“A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’…” (Matthew 21:8–9a).
Today we celebrate Palm Sunday, and the triumphal entry into Jerusalem of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. The atmosphere on those streets 2000 years ago must have been electric, with people surging to cast their cloaks and palm branches on the ground before their prophet–king. This, surely, was the one they had been waiting for; the promised Son of David, who would deliver them out from under the heel of Roman oppression. They had no idea, it seems, of what lay ahead, of what Friday would bring. Jesus, however, was clear in his purpose, and knew what the next week would bring. God’s plan from the very beginning had been the redemption of his people, and forgiveness of sins required a sacrifice.
Flash back a further two thousand years from this moment and we meet another man riding a donkey. He is heading towards the place God has directed him, travelling with his young son. The man’s name is Abraham, his son is Isaac, and he is about to face one of the greatest tests of his life. God had promised Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars, and that this promise was to be fulfilled through Isaac. All of Abraham’s hopes for the future rested upon Isaac. Now that God had called him to sacrifice his son, that future seemed in peril. Yet, just before Abraham struck the sacrificial blow, God intervened, providing a ram for the sacrifice and sparing Isaac’s life. God himself provided the sacrifice that secured Abraham’s future. I long wondered why Abraham chose to name that place ‘the Lord will provide’, rather than ‘the Lord has provided’. It wasn’t until I learned more about that location that it began to make sense.
Years later that region became the site of the city of Jerusalem. It is telling that we read in Luke 9:51 that as the time approached for Jesus to be taken up to Heaven, He ‘set His face towards Jerusalem’ – He set His face toward the place named ‘the Lord WILL provide’. Returning to the scene of the triumphal entry we see the crowds celebrating the arrival of God’s ‘Promised One’, the one who would save them from their oppressors. What God was doing, however, was far bigger. Jesus was the fulfillment of the promise that Abraham recognised. The Lord WILL provide a sacrifice for our sins, securing our future with Him. This Palm Sunday, may we celebrate in a way those present on that day could not. May we celebrate the arrival of the Saviour who would supply our greatest need – taking away the sins of the world.