If you use your imagination for just a moment, you can feel the press of the people as they gather along the road from Bethany to Jerusalem. You can smell the dust, and the donkeys, you can hear the crowd. You can see the brightly colored holiday clothes of festive pilgrims gathering in Jerusalem.
You can feel the excitement in the air; you may find yourself climbing a tree to break down a palm branch, and then straining to see through all the other waving branches. Off in the distance, a muffled roar, indistinguishable words, then a cheer, and then a chant: “Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna!” You may even find yourself shouting
- “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9)
Soon the road was jammed with pilgrims and locals alike. They joined the disciples in laying their cloaks across the path to show Jesus honor. They broke branches from the palm trees and waved them in the air, and spread them on the road. While the cloaks and the palm branches make this a royal procession, the cheers of the people are even more significant.
- Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest! (Matthew 21:9)
It was a great celebration!! But it was also the last week of Jesus’ life.
In our celebration of Palm Sunday, we forget that in a few short days Jesus will be betrayed, arrested, tried, abandoned, whipped, spit upon, slapped, scourged, tortured with a crown of thorns, mocked, ridiculed, and ultimately nailed on a cross. And the same crowds that had sung “Hosannas”: at his arrival, would shout ” “Crucify Him!” – and ask Pilate to release Barabbas and put Jesus to death.
Their love for the Lord was shallow and based entirely on their hope of what exciting things he could do for them. In their confusion, and anger, and fear, those who on Sunday had welcomed Jesus as their new messiah-to-be, by Friday had turned on him, disappointed in Jesus and their continued lives under the Roman rule. So tired of all they could not control, they cried out for vengeance they could control. If Jesus would not be their king and free them, then they might as well get rid of Him.
Jesus knew that the end of his earthly ministry was near. It was time to do what he had come to do. It was now or never; he was ready to be obedient to God, and to accomplish the purpose set out for him. The road on Palm Sunday was not a road to freedom. It was the road to sacrifice. It was not the road to power, it was the road to humility. It was not the road to fame, it was the road to death. It was not the road the crowd thought; it was the road God had planned.
None of us knows just how long each of our lives will be, just how much time we have left. Every time we learn of someone who dies young, we are reminded of that.
None of us can know all that the future holds. We don’t know how long we will be on this earth. But we can know that God has a purpose for us. He calls us to love him and love others with the kind of love that He showed us when he sacrificed His only Son. He calls us to speak out the truth, to reach out our hands, to hold out our hearts.
And he calls us to do that now. When we think we are not ready to make a commitment, that is the best time to do it. God doesn’t expect us to be perfect. He just wants us to try. . . try a little each and every day.
And that day is now.
We don’t know how many more days there will be.
Let us pray:
Father, thank you for sending Jesus to be our redeemer. No how, or where or when I worship you, I want to do it to honor you and not myself. May we reflect his passion and share his grace. In the name of the Son of David I pray. Amen.
Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH, 17 April 2011