The Appearance of Victory

It looked like Jesus’ finest hour when he entered Jerusalem.  Our Palm Sunday service, also called Passion Sunday by some, is a celebration of Jesus’ triumphal entry.  The crowd shouted “Hosanna” and also “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.”  Hosanna means either save us now or more simply save now.  They waved palm branches, a symbol of victory, and spread coats on his path.  Many expected Jesus to claim the throne, and some had even tried to take him by force and place him there.  The Jewish leaders didn’t like it, but they feared the crowd more than God.  Jesus certainly looked victorious on that day.

By the end of the week, the same crowd was shouting “Crucify him.”   Followers of Jesus were hard to find by Friday afternoon.  Good Friday seemed to be Jesus’ ultimate demise, the polar opposite of just a few days earlier.  The chief priests and Pharisees must have thought the Jesus movement was over for sure as the few friends he had left put him in the tomb.  Of course we know that Easter (Resurrection Sunday) and the day of Pentecost are coming soon, but Palm Sunday appears to be a great day of victory while the cross looks like defeat.

Try to keep these things in mind.  The world often has their winning and losing backwards.  When missionaries are persecuted, when pastors are arrested for reading the Bible in public places, when states approve gay marriage, or abortion rights are expanded: don’t be too quick to accept defeat.  The same is true for events that we may perceive as victories.  Political leaders and court systems of the modern world have no more real power than they did in the first century.  The same Jesus that ascended in Acts 1 will return the same way.  He will not be a helpless baby at his second coming.  Despite appearances, the real victory was over death, hell and the grave.

“Sorrow may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.”  Psalm 30:5