Living with an Unpredictable Palm Sunday

Today marks Palm Sunday, and if I’m being honest, it’s looking a lot different than I thought it would be.

Every year when I was young, I would always look forward to getting palm branches, folding them into makeshift crosses during Sunday School, and hearing the familiar story of Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey. I always thought that was so funny! The King of the universe, riding into town on a donkey? Like what was that all about?

As I grew older, I realized that this was not only an act of humility, but it was fulfilling a prophecy written hundreds of years before Jesus was even born. It foretold His triumphal entry, and I can almost guarantee every single one of those Jews that were so used to hearing those same scripture readings like I was, year after year, were expecting something different too.

When I think about it, we aren’t that much different than the Israelites. They had this perfect picture of their Savior coming in and rescuing them, and they formed it so strongly in their minds they couldn’t imagine anything else. They were looking for a specific sign and weren’t open to the reality that something else could be happening right in front of their noses.

This year I am reminded that life doesn’t always turn out the way you expect it to be. We are so used to living our lives day in and day out, knowing each and every year our holidays and celebrations in the church are going to look the same. We have the same expectations, and they are always met. We are satisfied, and we move on with our lives and keep going.

But what about this time? What are things going to look like this year, with our churches closed, our gatherings completely canceled, and society pretty much at a standstill?

Will we pause to reflect on the possibility that the Lord might be bringing to light the painful reality that we might have been too focused on a level of sameness year after year? Will we slowly grow to be thankful that the Lord addressed our struggle with expectations and the fear of needing to let go?

Or are we going to keep on sliding by, forgetting all about this holiday because everyone is so overwhelmed with this coronavirus stuff and remain focused on it so intently?

This year, I challenge you to not forget. Force yourself to take your mind off what the world is screaming at you and turn your eyes to Jesus. Satan loves to take advantage of distractions, and this is certainly one of them.

Don’t forget what we look forward to each year. Just like Jesus coming on a donkey, humbly and quietly, our reality today isn’t what we thought it would be this time around. Don’t let it slip under your nose undetected. Be open to the fact that this year is different, and God is always intentional. Maybe He decided to do it differently this year for a reason.

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

“Say to Daughter Zion,
    ‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
    and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Matthew 21:1-11 (NIV)