By Mr Timothy Lee
“At first his disciples did not understand all this.” John 12:16a
Hindsight – understanding of a situation or event after it has happened or developed. Have you ever had the experience of looking to a past event and saying, “If only I had known, …”. I believe you have. In our Christian journey, especially in times of trials or difficulties, we may or may not understand why certain events happen when we are going through them, only perhaps to realize the reason for it after the event has passed.
This Sunday is Palm Sunday, also called Passion Sunday. In the Christian tradition, this is first day of Holy Week and the Sunday before Easter, commemorating Jesus Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. It is recorded in all four Gospels.
John 12:12-14 tells us that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a young donkey, and a great crowd holding palm branches went out to meet him, shouting,
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the king of Israel!”
In ancient times, palm branches symbolized goodness, well-being, grandeur, steadfastness, and victory. They were regarded as tokens of joy and triumph and were customarily used on festive occasions (Leviticus 23:40, Nehemiah 8:15). The prophet Zechariah had prophesied about the event some 500 years prior to Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem (Zechariah 9:9). The crowd looked to Jesus as a political and national savior, but not so much as a spiritual savior. The cry Hosanna meant “save now,” and on that day the crowd received Jesus as a triumphant physical Savior.
John highlights that, at the moment of the triumphal entry, the disciples did not understand the real significance of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem (John 12:16a). They were happy to wave a palm branch, along with everyone else, as if Jesus came to fulfil the Old Testament prophecy in Zechariah 9:9 as a political leader who was going to deliver Israel from Roman rule.
Only after Jesus had crucified, died, and risen, did the disciples realize the true extent of Jesus’ role as the Messiah. Through his sacrificial love, he came to die on the cross to set them (and us) free from sin’s oppression and the wrath of God (John12:16b).
As I reflect on my spiritual journey, I see that I have gone through trials, ignorance and weak faith. Yet, those are gracious learning moments through which I have grown. If we want to renew our hope in God, we would do well to look back on our lives and give thanks for what God has brought us through. For example, the past year was a challenging one for young families – parents had to work from home (WFH) while school-going children had home-based learning (HBL). “Circuit breaker” felt frustrating, unnerving, and seemingly unending. Only as I look back and try to make sense of some of those moments do I recall the good that came out of that season of life. My family participated in the online worship services/KFC sessions together on a Sunday morning and I connected with other families over Zoom as I visited different CGs. Those moments deepened both the relationships within my family and with the community in The Bible Church. For these, I give thanks.
This Palm Sunday, we start our walk with Christ through Holy Week through the sorrow of Good Friday to the joy of Easter Sunday. Even though the world is still revolving and life feels hurried, take some time this week to slow down and reflect. God loves us and wants to bring us into a deeper understanding of his work in our lives. He wants us, as we look at events in our lives, to see His faithfulness and grace. As he reveals himself to us, let us give thanks and press on in faith!