Chances are you’ve not spent many Palm Sundays locked behind closed doors. Palm Sunday is a day we remember and celebrate Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem riding on a donkey; an animal symbolising humility, peace and Davidic royalty. The hordes of cheering supporters waving palm branches; the national symbol of Israel. Cloaks and robes laid out on the road; an act of royal homage.
Last Sunday we celebrated the Messiah; the Promised One, coming into His royal city. The prophecy fulfilled. The streets would have been packed and charged with an excitement so electric you could’ve tasted it.
But this year we sat at home behind closed doors, in isolation. Some of us may have had company, others won’t have. How different this is to, not only the first Palm Sunday, but the way most of us would choose to celebrate this anniversary.
But all is not lost. Instead of mourning what cannot be, let’s look at this unique time and what it has to offer.
What happened next?
Jesus may have received a roaring welcome into Jerusalem, but we all know, that’s not how he left. Within a week there had been a dramatic turnaround in both awareness of what Jesus had actually meant in His teaching about the Kingdom of God, and what was actually expected of those who would follow him into His Heavenly kingdom.
After the donkey had been stabled, and cloaks had been collected, things went a bit pear-shaped. The problem was, Jesus didn’t follow the people’s plan. Instead of overthrowing the Roman Empire, the Galilean overthrew business in the temple. Rather than welcoming the religious elite into the Kingdom of Heaven, this carpenter chose prostitutes and tax collectors. Instead of crumbling before the superior knowledge and wit of the Pharisees, this up-start … out-knowledged and out-wit them.
Bottom line: Jesus was not following the script
Jesus was supposed to climb down off that Donkey and up onto the throne so Israel could, once again, conquer the Romans and rule the land. The religious leaders had been running the show for hundreds of years waiting for this day. They did not need him coming in and telling them how to run his Kingdom. Couldn’t he just get in the box they’d prepared and stay there?
If the box doesn’t fit …
Palm Sunday was the meeting of two opposing forces: the people’s expectation and God’s reality. And Jesus was stuck in the middle. He waded through the pounding waves pulling at him every step of the way. Because Jesus was set to follow a path none were expecting; he was pulling against the tide.
We read in the Gospels that during his earthly ministry, at other times such as this, when he was tired and needing refuelling, Jesus withdrew to a quiet place and spent quality time with his Father or with those closest to him.
- After his baptism, Jesus was led into isolation, where he was tempted, but also had time with His Father to gain a greater understanding of what ‘Sonship’ meant. Jesus withdrew when he needed to hear from his Father.
- When openly confronted about their misinterpretation of the law the Pharisees became hostile. After these encounters Jesus withdrew with his disciples to teach them his truth.
- John the Baptist was Jesus’ relative. He was the one in the wilderness prepared the way for our Lord. He was a righteous man who had suffered greatly. When Jesus heard that he had been killed, he withdrew to grieve.
- Knowing the crowds didn’t understand his purpose and wanted to force earthly kingship upon him, Jesus withdrew to spend time with his Father and to be strengthened by the Spirit.
- When the apostles returned from their first mission, they were full of news and excitement. Jesus took them aside so he could give his full attention and celebrate with them.
- Because of who he was and what he offered; Jesus was constantly hounded by crowds. In order to cope he often withdrew to lonely places and prayed
- Knowing that the religious authorities plotted to have him killed and that his time was near, Jesus withdrew with his disciples in a region in the wilderness until it was God’s time for him to die.
One last time
Again, we read at the Last Supper Jesus met with his disciples behind closed doors to comfort, teach, encourage and reveal his truth to them. He created a space in which he could be alone with the twelve of them one last time.
Things were going to get scary because Jesus chose not following the world’s script. Because of this, they hated him, and they would hate his followers too. But the Father is in control. Jesus already knew what was going to happen, and even though it would hurt them all for a while, in the end all would be well.
Despite moments of clarity, in truth, the disciples were confused. Jesus had been preparing them for three years, but still they weren’t ready to hear. So, he showed them with his actions; he washed their feet, then walked to the cross. Then told them to go and do the same.
He would leave them. But only for a time. And only so he could prepare a place for them to join them. Nevertheless, in his absence, the Advocate; the Holy Spirit would come. He would teach them and remind them of everything Jesus had said.
During this season when we are challenged to be socially distant, let us use this opportunity of “timeout” to meet with our God behind closed doors.
Spend time with the Father: How is He:
- Commissioning you?
- Refuelling you?
Reflect on the Word. What is He:
- Teaching you?
- Revealing to you?
Be open to the Spirit. How is He:
- Comforting you?
- Transforming you?
Paradoxes of God
Timeout behind closed doors this Sunday could be a wonderful opportunity for us to meet with our Heavenly Father. To sit in our Lord’s presence. And be encouraged by the Holy Spirit. It is a great time to reflect on the paradoxes of our God as he continues to go against the tide of worldly “wisdom”, and escape the box his people try to capture him in.
- The Long awaited King, from the Royal line of David, came riding a donkey
- Jesus entered his Heavenly Kingdom by the way of hellish suffering
- The one we should serve came to serve
- One would die so many could live
As a mum, I often used ‘timeout’ with my boys when they were younger, not so much as a punishment, but rather a forced opportunity to reflect. To think about what they had been doing or better yet, to consider what they could of, or should have, been doing.
We too have a choice. We can focus on the doors that have been shut behind us– what we were doing– or we can consider the opportunity that has been opened up before us; an opportunity to withdraw to spend time with our Father.
- What have we been called out of?
- What have we been called into?
- How could we to follow Jesus example and move away from the world’s script?
- How could we use this time to be fed, encouraged and transformed?
Let us use this time of isolation to get prepared for what lies ahead. We don’t know what that will look like. But we do know God is in control, Jesus has gone before us and the Comforter is fired up and raring to go.
Are we prepared to withdraw, listen and respond? Are we ready to get out of the box and follow the script God is writing?