Palm Sunday reminds us that at the moment of what seems to be the height of Jesus’ public acceptance also begins the process of his public betrayal, his public failure, his public abandonment. It is the contrast between the laws of the world and the law of God that dooms him. On Palm Sunday, we are forced to remember the distance between apparent public success and personal commitment. Jesus stays the course to the end, we see, and so must we, despite all other pressures, both internal and social, to the contrary. Here in the Passion narrative, we trace the struggle, one scene at a time, between the Word of God and the ways of the world. We see all the forces of evil collude and collide. We watch as Jesus, caught in the grip of religious and political agendas, goes on speaking out, doing good, regardless.
Hosanna to the Son of David!
Reflect on the actions of the crowd as described on Palm Sunday and then on the following Friday. Where do we see this same type of behavior today? One of the themes of Holy week is failed discipleship. Where do we fit into this in our own lesser ways?
When the great crowd that had come to the feast heard
that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem,
they took palm branches and went out to meet him, and cried out:
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was disturbed. The people asked, “Who is this man?” And the crowd answered, “This is the Prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee.
The Pharisees then said to one another, ‘You see that you can do nothing; look, the world has gone after him!”
What is most amazing about the Lord and his Passover? It is the fact that he achieves glory through humiliation. He triumphs by accepting suffering and death, things that we, in our quest for admiration and success, would rather avoid.
Remember finally, that the ashes that were on your forehead are created from the burnt palms of last Palm Sunday. New beginnings invariably come from old false things that are allowed to die.
The tragedy of this event was the fickleness of the people. At this point they are acclaiming the Lord Jesus as the long-expected Messiah – within a few days they were crying for His death!
But everyone who lined the streets had a different reason for waving those palms. Some were political activists; they’d heard Jesus had supernatural power, and they wanted him to use it to free Israel from Roman rule. Others had loved ones who were sick or dying. They waved branches, hoping for physical healing. Some were onlookers merely looking for something to do, while others were genuine followers who wished Jesus would establish himself as an earthly king. Jesus was the only one in the parade who knew why he was going to Jerusalem. He had a mission, while everyone else had an agenda.
We need to hear the word “love” mentioned as we go into Holy Week. As we stand here in a world so abruptly and sometimes brutally awakening to discover ourselves as one — interconnected, fragile, radically dependent on our great spiritual traditions to reconnect at the point of the heart… As we stand at that place in our world today, we must come to see that despite the venerable input of tradition, that the exclusivistic, judgmental, punitive theologies we have promulgated are a luxury the world can no longer afford. The epicenter of Christianity is Love, and this week we enter the epicenter. May we do so in Love.
Rev. Cynthia Bourgeault
The world has a history of denouncing and killing messiahs who don’t deliver what it wants. Moreover, the world does not want a God who is God over against the world. Rather, the world wants a lapdog god it can domesticate and control, a sweet god who indulges and blesses the sickness, the selfishness–in other words, the sinfulness of the world. The world does not want a messiah, or for that matter, doctors or lawyers or pastors or parents who give people what they need. The world wants a messiah and doctors and lawyers and pastors and parents who give people what they want.