Palm Sunday and looking toward Good Friday
Isn’t this exciting? Seeing Jesus ride into town on a donkey? This fulfills the prophecy given in Zechariah. Now we will have a real king. Now we will get rid of the Romans. We won’t be pushed around any more. The people were excited. Nothing this good had happened for a long while. Of course, there were some people who were not happy. Two groups, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, were alarmed, and even afraid. The Pharisees were alarmed because what the people were saying sounded like heresy. The Pharisees’ concerns were religious. They had thought of Jesus as one of their own, but they did not understand him. The Sadducees were alarmed for political reasons. They thought that what Jesus was doing would bring the wrath of the Romans down on their heads.
On the other hand, we have the people who are singing these praises to Christ. “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord.” We quote one form of this statement in our communion liturgy. The people here are quoting from Psalm 118. The Psalms were the hymnbook for the Jews, and they knew the Psalms by heart. These people were regular churchgoers. They were hopeful about Jesus. They wanted all the best for him. At least they wanted what they thought was the best for him. They wanted Jesus to take over. They wanted him to be in charge.
Unfortunately, people are fickle. We see people who are strongly for one team until they start to lose and then they switch their loyalties. People support one candidate, until somebody else pulls ahead in the polls. We even see this in close relationships. Two people are so in love one year, and the next year they cannot say anything good about each other. The people were disappointed. Maybe they even felt hurt. They had shown that they would support Jesus if he just called on them, and he never called. They would support Jesus if he just asked for their support. They would support Jesus in bringing down the old order, and putting in a new order. They truly believed that Jesus was the Messiah. They just did not know what a Messiah was.
Here is Jesus, riding in to town on a donkey. He has chosen this particular way of coming into Jerusalem to fulfill the prophecy. It will get the people excited, and it will get him killed. This was Jesus’ intention. He deliberately did things that he knew would result in his death. He did not want to die. He did not want to be crucified, but he knew that he must be crucified. It was not an optional thing.
He looks around at these people screaming their praises, knowing that they do not understand his role. They do not understand that he must die. They want a winner, not someone who is a sacrifice for our sins. Their priority is the security of the nation. Jesus’ priority is the Kingdom of God. The people just do not get it, and Jesus knows that.
I am sure that Jesus was happy that the people were shouting his praises. At least for a little while they were trying to accept him. The problem was that this would not last. By Friday, most of the supporters would be missing, and others would be shouting for his crucifixion. By Friday, the people who were shouting his praises will be afraid to speak up. By Friday, even the close disciples will be in hiding. Remember, only one of the apostles comes to the crucifixion. Only one apostle sticks with Jesus. The women come to the crucifixion, but the men run and hide. However, right now it is still Sunday. We do not have to think about that yet. We can just listen to the people sing their praises. Right? Do we really have to look towards the rest of the week? Do we really have to think about where this is all headed?
Yes, I am afraid we do. It is kind of like driving across the Great Plains. We get into the western plains, and the Rockies just keep getting bigger. They are impossible to ignore. Right now, we may be hearing the praises of people shouting hosanna, but there is a hill in view: Golgotha. There is a hill looming on the horizon. It is coming closer. All too soon, it will be Friday: Good Friday. We cannot turn around. We cannot take a detour. The road we are on leads to Easter, and the only way to Easter goes straight through Good Friday.
(“From the Pulpit” is a weekly sermon provided by the clergy members of The Weirton Ministerial Association)