He was a wanted criminal in the eyes of the ruling class. He had upset the balance of power and threatened their hold on society. An arrest warrant had been circulated. His routine was known so it should not be too difficult of an arrest. The only problem was that Jesus was constantly surrounded by hundreds and sometimes thousands of people who might overwhelm and thwart those sent to fulfill the warrant.That was the scene in the days leading up to what we call today, “Holy Week”.
Jesus had last been in the capital city of Jerusalem in December while attending the Feast of Dedication or Hanukkah. An attempt was made on His life following which He retired to the other side of the Jordan River, a territory not under the control of the the ruling Pharisees. News came of Lazarus fatal illness. Jesus paused two more days, then proceeded into Judea where arrest was a possibility at any time. Rather than keep a low profile, Jesus raises Lazarus, who had been dead for four days, in the very shadow of Jerusalem!
The effect of this miracle just days before the beginning of the Passover Holiday was immediate. Hundreds instantly believed and told others that came out to see Lazarus and in turn believe. The ruling Pharisees were livid. With great political acumen, they decided to kill both Jesus and Lazarus in order to quell this fast growing threat. Just think about this for a moment. Men dedicated to serving God and fellow man, so elevated by position and fortune, contemplate murdering innocent men as a means to serving God!
Everyone knew the prophetic expectation of Messiah. He would enter Jerusalem from the East, riding on a donkey. Bethany lay East of Jerusalem, so it was here that Jesus made camp. When the day came for His journey to the Temple, thousands of excited people lined the road. They had come to see Lazarus, a living miracle. Now they were to proclaim praise to God for Jesus, the “Miracle Worker”!
When the crowds saw Jesus riding on the donkey, an obvious statement of being Messiah, they went wild. Shouting, singing and laying their garments down in the roadway were all signs of homage. But something else was happening.
As a proclamation of freedom from Rome, palm branches were cut, held high, waved in the air and lay in the path of the oncoming rider. A procession of homage had turned into a political demonstration. The people could not shout out, “Down with Rome, Jesus is our King!” There would have been arrests, trials and executions at the hands of the Romans. But to raise the palm branch was a brilliant way of declaring freedom without breaking the laws of Rome.
This Sunday we will be taking a closer look at the activities described in the Bible and commencing Holy Week. Come, worship with palms at Real Life Church. Declare your freedom from the world’s spiritual systems and accept a new life in Christ!