Christ’s Parade to Calvary (Part 1)

Bob RoaneJesus Christ, Joy and Peace

Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest heaven! (Mark 11:9-10)

The Paradox of Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday is past us this year, but it’s still worthy of study. Tim Keller reminds us that Christ’s Triumphal Entry in Mark 11 invites us to reflect on a paradox. Jesus is Lord of lords, but He  comes with humility and sacrificial love to save us, not with worldly power and splendor.

Scripture says: Though Jesus was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, He gave up His divine privileges. He took the humble position of a servant and was born as a human being. When Jesus appeared in human form, He humbled Himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.1

Scripture commands us to welcome Christ into our hearts with the same excitement as the crowds did in Jerusalem 2000 years ago, acknowledging Jesus as our Savior and King.

Bayly Ponders

Author Joseph Bayly (1920–1986) wondered: King Jesus, why did You choose a lowly donkey to carry You in Your parade? Couldn’t You have borrowed a royal mount fitting for a king? Why did You choose a donkey, a small, unassuming beast of burden trained to plow fields, not carry kings? King Jesus, why did You choose me, an unimportant person, to belong to You and represent You in the world today? I’m poor and insignificant, trained to work, not serve the King of kings. Yet You’ve chosen me to carry You in triumph in this world’s parade. Then Bayly prayed: “King Jesus, keep me small so all people may see how great You are. Keep me humble, so people may say, “Praise Jesus Christ!”2

The Bible’s Account

When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, He sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Mark 11:7-10)

The Palm Sunday parade takes Christ to His crucifixion and death on Good Friday and His victorious resurrection on Easter Sunday. The historic Palm Sunday events are recorded in all four Gospels (Matthew 21; Mark 11; Luke 19; John 12). It’s a well-known story, but let’s look closer at some details.

Fear Not

John 12:14-15 says: Jesus, sat on a young donkey. As it is written: Fear not. Behold, your King is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt. (quoting Zechariah 9:9)

Jesus takes away His followers’ fear of enemies, death, Hell, and Satan because the Palm Sunday parade leads Christ to Good Friday’s cross. There He makes full atonement for our sins and rises from the grave to show that God the Father accepted His sacrifice in place of our punishment. Psalm 22, Isaiah 53, and many other Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled in Christ’s death and resurrection.

Scripture says: Because God’s children are human beings, made of flesh and blood, the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could He die, and only by dying could He break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could Christ set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying. (Heb 2:14-15)

Jesus’ Gentleness

Christ’s humble entry reminds us of Matthew 12: Jesus is My servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight. I will put my Spirit on Him, and He will proclaim justice to the nations. He will not quarrel or cry out. No one will hear His voice in the streets. A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out, till He leads justice to victory. In His name the nations will put their hope.3

Praise God, Jesus deals with Jewish and Gentile (non-Jewish) repenting and believing sinners kindly, tenderly, open-handedly, considerately, graciously, and lovingly, not harshly. Christ is the God who pardons sin and forgives transgressions. He does not stay angry forever but delights to show mercy.4

Jesus looks over us, but never overlooks us. He loved us when there was nothing good to be seen in us and nothing good to be said for us. Christ loves each one of His people as if there was only one of them to love. (John Blanchard)

The Parade Leads to Christ’s Cross

Jesus’ death at Calvary (Golgotha) was no surprise to Him. This was what He came for! The Son of God came into the world to save sinners. Not come to help us save our selves, or to induce us to save our selves, or even to enable us to save our selves. King Jesus came to save us!

Henry Milman’s hymn says:
Ride on, ride on in majesty! In lowly pomp ride on to die.
Bow Your meek head to mortal pain, Then take, O Christ, Your power and reign.

Jesus predicted His own death and resurrection three times in Mark’s Gospel.5 “He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the teachers of the law, and that He must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this….”6

Because Christ was going to Calvary to reconcile us to God, He invites us in Matthew 11: “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”7 Jesus’ open invitation is grounded and based upon His mighty saving work for sinners. There is room enough in Christ for all comers.

Jesus is able to save to the uttermost (completely, perfectly, finally, and for all time and eternity) those who draw near to God through Him, because He always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25)

To be continued. You can read Christ’s Parade to Calvary (Part 2)

Notes (various Bible translations): 1 Phil 2:6-8.     2 Adapted from Joseph Bayly Psalms of My Life.     3 Matt 11:17-21, quoting Isaiah 42:1-3.     4 Micah 7:18.     5 See Mark chapters 8-10.     6 Mark 8:31-33.     7 Matt 11:28-30.