Christ’s Parade to Calvary (Part 2)

Bob RoaneJesus Christ, Joy and Peace

Jesus Christ is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. He loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve His God and Father. To Him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen. (Revelation 1:5-6)

A Royal Homecoming

In 2002, the former ruler of Afghanistan, the 87-year-old Mohammed Zahir Shah, returned to his homeland after 30 years of exile. Thousands of people lined up at the airport and on the streets to see the former ruler. Delegations arrived from Afghanistan’s 32 provinces, including governors, women carrying posters of the king, warlords, and men in turbans. Red carpets were laid out. Young women and children in traditional embroidered dress greeted Zahir Shah with flowers and poems.1

It reminds me of Jesus’ Palm Sunday entrance into Jerusalem, 2000 years ago. People took palm branches and went down the road to meet Christ. They shouted, “Praise God! Blessings on the One who comes in the name of the Lord! Hail to the King of Israel!” Jesus rode a young donkey, fulfilling Zechariah’s prophecy: “Don’t be afraid, people of Jerusalem. Look, your King is coming, riding on a donkey’s colt.”2

The Palm Sunday parade takes Christ to His crucifixion and death on Good Friday and His victorious resurrection on Easter Sunday. It’s a famous story, but let’s look closer at some more details.

This post builds on Christ’s Parade to Calvary (Part 1)

What About the Palms?

In the ancient Roman Empire, palm branches symbolized victory. Jesus’ entry reminded people of the Roman conqueror who laid down his weapons and wore a toga, the civilian garment of peace. In many churches nowadays, worshipers carry palms like the crowd did in Jesus’ day. Where palms do not grow, people use branches of native trees. In Bible times, palms symbolized grace and uprightness.

Psalm 92 says: The godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like a cedars. For they are transplanted to the Lord’s own house. They flourish in the courts of our God. Even in old age the godly ones will still produce fruit. They will remain vital and green, and declare, “The Lord is just! He is my Rock! There is no evil in Him!”3  This Scripture reminds us that older Christians can and must keep on growing in Christ-likeness until Jesus takes us home.

In Revelation chapter 7, John sees a vast crowd of Christ’s followers in heaven, too great to count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language. They stand in front of God’s throne and before the Risen Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The believers were clothed in white robes and held palm branches. And they shout, “Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!”4

The branches on Palm Sunday look back to the Old Testament (OT) and ahead to Jesus gathering His followers together in heaven. What a day that will be! J. Barton Payne’s Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy lists 1,239 prophecies in the OT and 578 prophecies in the New Testament, for a total of 1,817. Since Christ has already fulfilled over 300 prophecies at His first coming, He will surely fulfill all the remaining ones soon.

What About the Donkey?

Christ rode a donkey, announcing that He comes in peace, not as war-waging monarch. In ancient times, a king rode a war horse when he was bent on conquering and on a donkey to signal that he was coming in peace. Christ was deliberately fulfilling Zechariah 9:9, mentioned above.

Our God is a Promise Keeper and Prophecy Completer. Unlike fickle people, our God follows through on His word, His promises, and His prophecies. So we can totally trust Him.5 Psalm 28:7 says: “The Lord is my strength and my shield. My heart trusts in Him, and He helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise Him.”

In His first advent, Jesus brings initial peace to His followers. Then He gives us peace along the way, as we follow Him through this life. When Christ returns, He will consummate His eternal plan of salvation. Hebrews 9:28 says: Christ was sacrificed once for all time to take away the sins of many people. And He will appear a second time to bring final salvation to those who wait for Him.

Past History

Jesus established His kingdom while here on Earth. He has saved and blessed us by His life, death, and resurrection.

Present History

Jesus continues building His kingdom from Heaven on Earth. As King of kings, He keeps on saving and blessing us.

Future History

Jesus will consummate His kingdom in the New Heaven and New Earth. He will perfect and complete our eternal salvation and blessing.

When Christ Returns, He Will Punish

God did not send His Son the first time to condemn the world, but to save us through Jesus. Whoever believes in Christ is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have rejected God’s one and only Son.6

When Christ returns, He will punish, judge, and condemn those who do not trust God and do not obey the gospel.7 He will no longer ride a donkey, but instead on a white war horse. Christ will strike down His enemies (unrepenting sinners) and rule them with an iron scepter.8 King Jesus must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.9 When Christ comes to judge, He will no longer be gentle, meek, and mild. Jesus will be severe and throw the wicked into hell, a place of terrible and endless punishment.

Believers long for Christ’s return and His defeat of all evil. But God has allowed these last days to stretch out so that more people can turn to Jesus in faith and repentance. The Lord’s delay isn’t a hiccup in His plan. It’s an integral part of His plan, which makes Him kind, not cruel. Christ will surely return to judge the living and the dead, but as long as He  delays, there’s still time for people to call on Jesus to be saved.10

Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation….The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.11

To be continued. You can read Christ’s Parade to Calvary (Part 3)

Notes (various Bible translations): 1 Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah, “Afghans Give Ex-king a Royal Homecoming,” Chicago Tribune (4-19-2002).     2 John 12:13-15, quoting Zec 9:9.     3 Psalm 92:12-15 NLT.     4 Rev 7:9-10.     5 Adapted from Matthew D. Kim.     6 John 3:17-18.     7 2 Thes 1:8.     8 Rev 19:11-16.     9 1 Cor 15:25.     10 Adapted from Whitney Woollard of The Bible Project.     11 2 Cor 6:2; 2 Peter 3:9.