Palm Sunday used to kick off a week of giddy anticipation for me.
As a child, I was fascinated with the whole biblical canon, and the week between Palm Sunday and Easter was a time to highlight Jesus’ journey to the Cross and beyond. Never one to watch from the sidelines, I did everything I could to enter the thick of the experience.
As a kid, that meant playacting with my brother, opening egg-themed devotionals depicting Jesus’ process, and dancing in church waving palm branches. On Resurrection morning, we would race to the tree in the backyard to find a tiny action figure of Jesus (whom we’d buried three nights before) triumphantly sitting atop his tomb surrounded by half-dead guards and bowing women. As I grew older, I celebrated Passover Seders as Jesus would have at the time, subjected myself to the gut-wrenching Passion of the Christ movie, then transitioned to YouTube videos of grave walls shaking to some inspiring song like Arise, My Love.
I opened myself up to as much of the magnitude of Christ’s sufferings and Resurrection as my heart could hold, and Palm Sunday always got the ball rolling, kicking off a season marked by joy as dazzling as the fresh Springtime sunshine.
However, living in the Midwest, I've found that sunshine to be a bit flighty, elusive.
I don't know about you, but it's been a while since I’ve fully basked in that warmth. Maybe it’s just more of a fight to get there.
As we transition into adult life and begin to process wave after wave of difficulty and disappointment, we often let go of the childhood moments of awe. We don’t purpose to step back into the unseen realms and focus on what is meant to inform and empower our everyday. We don’t recognize God’s mercy because it looks different.
This year, I dutifully reread John 12, beginning with Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, which we still mark with palm branches and shouts of “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!” Yet, the people of that time didn’t fully comprehend the magnitude of what the Son of David had come to do. The disciples felt vindication in that moment, ushering in the King they had waited for, only to watch Him die publicly and violently a few days later.
They didn’t see God’s Mercy towards all mankind bleeding from the Cross.
But Jesus did. Before He even got there.
Shortly after the triumphal entry, Jesus explained, “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit" (John 12:24). Not the verses we usually focus on during the joyous refrains of Palm Sunday. But it's where Jesus' focus was.
He was expressing a completely different view of victory and purpose than the disciples were comfortable seeing. He was going ahead of us into death, and his obedience to the Father’s plan would bring about salvation for all who trusted in Him, ending with Him seated in the highest place of glory! It was for this joy set before Him that Jesus endured the shame and pain of the Cross, learning obedience through what He suffered (Hebrews 5:8, 12:2). And He’s our example and empowerment to do the same, living lives that count for eternity even at the expense of momentary comfort.
Jesus, our suffering and victorious Savior is the One who causes the crushed seeds of our lives to bear much fruit. He calls us into the same path He walked while giving us help every step of the way. And His Promise of the everlasting joy we will receive is the brightest, most dazzling hope of Springtime.
This Easter, don't just go to church to remember what He did then. Let Him do it in you. Turn to Jesus with all of your broken pieces and precious seeds buried in darkness, and let Him melt away Winter with the brightness of His Smile.
Then, bust out the palm branches and praise Him for the scars on His Palms that purchased your freedom! You don’t need to wait for Easter to do that.