Palm Sunday. The expectant people lined the streets, praising Jesus and quoting from Psalm 118 as he approached in peace. The people knew he was the Messiah, the Sent One, the One coming to save them. Thus, they shouted “Hosanna” which means “Save us, now!” (Matt. 21:6–11). They waved light palms as he approached history’s heaviest burden.
Their praise presupposed that Jesus would establish God’s people in peace politically and do so immediately. They had visions of the once-flourishing reign of David. Their hopes soared with high expectations that Jesus would usher in a new golden era. However, within a week’s time, it would become clear to these same crowds that Jesus had plans to usher in a very different kingdom.
As a result of these missed expectations, their praises faded quickly into shouts of “Crucify him!” in a matter of days. We are not unlike them; our praise quickly turns cold and bitter when our expectations are not met in our way and on our timetable. As we approach Holy Week, we are invited to search for the semblances of our own hearts in the fickle crowds.
Jesus rode into Jerusalem through a tunnel of praises that came from the mouths of those who would soon chant “Barabbas!” (Matt. 27:15–23). They cheered his approach with a light and airy joy, but he alone knew he was marching on to his death. His patient restraint and resolve as he approached an unthinkable burden only further shows the purity of his goodness and love.
A King approaching in peace,
In humility He rode on,
Onlookers cheering him,
Expecting a new dawn.
The Scriptures foretold it,
Yet none of them could see,
The dawn would begin with
The God-Man hung on a tree.
The Messiah was coming,
To bring His kingdom to bear;
But of the coronation of tears,
None but Jesus was aware.
“Hosanna! Save us!” they cried,
As hopes and palms were raised.
“Finally the kingdom’s come,
May Jesus’ name be praised!”
He heeded not their fanatical cries,
For he well knew the heart of men,
From “Crown Him” to “Crucify,”
The voices would be raised again.
Yet with a tender fierceness,
The King approached the throne,
Knowing they would leave him,
Knowing He would die alone.
With light palms they danced
Around this coming King,
Not knowing the weight He felt,
The burden the days would bring.
Yet with the peace of a true King,
He marched on towards the hill,
For the joy that was set before Him,
For the curse He’d silence and still.
What kind of King is this?
Who is this that we serve?
The King who died to bring us
The Kingdom we don’t deserve.
Christ’s burden grew with each unfolding day as he approached the Friday that we call good. He spent an evening preparing his confused friends for his departure. In vulnerability, the God-Man invited his human friends to pray for and with him, yet they fell asleep (Matt. 26: 36–46). He was betrayed by the kiss of one whom he had loved and led (Matt. 26: 46–50). He would be beaten, stripped, mocked, and hung between two criminals (Matt. 27:27–31).
As we approach the emotional roller coaster that is Holy Week, many of us are coming with heavy hearts from a long year. Loved ones and jobs have been lost. Isolation and anxiety have grown. Plans have been changed, and hopes have been deferred. As the crowds threw light palms at the heavy burdens Jesus faced, the world offers us light palms for our heavy burdens. Phrases like “We are all in this together” and “Once the vaccination comes…,” while well-intended, do not help us shoulder the burdens we carry. Pithy Hallmark phrases and pretty memes don’t hold up under the crushing burdens of suffering.
Thankfully, Christ offers his people a better word. We are invited to remember that the burden our Savior bore changes the burdens we currently bear. The gospel does not promise us burden-free lives; however, it yokes us with Christ, the perfect yoke-fellow.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest, Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matt.11:28–30).
When we are yoked with Christ, the burden-bearer, his perfect strength empowers us to shoulder heavy weights. Just as it was the agricultural custom to pair mature, experienced oxen with young, weak oxen, God’s maturity and wisdom perfectly pairs with our inexperience and limited knowledge. Having borne the weight and penalty of our sin, Christ will most assuredly enable us to bear our present burdens.
While the burdens we carry into this Holy Week may lay us low, we are invited to cast our cares upon the One who cares for us (1 Pet. 5:7). The death of Christ reminds us that the One who bore the weight of the penalty of our sins has lifted the heaviest burden (1 Pet. 2:24). The resurrection of Christ reminds us that we, too, will be raised. The Ascension of Christ reminds us that we have One who now sits at the right of hand, ever living to make intercession for us (Heb. 7:25).
About the Author:
Aimee Joseph directed Women’s Ministries at Redeemer Church in Encinitas, CA for three years. She also works alongside her husband, G’Joe, who directs Campus Outreach San Diego. They love watching college students brought from lost to leaders through Christ in the church for the world. Parenting three growing boys keeps her busy; writing on her blog and studying the Word keep her sane. She has a passion to see women trained to love God and his Word.