Roman Catholics may know Palm Sunday as the loooonnnnnest Mass of the year.
Protestants may know Palm Sunday as the day the congregation processes into worship waving palms and responding, “Hosanna in the highest” to the call, “Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord.
Non-denoms may sadly be left out of this pivotal worship service all together.
However Palm Sunday is celebrated in your tradition, may we all take note to the stark contrast and the clashing of kingdoms between two of the processions that marched toward Jerusalem that day.
The contrast between our Lamb and Lord and a puffed up show of force screams relevance into our world. In a day and age where the gap between the rich, showy,
orange and powerful and the world’s poor, destitute, helpless, and suffering seems to grow bigger by the day, and as our hearts become both overwhelmed and numb by the constant unrest and injustice, may our eyes yet still be open to what team Jesus represented that day and may our feet lead us to follow him.
The events that the church universal remember and reflect on this coming week, are the culminating works of Jesus’s ministry here on earth. This is the week that declares for us who Christ is, what he stands for, what he stands against, and what that means for each of us.
Holy Week is when we remember that Jesus busted onto the scene, declared that we are so broken that we cannot ever fix ourselves, and instead committed, in his faithfulness and holiness, to submit to God’s will and continue the process of reconciling ALL things to himself.
Jesus ushered in the Kingdom on earth. Of course, we are all given an open and hopeful invitation to participate in that Kingdom, with all of its upside-down manifestations and counter-cultural persuasions. Invitations that may never appear to be bright and shiny on the outside, but promise to make us shine from the inside-out.
As Jesus and his followers entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the crowds shouted, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” The crowds believed Jesus was coming to save them. Save them from what? Save them from who?
It’s interesting to me that as Christ entered town from the East, there was another procession entering town from the West Side, as New Testament scholar and author Marcus Borg notes. Pontius Pilate, the governor, was leading a cavalry procession from the West. All pomp and circumstance, shiny and armed, a heavy show of force and power.
Note: Jesus was not on that side of town.
Pilate marched this army in to reinforce the Roman garrison near the temple for the Jewish Feast Days. Basically, it was show of force to declare that any stepping out of line and stepping over boundaries would be crushed.
How ironic then it becomes; how telling it becomes for us to realize that Jesus entered into Jerusalem from the East, with his ragamuffin looking followers, riding a donkey. Donkeys, both then and now, are animals associated with the poor and also animals associated with protecting the weak.
I can almost see, in this very instant, as the two processions are happening, heaven and earth beginning to collide. Jesus is showing us his will and his desire in the face of what the world has to offer.
Jesus, the homeless God-Man who associated with the marginalized and who came to bring good news to the poor. Jesus, who told the young rich man to sell all of his possessions and them come follow him. Jesus, who said the last will be first and the first will be last. That Jesus, I imagine, still weeps at what he foresaw that day.
The gospel of Luke tells us that as Jesus drew close to the city and looked it over, he wept over it. He cried. Luke 19:41-44 recounts:
As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”
The things that make for peace are hidden from our eyes…
Then, as Jesus made his way to the temple, irate at what he saw, irate at how the religious leaders and the imperial powers were in cahoots, he says these words found Mark 11:17, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations? “But you (religious leaders) have made it a den of robbers.”
So, which procession would we, the church, be found in today?
Does anything about the crowd Jesus entered town with resemble our churches?
Does anything about the crowd Pilate entered town with resemble our churches?
Are our churches houses of prayer for all nations or have they aligned with the robbers?
Would we be bold enough to process in with the meek, the marginalized, the plain, the weaponless, the poor, the mourning, the hurt, the left out?
Would we, church, be found faithful in this day and age?
Would we attempt to find reasons and justification to both shout “Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord” while also putting on a show of force, marching and threatening, with the plussed-up budget crowd?
Who was Jesus? Who are we, as his followers? These are important and timeless questions.
On that day, over 2000 years ago, Jesus told the disciples that peace would be hidden from their eyes.
And while peace is hidden, it is also not invisible. The story does continue after Palm Sunday.
But the question for today is simply which procession would we be found in?
Because Jesus, our Prince of Peace, rode in that day on a donkey, coming from the East.
Are we with him?