jesus, it pains us to consider the sight of you dragging your cross to your execution. We join those who sorrow over that. It thrills us to hear that the crowds shouted your praises as you entered Jerusalem riding over palm branches. We look forward to joining with you in the final parade to glory. Amen.
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida-Provided by WELS Ministry to the Military