Sermon – Sunday, March 24, 2013
Zion Lutheran Church, Hoople, ND
We celebrate with waving palms on this Palm Sunday. But why is it also known as Passion Sunday? Why not just revel in the glory and excitement of the triumphant arrival of Jesus into Jerusalem? If we look at it from Jesus’ perspective, I would imagine it was both – and heavier on the passion side. Jesus knew that entering Jerusalem was entering into His death. It would be like a wanted criminal today entering into a state where he was wanted by the authorities. And Jesus by this time, was becoming an increasing threat not only to the Roman authorities, but the religious leaders. He spoke the truth. He spoke about change. And people even today don’t always like to hear the truth. They want to stick their heads in the sand and pretend everything is okay even when others are suffering around them. People don’t want change, because that means that what they are comfortable with will have to change even if that change would be a benefit to help others. We only have to look at people throughout history like Martin Luther King, Jr. who spoke out against racial injustice, or Abraham Lincoln who spoke out about slavery, to see that their passion for speaking out against those who had no voice caused them their own death. So why did Jesus go to Jerusalem if He knew what was waiting for Him? He believed in following the truth. He believed in following what His Father wanted. He believed in faithful service.
Last week we heard the story of Mary anointing Jesus’ feet. She too was a faithful servant and it caused her much ridicule, but she didn’t care. She knew it was the right thing to do. And Jesus knew that Mary was anointing Him for His burial even if she didn’t fully understand that. The fragrance of the oil of the perfume filled the room and now Jesus could still smell it all over Him as He entered into Jerusalem. Gone were the relaxing evenings of sitting with His friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Now it was time to enter Jerusalem and complete the journey He was sent on earth to accomplish.
The crowds were waving palms that day. They were singing Hosanna – proclaiming Jesus as king. There were filled with elation, caught up in a mob mentality, waving branches and waiting for their “king” to take power. Jesus – their king – was to be the answer to all their problems. So the crowd was going wild – louder than at any hockey game. And I’m sure Jesus enjoyed it, at least somewhat, but if we could slow this scene down like a movie scene we would see through Jesus’ eyes. And that is what we do on this Palm/Passion Sunday.
Jesus is riding into Jerusalem – palm branches and cloaks strewn before Him – and there is so much noise and chaos that it is deafening. Jesus’ view pans out across the crowd. He sees them excited about all the possibilities this “kingdom” will bring. He sees them longing to be saved, rescued from their oppression. He wishes this exultation could last for a long time, but Jesus knows His kingdom is not of this world. Jesus knows that this triumphant ride through Jerusalem is not going to end with Him being crowned as an earthly king. It will end with a crown of thorns being placed on His head, mocked, tortured, and put to death.
So while Jesus is riding through the city of Jerusalem – palm branches strewn before Him – His mind races ahead to what is coming down the road. His life flashes before His eyes and He sees the suffering, the agony, the humiliation, and the death He will soon experience. He feels the betrayal as He is handed over to the authorities, and even though He knows it is necessary, His heart is still breaking. His heart is breaking for what He has to endure and for not only for the people of Jerusalem, but for all humanity. Jesus is about to suffer and die to save the world, but many will still reject Him, reject the Father’s love and grace.
These thoughts are racing through Jesus’ mind as He enters Jerusalem on that Palm Sunday. We read the Passion story because it is part of that day. Yes, it is Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, but it is also the journey toward death – death on a cross.
And we, like Jesus, must look ahead to what is coming too no matter how difficult or painful it is to see. The truth is not always easy, but it is necessary. While we processed with palm branches today, we placed them beneath the cross, for that is where the journey will ultimately end. As we begin Holy Week, let us remember what this journey is all about. What is the truth we are forced to face? Jesus – an innocent man – was tortured and killed for our sins so that we would be set free. Free to live a life proclaiming this truth. We gave Him palms, but He gave us His palms – outstretched in love for all. That is real passion. Amen.