Palm Sunday Is More Culturally Relevant Than You Imagine

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As we approach Palm Sunday, let us not forget how controversial this historical event truly was. As Jews from around the world gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover feast, Jesus’ disciples publicly hailed Him as the Messiah—the true King of Israel:

They brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:28–40).

When Jesus’ followers applied the truth of Scripture to the cultural events of their day, they could not help but see the fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. … he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit (Zech. 9:9–11).

However, this was a dangerous conclusion. Not only did it threaten the religious status quo, but it also risked raising the ire of Rome. Therefore, Israel’s religious leaders sought to silence this truth: “Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples’” (Luke 19:39).

Content with their religious routine and traditions, Israel’s spiritual leaders prioritized peace over participation in what God was accomplishing. Nonetheless, God’s truth would not be suppressed. Jesus answered them: “‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.’” (Luke 19:40). In other words, if the religious leaders chose to ignore what He was doing, and if His people chose to remain silent, then He would declare His truth through other means—even if it meant using something as ignorant and lifeless as the rocks!

Could it be that we are witnessing a similar moment in our modern culture? Two years ago I wrote, “How is it that when we gather together as Christians, we can consistently ignore everything in the weekly news cycle; we can neglect the actions of our politicians; we can gloss over the personal struggles represented in our congregations; we can refuse to respond to the worldview bombarding our children on a daily basis in their schools; and yet we somehow can convince ourselves that we are relevant and influential voices in our culture and society? Unless we are willing to engage with real-world issues, we cannot be relevant or influential.” For years, God’s people have allowed cultural pressure and the fear of controversy to suppress the public declaration of God’s truth, and now it appears that God is turning to the rocks to speak forth His truth. God seems to be turning to aspects of society that His people readily dismiss as spiritually ignorant and lifeless.

Our reluctance to boldly engage with culturally messy and controversial real-world issues in our churches has produced a vacuum that is being increasingly filled by political pundits. In a quest for truth and an effort to make sense of the world around us, many have turned to talk radio, cable news, and political podcasts for guidance. For all practical purposes, these pundits have become our modern culture’s true shepherds. Their daily programs provide a safe place where the confused and frustrated can find community, be encouraged, and be instructed in how to think about relevant issues, how to equip themselves for an ideological struggle, and how to persuade others to convert to their worldview. And, while not necessarily Christian, many of these programs readily anchor themselves in Judeo-Christian moral truth.

Particularly fascinating is how many of these pundits appear to be more predisposed to see the moral and spiritual struggle behind today’s headlines than countless pastors. Consider, for example, Tucker Carlson’s commentary regarding Monday’s mass shooting in Nashville, Tennessee:

The trans movement is the mirror image of Christianity and therefore its natural enemy. In Christianity, the price of admission is admitting that you’re not God. Christians openly concede that they have no real power over anything and for that matter, very little personal virtue. They will tell you to your face that they are sinful and helpless and basically absurd. They’re not embarrassed about any of this. They brag about it. “That saved a wretch like me” goes the most famous Christian hymn ever written in English.

The trans movement takes the opposite view. Trans ideology claims dominion over nature itself. We can change the identity we were born with, they will tell you with wild-eyed certainty. Christians can never agree with this statement because these are powers they believe God alone possesses.

That unwillingness to agree, that failure to acknowledge a trans person’s dominion over nature, incites and enrages some in the trans community. People who believe they’re God can’t stand to be reminded that they’re not. So, Christianity and transgender orthodoxy are wholly incompatible theologies. They can never be reconciled. They are on a collision course with each other.[1]

Two days later, Carlson further observed:

Monday’s victims were murdered because they were Christians. It’s that simple. Transgenderists hate Christians above all. Not because Christians are a physical threat—the third graders were not a physical threat—but because Christians refuse to join every other liar in our society and proclaim that Transgenderists are gods with the power to change nature itself. Christians are not allowed to say that. They have their own God. And for that refusal—that unwillingness to bow down and worship a false idol, in this case of transgenderism—they were murdered. We have never seen this battle so starkly set as it is now. And it opens to us, to our eyes, the main divide in America. And it is not between race, or political party. It’s not even between religious affiliation. The divide is between people who think they are God and those who know they are not God. That is what the Nashville shooting was about. It is what virtually everything is about.[2]

