It is ‘Palm Sunday’ and Jesus is weeping

Number 625 • April 1, 2021


We have just passed what nominal “Christendom” calls Palm Sunday. It is hailed as “the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.” Five days later would be “black Friday” – the day of his death on a cross. The day of his true triumph over death and all the powers of godlessness and ungodliness – when God raised him to life again as the successful Savior, soon to be head of a new form of the kingdom of God – that day, called “Resurrection Sunday, ” was one week away. Jesus, knowing that the end of his earthly ministry and the sacrificial death that crowned it were coming soon should have been happy with the coming joy of fulfillment, when he could say, “It is finished – my work is done.” We are told elsewhere that he did in fact rejoice – for the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, despising the shame and would be (now is) set down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2). With only one week to go before completion of his mission and ministry why was he weeping? He was not weeping for himself, for the torture he was to endure or what it would cost him to become the redeeming savior, as terrifying as that prospect was –four days later, in the garden of Gethsemane he would sweat blood while coming to terms with the “cup” he would be asked to drink (Luke 22:39-46). On his way to the cross he told some others not to weep for him but to weep for themselves and their descendants, for what would be coming upon them (Luke 23:28-30).

Only a few days before this Palm Sunday event Jesus had wept at the tomb of a friend, Lazarus, groaning in sympathy with the sisters of Lazarus, Martha and Mary, who were also close friends, confidants, and helpers of Jesus (John 11:1-45). But he knew what he was going to do for Lazarus – he knew that there would be relief and joy coming soon to his three friends. He knew he would raise Lazarus to life again – he knew that God would hear him when he asked – and that the miracle would lead many to believe in him and in the power of God. His tears on this occasion were simply for the emotional stress suffered by his friends, to be compensated by the joy he knew was coming to them.

On this Palm Sunday he borrowed the unbroken colt of a donkey and rode it into Jerusalem. People shouted “Hosanna” – save us now while spreading palm leaves (Matthew 21:9, 15; Mark 11:9-10; John 12:13). It appears they were seeing Jesus as the promised Messiah and would have made him king of an expecting- to-be-freed nation of Israel – not as a spiritual savior but as a military leader and hero who would free them from the occupation and tyranny of their Roman rulers. Of course their jubilation and joy would turn out to be fickle and false. On “black Friday” they would be shouting that Jesus should be crucified, and they would accept the blood guilt to be settled upon them and their descendants (Matthew 27:24-25). Do you suppose Jesus knew how ignorant and insincere were the people shouting Hosanna on Palm Sunday – was he weeping about that?

Luke tells us that when Jesus and his disciples went on into Jerusalem Jesus looked at the city and wept over it (Luke 19:41-44). He then entered the temple area and drove out those who were making it a den of thieves instead of what God intended it to be, a house of prayer (Luke 19:45-46). He knew what was coming to the city and the nation and to the people – tragedy and tribulation that would leave the people desolate and doubtful of survival. This was not the first time he had lamented over the city (Matthew 23:37-38, Luke 13:34-35). The tragedy is that he himself had been willing to gather his people together but they would not have it so. The beloved temple/ house of God and the beloved nation and people of God could have been spared the unthinkable destruction and devastation that he knew was coming soon to that generation, but they refused to see it, refused to accept and follow him – but would remember long after that he had told them before it happened. A little time of jubilation among a deluded and distracted people soon to be disappointed and diverted even further from God was not enough to dispel the depressing view of their future.

It was Palm Sunday and Jesus was weeping. His death on the cross would not prevent the horror that he knew was coming. Surely he also knew that not only the end of Jerusalem and the temple, but the coming end of Judaism as marking the chosen nation and people of God – how most Jews would be unwilling to accept it and to embrace him as their new and true and only possible connection with the God of their fathers, the God of their religious history. It would not be his failure, nor any failure of God – the fault and failure would rest squarely upon the people themselves who, when presented the option of continuing with God by accepting His Messiah and the New Covenant God would offer them they would opt to continue in the faith and practices of a religion that had peremptorily ended with salvation no longer possible for those who stayed in it or returned to it – salvation would be possible in none other than Jesus himself (Acts 4:12). Yes, it was Palm Sunday and Jesus was weeping.

And what of non-Jews, the Gentiles, the other nations of the world? The new way that has been opened includes us as well as those from the Old Covenant and the Mosaic Law – we are able and allowed to come to God through Christ by accepting Him as he is and obeying the terms of the New Covenant: one way for everybody. But only a few actually come to him as directed. Far too many have devised their own ways of access to God, and not all of them are through Christ. Those who could be God’s children in Christ are missing the only chance they have to escape the devastation and damnation he knows awaits them. No doubt he weeps for them too. If there were any other valid way – that is, if the Lord God offered any ways other than through the Lord Jesus Christ – He would rejoice when anybody took any of those ways. But those blithely making their own way to assumed peace and joy and blessing they claimed will weep copiously when they find out that the end of the way that seems right to them actually leads to eternal death and damnation (Proverbs 14:12 and 16:26). When so much of the world rejoices in what they think is true of Jesus, sure that he is the Savior they want, the Redeemer and Defender they expect, the Rewarder of those who keep the faith the way they themselves are doing – they are as deceived about the nature and will of Christ as were those Hosanna-shouters on Palm Sunday – surely the Lord is now weeping over them too.

We who count ourselves to be in the true church, following the only true Lord in the only true way – the Christ of the gospel and the gospel of the Christ – are we also among those who are missing what Christ really wants us to see and to have?

Those who have, in their own eyes and estimation, “evolved” into a higher level of freedom and have gone out from us to make it clear that they are not of us (1 John 3:19) have really effectively devolved – they have not grown in the faith but have lost the faith they once had. Of them Jesus could lament, with an amen to Isaiah the prophet, they have eyes but they do not really see (me); they have ears but they do not (really) hear me; they have hearts but will not yield to me so that I can convert them and heal them and save them (Isaiah 29:13, Matthew 13:14-15 and 15:7-8).

The people may rejoice – it may be Palm Sunday in their hearts – but if they miss the Lordship of him to whom God calls them and are not conformed to the image of His Son they may find out that God does not work with them for good in everything (Romans 8:28-29) and that even His great love and the love of Jesus for his disciples will not protect them from the enemies who are always ready to oppose and try to defeat us. That promise of the Lord is not generic for all but is only for those who love Him and are the called (faithful followers) according to His purpose (Romans 8:35-39 and 8:28).

Palm Sunday is now irrelevant. The death of Jesus was accomplished on Black Friday. But – Hallelujah; glory to God! – Resurrection Sunday came and we still celebrate it – hopefully with tears because our sins made it necessary but with joy that it means the time will come when there will be no more tears – “No tears in heaven fair; no tears! No tears up there.” God will wipe away all tears from our eyes (Revelation 21:4). No tears for us, and no more weeping for our Savior Jesus. Weeping will be ended for all in heaven. <><>

#geraldcowan #palmsunday