By Rhonda Harrington Kelley
NEW ORLEANS (BP) — On a recent pilgrimage to Israel, our group made a brief stop in a small village that left a lasting impression.
The town of Bethphage is located near the Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem. Today a church commemorates the place where Jesus began His triumphal entry into Jerusalem and where He met Martha of Bethany after the death of her brother Lazarus.
I loved this special place because of the beautiful and quiet setting, and also because Martha has always been one of my favorite women of the Bible. I so relate to her focus on serving others.
A colorful fresco painting behind the altar of the church in Bethphage depicts the joyous processional of Jesus, and other paintings around the church portray His followers. I love the painting of Martha with her sister Mary of Bethany. The artwork is a profound expression of how the early Christians celebrated the Promised King, and is a reminder to Christians today to focus on the fulfillment of those biblical promises, especially as we observe Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter Sunday.
All four Gospels include an account of the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-40; John 12:12-19). They incorporate the Messianic promises in the Old Testament and record details of Jesus’ earthly ministry.
Your time would be well-spent reading those passages in anticipation of Easter Sunday. Three themes emerge from these Scriptures offering instruction to Christians today: Prepare for the Savior, Proclaim the message of salvation, and Praise the King of Kings.
Jesus gave specific instructions to His disciples to find a donkey and a colt for Him to ride into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:2-3). Jesus was prepared, and He taught His followers to be prepared. He told them where to find the animal and what to say to the owners. Jesus knew every detail of His future and wanted to include believers in His journey.
Christians today must be prepared to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and the return of our Savior. What will you do this year to prepare yourself and your family for Palm Sunday? Personally, I read the four Gospel accounts of the triumphal entry to prepare myself and others for Easter.
Jesus was the fulfillment of prophecy, the promised Deliverer, yet not in a political way but a spiritual way. The prophets of the Old Testament proclaimed, “Surely your salvation is coming” (Isaiah 62:11) and “Your King is coming to you Ö lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9).
Just as the prophets of old proclaimed the coming of Jesus, Christians today should proclaim Jesus to this lost world, especially during Holy Week when hearts may be more open to the truth of the Gospel. What will you do to proclaim Jesus this Palm Sunday? I plan to mail to family and friends Easter cards that proclaim the resurrection of Jesus instead of cards celebrating the Easter bunny.
With great joy and enthusiasm, a multitude of people spread their clothes and branches cut from trees on the road where Jesus would ride. They shouted: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9). Upon His arrival in Jerusalem, the people processing with Him glorified the Messiah saying: “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee” (Matthew 21:11).
What will you do this Easter season to praise the Lord? Encourage your family to select a favorite Easter song. Ours is “Up from the Grave He Arose.”
Just as the followers of Jesus waved palm branches as He entered into the holy city of Jerusalem, Christians today should celebrate the promised return of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Though the triumphal entry marked the beginning of the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, the resurrection of Jesus later that week promised the return of the Savior to reclaim His children. The humble and lowly processional made way for a glorious and victorious second coming of the King. Join me on this Palm Sunday and every day proclaiming, “Hosanna — He is coming!”
Rhonda Harrington Kelley is director of the Ministry Wife Program and adjunct professor of women’s ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, where her husband Chuck is president. She served as chairwoman for the SBC Executive Committee’s Women’s Ministry Advisory Council.