Matthew 21:1-11; Isaiah 50:4-9a; Psalm 31:9-16; Philippians 2:5-11; Matthew 26:14-27:66
Today is a day to tell the story, to tell the story of a few days in the life of Jesus. Wehave been preparing all of Lent for these days, for this next week. They're veryimportant days for Jesus; very powerful, probably confusing.
Today is really the day of two stories. Many of us grew up calling today "Palm Sunday"; but now we also call it "Passion Sunday" - "The Sunday of the Passion" because this is,as it always has been, the Sunday when we tell the story of the Passion. So there aretwo stories, and sometimes it's a bit of a muddle, to deal with both.
The first story is the story of the Palms; the parade, the entry into Jerusalem; and withall sorts of expectations. The crowds proclaim "here is the Messiah, our Saviour." The political authorities - the Roman occupation for sure - are expected to beoverthrown. Maybe even the religious establishment. An age of health, wealth andwisdom is dawning. The day of vindication is near. The expectation of somethingunusually great and momentous is in the air.
Who are we in that crowd? What kind of Jesus are we looking for?: The Pharisees would have been looking for a Jesus who will keep the law. The disciples, for a Jesus who will be victorious, and have a long reign. The Zealots, for a Jesus to take up the sword. What kind of Jesus are we looking for? A plastic Jesus, who keeps us safe? Aprozac Jesus, who keeps us happy, relaxed, secure, etc? A Mr. Rogers Jesus, who istotally non-threatening? A Saviour?
But it's a curious story, this story of the palms - because at first sight it doesn t seem togo anywhere. What happened to all the energy and enthusiasm? - at the end of theday, it seems to fizzle out. Jesus enters Jerusalem to shouts of "Hosanna". He thengoes into the temple, chases out the money-changers, and then leaves the city. Thenwhat?
But yes, it does go somewhere; it moves on to the second story. Because the followingdays are very powerful days; yes, very confusing days. For Jesus, there are times ofcloseness with his friends, and there are times of loneliness. It's a week of crazycrowds; and it's week of erratic individuals, some of whom get caught up in it all,and some who are able to step outside it, and some who are nothing but spectators.
It starts with the parade, and the palm branches, and "Hosanna" - all of which we will doin our worship today. But then as it moves to the second story, the mood shifts, as itwill in our worship. The crowds still shout, but now they shout "Crucify him!" And itleads to Jesus dying on the cross.
Where do we find ourselves in these stories?
Do I remain in the crowd? swept along; Sing Hosanna, shout crucify him, and EasterDay will be a nice day. Or do I step outside the crowd and make a choice?
Mary stepped outside of the crowd. She said Yes to Jesus; right up to the end, whileJesus was suffering and dying. She was at the rock of Calvary, with only a few there(the crowd watching in the distance).
Judas Iscariot - said No to Jesus. Rejected Jesus - and that meant he rejected life,and the logical conclusion of that was precisely what he did; he committed suicide.
Today we greet Jesus as our King, though we know his crown is thorns and his throneis a cross. We follow him from the glory of the palms on this day, to the glory ofresurrection next Sunday. But the story of the palms fizzles out, and we don't make it tothe resurrection next Sunday if we refuse to take the road into the deep dark valley thatlies between these two Sundays; the road between the palms and the empty tomb goesby the way of Calvary, the way of suffering and death. Where do we find ourselves onFriday? Is it just another holiday? Or do we find ourselves standing beside the cross? We embrace Jesus in his sufferings on the cross, so that we may share his resurrectionand new life.
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