Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week, is recorded in different gospels, including John 12:12-16. Paul, in writing to the Corinthians about the gospel, stresses the importance of the death and resurrection of Jesus and tells us that these things happened ‘according to the Scriptures.’ (1 Cor 15:3-6) Palm Sunday is just one example of how all aspects of Christ’s death and resurrection were predicted in the Old Testament. Matthew makes it plain that Jesus did and said the things He did and said ‘to fulfil what is written’ (eg Matt 1:22-23), which is why it is vital to study the Bible. We need to hear, understand and obey if we are to live according to God’s ways (see James 1:22-25, Matt 7:13-14).

Palm Sunday makes no sense at all if we do not see it in the context of the fulfilment of Scripture, in the fact that as Jesus did these things, He was aligning Himself with the Old Testament Scriptures about the Messiah and therefore declaring to all around that He was indeed God’s Messiah, God’s Chosen and Anointed One. The Triumphal Entry to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday was part of the fulfilment of Scripture, demonstrating the fact that Christ is king over all but came in humility, demonstrating that God’s kingdom is decidedly alternative, not what we would expect! Just as His birth was in a lowly stable, not a rich palace, and He was born to young and godly but poor parents, so even His triumphal entry shows us the topsy-turvy nature of God’s kingdom, when the first will be last and the greatest will be the servant.

Everything else that happened during that week was also to fulfil Scripture and to demonstrate to us the completeness of Christ’s sacrifice for our sins. From Christ’s prayer (‘My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?’, quoting Psalm 22:1), to the fact that the soldiers cast lots for His clothes (Ps 22:18) to the fact that not one bone was broken during this horrendous execution (Exodus 12:46; Num 9:12; Psalm 34:20) all remind us that this was God’s plan throughout eternity: Jesus is ‘the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.’ (Rev 13:8) Moreover, we see that this was not because Jesus Himself had done anything wrong, but that He was the sinless sacrifice needed to reconcile humanity to God: God ‘reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.’ (2 Cor 5:18-19)

Paul goes on to remind us that the Easter story is incomplete without the resurrection: Christ was buried and ‘was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.’ (1 Cor 15:4) Isaiah prophesied, many years before Jesus was born, that the Lord would make His life an offering for sin and said, ‘He will see His offspring and prolong His days.’ (Is 53:10) The early apostles didn’t have the benefit of the New Testament Scriptures as we do, but they discovered that resurrection was there in the Old Testament too! – Peter, preaching on the Day of Pentecost, spoke from Psalm 16 and said, ‘Seeing what was to come, he [David] spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay.’ (Acts 2:31) The whole plan of salvation is laid out for us in the whole Bible, which is why we need to study what it tells us, and why we need to grasp the fact that Easter was no accident. It was not a monumental mistake; it was not God being vindictive towards His Son. It was God’s wisdom, ‘the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.’ (Rom 1:16)

For most of that Holy Week, it did not look like power. It looked like weakness. We see the fickleness of the crowds. We see the ignorance of the disciples. We see the worst of humanity: Judas choosing to betray His master for thirty pieces of silver; Peter denying He even knew Jesus out of cowardice; disciples fleeing out of fear; craven leadership that saw priests, rulers and kings conspire to allow injustice to be done, even though they knew Jesus was innocent of any crime deserving of death (John 19:6). There are few signs of glory right up to Easter Sunday; mostly what we see are darkness and death. That is also true of our lives in many ways: periods of difficulty, wars and rumours of wars, uncertainty and fear. But the Scriptures teach us that there is so much more to life than what we can see; they remind us that we are called to live by faith and not by sight. (2 Cor 5:7) Easter ends with the glory of the resurrection; Scripture reminds us that this is not the end of the story, but that we are living in anticipation of Christ’s Second Coming: ‘This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’ (Acts 1:11) Because of this, we can have hope and can live with confidence.