palm sunday

“Then Jesus entered Jerusalem, and went into the temple.”
Mark 11:11

This week we celebrate holy week. Everything about our Christian faith hinges on the events of these last seven days in the life of our Savior. Yesterday, Palm Sunday, was the beginning of the end for Jesus as he rode a donkey into Jerusalem. The disciples had feared going to Jerusalem for some time and they must have been shocked and surprised to see how the crowds received Him.

“Hosanna! Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” the crowd shouted as they waved palm branches.

In Old Testament times, people waved palm branches during various feasts or times of celebration and gladness. Hosanna means “Save now.” The crowd was quoting Psalm 118:26, which reads:

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
We bless you from the house of the Lord.
The Lord is God,
and he has made his light to shine upon us.
Bind the festal sacrifice with cords,
up to the horns of the altar!”

“Hosanna” means simply, “save now”, and that is exactly what the crowd wanted and expected. They believed that He was going to save them from their Roman oppressors and become their king. They honored Him as king but did not realize that He came first as their humble Savior. If He had ridden into town on a warhorse, they would have known He came as a conqueror. But He arrived in Jerusalem on a simple and plain donkey, which meant He came in peace. They did not realize that He came to die as the Passover sacrifice, to save them from their sins.

Because of these expectations, the celebration didn’t last long. As they heard His teachings about the destruction of Jerusalem, saw Him drive money-changers out of the temple, and warn the people about the Scribes and Pharisees, the crowd realized that He was not there to “save now”. They wanted to hear His plan to overthrow Rome, not about suffering, pain, and destruction.

The crowd was looking to Jesus for a quick-fix for what they considered the main issue that they were facing…Roman oppression. When Jesus didn’t meet their expectations, they quickly revolted and ultimately put Him to death. What they could not see was that Jesus, through His suffering and crucifixion, was delivering them from their real issue…sin and death.

The crowd was looking for a temporary band-aid and Jesus was offering complete healing.

This often parallels our journey in recovery. For years we ran to sex, pornography, work, or control to numb and medicate and cope with the pain of our lives. When these behaviors led to unmanageability and chaos, we started recovery and began to learn to turn things over to God who was able and willing to restore us to sanity. But, like the crowd in Jerusalem, we expected Jesus to “save now” and immediately take away our pain. When He doesn’t meet this expectation of recovery…to make life pain-free…it is tempting to conclude that recovery doesn’t work.

But it is our expectation that is off. When our expectation is for life to be pain-free, we will miss the hope that springs from the valley of the shadow of death. The healing that we have been seeking is found in the frontier of suffering and death, where we least expect it. We cannot bring about the changes that we desire out of our own willpower and volition. It is only as we surrender and allow God to take us to the painful places of our past that genuine healing can take place.

Healing comes on the other side of pain! Victory comes on the other side of the cross!

May each of us have the courage to go through our own pain as we are reminded of our Savior’s pain this week.

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