Today is Palm Sunday, the beginning of the observation of Holy Week. During Holy Week every year, we are reminded of the last week of Jesus’ life, as He arrived in Jerusalem for Passover amidst celebration and joy, and was hailed crowds of His followers as their Savior, the new Messiah, the Son of God
During Holy Week, Jesus was adored, abandoned by His friends, arrested, envied by authorities who were playing political games, tortured by police who thought nothing of cruelty and committing murder, tried in a rigged and bogus trial, and put to death in the most cruel, humiliating and painful way possible on a cross.
During Holy Week, also, Jesus died, was buried by his grief-stricken friends and followers and was seen again by those same people, as He overcame death to live again forever.
All this in one week – we know it happened, not only from the Bible accounts, but from historical secular writings of the day.
So Holy Week is a time when we celebrate our love for Jesus, then mourn His suffering, then rejoice again on Easter Day – rejoice for His resurrection . . . and OUR own!
So today on Palm Sunday, as we symbolically have our palms, as people over 2000 years ago did in Jerusalem, let’s imagine what that day was like:
It is Palm Sunday and there’s a crowd of people out there lining the street to welcome; Jesus comes riding in on some young donkey like the old kings of Israel centuries before had done as they entered the Holy City. Jesus is coming down the road to Jerusalem; the king is coming.
The upcoming Holy Week can be said, really, to center around a series of parades. . .
Everyone loves a parade. Parades and processions draw crowds; people want to know what is going on. They tag along to be part of the festivities, even if they don’t know what is going on.
On Palm Sunday, as Jesus rode into Jerusalem the crowds grew large. People were waving palm branches and shouting
- Hosanna!! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Mark 11:9)
as Jesus rode along the street until Jerusalem. You might think that ‘hosanna’ means ‘hurrah’, but it actually means ‘O, save me’. People were excited and hopeful that Jesus was going to save them from Roman occupation, poverty, humiliation – from unjust laws and treatment.
Palm Sunday is also a reminder that Jesus confronted the people of Jerusalem and Israel with a decision – were they going to believe in Him or not. And today, Palm Sunday Jesus confronts us with that same decision today. Almost every person in this country believes in God, at least say he or she believes in God – everyone in this room would say that.
But how many people understand what that can mean. On Palm Sunday Jesus confronts us with a choice – are we going to live as Jesus taught us, and believe His message or not?
Within the crowd along the road, there were a number of people with different views and reactions as to what was taking place. Just as there are in any crowd today:
There were those in the crowd those who were merely casual observers. They were in Jerusalem for Passover. They may not even have ever heard of Jesus. They had no idea what was going on; they didn’t care about all the fuss. They were content to stand along the curb and watch the procession go by. They did not want to get involved.
And there were the plotting authorities, watching everywhere Jesus went, everything He did, there to demean and degrade Him. The Pharisees and other temple authorities were afraid of Him and the power He seemed to have. He was upsetting the norm of obedience to the Jewish faith and therefore subverting Roman governance. Here was a man who didn’t subscribe to the Jewish law – he even said that we were to love everyone.
Some of these temple authorities had been plotting about how to stop Jesus from gathering followers. They had been working with the Roman authorities to try and stop Him.
Some people in the crowd praised Jesus thinking He would save them from the Roman oppression. They were sure that He would bring an army and overthrow the Roman Empire. But that was not what Jesus seemed to be doing. . . and they were disappointed and discouraged. They soon lost their belief in who and what Jesus was. Later , some of these ‘believers’ were members of the crowd who cried
- “Crucify Him.” (Luke 23:21)
But many people following Jesus believed in Him and knew that they were not following his teachings. They had heard or seen some of the miracles He had performed; they knew He was a holy man. They had searched the Scriptures and believed that He was Who He said He was and committed themselves wholly to Him. These true believers recognized Jesus as “King of Kings” and “Lord of Lords.” A few would follow Christ regardless how dark the path became.
Then, also, by the time Good Friday came in Holy Week, there was a new group of people watching the parade – those who were not followers of Jesus. Some of these were planted by the temple authorities, some were faithful Jews who thought Jesus taught heresy, and some were there just because of blood lust. There was going to be trouble and they wanted to be a part of it, in fact, they wanted to stir it up. Those were the people who, on Good Friday, stood in the crowd shouting
- “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” (Luke 23:21)
Jesus offered Jerusalem a choice on that first palm waving day. And we have the choice today. We can be curious, but not committed – we can use Jesus’ name but not following his teachings, or we can choose to be dedicated disciples who devote ourselves to Christ and work for the Heavenly Kingdom or we can stay in the middle-of-the road, watching everything that is going on, but never getting involved. Or we can be the troublemakers.
Which are you?
- Are you a casual observer?
Do you just like trouble?
Aare you merely curious?
Do you believe that Jesus really did bring a new world into being? A new way of thinking and living?
Are you dedicated to the teachings of Jesus and trying to live your life as a true believer?
During Holy Week, we are given a chance to look at our lives and our relationship with God. We are given time to decide to change and become disciples of Jesus.
Now, as we start Holy Week, it is time to decide if we are once again going to love God with all our hearts, and our neighbors as ourselves!
Let us pray:
O God, our Father, on this Palm Sunday, enable each of us to open our hearts and lives that the king of glory may come in and may we say from the depths of our being,
- “Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Mark 11:9)
During this week help us to remember all he went through; call us to watch and pray with him.
We thank thee, Father, for all the ways You hast blessed us, bringing about good for us, bringing hope out of struggle, peace out of suffering, strength in the midst of our struggles and the light of thy love shining as we have traveled.
Give us patience with those who try ours. Help us to forgive those who speak evil against us. And help us love even those who are difficult to love, because they are loved by Thee. Bless our sick. Give us peace in the world and help us to be peacemakers. Amen.
Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH, 29 March 2015