Our Palm Sunday Hope
Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zechariah 9:9)
While scholars have not pinpointed a specific date for these verses from the second part of Zechariah, chapters 9-14, we can imagine the author is writing in challenging times. It is after the exile, though how long after is unclear. Israel was never able to live up to the stories of her past glory and remained vulnerable to whatever superpower arose in the region, first Persia, then the Greeks, and later Rome. Life had to be difficult to begin with, and these challenges did not make it any easier.
And yet, the prophet calls the people to "Rejoice greatly" and "Shout aloud." Why? How? Because hope. Because God is good, and faithful, and just. Because God's promises are true. Because hope.
In the Gospel of Matthew, the writer took these words of Zechariah and applied them to Jesus and his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, what we call "Palm Sunday." Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah, according to Matthew. He is the king. He is triumphant. He is the hope the people longed for.
But what were the people hoping for as Jesus came riding into Jerusalem? Some, for sure, were hoping for a warrior king who would raise up an army, push the Romans out of their land, and re-establish a great nation. Others were perhaps hoping Jesus would simply "cleanse" the temple of those leaders who sided with the Romans and abused their power and ignored the needs of the people. Did any, I wonder, hope that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem to defeat the powers of death? Probably not.
As we come to our own Palm Sunday here in 2022, what are our hopes in Jesus? Do we hope for power, the establishment of a dominant Christian culture? Do we hope for peace, a world where we truly love our neighbor as ourselves? Are our hopes more personal, such as forgiveness, healing, purpose? Perhaps we are just hoping for hope renewed.
As Holy Week arrives and we join the crowds in welcoming Jesus, what hope have we tied up in him that would lead us to rejoice and shout aloud as Jesus humbly passes by?