This morning while reading a first century Jewish text (Mark 11:8), to my great sadness, I discovered a significant ancient tradition that our forefathers have some how failed to pass on to us. I am of course talking about that meaningful advent associated with Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, Coat Sunday!
Shocked to see it right there, staring me in the face. All these years of reading the Bible and I took no notice of it. Three questions quickly flashed across my mind, “Why”, “Why”, and “What”.
Why did we allow the tradition of Coat Sunday to slip into obscurity?
Why did we allow those who lobbied so long ago for the palm branch to win the day?
What are we going to do to restore the rich meaning of Coat Sunday?
The answers to the first two questions came quickly to me. One only has to take a cursory look at our society to understand the reasons for the Why and the Why. It is simply a matter of practical, thrift and good stewardship. Who could blame those generations after that first celebration of Coat Sunday for dropping the Coat from the holiday? Continuing the tradition of laying down our coats on the road to show honor and value we placed on our triumphant king is not nearly as practical as using palm branches.
With the use of coats there is so much extra work involved in the clean up afterwards. What with the lack of good laundry facilities back then and the cost, even now, of a new coat it just doesn’t make good sense. What if the coats should actually get stepped on or stained in the dirt and grime of the street? The branches are so much easier to acquire and to dispose of. They are so cheep everyone can afford one. Really, it is just a matter of fairness and love for everyone of any economic status and in the end isn’t that what the holiday is really all about, loving everyone and giving everyone an equal opportunity to participate. I am sure that’s what Jesus would have wanted. Not to make a big fuss about Himself. It’s about the people celebrating together, isn’t?
Wait a minute, let me shake off that twenty first century western mindset and see things as they really were. It wasn’t about the people. It was about Jesus. It was about the value of Who He was. Misguided as they were about him being a coming political king coming to take them out from under Roman rule and restore the glory and nationhood of Israel, they were on to something. Laying down their coats, or cloaks, was a not only a reasonable response to the value of Jesus, if anything, It was an underestimation of His value. He was not coming to restore their political freedom or the nation of Israel’s security. He came to offer and win everyone in the world freedom and eternal security. If they only understood who He truly was it would not be unwise, or impractical, to lie down on the road themselves, to lay down their very lives for Him! And it is still the same today.
What we need to weigh out as we celebrate Coat or Palm Sunday this year is not the value of what we should lay down for Jesus, but the truth of the value of who He is and what He came to do for us and what He has given to us. Then, this year on March 29th when we put on our coats, maybe we will pause to remember our once and coming King, who He truly is and how much He has done for us.
And maybe then you will join me in bringing our lost tradition back by wishing everyone a “Happy Coat Sunday”.