By no means is Tucker Carlson exceptional. Ben Shapiro recently addressed what happens when sex is separated from our design and function,[3] and what happens when we prioritize temporary pleasure over responsibility.[4] In fact, these examples are tame compared to some of what Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Matt Walsh, Michael Knowles, Ally Beth Stuckey, and many others say on a regular basis. And such examples are not limited to pundits who might have an affinity for Judeo-Christianity. Even the flagrantly anti-Christian Bill Maher has found himself repeatedly proclaiming truths about our cultural lunacy that the church has been reluctant to address.[5] At the very least, this ought to give us pause and encourage us to question what God might be trying to communicate to His people by using political pundits to do the job of the church.

One way or another, God’s truth will be proclaimed. God is not dependent upon us to convey His truth. If we are silent, He will turn elsewhere. If necessary, He will even use the bombastic and divisive political pundits who embody every stereotype that our modern church fears. On this Palm Sunday, let us consider whether God is challenging His church to stop acting like the religious leaders in Jesus’ day, who preferred silence over controversy. Jesus rebuked the religious leaders of Israel, and it may be that God is using political pundits to rebuke America’s church. This Palm Sunday, let us question whether God is calling His people to publicly proclaim His truth with the same boldness as Jesus’ followers in Luke 19.

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Timothy Zebell

As a former missionary to Asia for twelve years and the author of several books, Timothy is passionate about helping people understand the relevancy of God's Word in today's world. His goals are to help Christians discern truth from error, empower Christians to speak into cultural matters with relevancy, and to help Christians capitalize on the opportunities that these matters provide for sharing the truth about God and His gospel message.
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1. Carlson, Tucker. “TUCKER CARLSON: The Trans Movement Is Targeting Christians.” Opinion. Fox News, March 28, 2023, 9:49 p.m., EDT.

2. Carlson, Tucker. “TUCKER CARLSON: Garland Lying When He Says Motive in Nashville School Shooting Hasn’t Been Identified.” Opinion. Fox News, March 29, 2023, 10:29 p.m., EDT.

3. Excerpt from Ben Shapiro’s lengthy discussion on the matter: “The reason that it sounds fetishistic and weird and sexist when he’s saying it, is because he’s saying it without reference to the kids that the union will produce. If you say a woman belongs to the man because it is the man’s job to protect and provide for her, that’s a different thing from saying she’s essentially your slave—which is a different thing. And [Andrew Tate is] having a hard time articulating that in that particular clip [soundbite played before this discussion] because, again, he has removed sex from the teleological consequences. We are an entire civilization that has decided that children no longer matter, which of course is why we are a civilization that does not have children. We are a civilization that is not producing a next generation. We’re a solipsistic, narcissistic civilization that has decided that the only thing that matters in life is sexual pleasure, which will end with 1) sexism—toxic masculinity and 2) fetishism. That’s what it will end with. You get rid of teleology and this is exactly what happens.” Ben Shapiro. “Andrew Tate and the Era of Sexual Confusion | Ep. 1683.” YouTube video, 1:08:07, March 8, 2023.

4. “The reason that you have kids is not for personal happiness. We have built our entire civilization around the idea that everything you do is supposed to be about your personal happiness. Guess what, it isn’t. Whatever gives you happiness is only one component of what your life is supposed to be. We do things everyday that don’t give us happiness—that give us a meaning of purpose and fulfillment, but don’t give us happiness. The happiest path, generally, is to be incredibly narcissistic and to do what you want, everyday, all day, and then let the consequences fall where they may. This makes you a selfish and bad person. Also, it’s not a path to actual happiness; it’s a path to temporary pleasure. It’s not a path to actual happiness. It turns out that this is what happens in a society that says that human beings have no actual telos—they have no actual purpose; they have no actual meaning.” Ben Shapiro. “Is the Economy about to Meltdown?” YouTube video, 57:09, March 13, 2023.

5. Real Time with Bill Maher. “New Rule: Along for the Pride | Real Time with Bill Maher (HBO).” YouTube video, 9:21, May 20, 2022.


Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.