I am sitting in a Coffee shop contemplating the coming Palm Sunday… Jesus’ final entry into Jerusalem before his Crucifixion. Based on his own life experience, Gerald Borchert shares the following observation.
Although many people have traditionally designated this crowded, palm-branch experience as the “triumphal entry,” such a name hardly fits the significance of this event in John. In the strange intersection of events in my life, I was born on Palm Sunday, then in my youth I was confined to an isolation hospital bed memorizing most of the Gospel of John (see my Preface) until I was released for Palm Sunday. And later when I was teaching John in Jerusalem, I watched a shouting match and a fight take place between Christian priests of different traditions in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher on Palm Sunday! The combination of these events in my life has sensitized me to this “Palm Sunday” story in John.
Although the event is recorded in all four Gospels (Matt 21:1–11; Mark 11:1–11; Luke 19:29–44; as well as here in John), the focus of the stories is not the same in all of them. After pondering the story over the years, I find it completely impossible to designate John’s version of the story by the title of the “triumphal entry.” That title may apply to Luke’s account, where Jesus told the Pharisees that if his followers were to be silenced “the stones” would “cry out” (Luke 19:40a, probably citing Hab 2:11). But John’s story is different. It is strategically framed beforehand by the anointing of Jesus for burial (John 12:7) and afterwards both by the recognition that the hour of his glorification had arrived and by the likening of his time to the death of seeds (John 12:23–24). Jesus here was not confused about the significance of this event or by the shouting of the crowd. He knew that the meaning of his entry into Jerusalem was an entry into his death.
Gerald L. Borchert, vol. 25B, John 12-21, electronic ed., Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 39–40.
I encourage everyone to read each of the four Gospel accounts before Sunday morning and prepare your heart to answer these questions:
- Is Palm Sunday a story of Triumph or Trial?
- How does your understanding of Palm Sunday change your perception of your own life experience?