PALM SUNDAY: Passion Week Started So Different

Imagine being in Jerusalem on that very first Palm Sunday.  To the followers of Jesus, it all seemed so glorious.  Mark 11 records Jesus’ Triumphal Entry.  He rides into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey to the shouts and praises of the crowd:  “Hosanna!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!  Hosanna in the highest!”  What a celebration.  What an incredible beginning to what we know as Passion Week.

That was Sunday.  But by Friday of that very same week, Jesus was painfully and barely walking out of Jerusalem under the weight of an old rugged cross.  Having been tortured to near death, His blood loss was tremendous, and his pain unimaginable.  The rejection and shame He felt was heart breaking and overwhelming.

He was soon nailed to that very Cross—the symbol of the Christian faith—where he died for our sins and paid for our failures and purchased our salvation with His blood.  In a few weeks I begin a new teaching series comparing and contrasting World Religions and the fundamental beliefs of the Christian faith.  I’m reminded today, that no other world religion boasts of a God who was willing to leave the riches of Heaven and come to earth to be born in a smelly stable and eventually die a criminal’s death on a Cross so that you and I could live free for eternity.  Only Christianity points to God whose love was so great that he reached down and intervened personally in the desperate circumstances of His people and gave His life to deliver them.  Only Jesus reached down and redeemed a fallen mankind.

Literally, Jesus died for me.  He died so that I might have the hope of everlasting life.  Christ’s love for us, evidenced on the Cross, made Isaac Watts pen the beautiful and deeply moving words to the hymn, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, in 1707.  Charles Wesley (English leader of the Methodist movement, known for writing more than 6,000 hymns) said he would give up all his other hymns to have written this one.  Take a minute and let the words sink in:

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (Psalter Hymnal, 1987)

When I survey the wondrous cross
on which the Prince of glory died,
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast
save in the death of Christ, my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them through his blood.

See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were a present far too small.
Love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all. 

Paul said in Gal 6:14—May I never boast except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ… Jesus died so that I might live forever: free and forgiven.  Take time this week and this Palm Sunday, to remember God’s love for you as seen in the sacrifice of Jesus.  With His arms stretched wide, He says to you and me:  “I love you this much.”  Thank you Jesus.  We love and worship you today and always.