This world’s leaders of all walks of life from government and industry to education and even the church have proven themselves to be faulty and totally incapable of solving humanity’s problems. Pontius Pilate is a caricature of human government leadership. Jesus’ Palm Sunday parade into Jerusalem serves as both a mockery of world governments and a symbol of the humility of God’s government.
Let us compare human failure to govern itself with God’s wonderful government, the kingdom of heaven.
We will look at the Palm Sunday parade from Matthew 21:1-11.
Jesus the Colt Whisperer
A colt is an untrained animal. It is symbolic that Jesus rode an untrained colt into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:5). As he calmed the storm, he calmed the unbroken animal. Our lives can be like a wild colt, untamed and unpredictable. But, if we let Jesus take the reigns, he’ll calm things down. People often try to steer a church like a business, but it fails miserably, because a church is made up of volunteers. In business, if a person does not want to help, bosses yell and blackmail workers with their pay check. Churches cannot be yelled at unpleasantly or blackmailed. People just leave. So, in church work, as in all volunteer work, we are grateful for those who help, but we do not browbeat those who do not. We look to Jesus the colt whisperer, to change hearts.
Why a Colt
The arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem on a colt should be contrasted with the dignitaries of this world. One monarch has over 100 coaches and carriages in the royal collection. One is covered with gold leaf, weighs four tons and requires eight horses to pull it, decorated with cherubs, crowns, palm trees, lions' heads, faces, tritons and dolphins. Most countries’ leaders use something like the US President when flying. Contrast that with Jesus’ royal entry into Jerusalem on a colt with its mother trailing behind (Matthew 21:5). The old world order is over. The new kingdom is already here preparing a people. Old world leadership was self-aggrandizing and arrogant. New world leadership is self-effacing and humble. The colt symbolizes a new day for humanity, a change in leadership style and those who change will join Jesus at his return.
Mocking a Cavalry Officer
Jesus’ parade into Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt (Matthew 21:8) would have been seen as a mockery of Pontius Pilate’s proud tradition as a cavalry officer. History records accounts of Pilate as a Roman equestrian, a knight of the Pontii family from the central Italian region of Samnium. His name Pontius comes from his family name. He was a cavalry commander appointed prefect of Roman Judaea, a military ruler of several provinces (Judea proper, Samaria and Idumea) and his duties would have included policing and collecting taxes. Pilate insulted the Jews by hanging worship images of the emperor throughout Jerusalem and minting coins with both pagan and Jewish religious symbols. Jewish criticism of Pilate made him vulnerable to discipline from Rome, and the Jews capitalized on this and Jesus’ insulting parade to obtain a death sentence on our Lord.
A Palm Sunday Parade in the Heart
There is historic evidence that Pilate was marching in parade into west Jerusalem with his army to police the large Passover crowds as Christ entered from the north. Jesus’ procession was a counter-cultural challenge to and a mockery of the government of the day. Experts believe that this is a deeper reason behind Pilate’s inaction regarding Jesus before the crucifixion. The world believes that the solution to human problems is a war horse instead of a peace donkey, using the word “donkey” as an insult instead. A world that more than ever disparages the Gospel, is more than ever in need of it. If we have suffered at all at the hands of our fellow human beings, we can rejoice with a Palm Sunday parade in our hearts (Matthew 21:8) that heaven’s king is coming to set things right.
Easter, a Change in World Power
For Christians, Easter is not merely about bunnies, eggs and resurrection. It is about a change in world power. Jesus has conquered the powers of this world. Death, sin and evil forces have had control over our lives too long. Jesus triumphed over death and it is worth celebrating, the beginning of a new creation. Jesus’ new world order has put an end to a world run amok. Palm Sunday remembers a parade celebrating that victory (Matthew 21:8-9). Forgiveness of sin is now a way of life. Jesus offers both us and our neighbors the freedom of life without condemnation. This evil world only had the power to put Christ on the cross. He willingly allowed it because he has power beyond the grave. Our dead lives have been raised with Christ as a new creation where love prevails.
Rage against the Machine
Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem was symbolic of a new world order challenging today’s corrupt world. A younger generation once expressed it as “rage against the machine.” Christianity is a protest. It is a protest against all the corruption and greed that has destroyed human life as we know it. The good news is that Jesus’ triumphal entry was a real success. It was not a success as the world views it. The world does not see triumph in the cross, but self-sacrifice is the ultimate victory. It is the victory over self-centeredness. It is a victory over all the forces of evil in our world and worthy of a parade (Matthew 21:8-9). Overcoming is our triumph and must also be like that of Jesus, refusing to win by worldly means with violence but by godly means with self-sacrifice.
Jesus approached Jerusalem with bands of Passover pilgrims chanting "Hosanna" (“save” Matthew 21:9; Psalm 118:25). His entry portrayed him as the King of Peace, not a worldly king with great wealth seeking vengeance but bringing peace between people and between all humanity and God, a peace that passes all understanding. Worldly business, worldly government, worldly entertainment are not there to give but to get. They are there to get our money and to get power over us. We retire to become hermits because we are tired of people because people hurt us. Palm Sunday is to remind us that there is need for a new king, a king who will bring reconciliation between people and between people and God. Let us welcome Jesus into our lives as the peacemaker between ourselves and between all of us and God.
New Christians can still rely on human government to solve our problems. The lessons of history continually remind us of the failure of this world’s governments. Pontius Pilate is a caricature of human government and Jesus’ Palm Sunday parade into Jerusalem serves as both a mockery of worldly government and a symbol of the humility of God’s government. Our only hope is the establishment of God’s government in our hearts and Jesus’ return to save the whole world. Be a part of the future and allow God to rule in our hearts today. Hosanna! Lord, save us!