Palm Sunday is the day when Jesus came to Jerusalem so he could die. The disciples thought he was coming to set himself up on the throne of David as king. They imagined that the kingdom of God was like an earthly kingdom, despite all the times that Jesus had patiently explained that the kingdom of God was like yeast, like ten virgins, like anything but a government. Despite the fact that he had washed their feet, despite the fact that he had told them that the one who wanted to be great must be the servant of all.
Later, Paul would write to the church in Philippi:
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:1-8)
On this Sunday we celebrate the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, when he arrived not on a prancing warhorse, but on a donkey—that should also have been a clue:
Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zechariah 9:9)
As Jesus arrived on the donkey, the people threw palm branches in front of them and proclaimed “hosanna”—a word that means “Save!”—which is also a part of the meaning of Jesus’ name: “ he saves.” And that is precisely what Jesus came to do.
Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem was triumphal, but not in the way that the people on that day, in that moment, imagined. He was triumphant, because he would triumph over sin, triumph over Satan, and triumph over death. The kingdom of God was truly at hand. But the kingdom of God is not a kingdom like the world knows and understands; it is not a kingdom people easily see.
What did Jesus say?
Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed,nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.” (Luke 17:20-21)
The kingdom of God is inside of us, it is us collectively, it is us as God’s temple now, we who can now worship God in spirit and in truth, as Jesus told the Samaritan woman, because God now lives in each of us as individuals, and in all of us collectively. As Jesus told his disciple in Matthew 18:20:
“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”