A triumphant welcome ends in disaster

It had all begun so well: the people had thrown palm branches in His path. They had even cheered and celebrated! They had hailed Him as their King. They had blown Him kisses and raised their arms to try and touch Him—they had had such good thoughts toward Him! But the celebration turned ugly soon enough.

It was a dream come true—and yet it ended as a nightmare. People said He was a miracle man, a good preacher, a man of the people. And people didn’t get the chance to enjoy a spectacle such as this every day! Jesus let them celebrate. But He knew that His hour had come: the jubilation would soon turn into turmoil, unrest, hatred, accusation—and ultimately murder.

Palm Sunday laid out its red carpet, drenched in blood and deadly, in the direction of Golgotha. The Messiah, so highly acclaimed at first, was violently abused and derided only a few days later. And it all happened in the very same city—namely Jerusalem—in the presence of the very same people who had cheered so loudly at first. Nothing had changed outwardly. Only their attitude, their mood, had been turned in the opposite direction. The cries of “Hosanna—Lord help!” had turned to “Crucify Him!” What a macabre situation!

The details are interesting.

  • Why a donkey?

The donkey is not a military beast. It is on horses that armies ride into battle, not on donkeys. The ancient writings had already foretold that the Messiah would come as a Prince of Peace. He would not come riding in on His high horse, but would rather make His way in all modesty and lowliness. This was a detail that the people had not understood. The fine print was lost on them. .

  • Who were these cheering people?

They were so proud and filled with hope. The time of the Roman occupation had changed them. They felt like second-class citizens, oppressed and cruelly chastised. And yet they were the people of God, the chosen people. It was actually no small wonder that their anger had been brought to a boil. This nation was never supposed to suffer under tyranny and foreign domination. So the people felt that the King who had come riding on His donkey had arrived at just the right time. And when it turned out that He was not a warmonger, but rather a peacemaker, things boiled over.

  • What did the scribes have to say?

The religious elite saw their supremacy in jeopardy, because the Pharisees and scribes were not only teachers of religion, but also politicians with a thirst for power. And they were not about to give in.

  • And the Romans?

The Romans didn’t care about Jesus one way or the other. All this talk of an almighty God, a redeeming Saviour, who was supposed to come to Israel, of all places, was deeply suspect to them. The Roman government had only one interest: the endless turmoil in the hornet's nest that was Jerusalem had to be silenced at all costs—with a strong hand and political astuteness.

  • Jerusalem, where else?

That the path of Jesus would end in Jerusalem was clear from the start. The city was not just any capital city—Jerusalem was the chosen Zion, the very identity of the people. It was there that the central temple had stood. This was the centre of the world. This was the beating heart of Judaism. And if the Christ was going to suffer and be lifted up on a cross, it would have to be here, in this city! It was from here that the cross would shine out into the whole world as a symbol for all future Christians. Christianity began in Jerusalem.

  • What would we have done?

“Let us not be offended by Jesus, but let us accept His word and adopt His attitude in our hearts. In order to enter the kingdom of heaven it is not enough to just go to church, to pray, to make sacrifices, and to live by the rules.” Thoughts from Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider. And what’s more: “Let’s not bargain with God! Many Christians turn to God and say, I will give You something, if You give me something!”

Do you believe this?

All of this is linked to a decisive question: “Who was this Jesus of Nazareth?” Anyone who believes that He was only a man will have a problem with Easter. On the other hand, those who believe that this Jesus is the Christ will also believe in His resurrection. The Easter cry: “He is risen indeed!” will bring an end to the season of suffering.

Article info


Peter Johanning
Palm Sunday