Reticent joy of Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday, which is the Sunday before Easter, celebrates the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. He was riding on a donkey. The Bible says, ‘So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (John 12:13). This event begins ‘Passion Week’ or ‘Holy Week’, leading to Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.

In jubilant mood, the crowd was expecting and anticipating that Jesus would at that time inaugurate the rule of God politically on earth.  But they were wrong. Prior to this entry into Jerusalem, we are told, ‘And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it . . .’ (Luke 19:41). Jesus was sorrowful for Jerusalem as He foresaw their rejection of Him, which would eventually lead to His crucifixion.

Yet, we would be mistaken to think that Jesus had been solely consumed with sadness whilst knowing what was in store for Him. The writer of Hebrews beseeched us – ‘looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, . . .’ (Hebrews 12:2). What we see in Jesus was sadness mixed with joy, knowing on the one hand what awaited Him, and on the other hand, what His death would accomplish.

Viewing Palm Sunday in the context of the broader redemptive plan, one might see it as the precursor to the ultimate sacrifice and salvation brought about by Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. While the immediate events that follow Palm Sunday are solemn, the complete picture of it all is that of a profound sense of spiritual fulfilment and hope.

May we approach this season with reticent joy.

Richard Lai