On Palm Sunday: The hidden glory of Jesus
The Sunday before Good Friday is traditionally called Palm Sunday because it is remembered as the day that Jesus entered Jerusalem to a crowd waving palm branches and praising Him. While we understand the Lordship of Christ and how worthy He is of praise, we know that not everything is as it might appear as the crowds celebrated Him on Palm Sunday.
In fact, as we read the accounts of Palm Sunday in the Gospels, we see that they are somewhat strange and unusual for a day that is remembered as the triumphal entry. For example, in Luke 19:41, we read that Jesus wept as He approached Jerusalem and contemplated the coming destruction of the city at the hands of the Romans. In Matthew 21:10-11, we meet some onlookers in Jerusalem who don’t even know who Jesus is. And then in Mark 11, we see that the day of triumph ends in a way that seemingly couldn’t be more anticlimactic: Jesus turns around, leaves, and spends the night in another city.
It's interesting that Mark alone tells us how the day ends. Mark has a distinct purpose in telling His Gospel, and one of the major themes of Mark is uncovering who Jesus is. Mark develops this theme, in part, by showing how Jesus’ true identity was in a very real sense obscured until His resurrection. We could go as far as to say that the entire theme of Mark is answering the question the disciples asked in Mark 4:41 — “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”
Mark answers the question of Jesus’ identity in Mark 15:39, which is the high point of his Gospel. A Roman centurion, of all people, when he sees how Jesus died, exclaimed, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” Within this statement, we find the key to unlock the secret of the glory of God in Jesus Christ. To see the glory of God in Christ, we need to see the Son of God crucified. Death is the one thing the natural mind would never expect to happen to the Son of God.
But, while most of the crowds on the day of Jesus’ death concluded that because of His crucifixion He could not be the Son of God, a Roman soldier — a Gentile pagan — concluded the exact opposite. That is shocking and unexpected. But it is glorious because we see in the cross the wisdom of God that reveals Jesus as the Son of God who died to take away the sins of the world, including the sins of the hated Romans.
When we think about what happened on Palm Sunday, we see the same type of theme taking place: Mark is showing how Jesus is the Son of God. And we find that the crowds once again missed it. It’s all shocking and unexpected how it unfolds. But for those with eyes to see, we find in Jesus the hidden glory of God. Mark shows us four indications in chapter 11 of the majesty and glory of Jesus — and what happens when people miss it.
The first indication of the glory of God hidden in Christ is seen in His omniscience.
The account is absolutely amazing. While roughly 18 miles away from Jerusalem, Jesus knew that a colt would be at a specific location, ready and waiting for His disciples. The only way Jesus could have known this with such precision is divine omniscience.
How must the disciples have felt when they saw Jesus had told them everything that would happen before any of it took place. How searching must it have been for them to think, “What does He know about me and my life if He has omniscient knowledge?” For believers, this should be a source of great comfort because we know that Christ loves us and died for us, knowing all the sinful realities of who we are. But for the unbeliever, nothing should be more dreadful than to think that Christ knows all there is to know about you.
We do well to put our trust in Jesus because we see the second manifestation of His glory in His authority.
Jesus refers to Himself and instructs the disciples to refer to Him in this way, as the owner, the master, the lord, and the sovereign over that colt. Here we see that in the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, we find all the authority of God in human flesh. This statement of Jesus’ lordship ends all debate and discussion about what will happen next. At Jesus’ sovereign command under His irresistible authority, the owners and the bystanders alike gave the disciples permission to take the colt.
Another attribute of the hidden glory of Jesus in this passage is His royalty.
The events Mark describes in these verses took place to fulfill the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9. When Jesus sat on the colt, He was declaring that He was the Messiah, the Messianic King who was to come to Israel. The problem, however, was that these people did not correctly interpret the actions of Christ as He sat on the colt because they didn’t understand the true nature of His kingdom. Zechariah prophesied that this King would come and speak peace to the nations, but what the people wanted that day (and what they thought they were celebrating), was a king who would come and destroy the nations, ending the Romans’ oppression of Israel.
The final point of how badly the people missed seeing Jesus’ glory is His divinity.
The most important statement in verse 11 is that Jesus entered Jerusalem and came into the temple to show that He is the eternal God. This is the most dramatic moment of the entire day because this was where His true identity was made known as He came into His temple, but the crowd was non-existent for this revelation. If the people knew He was the Messiah, they should have known Malachi 3:1, that He would immediately manifest, not only His kingship and Messiahship, but His very deity at the temple. After entering the city, Jesus came to the temple, assessed what was being done in His house, and then returned to clean house. And because He claimed the temple was His house, the Jews hung Him on a cross as a blasphemer.
Jesus demonstrated His omniscience, His authority, His royalty, and His divinity on Palm Sunday. It has been plainly revealed, but only to those with eyes to see it — both in Jesus’ day and for those who have had the account passed down to them in God’s Word. The reason people don’t have eyes to see it is because they look for human wisdom and glory. The natural man can’t see the glory of God in Jesus Christ. We have to look to Jesus with faith, looking not for what the world celebrates, but for what sinners need: a holy Savior who bore the sins of His people on the cross and rose again for their salvation.
Dr. Robb Brunansky is the Pastor-Teacher of Desert Hills Bible Church in Glendale, Arizona. Follow him on Twitter at @RobbBrunansky.