A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.” (Matthew 21:8-11)
We celebrate Palm Sunday today – the day that Jesus made a triumphal entrance into Jerusalem. . . and the beginning of a week that brought denial, betrayal, a trial, crucifixion and finally, resurrection.
This coming “holy week” is the culmination of Jesus’ life – the reason He came as God’s son. We experience a wide range of emotions as we move through the week.
It is the time of the Jewish Passover – a time when people came home to celebrate with their families. It was a holiday then, and still is today, a time to be with family and celebrate with the Passover meal.
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 procession fit for a king, the cheers of the people were 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!! People were happy and joyful, celebrating life.
But it was also the last week of Jesus’ life.
In the jubilation 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, 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 and humiliation. 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, 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. We cannot afford to miss even one.
It is time to try to live our lives in the way Jesus taught. We are to
“Love one another as we love ourselves” (John 13:34-35)
Jesus gave his life for us; we can do no less to honor Him.
Let us pray:
Creator who loves us dearly, thank you for sending Jesus to be our redeemer. No matter how, or where or when we worship you, we want to do it to honor you and not ourselves. May we reflect Jesus’ passion and share in your grace. In the name of the Son of David we pray. Amen.
Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH; 9 April 2017