Lent & Palm Sunday
Pastor David L. Brown, Ph.D.
Sermon Delivered 04/04/04
Later in this message, we will take a look at the Bible passages dealing with what is called Palm Sunday. But, before I do that, I want to shed some light on why we do not celebrate Lent. While the basic answer is simple – there is no reference to Lent in the Bible, I will share with you some more specific reasons.
The word lent comes from the Anglo-Saxon word lencten which means spring, which was derived from the Anglo-Saxon word lenctentid (pronounced LENG-ten-teed), which means the time of lengthening and flowering. The entire spring season was called Lenctentid. The ancient Anglo-Saxons (and other pagans) celebrated the return of spring with rioteous fertility festivals commemorating their goddess of fertility and of springtime, Eastre. In fact, the word Easter is derived from the Scandinavian Ostara and the Teutonic Ostern or Eastre, both pagan goddesses. The complete month of April was called Eostur-monath with the entire month was dedicated to Eostre. The pagan religion taught that Eostre was one responsible for changing a bird into a rabbit, this then is how the rabbit became an Easter symbol. Rabbits symbolize the fertility of springtime. It should be noted that the rabbit's capacity of abundant production of young is especially great at this time of year. I should also tell you that most ancient races, including the Anglo-Saxons, included spring festivals to celebrate the rebirth life, using the Egg was a symbol of fertility, life and re-birth. This is old Latin proverb catches this idea -- Omne vivum ex ovo. This means "all life comes from an egg".
One final note, the Lenten season’s length has varied throughout history, however 40 days, not including Sunday, were finally settled upon and established by Roman Catholic Canon Law said to commemorate the 40 days Jesus Christ was tempted by Satan in the wilderness.
So, how did such pagan things as Lent and Easter (I am not referring to the blessed Resurrection of Jesus Christ) come into the church? Alexander Hislop gives us the answer -- "To conciliate the Pagans to nominal Christianity, Rome, pursuing its usual policy, took measures to get the Christian and Pagan festivals amalgamated, and, by a complicated but skillful adjustment of the calendar, it was found no difficult matter, in general, to get Paganism and Christianity—now far sunk in idolatry—in this as in so many other things, to shake hands" (The Two Babylons).
Let’s move from human tradition, speculation and fabrication to biblical reality…Palm Sunday. Each Gospel gives an account of what Bible students call Jesus Christ’s Palm Sunday Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. I would encourage you to read Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:29-40; John 12:9-19.
Turn in your Bibles to John 12:13 "Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord." As you can see, the people greeted Jesus Christ with Palm tree branches. But, you may not realize the significance of this. About 150 plus years previous to this, was the last time Israel had been independent. This was when Judas Maccabeus, nick named "The Hammer," son of a Jewish priest, had led the people in a war of independence and defeated the Syrians and became King. He adopted the palm branch as a symbol of his victory and Israeli independence. In the Apocryphal book of 1 Maccabees 13:51 we read about his victory. "And entered into it the three and twentieth day of the second month in the hundred seventy and first year, with thanksgiving, and branches of palm trees, and with harps, and cymbals, and with viols, and hymns, and songs: because there was destroyed a great enemy out of Israel." (1 & 2 Maccabees cover some of the history of this period between the Old and New Testament). Judas Maccabeus had palm branches stamped on coins, and had them used in temple feasts to celebrate the victory. I should also note that the Feast of Hanukkah, also called the Feast of Lights and the Feast of the Maccabees, celebrates this victory and the dedication of the new altar in the Temple at Jerusalem that took place in 165 B.C.
Turn in your Bibles to Matthew 21:1-5 "And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples, 2 Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me. 3 And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them. 4 All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, 5 Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass." (see also John 12:15)
As you can see, Christ’s riding into Jerusalem the way he did was no accident! The prophet he is referring to is Zechariah. Turn to Zechariah 9:9 "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass."
There are a couple of interesting morsels relating to why Christ rode in on "a colt the foal of an ass." First, you will remember that in Luke’s parallel passage the disciples were instructed to "Go ye into the village over against you; in the which at your entering ye shall find a colt tied, whereon yet never man sat…" Luke 19:30. Have you ever wondered why? It is because only animals that had never been used as beasts of burden could be used for sacred purposes (Numbers 19:2; 1 Samuel 6:7). When Jesus Christ rode into Jerusalem as KING, it is a SACRED occasion, not primarily a political one. He was God in the flesh coming to set them free from their sins!
There is another morsel you should know about. You will remember that Jesus, physically speaking is of the root and offspring of David (Revelation 22:16). I also remind you that the angel that announced the birth of Jesus said "…He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end." Luke 1:32-33. Entering the city on a donkey’s colt symbolized the truth that Jesus Christ was indeed King. He accepted the praise of the people. And, even more significant is that Solomon rode his father’s favorite mule in his inaugural procession into the royal city of Jerusalem (1 Kings 1:33). Jesus was announcing His kingship in a similar way.
For the answer to this question we need to look at John 12:9-11 "Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; 11 Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus."
Secondly, many people were looking for military king. Turn to John 6:15 "When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone." Palm Sunday was their opportunity to acclaim Jesus Christ King. Turn to John 12:13 "Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord."
The word Hosanna is a Latinized transliteration of the Hebrew phrase that means "please save now" or "please help now." The word is used in Psalms 118:25 "Save now, I beseech thee…." Then in verse 26 "Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the LORD: we have blessed you out of the house of the LORD."
Many of the people who were calling for a military king to take them back to a free Israel, like in the times of the Maccabees would be calling out "crucify him, crucify him, just a few days later. They wanted a temporal king who would free them from Roman domination. But what they needed was Christ to be king of their lives, who would free them from their sins!
That is the same thing people need this Palm Sunday. Is
the Lord Jesus Christ your Savior?