Today we celebrate Palm Sunday, the beginning of the commemoration of the last days of Jesus’ life, culminating in His resurrection after his trial and crucifixion by the Roman government.
Jesus was headed to Jerusalem; there was nothing that would get in His way. Even though He has stopped and ministered to people, he has never lost sight of His final goal. As he completed the final days of His life, He had been healing the sick, feeding the hungry, returning sight to the blind, raising the dead and teaching the people about the love of God.
And now, as he approached Jerusalem, he was met by crowds who saw him as the savior that would stop the oppression of the Roman. He was greeted in a ‘triumphal entry’; people were lining the road, cheering for Him. They waved palm branches crying
- “Hosanna”, (Matthew 21:9)
laid their cloaks on the road and shouted:
- “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” (John 19:38)
There was intense anticipation that He was going to do a wonderful thing – they were going to be free of the Roman officials. They had been promised by God that someone would come to save them. Everyone in Israel had been taught that the Messiah would be enthroned as King in Jerusalem. The Old Testament make it very clear that the coming King would come to Jerusalem to establish His kingdom. Since the Garden of Eden, all of heaven and earth have been waiting for that moment when the Messiah would enter Jerusalem for the last time, establishing the Kingdom of God.
But, Jesus knew that the kingdom He was to establish was not of this earth, and the people did not understand.
That Palm Sunday Jesus began his final walk to Jerusalem. He stopped on the hill overlooking Jerusalem called the Mount of Olives where he had previously preached the Sermon on the Mount, looked over Jerusalem and
- he wept over it. (Luke 19:41)
Some of the people in the crowd on that first Palm Sunday thought that they were witnessing a revolution. They were certain that they would be saved from the Roman government. They were cheering for the promised Messiah.
But those cheers turned to jeers by the end of the week; Jesus was turned over to the Romans for trial, found guilty of trying to overthrow the government and rejected by the people for the life of Barabbas.
If someone did that to us, we would be angry and not care what happened to those people. But Jesus was the perfect man, forgiving each of them as a loving parent would forgive a naughty child. He was disappointed, sorrowful and moved to tears.
Do you know, there are only three instances in the Bible where Jesus is said to have wept?
- The first time is when he travels to the house of Mary and Martha after Lazarus has died and been buried for four days. He was so touched by their sorrow that He raised Lazarus from the dead. (John 11:38-45)
- We just heard that Jesus wept before He entered Jerusalem for the last time in Luke 19:41. He wept then because He knew that the people did not understand about the Kingdom of God, and men, women and children were going to continue to suffer. He knew that, ultimately, on Maundy Thursday the people would turn him over to the Roman government to be crucified.
- The last time He wept was when He was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of His betrayal. He praying that He would be strong enough to undertake the challenge He had in front of Him (Hebrews 5:7).
There is a common theme through these three instances when Jesus wept – His love of the people and sorrow that they did not understand about the Kingdom of God. They did not understand that the eternal life one finds through the resurrection of Jesus is the peace of the Kingdom of God.
The people of Israel rejected Him. We reject Him when we don’t follow His teachings. Yet, Jesus wept
- for us
for you and me,
each one of us.
In spite of our rejection of Him, Jesus still cares for all of us.
The events of Holy Week tell us that we are still saved by his crucifixion and resurrection.
That He had promised us
- “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5)
So as we move through this week of celebration, betrayal, death and resurrection, let us remember this assurance from God:
- Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am thy God; I will strengthen you; yea, I will help you; yea, I will hold you in my right hand (Isaiah 41:10).
Let us pray:
God of unfailing love, we come before you on this day with thankful and joyous hearts because your love knows no bounds. No boundaries, limits, or obstacles—including those of our own making—can thwart your loving kindness from following us all the days of our lives. Yet during this week, your story of passion mirrors to us how we have tested your love and spurned your compassion. As we enter into Holy Week fill us with strength and gratitude and with the assurance that you are with us, from now through eternity.
Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH; 20 March 2016