Palm Sunday is the day when we remember Jesus’ ‘triumphal entry’ into Jerusalem, surrounded by the excited crowds of his followers and hangers-on, along with the curious, the doubtful and the downright dangerous.
Of course, as the week unfolded, apparent triumph turned quickly to apparent disaster, as Jesus’ dangerous opponents had their way, and condemned him to suffer a criminal’s execution on a crude Roman cross.
How swiftly the voice of the masses can turn against those in positions of authority, as any defeated politician or sacked football manager will tell you. Even kings and queens are not immune from rejection, when long-established monarchist nations decide to become republics.
But Jesus? His status as king did not depend on whether his country was a monarchy or a republic. It did not even depend on the fickle whim of the crowds. Commenting on Jesus’ claims about himself, C.S. Lewis concluded that Jesus was either deluded (and therefore mad) or lying (and therefore bad) or telling the truth, in which case he was the Father’s only begotten Son, and therefore even more of a King than those Palm Sunday crowds realised. He was the King of kings, and Lord of lords – a status that was his by divine right, rather than one conferred by either the electorate or the constitution of a nation.
If that is true, then nothing that either the crowds or the authorities said or did to him during that momentous week leading up to his crucifixion could alter the fact. All they could do was to either accept or deny his kingship.
When his disciples cried out ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!’ (Luke 20:38) as Jesus entered Jerusalem, they accepted his kingship – even if they didn’t understand his full authority. When one of those disciples – Peter – later said ‘I don’t know this man!’ (Mark 14:71), he momentarily denied Jesus’ kingship. And when the authorities tried, convicted and crucified him, they actively rejected his kingship.
But the empty tomb of Easter morning was Jesus’ proof that whatever anyone said or did to him, he was the King that the crowds said he was – and more. In ascending to his Father’s side, he took his rightful place in heaven once more; and in sending his Holy Spirit to equip us to live for him as a ‘royal priesthood’, he gave us a place in his royal family, and the privilege of working alongside him as he builds his Kingdom on earth today.
Nothing can change who Jesus is. What can change is who we believe he is. If we believe that the Gospel accounts are the delusions of a well-intended madman, then we would be mad to follow him. If we believe that he was lying for his own self-interest, then it would be bad to try and convince anyone otherwise. But if we truly believe that he was – and is – the Son of God, King of kings and Lord of lords… then surely it would be madness not to confess him as Lord and King? So… what do you believe this Easter?
With our love and prayers,
Matthew and Pauline