2022-4-10 “The Shadow Side of Palm Sunday”

Cornerstone EPC                                                                                                    Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                                                April 10, 2022

“The Shadow Side of Palm Sunday”
Luke 19:41-44

Today is Palm Sunday—when we commemorate Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem immediately prior to His crucifixion and resurrection. Palm Sunday is a day of adulation, to be sure, as we praise Jesus with the adoring throng long ago. However, there is also a shadow side to this, and Dr. Luke, as led by the Holy Spirit, narrates this faithfully. Let us give our attention once again to the reading and preaching of God’s Word in this place.


Indeed, that Palm Sunday of long ago, when Jesus came into Jerusalem to great acclaim, was a day of adulation. We see various forms of praise offered to Jesus, such as the waving of palm branches, the laying of cloaks upon the path, and the placing of Jesus upon a foal of a donkey (Matthew 21:5), in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (Zechariah 9:9). We also note—indeed, we almost hear by the ears of faith—the exclamations rendered on the day. We hear “Hosanna,” an Old Testament expression of praise and hope, cried at Jesus’ appearing that day, and we hear it further enlarged: “Hosanna to the Son of David,” (Matthew 21:9) and,”Hosanna in the highest” (ibid.).[1] We also hear cries of “Blessed…,” further enlarged, as “Blessed is the One coming in the Name of the Lord,” (Matthew 21:9) “Blessed is the coming Kingdom of our father David,” (Mark 11:10) and, “Blessed is the King of Israel” (John 12:13). Indeed, the Lord Jesus receives His praise on the day. Add yet one more explicit praise to the heap—this time from Luke 19:38, “Peace in Heaven, and glory in the highest.”

Even the verbalized vexation of Jesus’ opponents redounds to His praise. Luke narrates that certain Pharisees spoke to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples” (Luke 19:39), to which Jesus replies, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Luke 19:40). The Apostle John narrates the Pharisees’ collective pique, quoting, “Look, the world has gone after Him” (John 12:19). Yet, despite all this apparent adoration, there is a shadowy side to all of this, and today’s text—not to mention this sermon—focuses upon it.
Jesus, upon seeing Jerusalem, weeps (Greek klaio [klaiw]) over it. The emphasis of this Greek verb is upon the noise accompanying the weeping.[2] The same word used of Jesus’ weeping occurs also to convey Peter’s weeping at his third denial of Jesus (Matthew 26:75). Hence, Jesus wept bitterly over Jerusalem, thus testifying to the utter breaking of His great heart—both at the persistent unbelief of much of the populace and at the coming destruction of the city.

Jesus, in an address unique to Luke among the Evangelists, then speaks to the city and to the people largely unwilling to receive Him. He cries aloud, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day this things that make for peace!” Jesus wants the best for this beloved city—standing at the earthly epicenter of Old Testament worship. He Himself is our peace (Ephesians 2:14), and embrace of Him via saving faith is the path to true peace, true shalom, true welfare. Alas, Jesus continues, “But now they are hidden from your eyes.” This is judicial blinding of eyes and judicial hardening of heart, and these are due to multi-layered rejection. The Old Testament church, by Jesus’ day, had rejected Him persistently, with occasional interruptions, for over a thousand years. God’s Old Covenant people largely rejected His messengers, the prophets. Above all of this, and worst of all, this people, in the aggregate, rejected the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom the Law and Prophets testify. Therefore, Jesus, in the rest of His brief address, passes sentence.

First, Jerusalem will be besieged, as Jesus declares, “For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround and hem you in on every side….” Second, Jerusalem will be razed to the ground, and implicit in this is the wholesale death of her people, as Jesus declares, “…and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you,…” The rationale for this severe sentence closes Jesus’ address, “…because you did not know the time of your visitation.” The people in Jerusalem of that day, by and large, missed God incarnate in their midst—with disastrous consequence. All of this came to pass in A. D. 70 at Roman hands. Titus, the commanding general in A. D. 70 and later emperor of the Roman Empire (79-81), beseiged and razed Jerusalem—just as Jesus declared.

Again, Jesus received almost universal accolade on that Palm Sunday. He received such accolade because the throng believed that the Deliverer—the Savior—had come. They were right, but His deliverance came in a form not expected—and not widely welcome. The people wanted a political savior from the hated Roman overlords—and possibly from their own religious elite to boot. What they got—what we get—is Jesus the spiritual Savior from sin, its author, and its consequences. This did not comport with prevailing Palestinian Jewish hope—and, hence, by Friday, the cry “Crucify” supplanted Sunday’s cry of “Hosanna.”

The Holy Spirit warns us in today’s text. We must not miss receiving Jesus by faith, while opportunity avails, and, thus we must not place ourselves in danger of His fearful judgment—for it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31). Even as we heed this warning from God’s Word, let us also note that, happily, this narrative ends not here. For its soul-swelling conclusion, return next week.


[1] The word hosanna rises from the Hebrew hoshiah-na, and it occurs in Psalm 118:25. I translate, most woodenly, Cause Thou now to save. The verb hoshiah is the Hiphil (causative active) imperative of the verb yasha, which means to save, and the adverb na simply means now. See Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1906. Reprint, Danvers, MA: Hendrickson, 2001).
[2] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida, eds., Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1989).