Today, I am going to suspend our thinking about the Apostle’s creed because today is Palm Sunday. It is a day we remember each year as we enter ito Holy Week that leads to Good Friday and then to Easter Sunday. So we are going back in time a few days before he “Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and Buried.”
Palm Sunday was a day of turbulent emotions. Every feeling is at fever pitch of this day.
1. The Disciples
The Disciples are out of their heads with glee. This is the kind of thing they have been wanting to happen. Finally, the coronation of Jesus as King has arrived. The Bedouin days of the migrant travelers is over. Jerusalem will now be home base.
It is for that reason that at these moments of entry, James and John beat a path to Jesus’ door with the request, “When you become King, Can we have the seats on your right and on your left.” They want to be Vice President and Secretary of State in the new administration. Of course the other disciples are angry. They wanted those positions.
Nonetheless, in spite of the petty squabble, this is a great day for them. Now the real action begins. Now it was worth while leaving everything, because pay day is here! They feel good on this day.
In fact they begin the celebration. They are the ones that take off their coats to make the donkey more stately. They lead the songs of triumph.
2. The Crowds
The Crowds are also at fever pitch. It is Passover time and they are there by the thousands for the greatest festival of the year. They are there for the Holy Day and the holidays. Anything that provides excitement is great for them. They want nothing more than to be involved in a ticker tape parade. They too, like all their countrymen, are looking for a way to get free of the government that they have. They want the Romans gone from their ancestral home land. They want the Herods and the Pilates gone from the place too.
When they hear of Jesus, and the deeds done, and the fact that he has been announcing that the kingdom of God is imminent, they are ready for it. When the small group enters the environs of the city, the crowds gather, ripping off palm branches, throwing their clothes in the street, to roll out the red carpet of welcome.
Strong emotions of expectancy and eagerness, of joy and celebration are present in the crowd.
3. The religious Leaders
The religious leaders are also caught up in strong emotions. But hardly jubilant. They are furious. Angry enough to kill. Decent men, who would never have thought of turning their hands to murder, on this day, have reached the breaking point. They get the feeling that the whole world has gone after this man. They are losing their grip on the people. They come to the conclusion, we have to get rid of him. And soon.
They get a chance to speak to Jesus on his entry. They appeal to him to tell his friends to be quiet. Later on they will ask him to keep the children quiet as they enter the temple area. They are not enjoying this day. As long as Jesus stayed out in the rural areas they were only angry enough to argue with him. But, in the city where thousands of pilgrims are gathered, they are angry enough to take radical measures. Strong emotions drive their decisions. They have murder on their minds.
4. Jesus Himself
But if the disciples and the crowds and the religious elite are giving vent to strong feelings, this is no less true of Jesus. What kind of emotions are at work in him? strange ones.
This is a Coronation Day to all appearances. In times past, upon entry into a city with that kind of feeling afloat, men like Saul and David and Solomon were first coronated by popular demand, and only later ratified by those who had authority to do it officially. The crowd is ready to do it again for Jesus of Nazareth.
Of course, the question arises, Why did Jesus choose to enter the city this way? This is obviously the day of His declaration that he is coming as the messiah. Like ancient judges, he comes riding on a donkey. He comes not for war, but instead comes in peace. He has come, in fulfillment of an Old Testament prophecy that the messiah will come riding on a donkey. For months he has told everyone to be quiet about who he is. But on this day that is all changed. He has come announcing that he is the messiah. The secret is over.
So what emotions are present in him at this moment of announcement. Triumphalism? Joy? Satisfaction? None of the above.
Listen to the text from Luke, “When Jesus drew near and saw the city he wept over it.” (Luke 19:41-48)
Jesus wept. There are two Greek words that are used for weeping. One is EDAKRUSEN, to shed tears, to weep quietly. to weep in silence. This is the word that is used at the tomb of Lazarus when it says “Jesus wept”.
But there is a second word used. It is the word EKLAUSEN. This is weeping that is outwardly visible. It is strong weeping that causes a person to sob with deep feelings of sorrow. This is the Greek word used of Jesus as he comes to the brow of the hill and sees Jerusalem. He sees the city and weeps with deep heartfelt grief. Strong emotions take over.
This is not a glad day for him. It is not coronation day. He knows that this day seals his fate. He is offering himself into the hands of his enemies. This is a triumphal entry in the minds of the crowd. It is not a day of triumph for Jesus. It is His coming to the altar to be the sacrificial lamb. His Coronation days will be Easter Sunday and Ascension Day. But this day is the beginning of the end for him, and he knows it. He is being led by the unheeding crowd to the place of slaughter.
He weeps. But why? Self pity? Not at all. He will say later that week, “for this hour I was born”. He weeps as he looks at a city for he knows that they will refuse the offer that he is making. He goes as the ancient prophets went, knowing that the message he offers is not the one the people want. But he must make the offer. So He offers himself on this day to be their servant-King.
The crowds want him. But they want him for their own ends. They want a bread-king. A wine maker. A miracle mongerer. But they do not want to be disciples who love their enemies, turn the other cheek, leave all to follow him. They want an easier life, and Jesus seems to be offering them one. But Jesus looks over the eternal city that he knows will not be eternal. He sees it falling because their foolish leaders will reject him and his teachings, and instead will say “We have no king but Caesar.” And Caesar, within one generation will have destroyed the city and left it in ruins with hundreds of thousands dead, and the survivors scattered across the face of the earth.
Jesus weeps because this is the week when he offers himself as Messiah with no ambiguity, and the leaders, and the unthinking crowd, will turn down his offer
It is for this reason that this day should not be celebrated. It is a day to remember. But not a day to celebrate. It is tragedy in disguise. It is a sad day, in this season of Lent. Judas betrayed his Master. Peter denied His Lord. Herod mocked Him. The leaders of the Jewish and Gentile worlds crucified him. And on this day, when He made his offer, it was in fact turned down. A sad day for a nation. It sealed their fate. A direct consequence of their refusal was the inundation of the nation over the next 40 years in civil wars, uncontrolable violence in the streets, and finally the exasperation of Roman might that one day said “enough!” WOW!
This day then is a day of penitence, not of joy. It is a reminder, that though we were not there on that day, there have been other days when we have turned down his claim on our loyalty and allegiance. It is reminder that the confession of our sins is in order.
We as disciples still fail to understand what it means to be part of his Church. We think it is a promise of privilege. But that is not what the call to be part of his great church entails. It is, instead, a call to enter into service, alongside the Son of God. It is not a call to sit on his right or his left in a heavenly kingdom, in fact not to sit anywhere up there, but instead it is a call to work alongside of God for the healing of our world and to offer help to all of its peoples. We too are called to weep over the plight of the many, and do whatever we can to help to end the weeping of the world.
We are going to engage in three activities in the next few minutes.
- We shall hear John McDermott of the Irish Tenors, sing “How Deep the Father’s Love for Me”. It is a song for holy week.
- We shall also give our Gifts to God, through the church, for the well being of others. One Great Hour of sharing!
- We shall also share in an unusual Communion service. From the Anglical Church in Canada. A little longer than what we are accustomed to, but worth the time.
Let us continue in worship