Pondering Palm Sunday and some other thoughts

Throngs of people filled the streets of Deep Ellum and the patios of restaurants scattered along both Upper and Lower Greenville Avenue this past Saturday. The weather all weekend has been beautiful, sunny, and warm here in the suburbs of Big D. After working Saturday morning, I spent some time piddling in the yard this Sunday.

Terri and I are attending church on Saturday evenings instead of the traditional Sunday mornings. While we still haven’t settled on a church home, the place where we have been attending is very welcoming and genuinely seems to care about people. It’s a bigger church then we ever pictured attending, but we appear to have come to grips with that plot twist in our spiritual journey.

I love teaching people about the Bible. When I visited Mom’s church last Sunday I had the opportunity to lead the Sunday school class she attends regularly.

Over the past decade +, I’ve had the chance to teach several Bible classes and preach numerous sermons. Even though I’m not pastoring a church, God has given me the opportunity to shepherd flocks of people along their spiritual journey. This blog is one way that I do that, at least on occasion.

This week, I’m leading a Bible study on Tuesday and preaching on Wednesday at the place where I work. We serve as a church for the homeless, in addition to helping provide them with needed resources and helping them get off the streets. Both the study and sermon center on Palm Sunday.

As we approach Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and Easter, I can’t help but contemplate how differently the secular world celebrates in comparison to many churches. According to sources, the Easter bunny first hit American shores in the 1700s when German immigrants settling in Pennsylvania brought their tradition of an egg-laying bunny with them. Over time, the Easter bunny tradition was incorporated into the celebration of Easter separately from the traditional Christian commemorating the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

While we all know rabbits don’t lay eggs, bunnies, colored eggs, Easter gifts, and little yellow chicks continue to steal centerstage, like they have been doing since the 13th century, from the true reason Christian honor the Easter season. Heck, even churches host Easter egg hunts!

Where Terri and I live, we see something very similar happening with Halloween, as area churches host Trunk-or-Treat events each October.


How about you? What do you think about all this blending of pagan celebrations with Christian traditions?


Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Zechariah 9:9 (English Standard Version)

This year, Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday (April 10) and concludes with Easter Sunday (April 17). More Christians attend church on Easter Sunday than any other time of the year, with the possible exception of Christmas. Holy Week is the most sacred week in church, beginning after what Eastern Christians call Lazarus Saturday (Yes, indeed, Lazarus Saturday commemorates Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead).

According to tradition, prior to His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus spent time at the home of Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha. The raising of Lazarus from the dead foreshadows the resurrection of Jesus just as the words of the prophet Zechariah predict Lord coming to save His people while riding a donkey. In Hebrew circles, donkeys symbolize peace. When I picture Jesus on a donkey, I see the gold standard for humility.

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

Matthew 21:1-11 (ESV)

It’s interesting to note that the same people who praise Jesus arriving in Jerusalem with shouts of “Hosanna!” will be screaming “Crucify Him!” a few short days later. Hosanna means “Save us, we pray!” That’s certainly different than demanding the death of Jesus.

Holy Week is a time for us to reflect on the cost of our salvation. You and I bring nothing to the table except our sin. God not only does all the heavy lifting, He suffers the agony involved in atoning for our sins. In return, we receive His righteousness. That’s what Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection provide us: HOPE. Apart from Christ, we are doomed. Hopeless. Through Jesus, however, we receive life rather than death.

And today, we look forward to His return.

Amen!

Blessings,

The Devotional Guy™

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7 Comments

  1. Really good stuff in here. Thankyou so much for penning this.

    I’d never heard of Lazarus Saturday before, and hadn’t a clue about the history of the Easter Bunny. Interesting to find out! I always did wonder.

    We’ve just filmed an Easter special with an Easter Egg Hunt and Dave the Dog. We’re using it as a hook to tell the true gospel message of Easter, separating the fiction from the truth.

    And that, in part, answers the question you posed about the mixing of pagan and Christian tradition – from me anyway

    It upsets me how so much of accepted Christian tradition has nothing to do with scripture.

    But, I also think it can powerful using what people expect to see, but giving the truth instead.

    Maybe that’s just me. But I think it is something God developed within me, because done right (and with the real message of Easter or Christmas etc) you can reach a wider ‘audience’ with the gospel.

    The problem I see, however, comes when that outreach is all you do, and you don’t, also, righteously celebrate the truth of these powerful dates on the Christian calendar in their own right.

    Andy B

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for reading Andy. I genuinely appreciate your thoughtful engagement and encouraging feedback. Yes, in our day and age it is frighteningly easy to blur the lines between truth and fiction. It’s what the devil is a master at. I think we can tell and share the Gospel in different ways—sometimes simply by our actions—as well as through other forms of creative storytelling. The motivation of our heart—things we can’t not readily ascertain on merely a surface level—matters. Yet, it’s imperative we get it right—that we don’t misconstrue or miscommunicate the truth of Scripture—as we strive to find new ways of sharing the story of Jesus. But, I don’t think that’s why the secularization of Christmas and Easter have in mind—they want to get away from the story of God’s redemptive plan. In part, I believe, because explaining virgin births and torturous deaths make us uncomfortable—particularly when explaining it to the kids. And in part, because it causes us to come to grip with our sins.

    Like

  3. as someone who was a full-time children’s minister (with my wife in a job share) I definitely can confirm that people get uncomfortable with the bible and with children

    when we were running a children’s church on a Sunday morning we always matched the scriptures used in the adult church

    they thought we were crazy to do the same piece of scripture

    we also always read it out in full…they said the children would get bored when we read the bible in larger passages………………………………we read it anyway

    within a few months we had children asking their parents for real bibles “like Andy and Jo use” as they couldn’t find the stuff we’d been reading out in their picture bibles

    said all it needed to do for me – the bible is the living word, and is tremendously exciting.

    Andy B

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Good stuff, Andy. Thanks for sharing your added insights and experiences.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. you’re more than welcome

    Andy B

    Liked by 1 person

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