In John 12:12, it is written, “On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 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.”
He came seemingly as the most benign visitor to this world; just a babe, and one born in poverty rather than power. These trappings of anonymity could not veil his identity, though, to those that knew him best. He was the king; not just of a province or a country or even of the world, but of all.
But that royalty lay unseen to the world as he grew and lived the most “normal” of lives. Hands that had flung the stars onto the black velvet of night with the ease of an effortless shrug now bore callouses and endured splinters gained from work in Joseph’s carpentry shop. Ears that spent millennia past hearing “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory!” now heard things like “hand me that rasp, Son. Good. Now hold this board tight while I work on it.”
Thirty years quickly passed. Three decades of being a visitor to the Temple that he could by all rights call “my Father’s house.”
And then, finally, it was time to begin his public ministry, which he knew would be all too short. But short though it was, it packed in enough wonder and amazement to leave no doubt as to his true identity.
The turning of water to wine. And while proving his power over water, why stop with simply altering its composition? No, he could and did do much grander than that, literally walking out across the Sea of Galilee to reach his frightened disciples. On another occasion he calmed raging waves and winds with simply the spoken command. Yes, he was God even over the most ubiquitous of elements; if the Red Sea could talk, it would testify of that fact.
His teaching was utterly incomparable. The entire Sermon on the Mount would likely have taken him no more than 15 minutes to speak, yet the most oratorically gifted preachers of the ages have struggled to expound it in anything less than a series of dozens of messages, each one lasting long enough to make their parishioners late for Sunday afternoon lunch. Time and again people who heard him uttered phrases like “never a man spake like this man!”
Those hurting the most were ever the subjects of his most devoted attention. Lepers, those outcasts of society, very literally “untouchables,” saw no fear in his eyes as he approached them. They were stunned to see him reach out and touch their diseased, contagious, hideous bodies. They were even more amazed to find that his touch rendered them every whit whole.
The blind had their sight restored, even those whose blindness had been from their very birth. What wonder for an adult to open his now seeing eyes for the very first time and have the face of Jesus be the very first thing he saw!
The deaf were given their hearing. The dumb were made to speak. The lame were given power to walk. Those possessed by devils were delivered. On multiple occasions even the dead were raised back to life. As Jesus made his way into Jerusalem on that precious first Palm Sunday, the streets could have been lined with individuals like those formerly dead people Lazarus, the widow of Nain’s son, and the ruler of the synagogue’s daughter, along with a myriad of others healed of lesser yet still impossible to heal by human means ailments.
And so, for a single day, everyone treated Jesus as he should have been treated all along. He rode on an animal rather than having to walk. Palm branches were strawed in the way, and Matthew’s gospel tells us that people even went so far as to lay clothing in the way for the donkey carrying Jesus to walk on. People cast reservation aside and shouted his praises at the top of their lungs. Mark’s account of all this indicates that they regaled him as king.
One week later he would be dead, and his death would be the result of the demands of his own people, many of whom were probably among the crowd shouting “Hosanna” on Palm Sunday.
But for a day, for a small period of time in a life spanning more than three decades, he was able to enjoy the rare beauty of having his creation treat him exactly as he deserved to be treated. Not since the coming of the wise men in his second year of life had anyone even really come close.
Rare beauty indeed.
May this kind of treatment of Christ not be at all rare among his people in our day.
Bo Wagner is pastor of the Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books. His website is wordofhismouth.com. Email him a firstname.lastname@example.org.