Thursday, June 20, 2024

Palm Sunday and the Hidden Glory of Jesus

On Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Good Friday, Christians remember the day Jesus entered Jerusalem to a celebrating crowd waving palm branches and praising Him. But while this account demonstrates the Lordship of Christ and how worthy He is of praise, not everything was as it appeared.

The accounts of Palm Sunday in the Gospels are somewhat strange for a day that is remembered as the “triumphal entry.” Luke 19:41 tells how Jesus wept as He approached Jerusalem and contemplated the coming destruction of the city at the hands of the Romans. In Matthew 21:10-11, we meet some onlookers in Jerusalem who don’t even know who Jesus is. And then in Mark 11, the day of triumph ends in a way that seemingly couldn’t be more anticlimactic: Jesus turned around, left, and spent the night in another city.

Mark’s account is the only book that tells us how Palm Sunday ended. Mark has a distinct purpose in telling His Gospel, and one of the major themes of the book of Mark is uncovering who Jesus is. Mark develops this theme, in part, by showing how Jesus’ true identity was obscured until His resurrection. And his account of Palm Sunday shows that the crowds missed it. But for those with eyes to see, we find in Jesus the hidden glory of God. Mark shows us four indications in chapter 11 of the majesty and glory of Jesus – and what happens to those who do not see.

The first indication of the glory of God hidden in Christ is seen in His omniscience. The account is absolutely amazing. While he is roughly 18 miles away from Jerusalem, Jesus declared that a colt would be at a specific location in that city, ready and waiting for His disciples. The only way Jesus could have known this with such precision is divine foreknowledge.

How must the disciples have felt when they saw Jesus had told them everything that would happen before any of it took place? How searching must it have been for them to think, “What does He know about me and my life if He has omniscient knowledge?” For believers, this should be a source of great comfort because we know that Christ loves us and died for us, knowing all the sinful realities of who we are. But for the unbeliever, nothing should be more dreadful than to think that Christ knows all there is to know about you.

We do well to put our trust in Jesus because we see the second manifestation of His glory in His authority. Jesus referred to Himself and instructed the disciples to refer to Him in this way: as the owner, the master, the lord, and the sovereign over that colt. Here we see that in the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, we find all the authority of God in human flesh. This statement of Jesus’ lordship ends all debate and discussion about what will happen next. At Jesus’ sovereign command under His irresistible authority, the owners and bystanders alike permitted the disciples to take the colt.

Another attribute of the hidden glory of Jesus in this passage is His royalty. The events Mark describes in these verses took place to fulfill the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9. When Jesus sat on the colt, He demonstrated that He was the Messiah, the Messianic King who was to come to Israel. The problem, however, was that these people did not correctly interpret the actions of Christ as He sat on the colt because they didn’t understand the true nature of His kingdom. Zechariah prophesied that this King would come and speak peace to the nations, but what the people wanted that day (and what they thought they were celebrating), was a king who would come and destroy the nations, ending the Romans’ oppression of Israel.

The final point of how badly the people missed seeing Jesus’ glory is His divinity. The most important statement in verse 11 is that Jesus entered Jerusalem and came into the temple to show that He is the eternal God. This is the most dramatic moment of the entire day because this was where His true identity was made known as He came into His temple, but the crowd was not present for this revelation. If the people knew He was the Messiah, they should have known Malachi 3:1, that He would immediately manifest not only His kingship and Messiahship, but His very deity at the temple. After entering the city, Jesus came to the temple, assessed what was being done in His house, and then returned to clean house. And because He claimed the temple was His house, the Jews hung Him on a cross as a blasphemer.

The question at the heart of Mark’s Gospel is the same question the disciples ask in Mark 4:41 – “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” Mark answers the question of Jesus’ identity in Mark 15:39, which is the high point of his Gospel. Seeing how Jesus died, a Roman centurion, of all people, exclaimed, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” This is the key to unlocking the secret of the glory of God in Jesus Christ, visible only through the shocking crucifixion of the Son of God.

But while most of the crowds on the day of Jesus’ death determined that, because of His crucifixion, He could not be the Son of God, a Roman soldier – a Gentile pagan – concluded the exact opposite. His revelation is as astounding as it is glorious. The wisdom of God reveals Jesus as the Son of God who died on the cross to take away the sins of the world, including the sins of the hated Romans.

Jesus demonstrated His omniscience, His authority, His royalty, and His divinity on Palm Sunday. It has been plainly revealed, but only to those with eyes to see it – both in Jesus’ day and for those who have had the account passed down to them in God’s Word. The reason people don’t have eyes to see it is that they look for human wisdom and glory. The natural man can’t see the glory of God in Jesus Christ. We have to look to Jesus with faith, looking not for what the world celebrates, but for what sinners need: a holy Savior who bore the sins of His people on the cross and rose again for their salvation.

This article was originally published by RealClearReligion and made available via RealClearWire.